A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about street photography

Street art


I love to see and to photograph street art, although I feel it poses a couple of challenges. Firstly, when judging graffiti, where is the line where vandalism crosses over into art? And secondly, when judging a photo of street art, are we really assessing the skill of the photographer, or of the original artist?

On the first point, I think we can look at two factors. While the appeal of art is very subjective, generally it’s possible to recognise elements of creativity, imagination and originality – and conversely, to recognise the lack of these in a piece of pure vandalism. But location also plays a part – was the artist invited to create a work of art on this wall? Is it in an area put aside for this purpose? If not, has the piece diminished or added to the attractiveness of a street scene?

I believe all the photos I will share in this blog entry tick at least one of the ‘is it art?’ qualifiers. As to whether they are good photos or simple accurate records of ‘good’ art, I will leave you to judge – but sometimes a straightforward record shot is worth sharing too!



I want to start here, on Chile’s Pacific coast, as it is one of the best cities I have ever visited for street art. But as I have already blogged about a day trip here elsewhere on this site (Valley of Paradise), do feel free to skip these first photos!

Valparaiso is famous for its neighbourhoods of colourful houses that spill down the hillsides towards the port. They are a magnet for artists, for photographers, for writers and are especially known for the street art that adorns many of the buildings, which was one of the main things that attracted us here. No doubt this started unofficially, and just here and there, but today it is a major feature of the city, helped by a tolerant city council who overlook the fact that graffiti and street art are illegal in Chile and have ensured that there are no regulations that explicitly outlaw it .

Instead it is widely accepted and even welcomed by local businesses such as cafés and shops, who recognise that it will attract visitors. Many owners nowadays will commission street artists to create a design for their wall, while many artists who spot a likely wall space will pitch their ideas to the owner and collaborate to produce a design with which both are happy.

Most of my photos were taken on the streets of Cerro Concepción, one of the designated historic areas known as a zona típica, but you find similar in many other parts of the city.






Portugal seems to be more tolerant than most cities of graffiti, and many examples found in Lisbon might be judged to be on the wrong side of the vandalism/art divide, but I’ve always found plenty to admire here too. Much of the graffiti here is created with the use of stencils – the Barrio Alto and Alfama districts are the best places to search. In recent years there has been increased interest in creating street art on a much larger scale, covering whole buildings, as in the last example here (taken on our most recent visit in 2013).

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Graffiti in the Barrio Alto, 2009

Lisbon street art, 2013


In Faro too, which I visited with Virtual Tourist friends in 2016, I found some colourful examples of street art:

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In Faro


This is another city I discovered through Virtual Tourist when a meeting was organised here in 2014. I liked it so much I went back the next year with Chris. Architecturally it is perhaps most famous for its Art Nouveau district, but the more working class and somewhat scruffy area known as Latgale or Maskavas forštate (Moscow District) is also appealing photographically speaking, and has the best examples of street art – most, though not all, of these photos were taken there on those two trips.





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In Riga


Perhaps the best-regulated display of street art is the East Side Gallery in Berlin. There are several places in that city where stretches of the once infamous Wall remain. Some are left much as they were, one at least showing the signs of destruction caused by the assault by local people when finally they brought the Wall down. But on the banks of the Spree near the Ostbahnhof is a stretch that has been restored and decorated with a series of murals by artists from all over the world. And whereas in the period of the city’s division the decorative graffiti was confined to the western side of the wall, now it is the eastern side that is both colourful and, at times, political.

Birds in Heaven
No-man's Land
The Birth of Hip Hop

In the Scheunenviertal

The 1.3 km stretch was turned into this informal open-air gallery soon after the fall of the Wall, in 1990, and completely restored, with new art-works, in 2009 to mark the 20 year anniversary of that event. There are 106 works in total, and it claims to be the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Much of the art work on display will stimulate and remind you of the events of 1989, as well as raising some challenging questions perhaps about on-going conflict in our world – although a few pieces seem to be just for fun. My photos show a selection of the works I liked best when we visited in 2011, soon after this restoration.

