“Photography to me means everything. Being able to go out and create freely is something I love to do every day. Most importantly – it’s what makes me happy.”
If street photography piques your interest, you might have already come across Kiran Bhamra Cox. He’s a West London-based photographer who’s been turning heads, capturing people and places with his creative eye and down-to-earth perspective. He’s been a part of the National Geographic Traveller Festival and has been speaking at masterclasses, sharing his work and his passion with other photographers.
“Taking my next best photograph is what inspires me the most. I always want to challenge myself to create a better project or capture a better photograph. Being able to turn a passion into a career is something I am always grateful for.”
His photography is striking; he captures both the intensity and the lulls of everyday life, the laughter and the grit. Look through Kiran’s portfolio and you’ll find smiles and scowls, trendy bars and tube stations. His photographs distil a moment and capture the atmosphere; you know what it sounded and smelled like, you know how his subjects feel.
Street photography is a notoriously challenging substyle. With no control over positioning your subjects, it will test your patience as much as your technical skills, but the rewards are great. Capturing an everyday interaction without intruding is an art form that requires a level of fearlessness. This is especially true in some of Kiran’s projects, which frequently stray into high-tension moments of conflict, such as protests and police work.
“Initially when I got into photography I took photographs of everything and anything, especially while learning both the technical and creative sides of photography.” Kiran tells us of his history behind the lens, “Street photography started to creep in a few years later. It was a natural progression. I slowly started adding subjects into my work instead of looking for empty street scenes, and before I knew it, I was looking at books and going to talks by my favourite street photographers. I was just trying to get as much inspiration as possible.”
Kiran’s work getting right into the action between protestors and riot police is impressive, but the photographs he takes of everyday interactions in his home city of London are just as emotive. For those just starting out in street photography, taking your camera to an area you’re familiar with is a great way to find your feet.
Street Photography Inspiration: “Southall – The Place that Raised Me.”
When it comes to street photography inspiration, Kiran’s sources are diverse, and often (quite literally) close to home.
“I like to draw inspiration from lots of different sources; from other photographers, film and documentaries, literature, my environment and the people around me.”
“I’ve lived in the same area my entire life with my parents and two brothers,” he tells us. His project ‘Southall – The Place that Raised Me’ is a strong example of how having a personal connection to the streets you photograph can bring an extra dimension to your photography.
There are rain-soaked streets and blocks of flats rising into the fog. There are fond portraits of local people in all their diversity, there’s creative use of interesting architecture, but it’s juxtaposed with a vandalised ATM and a rusting railway carriage. There’s no attempt to cut around litter or dishevelled crates outside shops, rather it celebrates the untidiness that comes from being lived in. It’s raw, but it’s deeply affectionate.
Six Street Photography Tips for Beginners
If Kiran’s work has you itching to get outside and give it a try yourself, here are a few of his top street photography tips and techniques.
1. Be inspired by other photographers
Learning from fellow photographers is the best way to get started in any new style. Kieran recommends investing in photography books by your favourite street photographers, they’re not only a great source of inspiration but also a way to learn about composition and lighting.
“I take a lot of inspiration from other photographers. Looking through years of their work and seeing the diversity and progression in their art is a huge source of inspiration for me.”
2. Timing is everything
Being in the right place at the right time involves a lot of luck! Some days you can walk around outside for hours and see nothing worth photographing at all, and other days you might capture several great shots in one outing.
“You can make the process easier by choosing your days wisely,” Kieran tells us, “for example, I like to photograph Diwali in my town. I know the dates every year, and I know there will be plenty of great opportunities to photograph people with fireworks, so I always make sure I head out over those two days.”
The same can apply for weather; if snow or fog are forecast, there’s a good chance of getting some interesting atmospheric shots.
3. Spotting composition
Composition in street photography can be tricky, as you’re constantly working with changing subjects. The photographer must surrender control of the scene, and focus more on developing a knack for finding angles and compositional tricks without intervening. Often, you have just seconds to capture that perfect photograph before the moment passes.
“It takes patience and practice,” Kiran explains, “but the more time you spend taking photos the better your composition will be, and your ability to spot a unique scene will get better over time. It might be a case of seeing a scene that you like, but you just need something special to happen there to set it off. In those instances, you can get the camera set up and wait for the right moment. Other times, you turn a corner and the perfect scene just jumps out at you!”
4. The best street photography camera
“In general, kit doesn’t matter too much when it comes to street photography. Mainly, the best street photography camera is one with a light body and a fast lens.”
The best street photography centres around capturing people behaving in a natural way. Unfortunately, the moment you hold your camera up, your subjects might react to you and the scene is interrupted. For this reason, Kiran recommends a DSLR camera with a screen that can be rotated. If you shoot in live view, without holding your camera up to your face, you can capture great photographs without attracting attention.
5. Choosing the right lens
Kiran’s advice is to pack light and keep your kit simple. “I would suggest taking as much of the technicality out of the equation as possible. One way I do this is only going out with one lens. Having only one lens and a fixed focal length takes out the extra complications and allows you to focus solely on capturing photographs. No changing kit while on the go, so you don’t miss that perfect moment!”
For a beginner just starting out in street photography, he recommends a 50mm prime lens, which allows you to take photographs without getting too close to your subject. As your confidence builds, try moving up to a 35mm prime (the common go-to for many street photographers) or a 24mm or 28mm if you prefer something wider.
6. Never give up
“My main tip is to never give up and keep at it. Street photography is one of the hardest forms of photography to master, but for