Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Views on the Ethics and Issues of Street Photography

I read a story recently that brought up a number of questions and scenarios in my mind about some of the issues and ethical questions surrounding the actual act of street photography and how it might raise eyebrows with overly concerned vigilant citizens trying to prevent another 9/11 and/or protective parents etc.

Street photography involves spur of the moment captures of people and things. It defeats the purpose of street photography if you stop to ask your potential subject for permission before taking their photo. In doing that you obviously lose the reality of the moment, there is no moment of reality if that's the case.

I use my own judgment and discretion when selecting my street photograph subjects but one thing I certainly don't do is take photos in a sort of sly manor as if I'm hiding the fact that I'm trying to get a photo without my subject noticing. I line up for the shot and take it, however, I am respectful and keenly aware of my surroundings and subject and if they make it know that they don't want their picture taken, whether verbally or through body language, I don't take it.

There's a video in the link I shared that shows some hidden camera footage taken by a news crew of some "street photographers" and I definitely can see where they might raise some eyebrows (and questions) as to what their intentions are. Some of them look like they might be snapping "upskirt" photos and I certainly don't condone that. Have a look for yourself, scroll down for the video...

Now it may very well be that they are just taking harmless street photography style photos, but the way they are doing it doesn't agree with me and they don't help themselves by acting noticeably nervous and guilty when they are being interviewed by the TV news crew.

If I were to ever be ambushed interviewed about what I was doing (street photography) like the "photographers" in the video, I would first, present my business card and introduce myself. And then I would do my best to explain the beauty of spontaneous street photography and how it loses it's reality if you have to stop and ask for permission etc. I would also offer to show them the photos I have just taken just so there's no question about what types of photos I was actually capturing. Photographers can help themselves tremendously by not acting like they are trying to hide something. If you look like a legitimate artist, then most people will see you as such.

It might be a little paranoid for someone to think a pedophile is up to notorious deeds when it's really just a street photographer tying to capture children at play, but, the photographer should expect wary and watchful parents. With children, I think it's ok to ask permission prior to taking the photo because I don't think you'll lose that reality of the moment like you might with adults, kids will almost always be themselves, carefree and living in the moment.

On the flip side of this, it makes me feel a little bit depressed when I contemplate the nature of our society today, when we have to be on guard all the time. It's too bad we don't live in a world where the general public can't just see a photographer on the street with a camera and not have to worry if he/she is up to no good. It makes me feel like I have to be defensive, even in the authoring of this blog post!

Some of the most iconic photographs in the history of mankind were street photographs, taken at the spur of the moment, without the subjects permission.

I am including several of my own street photography images, take note that I did not ask permission from any of the subject prior to pressing the shutter. Perhaps ask yourself these questions:

1. Would the photograph have turned out differently if I stopped to ask permission from the subject before taking the photo?

2. If you observed me taking this photo would you feel you had anything to be concerned about?

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