12 Apr 2014

Everybody Street dir. Cheryl Dunn (2013)

I’m just done watching Everybody Street, a 2013 doc by Cheryl Dunn about the practice of street photography in general, and in particular the development of the artform over several decades in New York.

Dunn’s method is to present a series of photographers in turn, explore their methods, their motivations, and their work. The result is a neat mosaic of some strikingly different personalities, all drawn to turn lenses on the city they call home. Enjoyable as these pieces are, it may have profited the film to have had some dialogue between the various practitioners: to find out what they each think about what makes the others tick. There’s enough for the viewer to piece together where their various interests overlap or diverge, but in holding to the format of presenting one photographer at a time a conversation never develops between them; it feels a little like we’re seeing the surface of a dozen lives at the expense of really coming to understand any one.

If that seems uncharitable it is likely I was spoiled a little by 2010’s Bill Cunningham, New York: a remarkable documentary working similar territory, the magic of which comes when the film moves past Bill Cunningham as photographer and becomes interested in the man. If Dunn’s project here is solely to give an overview of New York street photography it is very well accomplished. That I came away with a list of names to look up, wanting to know more about some of the snappers than the film allows time for, can be read as either a positive or a negative.