But street art in Berlin isn’t confined to the East Side Gallery – here are a couple of pieces from trendy neighbourhoods Scheunenviertal and Prenzlauer Berg.

Oderberger Strasse, Prenzlauer Berg

Some other examples

Lagos, Portugal

As some of the photos above show, I like to include people in my street art shots, to give perspective and bring the scene to life. Here are a few more random examples of this:

Lower East Side, NYC

In Liège

Newcastle / Gateshead

But I don’t have to travel far to find good street art! We make several visits each year to Chris’s home town of Newcastle and I always carry a camera when out and about in this very photogenic city. In recent years the area around Ouseburn just east of the city centre has been developed as a focal point for artists, creative businesses and similar, and is a great place to find interesting street art.




Ouseburn Valley, Newcastle


But perhaps the best place I know for street art is my home city of London – or maybe I just know where best to look for it here? Certainly I have a surfeit of examples that I could share, so here is just a (perhaps rather large!) selection:

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All the above taken near Brick Lane

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All taken in Shoreditch and Hoxton - ripe hunting ground for lovers of street art

Posted by ToonSarah 05:41 Tagged art streets city photography street_art street_photography Comments (9)

Street photography


In recent years I have become interested in street photography – both taking my own photos and in the work of others. There is something of the ‘thrill of the chase’ in hunting down these serendipitous moments when the right person walks into the right place to create a striking image for your lens.

Wikipedia defines street photography as featuring ‘unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places.’ While not necessarily urban, or even on a street, these chance encounters are of course more likely to happen where people gather in numbers.

Here is a selection of what I consider to be my more successful images to date, starting close to home:


Portobello Road Market

Camden Market

On Regent Street

A zoom lens lets you get in close while remaining unobserved:

At a festival on Regent Street

The Tube is a fruitful place to spot interesting characters:

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On the Tube

And art exhibitions create opportunities too, as visitors interact with the displays:

Photography exhibition at the Royal Geographic Society

Visitors to the Serpentine Pavilion, Kensington Gardens

Elsewhere in Europe opportunities abound too ...


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Black and white seems to lend itself especially to this kind of photography, even on a sunny day


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On the streets of Tallinn

Artist at work, Pikk Jalg

Human statues

These will expect a tip if you take their photo as they pose, but they often look more interesting when on a break:

In Bologna

In Lindau

In Riga

New York City

Is there a better place in the world than NYC for photographing life on the street? I don’t think so:

Policeman on Broadway

SoHo street scene

Near Broadway

In Empire-Fulton Street State Park, Brooklyn

On the subway

Top of the Rock


In India much of daily life is played out on the streets, so it seems almost superfluous to describe these photos as street photography! But they make an interesting contrast to those taken in the western world (with apologies to those who have already seen these in my travel blogs):

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In Jodhpur, and in Old Delhi

In Old Delhi

In Agra

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In Chowara village

And to finish, a selection from a few other parts of the world:


Shoppers on Takeshita Street, Tokyo

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In the Plaza de Armas, Santiago

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In Havana, Cuba

Posted by ToonSarah 03:54 Tagged people city photography street_photography Comments (10)

Faces of the world


In my last entry, Markets, I mentioned how much I enjoy taking photos of local people on my travels. Of course, people’s willingness to be photographed varies enormously from place to place – they certainly don’t always share my pleasure, I have to confess. I also have to confess to shooting candid photos on many occasions – not only because I realise that my chosen subject may be unwilling to pose but also (and primarily) because I prefer the natural look of an unposed portrait. That said, if anyone sees my camera and asks me to put it away or not take their photo, I always do so.


Musician in Essaouira

My experience of photographing people in the various African countries we have visited is quite variable. In Morocco I found most locals very wary of my camera – even to the point that on a recent visit I was challenged to show two men the photo they claimed I had just taken of them, when I had not actually done so. It was only when I showed them every image, right back to those of our flight the previous day, that they believed me. You can imagine that I was very careful not to alert anyone there when taking pictures, and to restrict myself to long range shots. Some of these may find their way into later entries, but this one is focused (literally) on faces.

But in sub-Saharan Africa, on trips to Senegal and the Gambia, I found people much less interested in me and my camera, and portraits were relatively easy to capture.


