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Discovering art in plain sight

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With street photography, he says, "You really have to show your soul, the way your eyes see the place. It's life - raw life. It's the most difficult genre of photography ... because we cannot stop the flow of life.

"The idea is to go out with just one camera and a few rolls and get into the flow and see if I can find something interesting. I want to feel connected to life. Empathy is essential."

Bazan divides his time between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Havana, Cuba, where he has spent several years applying his street-photography style to record the island's rural inhabitants. He calls his quarter-century career "a divine calling," buoyed by "sheer passion and love for photography."

"The greatest expectation is that [the work] will be a record of a unique time in history for future generations to say, 'Yes, it was like that,'" he says.

A sense of bearing witness also motivates New Yorker Melanie Einzig, who came to street photography after rejecting the intellectual detachment of Post-Modernism. As a graduate art student at New York University, she recalls, "it was so uncool to do anything like street photography." Once a professor criticized her street shots, asking dismissively, "Why do I care about these people?"

Ms. Einzig's photographs combine social conscience with artistic expression. "I'm trying to work out who we are as Americans, and how we display ourselves in public," she says, "I feel a responsibility to make historical documents."

Einzig notes that workshops she conducts attract amateur photographers of all backgrounds. "There are a lot of young people [who] really want to do street photography," she says. Could the pendulum swing back to embrace the street ethos? "I'd like to think so," says Einzig. "I think people are hungry to feel that connection."

Both Westerbeck and Ms. Tucker see threats to street photography, however. Journals and book publishers that provide outlets for such work are diminishing.

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