Why is it that some photographers take to the studio, while others take to the street? Is street photography photojournalism, art — or both?
These are some of the questions raised by Everybody Street, a new documentary chronicling the life and work of 13 of New York’s most renowned street photographers, including Joel Meyerowitz, Bruce Gilden, Mary Ellen Mark, Elliot Erwitt, Jeff Mermelstein, Boogie and Martha Cooper.
In order to find answers, director Cheryl Dunn shadows these photographers — many of whom are still working — as they share their often-personal relationships with the camera, and interlaces the resulting oral history-like conversations with images of their unedited photographic stills. It’s a meandering, engrossing film that, despite its sometimes fractured pace, nonetheless centers solidly around New York as an important center of street photography, and the craft itself as an always diverse — if often inconsistent — form of revelation.
A trailer for Cheryl Dunn’s Everybody Street
For Dunn, it is the immediacy of this photographic form that sets it apart: “There is a big element of chance,” she tells TIME. “You need to be open to anything. It’s different from other forms.”
Indeed, through Dunn’s eyes we certainly see the sheer diversity of the photographers’ work. There is the nervy discomfort of Boogie’s projects on crack addicts, the natural elegance of Mary Ellen Mark’s Vietnam war protestor portraits, and there is a beautiful, sometimes sublime joy that emerges from Elliot Erwitt’s lens.
Dunn’s direction leaves us with little doubt, too, that while this may be a unique form of photography, it is surely a branch of photojournalism; a branch often as coarse and as wonderful as the streets from which it emerged.
Everybody Street plays March 3rd at 7pm the School of Visual Arts in New York. A Q&A session with director Cheryl Dunn and photographer Joel Meyerowitz, moderated by TIME’s Director of Photography Kira Pollack, will follow. RSVP for this event at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join LightBox‘s first ever live Twitter chat Friday, Feb. 28 at 3pm EST with Everybody Street director @cheryldunn7 #AskLightbox
Richard Conway is a reporter for TIME LightBox