I like to think that I know something about street photography, having traveled the world while capturing some decent images of people going about their daily routines, celebrating milestones, or participating in festivals. But after viewing the work of Thomas Leuthard I realize how little I really know about the subject. And if you stick around I’ll tell you how to get his stunning work for free.
Means to An End?
After carefully studying Leuthard’s work, I realized that street photography for me is a means to an end. I am a travel, landscape and wildlife photographer, so I see street photography as a part of the entire story I am trying to tell to give my audience a sense of place, a context within which people live and work.
Leuthard, on the other hand, is a pure, unadulterated street photographer, and a damned good one at that. That medium is both the means and the ends to him and he has dedicated his life, beginning a several years ago, to this art form. Maintaining a full-time job that supports his passion, he pursues his photography with zeal.
To my delight, and I hope yours, too, he works almost entirely in black and white. His work evokes strong emotions, which are emphasized by half-lighted faces, deep shadows and obvious occasions, happy or sad, that he just happens to come upon and captures for posterity.
A Free Ebook
Leuthard generously gives away his work in free ebook downloads. His first book, Going Candid is a masterwork, in which he explains his methodology and philosophy. I have to say that I do not agree with some of his ethics as described in the chapter of the same title. Leuthard believes a photographer has a right to take anyone’s picture in a public space at any time. To quote Leuthard: “In my opinion there are no ethics in street photography. You are the person who decides to take the shot or not. If you don’t take it, someone else will.” Of course, he must get a lot of these images.
As a former newspaper photographer several lifetimes ago, I agree with his take… in principal. However, Leuthard’s work is so intensely personal, sometimes painfully so, I can’t imagine what he must have done to capture some of his amazing images. But, there, I said it! The artistic end result is amazing. As for me, when I seek to capture a street portrait in detail, I almost always ask for permission first.
Leuthard’s body of work reminds me a bit of Dorothea Lange’s iconic work during the Great Depression. If you are serious about street photography, I urge you to take a leisurely stroll through Leuthard’s work. Look carefully. Study his use of shadows, how he can tell a story through capturing images of people’s feet (!), how he masterfully defines the human experience in the mundane details of everyday life. There is much to learn.