March 6 2016 Toronto street 49 (1 of 1) 1500.jpg




Humanist and Social Photography by Alex Zafer




What exactly is a flâneur?

It comes from the French noun un flâneur [ahn flah-NUR]—EMBLEMATIC OF  19TH CENTURY FRENCH LITERARY CULTURE it means the stroller, the passionate wanderer, observer of the city.

The most notable application of flâneur to street photography probably comes from Susan Sontag in her 1977 essay, "On Photography". She describes how, since the development of hand-held cameras in the early 20th century, the camera has become the tool of the flâneur:

"The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world ‘picturesque."


Currently on The Candid Flaneur street photography blog

"I only know how to approach a place by walking. For what does a street photographer do but walk and watch and wait and talk, and then watch and wait some more, trying to remain confident that the unexpected, the unknown, or the secret heart of the known awaits just around the corner." ~Alex Webb


About the The Candid Flaneur


Street photography (a vague term as it may be) is photography conducted for art or enquiry that features unmediated chance encounters and random incidents within public places. In the street it's spontaneous. Uncontrolled. Serendipitous. Being open to the unexpected. The City is the street photographer's studio.

Street photography has essentially become a catch-all term, unfortunately, but it does best describe the practice in its most generalized definition. Personally I prefer to call it Humanist Photography -- but for all intense and purposes we'll mostly refer to it simply as Street Photography - CANDID that is. It is the authenticity in the non-posed candid shot that I'm after, nothing contrived. I may be an observer but my camera allows me to also be a participant, in a raw and unrehearsed theatre of randomness full of unknown actors and extras.

Wikipedia describes Street Photography as:

Street photography is a genre of photography that features subjects in candid situations within public places and does not necessitate the presence of a street or even the urban environment. ‘Street’ simply refers to a place where human activity can be seen, a place to observe and capture social interaction. The subject can even be absent of any people altogether and can be that of object or environment where an object projects a human character or an environment is decidedly human.


The flâneur first appeared in nineteenth-century Paris, an emblem of the changing city and the changing society, a product of urbanization and revolution. 

Famous French poet, Charles Baudelaire, defined a modern definition of the flâneur—that of “a person who walks the city in order to experience it”. In this case the flâneur is the street photographer who walks, watches, and stops to pay attention to the scenes unfolding before him (or her), engaging with the city as it presents itself in motion and on foot. While Baudelaire characterized the flâneur as a "stroller of city streets", he saw the flâneur as having a key role in understanding, participating in and portraying the city. The Candid Flâneur is like an author in search of characters for his story. An entire novel can spring from a single encounter observed in the city street.

“To be away from home and yet to feel oneself everywhere at home; to see the world, to be at the centre of the world, and yet to remain hidden from the world—impartial natures which the tongue can but clumsily define. The spectator is a prince who everywhere rejoices in his incognito.” ~ Charles Baudelaire, The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays

What we aim to do here:

Everything here is centred around Street Photography. “Street Photography” by definition has many overlaps and nuances. For some of us these overlaps include: Urban, Humanist and Social Photography, Documentary Photography, Candid Photography and Photojournalism. The spirit and rhythm that is REAL-LIFE. 

The Candid Flâneur plays duo roles as both the detached observer as well an an engaged one, studying through the lens the sociological and anthropological notions of the relationship between individuals and the greater populace. Aside from a small compact size camera, good legs and walking shoes are essential tools of the wandering photographer.

Applied sociology through the camera lens

Much of the blog section will be photojournalistic and often-times personal in scope. It will be a non pretentious approach to the art of street photography as it aims to be a destination to exhibit the many aspects of the human condition, day-to-day observations of life in the way only a Street Photographer can. 

The goal is to share with you experiences shooting in the streets, feature curated galleries and short photo essays. As the site is further developed, the idea will be to go in-depth on tactics in street photography, less on the technical and more on concepts, SEEING, finding the story, looking for the visual narrative, lending advice to emerging street photogs and hopefully some wisdom along the way. We'll also touch on photographer rights and ethics. The Candid Flaneur will also cover the work of photographers (past and present) to both help inspire and show us the many styles and approaches to shooting street.

"In my opinion, there is no photographer in Canada who more skillfully and beautifully captures the urban human condition than Alex Zafer." ~Maureen Wilson, Useful Knowledge Society


City Hall, Hamilton

Favorite street photography CORNER

One of my favourite spots to hang about in search of the decisive moment is Queen St. @ Spadina in Toronto. Dundas Square is another. In Hamilton there is no shortage of great candid street photography chances. You'll find plenty of subject matter downtown at King and James St. 

Favourite neighbourhoods to shoot Street

Toronto's financial district is a superb section of the city to catch real life moments. The Fashion District is not to be missed. Kensington Market, Leslieville, Discovery District, Chinatown, The Distillery District, Yorkville, St. Lawrence Market and Little India just to name a few. Toronto has so much to offer.

In the City of Hamilton some of the best street photography opportunities can be found along the arts district specifically James Street North and South. Downtown Dundas, Beasley, Crownpoint, Corktown, Strathcona and Kirkendall neighbourhoods to name a few. Streets not to miss if you are in Hamilton are Ottawa Street for its plentiful antique shops, foot traffic and fashion. Locke Street is another great destination.


43.6561° N, 79.3802° W | 43.2500° N, 79.8661° W

a few favourite quotes:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” ~Proust

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~Elliot Erwitt

“The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible”~Oscar Wilde

”When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.” ~Anonymous

“A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know.”~Diane Arbus



featured VIDEOs

Timeless Wisdom from Magnum’s David Hurn: Wear Good Shoes :: David shares exclusively with YouPic the amazing stories behind his iconic photographs of film celebrities in the 60´s. His interview gives you an exciting inside view of what it was like to be a part of the 1960´s celebrity world. His intriguing stories go behind the scenes of his portraits of stars such as Sean Connery from With Russia with Love, The Beatles on the film set of a Hard Day´s Night, Britt Ekland, and Jane Fonda in Barbarella.

W Eugene Smith is probably one of the most brilliant photojournalists of the mid-20th century. He was a master of the photo essay as his contributions to LIFE magazine, Harpers Bazaar, and the New York Times touched a generation. He was one of the most prolific photographers ever leaving a legacy of hundreds of thousands of photos.

William Klein has lived many lives. One of the world's most influential photographers, he pioneered the art of street photography and created some of the most iconic fashion images of the 20th century. He also made over twenty films, including the first ever documentary about Muhammad Ali and a brilliant satire of the fashion world, Who Are You Polly Magoo?