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Street photography: left brain and right brain

October 13, 2019
left vs right brain street photography

When you are in the street taking photographs don’t use your left brain (cerebral hemisphere) but the right one. Left brain is slow, rational, critic, analytical, problematic. Left brain thinks rationally and so could stop you from taking photos in the decisive moment. c. Right brain “doesn’t think“, it doesn’t criticize or judge you; it feels the moment saying you that you really love a particular scene in the street. When you write, read and speak you use your left brain but when you feel emotions or make art you’re using your right brain. Left brain is dominant and unfortunately he can interfere with the work of the right one. So you have to learn how to use only the correct cerebral hemisphere. When you are doing street photography (or art in general) you have to switch off your thinking and criticizing brain, the left one!

zen photography

If you shoot using left brain you may have fear to photograph strangers, you judge the scene and yourself; when you use your left brain you are less original, you have the risk to over-think losing the decisive moment; you don’t follow your natural instinct but your judgment. This is probably good at work and school but it is absolutely wrong in art. You have to express yourself and your personal point of view, you have to be “naked”, no inhibition, no thoughts, no hesitations. Do not think to other photographers’ works, or to Instagram standard. Think like a child; this is a zen concept. When we are child we have no inhibitions, no thoughts, we do what we want really do. Make the same with your photography. Shoot what you like and when you feel that is the “decisive moment”. Don’t think to others, follow your gut and your intuition, use only your right brain. The shooting process is like a fluid flow, if you over-think and analyze the moment probably you’ll miss it. Follow your right brain or you’ll be paralyzed by your thoughts and analysis.

Editing: the left brain moment

When you’re at home looking back to photographs you’ve taken turn on your left brain. This is the phase where you have to think and ask why a picture works or why not. In this phase select your works, keep o ditch your shots. Watch the subjects, the backgrounds and the overall composition of a scene. Analyze your work frame by frame, follow your gut but listen also to your rational brain to better judge your shots. Editing is a reflexive moment.

Henry Cartier Bresson once said:

Composition must be one of our constant preoccupations, but at the moment of shooting it can stem only from our intuition, for we are out to capture the fugitive moment, and all the interrelationship involved are on the move”

And again HCB said:

Any geometrical analysis, any reducing of the picture to a schema, can be done only after the photograph has been taken, developed, and printed- and then it can be used only for a post-mortem examination of the picture

Street photography surrealism
Henry Cartier Bresson

So in your street photography (or art) use your right brain when you are shooting on the streets and turn on your left brain in the editing/selection of the images. Right brain is fast and intuitive, left brain is slow, judgmental and criticizing. The creative moment is a sort of trance, we don’t have notion of the passing of time, we don’t think to our problems, we are in a sort of limbo. This is the activity of the right brain.

I put my heart and my soul into my work, and have lost my mind in the process.(Vincent Van Gogh)

eft vs right brain street photography


Suggested book:

  • Zen and Japanese culture by Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki
  • MASTERS by Eric Kim
  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain by Betty Edwards



Opening images taken from:The left brain vs right brain Myth Analysis Art


That’s all folks

Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S


Read also:

Three things Vermeer has taught me

Three things Munch has taught me

Street photography: mental issues

The circular rhythm of life

Read more articles about Art clicking here



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  • Julie Burton March 16, 2021

    Hello. I hosted a student design challenge, and their inspiration for creating two spaces was your left brain right brain print. I would love to have it printed and hung in one of the rooms as a tribute to that student group’s collaborative, and exceptional vision. Is it possible to get a high resolution digital copy to print and hang in a classroom?

    • Francesco Santini March 18, 2021

      Hi! Do you refer to the opening image of that article? Unfortunately I’ve taken it on google images and is only very low res.

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