Street photography is an attitude, a mindset, a way of seeing the world. Yet more practically, as a street photographer, I am also out in the world, shooting in the streets, on a daily basis.

Street photography is a matter of form and of content. Of curiosity and emotion. And of artistic daring, where the greatest challenge is within yourself. We are also talking about a genre in constant evolution, one which reflects the ceaseless changes of our society.

I am of two minds: I think street photography is both the most difficult and the easiest genre of photography. The easiest because you just need a camera and a good pair of shoes. The most difficult, because to really understand the genre, you need to simultaneously get familiar with aesthetics, motivation and agile, lateral thinking. And, besides that, you have to try to make a good picture!

I think today the concept of the “decisive moment” is not that relevant. When it comes to street photography, I prefer to think about “energy.” For me, street photography needs to express that particular tension we can see in cities, all over the world.

Now, street photography is much more than taking pictures in a public place. To be a good street photographer, you need to be the street. Quoting Bruce Gilden, “If you can smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph.” That is exactly what we are talking about. If you are not really connected with the street itself, you will not be able to make good pictures.

Still, there are no boundaries for street photography. Whoever wants to put limits on it is perhaps of an academic inclination. But street photography is the least academic genre of photography. Again, it draws its being from the world, not from anywhere else.

In the history of the genre, Joel Meyerowitz, Lee Friedlander and Garry Winogrand are for street photographers what Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin are for metal heads: you might prefer others; but you can’t think to ignore them.

Composition? Content? Vision? Aesthetics? If you want really stand out with street photography, the most important thing is called—ideas. New ideas lead to new photographs. Something you can’t see everyday. Something plucky, different, out of the ordinary. Otherwise you will be always an ordinary photographer. Thus, I prefer those street photographers who are outside of the mainstream, always trying to leave the common places behind. The people who reach out of their comfort zone and pursue their own thing doggedly.

As a street photographer, I use film and digital, without prejudice or snobbery. But I certainly strive to use manual settings whenever possible. And I always prefer light, compact cameras that allow me to do this. Call me “old school,” but you’ll find me using zone focus and an optical viewfinder to get my results.

I love anything about street photography. I love to go out and shoot. I love that adrenaline running in my veins anytime I am ready to take a picture. I love to meet other street photographers, sharing ideas and points of view with them.

—Alex Coghe