Strangers and street photography

2008-12-18

in Daily updates, Photography

I have never been fond of photographing strangers, and my natural reticence has been enhanced as a result of a few people who responded badly. As a consequence, my photos generally include either friends, people who aren’t prominent in the image, or nobody at all. I make a bit of an exception for situations where people are clearly making a display of themselves (in costume, for instance), but generally avoid pointing my lenses at people I don’t know, even in public.

While I recognize the sense of this approach, it does make me feel as though my photos lack something that most street photographers manage to capture: specifically, the various moments that make up city life. Should I try to be bolder and produce some images like those in the photo.net ‘Street Photography’ tutorial?

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. December 19, 2008 at 10:20 am

Go ahead and be bold!

Street photography is such a big part of what you do, and there is no reason for it to be so depopulated.

Mark December 19, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Hard call, I’ve wondered about this one as well. I had a lovely and surprising experience on my last holiday in South America, where I took a photo of a kid on the street, and I was then literally mobbed by every other kid in sight, who wanted me to take a photo of them too:
http://picasaweb.google.com/mcummins/BestOfSouthAmerica#5253822596581496530

I can imagine bad reactions and sticky situations all too easily though.

Anon December 19, 2008 at 12:28 pm

You should be very careful taking photos of kids you don’t know.

Parents often freak out when they see strangers – especially male strangers – doing so.

Milan December 19, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Mark,

It is certainly pleasant to find onesself in a situation where lots of people want to be photographed.

I quite like your South America shots. It looks like it was an amazing trip.

Anon,

I am very mindful of that.

R.K.,

I would certainly like to do more photography of the kind in the linked tutorial, but doing so tactfully and politely is a challenge.

Milan December 19, 2008 at 2:04 pm

Mark,

I especially like the mountain and llama shots.

Alena December 19, 2008 at 5:48 pm

You have taken some wonderful photos of your friends and family members. They make better memories than simply city or countryside shots. To capture a person’s expression at a given moment creates a powerful memory. Strangers can also add a feeling to a good composition, but not everyone likes to be photographed.

Milan December 20, 2008 at 6:35 pm

While it’s true that not everyone likes being photographed, there is a huge body of amazing work that could never have been done if it was necessary to ask formal permission from everyone in the image.

We would have a lot less collective photographic memory. In some sense, I think street photography is meant to be a contribution to that kind of memory – offering people who view it both now and later some insight into how things were at a particular place and time in the world.

. December 22, 2008 at 3:29 pm

Street Photography Techniques
Adam NYC , Dec 22, 2008; 03:20 a.m.

“I was interested in other photographers’ techniques for capturing candid images of people on the street. I have always been intrigued by street photography, particularly candid shots where knowledge of the camera does not influence behavior, etc. But I often find myself trigger-shy for a variety of reasons, including the fact that the pictures I want to take can perhaps be invasive, and the mere fact that someone sees me with a camera can be enough to ruin the candidness of the moment.”

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