Given that I just published a review of Stuart’s Into the Fire, I figured I should probably just go ahead and make this Matt Stuart week and slap up a quick review of his 2021 how-to guide, Think Like a Street Photographer.
I’m not sure how this came on my radar. I think I’m on the Laurence King mailing list maybe, or maybe Stuart announced it on his Instagram (which I regrettably didn’t link to in my review of his Slab City book: apologies, I guess. Anyway. However I found it, I’m a sucker for books of this type, more or less, even if I in no way consider myself a street photographer.
If you are a street photographer, Stuart has some good ideas for you. Shoot. Even if you’re not a street photographer, even if you’re a hack, not-even-wannabe like me, he’s probably got some good-enough ideas for you.
No spoilers. It’s a quick, easy, fun read and the book’s cheap enough. Just go buy one. Anyway. Just for a taste, here are the chapter titles:
- Think Lucky, Be Lucky
- Get Into the Flow
- Bad Weather, Good Photos
- Be Calm
- If at First You Don’t Succeed
- Keep it Simple
- See with a Child’s Eyes
- Shoot First, Think Later
- Be Good
- The Three F’s (Fish, Follow, #^[%)
- Strange but True
- Be a Fortune Teller
- To Speak, or Not to Speak
- Ten Points for a Pipe
- Ha Ha Bonk!
- Engage and Reward
- What About Here?
- Broaden Your Horizons
- Own Your Vision
- The Last Word
Solid colored spreads with one image on the left and title and subtitle on the right, introduce each very brief chapter. The text of each chapter mostly occupies just one spread, punctuated with a picture or three, and followed by a spread or two of pictures, some full bleed, others in grids. For each, Stuart talks some about the making, some about the ethos and philosophy of their making or of street photography in general, and some about editing, selecting, and the like. If you read like I do—and I don’t recommend it: I took a speed reading class in High School, so I read rather quickly; in my advancing age, my recall is almost nonexistent—you can get through the book in a couple of hours. That is, unless you stop to look at the pictures, which contain most all of Stuart’s biggest hits, albeit at not-the-biggest size. At least the pictures are printed, rather than on a screen, and the printing seems decent enough.
Given that I just reviewed Into the Fire, Chapter 18 was of some interest. In it, Stuart talks about his time at Slab City, and he sorta contradicts what he said to Blake Andrews. In the interview, Stuart says “I had my camera with me the whole time. … the dodgy lock on the van was the main reason to always have my camera and valuables with me.” Then, in Think Like a Street Photographer, he writes, “There were a few days when I didn’t even pick up my camera – I just got to know the residents.”* I suppose this isn’t quite contradictory, that you can both have a camera with you “the whole time” and have a “few days” when you don’t even pick it up…
And maybe it was a failure of translation or something. While the cover bears Stuart’s name, and while it is, more or less, his work, it was edited by “Gemma Padley, photography writer and editor, who patiently turned my words into writing….”** Perhaps Padley took a few liberties, or maybe Stuart misspoke or mistyped something somewhere. Anyway. It’s a slight quibble, and in both the interview and the book, Stuart makes clear that he took time to meet and get to know the Slabbers, and to a much greater extent than he does on the streets of London. Anyway, slight quibbles aside, it’s a nice little book, cheap enough, and a good read.
At time of writing, Laurence King has copies available, and it’s a wide, deep release, available all over, so it should be easy to find elsewhere. And once you find the buy it now button or whatever your retailer of choice calls it, pay Stuart a visit at Instagram, where he shares a ton of photobooks, sorta like me. His website, where he shares images and has links to interviews and other reviews, is worth a visit too. If you’re unfamiliar with Stuart, do yourself a favor.
*Stuart, Matt. Think Like a Street Photographer. Laurence King, London, 2021. p. 113
**ibid, p. 128