I have already shared some images from the huge street market of Serekunda in my earlier entry on Markets, so here are just a few of the portrait shots I captured there:

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In Serekunda Market

Our tour to the small villages of villages of Albreda and Juffureh offered much better opportunities to take photos of local people. I described that tour as follows on my Virtual Tourist page about the Gambia:

If you have read Alex Haley's book, Roots, have seen the TV series or are simply interested in the history of slavery in The Gambia and West Africa, this tour provides an interesting insight into the places and people behind his story and that of thousands of others. You board a boat in Banjul for the two hour journey on the River Gambia to the villages of Albreda and Juffureh. In the former you visit a museum dedicated to the slave trade and see various monuments to that time, as well as getting the opportunity to observe village life (albeit somewhat distorted by the locals' understandable desire to entertain and thus make money out of the many tourist groups). In Juffureh you meet the village chief (when we visited, February 2014, the role was taken, unusually, by a woman) and also members of Kunta Kinteh's family. The latter was the ancestor of Alex Haley to whom he traced his roots, and this village was his home.

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Kinteh family member, and village chief, Juffureh

Villager, Albreda


To visit the southern part of Senegal, as we did, you need to start in Banjul, Gambia, and catch the ferry across the river – a perfect people-watching and people-photographing opportunity:




Once in Senegal, we took every opportunity to get out and about from our hotel bases, and met local people wherever we went:

Local woman in Djifere

At the market in Ngueniene

At the market in Ngueniene

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Locals after mass in Mar Lodj, and animal trader in Ngueniene


There is no difficulty in India in taking photos of the people. While a few may wave away your camera, most are tolerant of it and many not only willing but eager to pose. As I have said, I prefer a natural look to my photos, so while I will take the posed shots, and show or share them if asked, I usually take a few extra when my subject is less aware that I am doing so.

Security guard, Khimsar Fort hotel

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In Khimsar

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Locals in Udaipur

On both our recent visits to the country we have spent quite a lot of time driving (or rather, being driven) from town to town, and with all the activity to be seen on and beside the road there are plenty of opportunities to grab some candid shots. I already shared this photo in my Road to Jaipur blog, but it's one of my favourites and I can't resist also including it here:

Camel herder on the road to Jaipur


This was another place where I found it very easy to get some good portrait shots, with many people willing to pose or to ignore my camera:

Wedding at the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo

Rickshaw driver, Takayama

Market stall-holder, Takayama

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Two different faces of modern Japan - Buddhist nun and bullet train guard

Latin America

On occasion it is worth ‘paying’ for a shot. The lady below, in Santiago Atitlán, Guatemala, was happy to pose in return for our purchase of one of the little bead key-rings she was selling, while the guy in Jamaica was equally happy to be in my shot once I had bought a cold drink from his shack:

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Others there though were perhaps just too spaced-out to notice my camera at all!

Guy selling grass at Bob Marley's birthplace

At the Bob Marley Museum in Kingston

A few more of my favourites from that part of the world, taken on our recent trip to Chile, and a couple of years ago in Ecuador:

Kebab seller, Machuca, Chile

Souvenir seller, Rapa Nui

In the Plaza de Armas, Santiago, Chile

Local in Otavalo market


Musician, Tallinn

Special events often provide an opportunity for candid photography, such as the Old Town Days celebrations in Tallinn which I saw while at a Virtual Tourist meeting there in 2014, and the same city’s Medieval Days a year later on a return visit:

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Musician and stall-holder, Tallinn Old Town Days

Stall-holder, Medieval Days fair, Tallinn

Closer to home

Here’s a selection from much closer to home, in London:

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Performers at a carnival at City Hall, London

Portobello Road Market

And finally, let us remember that portraits don’t always have to include the face to tell you something about the person portrayed, so here are three photos taken from behind the subject:

In Rajasthan

Football fan in Lisbon

Geisha, Kyoto

Posted by ToonSarah 05:42 Tagged people parties london japan india chile guatemala jamaica photography tallinn ecuador rapa_nui street_photography Comments (8)

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