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Thread: Street Photography - Right or Wrong and When Does it Cross the Line?

  1. #11
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    Lately, I've been getting a lot more interested in Street (or whatever you want to call it). I went to an exhibition in The Hague when I was there a few years ago, it was all photos taken in the 1950s and 1960s, just life on the streets, people going about their daily business, "this is how they lived back then" kind of shots.
    And I really liked it, both as a photographer and audience. As photographer I could enjoy the lighting and the mood, the expressions and the composition and all that.
    But as someone who didn't live in The Hague in the 1950s (being 30 years before I was born on the opposite side of the world), I could appreciate the scenery, the buildings that had changed, the ones that hadn't, the post-war poverty that a lot (including my dad and his 13 brothers&sisters) lived through, the fact that both then and today there are people riding the same Oma Fietsen to the same spot to eat the same raw herring (and now i've gotten myself hungry).

    Anyway, that was one of my "i wanna do this stuff" moments. For people (even if it's only me) in 50 years to be able to look back at something I took and think, "wow, so much/little has changed", and "did it really used to be like this?".
    I work out in an industrial estate and drive through some pretty dodgy suburbs to and from work, the views I see are more remeniscent of what I'd imagine 1940s Segregated South USA to be like, not in 2012, 4km from the centre of Australia's 5th largest city. (actually, I took a photo of a church the other day out there, it could have fit in either of the 'test of time' or (out in the) 'sticks' assignments, but i didn't like the resulting shot. As i took the photo I half-imagined that a 10 year old Ray Charles might be walking out of the place right then).
    Anyway, that's what's been becoming important to me recently, I feel that this kind of stuff should be documented (ok, so maybe it's Documentary photography, not Street), especially to show that although we're one of the best (non-scandinavian) countries of the world to live, high incomes, economy is one of the few still growing, and yet there's all this poverty still going on.
    I've even bought myself a Bessa L (i'd call it a rangefinder but there's not rangefinder, nor a viewfinder, just ttl metering hyperfocal point&shoot) and 21mm Skopar to go with it, to be a bit more discrete (it's not the kind of place i'd be walking around with $3000 worth of digital around my neck, i'm also practising shooting from a moving vehicle whilst driving).

    So, back to the original point. Denise's trashcan photo sits exactly in with where i'm thinking right now. That stuff needs to be documented. And as others have said, maybe by documenting and showing it, people might wake up to what's happening and change might come about. Think about some of those famous photos that did that. The screaming naked girl in Vietnam, running away from her napalmed-village. The kodakchrome refugee girl huddling in a corner. I can't think of any others right now, but I'm sure there's some non-war ones. That photo of the cop giving the guy shoes, that's also in the same vein. It made people sit up and take notice, maybe not of the poverty but also the random acts of kindness that happen and never get reported. So in that way i've got nothing against that photo (or at least the idea of that photo).

    But then, it's what happened after the photo that's the thing. Yes, I can understand that the homeless guy in that cop photo feels a bit miffed. Worldwide attention, the cop is famous, he gets nothing (well, at least he got a pair of shoes, even if he doeesn't wear them). But what of the photographer?
    "the Police Department posted the photo of him and Mr. Hillman, taken by an Arizona tourist, on its Facebook page."
    An Arizona Tourist, how nice. Not even a name? Did he/she give unconditional rights to the police department for the photo? Did he/she get any royalties from it being reprinted? Yes, the homeless guy has a right to feel exploited, but he's not being exploited by the photographer, for all we know the photographer is being exploited too. The only people cashing in on this shot are the newspapers and whoever is reprinting it and making a buck.

    But that happens every day anyway, whether it's a Street shot, landscape, or a horse. Read this from the point of view of a photog who had his photo stolen and re-posted everywhere. That's different, of course, because he earns his bread from photography, and at least he was the only one who got hurt (i'm sure the subject didn't mind too much).

