Do advertisers mind if you include their posters in your street shots? No, they encourage it. They like to see their adverts reproduced in as many places as possible. It’s one reason why so many posters are amusing and “high impact” — and why they positively invite selfies and photo ops of people standing next to them.
This is especially true of posters located close to the ground, at bus stops and waiting areas. There’s much to be gained by having everyman and everywoman displayed in close proximity to the image in a poster. It connects the public to the product. In this way, the product insinuates itself into our collective consciousness and becomes part of the fabric of daily life.
In my street photography I take it for granted that this devious process is taking place, but I don’t attempt to fight it by ignoring the posters. What’s the point? In a hundred years time the product being advertised may have long gone out of fashion, its manufacturer bankrupted by changing tastes. The world moves on, but street photography is forever.
The Eternal Triangle
In my featured image (above) there are several elements playing their separate roles and the Kurt Geiger poster is just one of them. The shape of the poster is repeated in the white rectangles at the top of the frame. Huge columns separate the two real-life figures, a workman in overalls who’s just bought a sandwich and a pregant woman who’s taking a distant photo into the bright sun.
Please don’t ask me for the “meaning” of this picture. While I certainly don’t think its meaningless, I can’t quite put into words any precise explanation of it, other than to analyse the composition. At the time of taking the shot, I saw the image as a whole and composed it deliberately to achieve the effect you see.
When I saw that the model in the poster was wearing sunglasses and appeared to be looking directly at me (and my camera) I was naturally interested. I had to wait for the two figures to move into position and they duly obliged. I had in mind the idea of contrasting real-life people with the image of the glamourous model, but I think the picture has turned out differently. It’s really about photography.
The glamourous model, the pregnant photographer in pink, and me (or you the onlooker) form a triangle that almost encloses the worker and the two huge columns. The whole composition hinges on the man who is closest to the centre of the image. In particular, the whitest and brightest feature is the man’s overalls which identify him with the workers who built and now maintain the magnificent setting.
In other words, the workman is actually part of the background, despite his visual prominence. The real subject is the photographic triangle: us, the model and the woman in pink.
At least, that’s one way of looking at it.
The next picture (above) is not nearly as complicated. It’s just two woman texting while the little girl in the poster gives a big, exaggerated yawn. It’s my simple way of stating that I’m getting a little bored with seeing — and photographing — so many people staring at their phones. Henri Cartier-Bresson never had this problem!
Too Good to Ignore
Images in posters are far too good to ignore. The photographers who take the original shots are highly paid professionals and have gone to a lot of trouble to create the most stunning images possible. If you include their images within your street photo, you owe it to the fraternity of photographers to make a significant contribution of your own. That’s why I say: “If you borrow a poster, put it to good use.”