A new show at the SJ Museum of Art chronicles the history of street photography
By Christopher Gardner
THE NEW photography exhibit at the San Jose Museum of Art, Bystander: A History of Street Photography, is not a loud show. It is not bold, big, colorful or controversial. It is a show about everyday life. Slices of living, playing, laughing and working–the pictures in Bystander combine the best of journalism and art to create magic.
The exhibit showcases the works of all the great street shooters: Lewis Hine, Cartier Bresson, Bernice Abbot, Alfred Stieglitz, Brassi, Robert Frank, Elliot Erwitt, to name a few. These intrepid photographers, armed with only cameras, film and good shoes, have taken to the streets since the beginning of photography and brought back the images of their times: pure, honest social documents that tell more about life at that particular moment than entire history books ever could.
These images are subtle, deep and meant to be viewed up close. They should also be viewed slowly, because there are layers of detail easily missed. As a photojournalist, I view these images with admiration and even awe. There is something very beautiful about going out on a picture hunt with no preconceived images in your head and coming back (if you are lucky) with a captured moment–and if you are good, art. These masters saw the art in the ordinary, captured what is crucial in the seemingly trivial and showed us ourselves.