Monday, May 3, 2010

Street Photographer tournament

This spring Tyler Green conducted an interesting experiment on Modern Art Notes. He chose 32 nominees for Greatest Living American Abstract Painter, set them up in a tournament bracket, and determined the winners through a public online voting process. Timed to coincide with the NCAA's college basketball tournament, the contest was a mix of March Madness and American Idol, with a heavy dose of High Art thrown in. The winner was Cy Twombly.

I've decided to set up a similar tournament for Street Photography. I've chosen 64 of the best Street Photographers in history, seeded them, and designed a tournament bracket.

Please take a minute to look at it. If you want to play along as we go, you can print this bracket out today, fill in your selections, and see how many winners you've picked six weeks from now.

A disclaimer about the bracket: These are my selections. They are not scientific. The guiding principle I used for inclusion was to ask myself, "If you put this person at the peak of their street career on 5th Avenue in New York for twenty minutes, who would return with the best, most streety, most serendipitous shot?" I generally gave more weight to historically influential photographers, which means you won't find many current shooters on the list. I gave weight to small-format, candid, unplanned shooters, which I consider the heart of street photography. The main exception is Arbus, whom I just couldn't leave out. I gave zero weight to documentary or photojournalist shooting which is why you won't find, e.g., Eugene Smith or Capa in the bracket.

I know many people will disagree with my names and seedings. I don't want to get bogged down in arguments about who should or shouldn't be where in the bracket. All I can say is I've put some careful thought into designing it, and hopefully you can accept that and play along.

The way the tournament will work is every Monday I will post one round of matchups in the sidebar to the right. You'll have one week to vote using the buttons in the sidebar. When considering how to vote, I'd encourage you to use criteria similar to my own ("5th Avenue...") but of course you're welcome to vote however you want.

On Sunday evenings I will tabulate results, and then post new matchups every Monday. The first round is fairly massive, with 32 matchups. But it will get simpler, as each round will eliminate half the photographers. The tournament will last six weeks. We should have a winner by Mid-June.

Please spread the word about this tournament to anyone in the street photography community who may be interested. The more participants the better. Have fun voting.


Anonymous said...

arles Traub appears twice, in polls 3 & 25. Is that right?

tomleininger said...

I like the idea, I want to complain about the brackets a bit. Won't get me anywhere though. No play in game? Tough first round, I tend to go back and forth between historical and more recent.

Burk Uzzle and Charles Harbutt were shafted.

wolf said...

where are the photos for reference? seems like just a glorified popularity contest without 'em.

David Solomons said...

Anyone running a book on this one:

Based on early polls and other popularity factors here are some selected unscientific odds:

Winogrand: 7/2F
Eggleston: 4/1
Cartier-Bresson: 11/2
Robert Frank: 8/1
Friedlander: 15/1
Ray-Jones: 20/1
Webb: 20/1
Gilden: 20/1
Levitt: 25/1
Erwitt: 25/1
Meyerowitz: 25/1
Koudelka: 25/1
Arbus: 33/1
Parr: 50/1

All prices subject to changes as the tournament progresses.

Nick Turpin said...

Poor old Bruno Barbey gets Winogrand in the first round!

Fun idea.

Blake Andrews said...

It is indeed a popularity contest. If I put specific photos in the contest would be about them rather than the photographers.

Maybe I misjudged Uzzle and Harbutt. They both did great work but, at least from what I've seen, it didn't extend over a long period. Also, they may have been disproportionately influential because each of them published street photo books back when publishing was less common.

Bobby Abrahamson said...

No Walker Evans? (what about his subway series, and early street shots?!)

Blake Andrews said...

Walker Who?

No, seriously, I left Evans out because although he did some street work I wouldn't really classify him as a street photographer. The same with some other folks like Callahan, Siskind, and Strand. They all shot some photos that could be classified as street but I don't think any had street shooting deep in their soul, which in the end is what it takes.

phillhunt said...

My money's on Winogrand but sentimentally, I'd like to see Marc Riboud progress through the rounds.

Anonymous said...

looks like 9 of these are among the 16 in the book, The New York School: Photograph 1936-1963

i have personal favorites among some of those left out

Zisis Kardianos said...

It's surprising how close Epstein is to Kertesz.
I expect Kertesz to be in the semi-final, at least.

Blake Andrews said...

One of the fun (and unanticipated) aspects of this has been tracking voting results in real-time. I find myself cheering for certain photographers (like Kertesz) or wondering why some races aren't closer than they are, or pondering potential upsets. I find it very similar to following March Madness.

Joel R said...

The tournament i dont care much about, but there are names on this list i haven't heard of. Now i have something to do at work. Thanks.

cacv12000 said...

With this tournament, street photography has officially "Jumped the shark"...

William Greiner said...

I am impressed by the obvious thought put into the seedings! This is fun and funny. Congrats

Todd Walker said...

So glad to see the under-appreciated Erich Salomon included!

Sridhar said...

Hey where is Magnum photographer Raghu Rai?

Gary Gumanow said...

Sad to see Mr. Lee and Garry facing off before the finals. Wished we'd see that.