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Find your personal and unique style in street photography

August 26, 2019
minimalism street photography and art

Style is everything in art. Probably the only way to have a personal style in street photography is to photograph what you really like. You have to give your personal point of view of this world, without trying to imitate nobody. If you have a personal vision you can also mature a personal style. It’s really difficult and probably you need years to reach this “status”.

Think at this example in cinema. Quentin Tarantino (my favorite director and writer) loves Sergio Leone‘s movies. In his films Tarantino try to copy/cite in such way the western genre directed by Leone. But at the end of the day Tarantino has his personal and unique style made of wonderful and realistic dialogues, suspence and a lot of splatter in the end of his movies. These elements are different from Sergio Leone’s cinema, because Tarantino is Tarantino and Leone is Leone. Probably Tarantino loves also the Martin Scorsese’s cinema but again they have a different style.

Back to street photography think now at two great master like Henry Cartier Bresson (HCB) and Bruce Gilden (still in life). Both are Magnum photographers, best agency in the world for street and reportage photography. So I have taken two excellent examples, two great artists with a complete different approach in making their art… In this article I’ll compare two different ways to do street photography, according to a different vision of life. Let’s start with Bruce Gilden, still alive and active photographer.

Bruce Gilden’s style: flash and wide-angle in street photography

I love Bruce Gilden, he is a great artist and photographer. He has contributed to create a particular style in street photography. Essentially he uses flash to light people’s faces and bodies giving a more surreal and dramatic look to his photos; in this way persons stand out clearly against the background. Moreover Gilden shoots very close to his subjects always using wide angle lens; often he tilts his camera to give more dynamism to the scene.

Also Mark Cohen, another great master, used flash in the streets. Today there are a lot of street photographers using this “particular technique” but in different ways. There is also a group born few years ago, The full frontal flash collective. On youtube you may see different videos about Bruce Gilden on the street; you can see how he works the scene. Some examples below:


I’m known for taking pictures very close, and the older I get, the closer I get…


Usually he takes photos of strangers without asking for permission. So in such way he is more “aggressive and spontaneous” than for example William Klein who sometimes at first interacted with his subjects asking for permission and then started shooting photos (in pose). Different styles, different views. I love Bruce Gilden’s works, and I’d like made this beautiful shots. But I’m not Bruce Gilden, I’m just me, more shy and introvert so I prefer asking for permission; but usually I try to be invisible on the streets, avoiding interactions with my subjects. I can try to photograph like Bruce Gilden but it would be really really difficult to me, not a pleasure, and I wouldn’t be me in the photos.

Looking at Bruce Gilden pictures we can feel anxiety, drama, fear… His shots shock our eyes. Sometimes there is more surrealism and mysterious, he tries to create a story behind an image. The same Bruce Gilden says that he has funny finding interpretations in his own photos. Usually he photographs strange and weird people, yakuza, outcasts from society, prostitutes… He doesn’t choose by chance his subjects (like you can see today on instagram with normal walking people). He tries to find beauty everything and to photograph what he really like. Below some famous shots taken from his portfolio:

personal style street photography
Bruce Gilden, Magnum photography


personal style street photography
Bruce Gilden, Magnum photography


personal style street photography
Bruce Gilden, Magnum photography


personal style street photography
Bruce Gilden, Magnum photography


personal style street photography
Bruce Gilden, Magnum photography

Bruce Gilden is another person than me, with other experiences, another life, another father and mother… He has different thoughts, nature, temper, culture, aspirations, tastes, job, maybe religious belief and political idea… So we are different persons, I am not Bruce Gilden and He is not me. I can’t be like Bruce Gilden in my street photography but I can be (I HAVE TO BE) the better Francesco Santini possible in this life.


Photograph who you are (Bruce Gilden)


Henry Cartier Bresson: invisible in the scene, composition, 50 mm

So look at a total different approach in street photography. I’m talking about HCB, co-founder of Magnum Photography agency, called also the father of street photography. He had his vision, his rules, his ideas. Probably he had too much rules but this was his personal style that reflected his soul! He was master of composition and usually used 50 mm (rarely 35mm) lens, no flash, no interaction, no crop, no colors, no long exposures… A totally different approach from Bruce Gilden. HCB was more traditional in such way. Both are masters of street photography, they have only different styles.

HCB privileged composition, probably his pictures are more surreal and mysterious but less exciting and emotionally strong than Bruce Gilden’s ones in which there is more drama. We can say for sure they “suggest” different emotions with their works. Below a short series of pictures taken by Henry Cartier Bresson.

Street photography surrealism


Street photography surrealism


street photography hopper
Henry Cartier Bresson, Magnum photos


Street photography master quotes
Henry Cartier Bresson

As you can see he had a total different approach from Bruce Gilden. HCB was often far from the scene, he rarely interacted with his subjects. He was an observer and he wanted to catch an unique and unrepeatable moment without interfering with it. Was he a real street photographer? Sure, as Bruce Gilden is a real street photographer. They have only different vision of life and different approach to this difficult and wonderful art.

Study the great masters of street photography… then follow your gut and create your personal style

You can find inspiration and try to think how to make a good photograph studying the great masters. Why HCB did create this composition? Why Bruce Gilden does photograph this particular subject? But at the end of the day you have to photograph what YOU really like in the way you want, finding your personal vision and style. Your shots must reflect your soul, if you try to copy Bruce Gilden you’ll never be Gilden, but neither yourself! So get inspired but create your vision!!!



Henry Cartier Bresson

-The unguarded moment

-The decisive moment (Images a la sauvette)

Bruce Gilden

-Facing New York



That’s all folks


Stay well, have always light in your life

Best, F.S


Read also:

Street photography – fishing technique in a car

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