    As for the subway, that's definitely in the Princess Diana kind of grey area. Her story was the most tragic, it's quite probably that it was the photogs that caused the crash, not least that they made her life hell before it anyway. Did that guy in the subway have enough time to think "hmmm, wow, I can make money from this shot", then pull his camera out, frame, shoot, then run towards the guy? Was he 2m away with a wide-angle, or the other end of the platform with a 300mm? If he had his camera out already, he would still have had to put it down to help. Had he acted differently, would he have gotten there in time anyway? What about everyone else on the platform, where were they in all this? Maybe he is telling the truth and he thought his flash would alert the driver? (everyone acts differently in split-second things like that)
    And most of all, why are we talking about the photographer at all, wasn't he pushed? Why aren't we decrying the actions of the pusher?
    So to me that all depends on the circumstances, which a) I don't know, and b) are probably his word vs anyone's, before i can decide whether or not i hate the photo, or the photog.
    Of the newspaper that printed it? How is this shot different to the napalm girl? Both shot a few seconds before (potential) death. OK, the napalm girl shot helped change public opinion of a war, i don't think this subway shot will. But it might, we won't know for many years. (I should probably mention at this point that no, I personally don't like the thought of this photo, so I'm not going to view it in itself).
    The way the newspaper reported it and the headline "Doomed, pushed on the subway track, this man is about to die." is more deplorable than anything that could possibly be in the photo. That's definitely in the same vein as the Princess Diana shots. And it's we the public to blame, for lapping it up (well not me, I don't buy women's magazines or newspapers, but that's besides the point).

    But then sometimes it does have a happy ending. The story of the napalm girl for instance. The photographer got the shot, but then drove her to hospital and saved her life. Read this for the full story.

    You never know what's going to happen to your photos, and whether you've got control over it (ask any teenage girl who's taken a naked shot of herself and sent it to her bf). If you don't want to be exploited, or your subjects to be exploited, don't take the shot. If the photo tells a story that is more important than the feelings of the individuals involved (including yours), then take the chance. It might change the world, it might not. You might get rich and famous like Steve McCurry, you might change the course of a war or at least save a life, or you might end up like just another Tourist from Arizona.
    Last edited by Dr Croubie; 12-05-2012 at 11:36 PM.
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  2. #12
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    Some powerful stuff posted above to think about! I took the photo of the two men a few weeks after getting my first camera and kit lens just a few years ago. I was down by the lake in freezing cold shooting anything and everything. When I got my camera, I thought this was the type of photography I would be doing. Something that would move people, bring awareness and make a difference. It took that photo to make me realize I didn't have it in me.

    Getting back to casual street photography of people going about their day doing there normal daily outdoor things. Put yourself on the other side of the camera. If you were at the beach with your family and someone was taking random shots of people at the beach would it bother you if it were your children that were in some of the shots? Would it make a difference if it were a casual hobbyist such as myself or the local newspaper photographer doing a story on the latest heatwave?

    What makes me ask this is the summer after I took that shot above down by the lake, there was apparently another hobbyist photographer in the area where I always shoot down there. Turns out he took hundreds and hundreds of photos of kids at the beach and the photos were plastered on literally every inch of the walls, doors, kitchen cabinets, etc. inside his house. When he got busted, believe me you didn't want to be seen down by the lake with a camera in your hand for quite awhile! To this day, I think people around here are very unaccepting of street photographers and if you are down by the lake ...you had better be taking photos of the birds and boats!

