Best Street Photography of the Last 20 Years
Photo: © Sean Maung
A great street photographer lives in the here and now. Their eyes are always attuned to the nuances of life, their awareness is heightened to supra-sensory levels, their reflexes as quick as an athlete. They do more than see: they look, ever vigilant to the cast of light and shadow to create a mood, or the movement of people through the cityscape, careful to capture a fraction of a second forevermore. In celebration of the best street photography of the last 20 years, Crave showcases some of the best contemporary masters of the form.
When Dave Schubert was a child, his father gave him a camera to cope with the stress of constantly being uprooted as a military brat. His first photo session? The Garfield stuffed animals organized proudly on his bed. But when his teen years hit, Schubert took to the streets, photographing the skate scene and the graffiti scenes in New York. He headed out to San Francisco, where he currently resides, photographing life that he finds. “For me, taking street photographs is an excuse to be out,” Schubert observes.
Baltimore-native Martha Cooper began shooting on the street back in the 1970s, when she got a job for The New York Post taking “weather photographs.” Back in the days, the newspaper was located on the City’s legendary Lower East Side, where Cooper fell in with a bunch of locals who introduced her to the emerging graffiti scene. One thing lead to another and Cooper soon quit her job to focus on shooting graffiti full time, leading to co-authoring the Bible of graffiti, Subway Art, with Henry Chalfant in 1984.
Fast forward a few decades and Cooper is still making the rounds, although this time she’s spanning the globe, traveling to every major continent to photograph graffiti and street art. At the same time, she has been working on a project documenting the streets of her hometown, capturing the soul of the city in full color, and sharing her perspective with the world. Taken as a whole, Cooper’s photographs are the essence of the street, of its people, its culture, its art, and it spirit from Soweto to Sowebo.
New York Times journalist David Gonzalez has been photographing the streets of his native city for decades, capturing the spirit and the soul of its people in cool black white and blazing four color. In 2009, he began publishing his photographs in “Side Street,” a column he writes for the paper of record, documenting the untold histories of locals who have made New York the greatest city on earth.
“It was a childhood dream come true. I’m a good writer, okay, but good photography is really hard,” Gonzalez revealed. “I love photography. I have a lot of appreciation for what other photographers go through.”
Named the recipient of the inaugural Gordon Parks Foundation fellowship earlier this year, Baltimore native Devin Allen has risen to become one of the most significant contemporary street photographers today. His documentation of the Baltimore uprising in the wake of Freddie Grey’s murder earned him the cover of Time magazine in May 2015, making him just the third amateur photographer to receive such prestigious placement. Keep an eye out for his first book, A Beautiful Ghetto, which will be published by Haymarket Books this June.
Let’s face it—best of lists are hard, especially for genres like street photography where there are just so many talented artists. To that end, we decided to put you on to Hamburger Eyes, the flyest street photography zine ever published. Since 2001, the Hamburger Eyes crew has been putting out the illest black and white photos taken by some of the greatest contemporary photographers on earth.
Over the years, Hamburger Eyes has expanded to take on publishing photograph books, zines, and magazines, with more than 100 titles to date in its catalog. It includes works by the core members of the collective including Ray Potes, David Potes, Stefan Simikich, Brian David Stevens, Jason Roberts Dobrin, Ted Pushinsky, David Uzzardi, Michael Jang, and Uri Korn. This year, Hamburger Eyes went monthly: that’s right, now you can get your fix of the best street photography being published around the globe, and stay up on some of the greatest underground and above-ground artists working today.
Los Angeles-native Sean Maung has been documenting the streets of hometown with a passion and purpose of a true believer. He goes wherever the action is hot and the people are real, whether it’s the back alleys of skid Row, the streets of Compton, the paisa bars of West Hollywood, or block parties of Venice.
“The city to me is about the cross pollination of race/ethnicity/sub-cultures/class that has created and inspired how I take photos and make art. So when I shoot in LA, it’s a product of my upbringing and experiences, and a product of being aware of the overall pulse of the city and the cultural dynamics of the city,” says Maung. He’s currently in Tokyo for Rites of Passage, a new exhibition and book release at Big Love Records/Harajuku.
Miss Rosen is a journalist covering art, photography, culture, and books. Her byline has appeared in L’Uomo Vogue, Vogue Online, Whitewall, The Undefeated, Dazed Digital, Jocks and Nerds, and L’Oeil de la Photographie. Follow her on Twitter @Miss_Rosen.