Review - David Cantor “Ramblings of a So-Called Street Photographer”, 17 Jan 2022

A review by Helen Jones - David Cantor “Ramblings of a So-Called Street Photographer”, 17 Jan 2022
We were delighted to welcome David Cantor to the club via Zoom - he gave us an inspirational talk on Street Photography – and showed us the doors can you open if you stop and talk to people before taking their photograph.

We have a Street Photography group within the club and we are all candid photographers. At our last meeting we discussed approaching people and asking them for portraits but none us felt we were quite brave enough to do so. Hopefully having listened to David we can see how beneficial chatting first can be and maybe some of us will pluck up the courage to do this.

David began by inspiring us and amusing us with examples of his own candid work which we all thoroughly enjoyed. The idea of working in layers is an interesting concept and we loved the spontaneity of his work. To use a well-worn phrase, he has a wonderful ‘seeing eye’.

He inspired us and educated us with quotes, videos and extracts about the work of well-known street photographers from all over the world – the phrase that stays with me is “finding the astonishing in the common place” because what’s what Street Photography is all about.

Then David introduced us to the approach that appeals to him most – approaching strangers, talking to them, finding out their life story, striking up a rapport with them. He knew all their names – and that immediately made his photographs more personal because a name adds character and your ‘subject’ becomes a ‘person’. He loves to mingle with and chat to young people – they are more interesting than older people who talk mainly about their ailments! He makes an effort to learn about the history, the geography, the culture of the people he encounters. He says that as he starts to understand them, his work becomes more intuitive.

David’s photos were full of life – real life and even a bit of rapping. We could tell the subjects were relaxed and comfortable, even those who had only met David for the first time a few minutes earlier. There is real emotion in his photos, he shows real empathy with the subjects and their individual characters shine through them.

David also encouraged us to really get to know a place, to get under its skin – he concentrated much of his work in the Brick Lane area. Knowing a place means that you can think through and pre-visualise shots. David’s observational skills are superb too. He has the ability to make other people’s art, posters, slogans and signs work with him and for him, to create fascinating street photography that’s all his own.

David ended the talk by telling us the stories behind some of his most successful photos - how he approached and talked to his subjects and his delight when the images were selected for national exhibitions – the sheer elation you feel when you see an exhibition catalogue with your photo on the cover alongside books by the like of Martin Parr and Annie Leibowitz!

David told us that the power of photography can be transformative and I think he has transformed our idea of Street photography. We won’t worry about our 99.9% failures any more –we will be looking for that singular moment.

My only disappointment is that I didn’t go to the 2016 Taylor Wessing Portrait exhibition and see his stunning portrait that graced the cover of the exhibition catalogue. I have just checked my catalogues and my last one was 2015 so we just missed him.

Thank you, David, for an enlightening and entertaining evening. You even got us singing for you!

Link to David's website, where his books are on sale

~ Helen Jones