  3. #13
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    Yeah, you've just touched on another point that I didn't make (I thought my post above was long enough).
    There's definitely parts of "real street" photography that I'm not comfortable with. In most cases I try to think "would I like someone else to take a photo of me doing this?" and the answer is generally no (part of the reason I have a camera is to make sure i'm always on the viewfinder end of it). But then I have to weigh it up against 'everyone else is doing it' and 'even if there's not photographers around, i'm on CCTV 24/7 anyway'.
    There's a guy over at CR, he takes his 1D mkIV and 400/2.8 on a tripod, down to the local drinking strip at 2am, and photographs drunks coming out of pubs and occasional street fights. Safety-concerns aside (I wouldn't be lugging $10k worth of gear to a place full of violent drunks), that kind of photography doesn't sit well with me. Yes, shots like that can be useful evidence in criminal cases if anything goes wrong (but that's what cctv is for). But what about the guys there? I'm sure they don't want their bosses seeing them like that. What if they've gone drinking straight after work, wearing a shirt with a company logo, have a shot taken of them near a fight (even if they're not involved), boss sees the photo and decides it's a bad image for the company and they get fired? (obvious answer would be to get changed after work, or that maybe just being in that place in that state is reason enough, the photo is just the evidence). Living your life like someone's always pointing a camera at you is not a bad way to live, i suppose.
    And then there's another counter-argument to that. Lately I've had a heap of friends get married, with the inevitable bucks' shows that end up at titty bars. I don't mind being seen going into one, but the thing is, I didn't. I don't have any major moral objection, but normally by that time of night i'm about to fall asleep anyway, and they're expensive to get into. But I have been lining up with the people who were going into them, I went into the entrance foyer to say goodbye to the buck and all the rest going in, before I left to grab a taxi home. Would I have minded if someone had taken a shot of me then, lining up or leaving? Strangely enough, no, had i gone in and enjoyed the show. But had someone taken a shot of me, accused me of going in when I hadn't, that I would have a problem with (maybe I'm just weird).

    I don't know, it's all mixed shades of grey area, so that's why I shy away from that sort of 'candid street' photography. If you can't see the faces or anything else that makes the subject readily identifiable, then it's fair game, I suppose.
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  4. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by Raid View Post
    All comments and criticisms are very welcome. One of the things I like most about this forum is that free expression is allowed, nobody gets to precious about their work (although I wish Joel, Bob, Sean, Denise and many others would post a few duds just to show the rest of us that they are human).

    I don't see PJ as showing truth or even being unbiased. There are so many shots that I can remember that cause you (the viewer) to ask what is going on here, in other words it tells a story. Many images may even grab you and disturb you. This is what I feel PJ is about and if you look at many of the images under the term street, they are easily to pick.

    I was out with some work colleagues and as normal I was discreetly using my P&S (f1.8 no flash). A woman received a photo call that her brother was uncontactable after the Tsunami in Indonesia (2004). A few days later after mobile coverage was restored she found out he was safe.
    Some days later I was reviewing the shots I had taken at home, when I realised I had taken a shot of that womans face as she was receiving the call. Even though I did not tell my girlfriend what the photo was about, she cried when she saw it and I still find the image of her face haunting. I have never shown that image to anybody else or even tell anybody it exists, for some reason I have never deleted it. I regard that image as a gross intrusion into her life.

    This is the conflict I see in this type of photography, the images that I remember the most are the images I wish I had not taken.

    What would you have done?
    I'd tell her about the photograph and see what her reaction is. If she approves, I think, given the emotional reaction it caused in your wife, it's perfectly suited to Street Photography.

    Quote Originally Posted by ddt0725 View Post
    Some powerful stuff posted above to think about! I took the photo of the two men a few weeks after getting my first camera and kit lens just a few years ago. I was down by the lake in freezing cold shooting anything and everything. When I got my camera, I thought this was the type of photography I would be doing. Something that would move people, bring awareness and make a difference. It took that photo to make me realize I didn't have it in me.

    Getting back to casual street photography of people going about their day doing there normal daily outdoor things. Put yourself on the other side of the camera. If you were at the beach with your family and someone was taking random shots of people at the beach would it bother you if it were your children that were in some of the shots? Would it make a difference if it were a casual hobbyist such as myself or the local newspaper photographer doing a story on the latest heatwave?

    What makes me ask this is the summer after I took that shot above down by the lake, there was apparently another hobbyist photographer in the area where I always shoot down there. Turns out he took hundreds and hundreds of photos of kids at the beach and the photos were plastered on literally every inch of the walls, doors, kitchen cabinets, etc. inside his house. When he got busted, believe me you didn't want to be seen down by the lake with a camera in your hand for quite awhile! To this day, I think people around here are very unaccepting of street photographers and if you are down by the lake ...you had better be taking photos of the birds and boats!
    The children thing is always dodgy, my view is that whether people like it or not, I am doing nothing wrong by taking someone's photograph in public. I am always prepared to explain what I'm doing, who I am, give someone links to my facebook page, and why I do it. If they still strongly object to me showing the image, I'll consider not showing it.

