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Street photography uses the techniques of straight photography in that it shows a pure vision of something, like holding up a mirror to society. Street photography often tends to be ironic and can be distanced from its subject matter and often concentrates on a single human moment, caught at a decisive or poignant moment. On the other hand, much street photography takes the opposite approach and provides a very literal and extremely personal rendering of the subject matter, giving the audience a more visceral experience of walks of life they might only be passingly familiar with. In the 20th century, street photographers have provided an exemplary and detailed record of street culture in Europe and North America, and elsewhere to a somewhat lesser extent. Many street photographers adopt a specialization. For example, some street photographers might emphasize the ugliness of modern society by depicting drug use, prostitution, and other forms of crime and/or exploitation. Others might focus on the humorous moments that usually go unnoticed. Either form is a constituent part of street photography.
Many classic works of street photography were created in the period between roughly 1890 and 1975 and coincided with the introduction of portable cameras, especially small 35mm, rangefinder cameras. Classic practitioners of street photography include Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Alfred Eisenstaedt, W. Eugene Smith, William Eggleston, Brassa?, Willy Ronis, Robert Doisneau and Garry Winogrand.