2014 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, Everybody Street

The clothes, cars and hairstyles seen in the documentary change from one decade to another. What doesn’t change is what the people are doing. Cheryl Dunn, the street photographer and filmmaker behind , says, “People say, ‘Oh, the characters aren’t the same on the street now as they were before,’ and my response is always the same — human nature doesn’t evolve that much; our behavior and reactions to each other are the same.” She points to a photo from the 1940s that shows two men in business suits having a fistfight on the street. Except for the clothes and cars seen in the photo, those same emotions and relationships can be seen today.

Everybody Street, which is screening as part of the 2014 Houston Cinema Arts Festival, follows several New York City photographers over the past 40 years. In it we can see that while human behavior might not have changed much since the middle of the previous century, street photography has. “It changes as the attitudes towards it, from in front of the camera and from behind the lens, change. And I believe it changes with technology ... Instagram has done a lot in altering people’s attitudes towards street photography. It’s something that everyone can do. What you see on Instagram is street photography.”

But why does one snapshot of a street scene belong on Instagram and another on a museum wall? Dunn is clear that there’s a difference, but what it is, she isn’t quite sure. “People used to think photography was magic, and I still do. There’s just something that happens. It happens between me, the picture taker, and that subject. It’s undefinable. How a subject reacts to me is completely different from how they would react to the person next to me. That comes across on the film. There’s a piece of the maker’s spirit in it. I’ve witnessed it a hundred million times. You can take a picture of a pretty girl and it’s nothing special. You can shoot someone else who’s pretty average and it’s beautiful. There’s a mysterious equation there and it really plays a part in photography.”

There’s an opening reception and screening of Dunn’s at 4 p.m. on November 12 at The Brandon Gallery, 1709 West­heimer. Free. “Street Scenes” viewing hours and other Cinema Arts Festival event times and prices vary. Through November 16. For information, visit ­hcaf14.org.
Wed., Nov. 12, 4 p.m.; Nov. 13-16, 12-8 p.m., 2014

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Olivia Flores Alvarez