    I don't think a paedophile having been in the area or whatever should be a reason not to take photographs of children, but a reason to be more willing to explain the innocence of what you're doing, offering to send a copy to the parents etc. But then I will also think "does this photograph identify that child at all", i.e. I wouldn't post an image of them near a school, or in a school uniform, or outside their house, do you know what I mean? I'll be more careful about saying "I shot this last week in X town", but I'll still share it. And thankfully, the law is on my side.

    As for the stuff about "would you want your boss to see that?". My view on that is: don't do it in public. My intention, obviously, as a photographer is not to show somebody up, or document their darkest deeds, so I'm unlikely to be shooting people doing things like that anyway, but if they happen to be in shot doing it, then... tough luck.

    Doc mentioned CCTV, which is one argument I always think about, CCTV is a constant recording of our lives. Outside nightclubs and bars, it catches and records loads of the above. What is the difference between that, and taking photographs in the street, when my photographs will not be used to prosecute anyone for any wrong doing, but CCTV will?

    Again, I might come across as argumentative, it's because I'm rushing, not my true intention

  5. #15
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    1st. Denise "spark" is something you definitely did

    There are so many lines that we trundle upon in modern society. Privacy vs. public right to know - at what point does privacy rights overtake knowledge rights? Document vs. Assist? Commercial censorship vs absolute censorship - do we draw the line differently if it is someones profession i.e. Kennedy Assisiation vs. Princess Di?

    I think there are very few situations that can get answered from a single perspective. I believe the direction I prefer, however distasteful at times, is sharing knowledge - censorship is a personal decision whether or not to share. Freedom of experession is not free, one must be willing to face the consequences of the expression - be it a Pulitzer or being ostracized. If you are unwilling to face the consequences, clearly your expression is not free.

    Raid makes an interesting point. The subject is most likely not at all aware that a photo has been taken, her life is not pinched or harmed in anyway.... Until Raid shares. At that point the consequences begin.

    IF the subject is aware of the photo, the consequences have already begun.

    Lastly, intentions are largely meaningless - no intended for Princess Di to crash - it the consequences that we must face. If you are content with facing the consequences, please share - I can look away if I choose.
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  6. #16
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    I think if you point your camera at something and you feel something uncomfortable or have any doubt about whether or not to push the shutter....don't do it. Go by your "gut" or "conscience". I would err on the side of preserving someone's privacy. I definitely am not comfortable taking images if anyone without their knowledge and permission. Just my own gut feelings. I do not in any way want "dis" those who do this type of work, it's just not for me.

  7. #17
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    After reading several threads on this subject over the years what I find interesting, that if I exercise my first amendment right and said that certain types of photography, such as some practiced by poporatzi is immoral, disgusting and without merit, those who may practice and support this type of photography would be offended that I exercised my first amendment right. However, if their type of photography offended and the subject complained, they would point out that there right to take such pictures is protected under the first amendment.

  8. #18
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    Some would and have aruged if the person is in a public place it never crosses the line.

    Food for thought;

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/artic...A13_spanc08444

  9. #19
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    Obviously the law needs to be amended there. In no way should "upskirting" be legal. But there's something very different going on when someone drops to their knees and and places a camera below a person's clothing to take a photograph of their genitalia.

    Paparazzi type photography is also different, it's no longer art, and I think you have to be a specific kind of person to be happy to completely forgo someone's comfort, privacy, and dignity for your own financial gain.

  10. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by HDNitehawk View Post
    Some would and have aruged if the person is in a public place it never crosses the line.

    Food for thought;

    http://www.tulsaworld.com/news/artic...A13_spanc08444
    What the heck!!?? That is about as screwed up as the law can get in regard to privacy! And I thought it was pushing the limit when I found out that Sears has cameras in their dressing rooms!

    EDIT: I stand corrected. My daughter just told me that our Sears at least took the cameras out of the dressing room because people complained.
    Last edited by ddt0725; 12-06-2012 at 09:43 PM.

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