It’s another cold January morning in Copenhagen. The snow is partly melted, outlining the rectangular bricks along the curving streets. A man and a woman stand with their bikes on the corner of a busy intersection with the statue of Danish King Frederik VII in the background. As an empty taxi passes, the couple leans in for a quick kiss before cycling away down different streets.
A parting kiss in the cold, a small affection seemingly ordinary or routine, is instantly immortalized as a beautiful and intimate moment through the camera lens of Nabaz Anwar, a street photographer in Copenhagen. The fleeting moment represents a brief second in the day—something Anwar and other street photographers all over the world hope to capture, one photograph at a time.
The Essence of Street Photography
Eugène Atget, a Parisian photographer, is said to be the founder of the street photography genre. In 1898, Atget focused on cataloguing vieux Paris (old Paris). Since its beginnings in Paris, street photography has attempted to showcase a raw form of contemporary art centered on connect-ing the candid lives of individuals to their urban environments. As a street photographer and a sociologist, Anwar combines his interest in human interaction into his art. The 24mm to 50mm camera lenses he uses expose the daily happenings of Copenhagen.
The interesting thing about human culture, Anwar believes, is that we like to keep to ourselves, especially in these modern times. “We are afraid of each other, afraid of touching each other, afraid of speaking to each other,” he says. “We are taught how to behave, how to talk, how to respect each other’s bubbles and personal spheres.”
A street photographer is able to document a pure vision of society that shows the world that we are not really so different from one another. “What I think is that all of us in the world—no matter what country or culture—are very similar to each other,” says Anwar. “We all want the same things: to feed our children and to be happy on our streets.” Street photography is different from documentary photography in that it doesn’t focus on documenting historical events. Instead, it manifests humanity within every picture, showing what we have done and what we are doing.
A Mobile Pursuit
The intriguing aspect of street photography is that it is a mobile pursuit. Each street, each sidewalk, each mode of transportation provides an opportunity to chase a fleeting moment. In capturing a moment, a street photographer comes closer to connecting with life in the city. Anwar enjoys uniting his two passions: photography and the study of individuals. Each time he leaves his home to walk the streets of Copenhagen (walking approximately 10 to 11 kilometers, or 6 to 7 miles, on each outing), he brings his camera and little black notebook. Anwar keeps a map in his home, where he places a needle in each location of Copenhagen he visits.
Sometimes even after a long day of photographing, Anwar doesn’t always capture the shot. “If I miss a shot or if the light was great at a particular moment, I make a note to go back another day,” says Anwar. A main pursuit of street photography is to capture the entirety of an urban environment—it’s not just stepping outside of your home and taking a picture of a stranger on the street; it’s finding a hidden story, a joyous moment, or a humorous encounter that brings a society closer together.
An Art in Progress
Although Copenhagen isn’t as large as New York, Paris, or London—three cities where street photography is a well-developed genre—Anwar and fellow street photographers hope to cultivate the genre within Copenhagen. Anwar continues to study and research street photography from its beginnings in Paris to classic modern-day photographers like Robert Frank (b. 1924),
a notable American street photographer. Anwar is currently working on a book to be published later this year, which will include 100 of his best photographs of Copenhagen. He hopes to showcase Copenhagen by submitting some of these photographs to the London Festival of Photography in coming years. This international photography festival is dedicated to highlighting contemporary works
of visual story-telling that reflect and document human behavior and society. This year, the festival will be held in June and July in various venues across London.
Street photography is a form of art that beautifully captures the world we live in, honestly and without discrimination. Through his work, Anwar hopes to remind people that we’re not all that much different from one another. Street photography is a “little culture blooming” within Denmark, he says. “It is a work I am doing for myself, for Copenhagen, for art.”
Audrey E. Blake