How To: Street Photography of Houses
House photography can be extremely rewarding and fun. When I’m scrolling through the rabbit hole that is Instagram, I find myself stopping quite often at pictures that are the homes of others. Some are mid-century modern, others are of the extremely banal variety. Some have yards of trash and others are creepily neat. Over the years, I’ve found myself to also be involved in the making of such images. Occasionally, there’s a home, house or structure—maybe it’s all three—that begs to be photographed. Street photography conjures up images of walking through New York City, capture the bustle of life and the characters that fill the sidewalks in that storied city. To me though—it could be my small-town upbringing coming through here—street photography is quite inclusive of a ton of subject matter, including houses.
With street photography of any kind, care must be taken to show respect and obedience of the law for people, places AND things, and houses. So, intrepid street walker with camera in hand, make sure to stay on public places, and avoid private property (unless permission is obtained of course) when photographing.
Some of the first work that introduced me and inspired me to photograph homes and houses was by photographer Robert Adams. For some masterfully photographed work, check out a collection of Adams’s called “Denver“. The photographs in the collection are beautiful and aesthetically pleasing, but there’s something about the passage of time that also plays an important role. Adams photographed his material and the subjects and homes in his photographs were of the period. They weren’t old when he photographed. As you can see in fact, a lot of the homes in his photos were being built as he was photographing. When I see an old car or house, I’m the first to admit I’ll be there photographing, I can’t resist. However, I’m frequently photographing current subject matter as well because over time, the photographs I make will become even more interesting as the photos will serve the purpose as a record of a specific time.
One of my favorite aspects of house photography is that they tell a story. What I find inspiring is that certain regions have certain types of houses. There are, of course, exceptions to this. Some districts and streets have that crazy neighbor living in a home that looks like it never was, and never will be, acceptable for any home-building code. It doesn’t matter what your reason is to photograph, it’s your reason and that’s all that’s needed.
Simply Walk and Do It
The way to start photographing houses is to do it. I used to photograph houses that had the blinds drawn, it felt like a way to satisfy my house-photography craving while not disturbing the house’s tenants. Then, a house that was quite perfectly, beautifully boring arrived into my field of view. The front window was wide open and there were some books on the ledge. The scene appealed to me greatly and I’ve been trying to not think about things too much when I receive that photo vibe. If something tinges in me to photograph something, I photograph it. Otherwise, it could bug me later and I’m there with a camera so why not.
At first, it can be slightly uncomfortable to participate in this style of photography because it’s new and possibly unusual to you. However, just like anything in photography and life, the more you do it and practice, the more comfortable you’ll be and the more improved you’ll become. Plus, it’s art and the prospect of photographing something because of a burning desire to do so, and seeing the results later, has always thrilled me.
Now, I find myself photographing more and more houses and I try to photograph them with the windows unblocked by drapes because I want the homes that look lived in. Sometimes, the owner of a house will ask what I’m doing but my experiences thus far have been positive. In fact, my conversations with people while photographing almost always lead to new photographic avenues and ideas. Care must be taken at all times, of course, and one must have a great deal of knowledge in regards to the neighborhood you’re photographing in. Always try to make sure you’re photographing as safely and legally as possible. It’s important too, to be quick about it.