|Published in the South Shore Breaker - November 2, 2016|
That is how a famous New York street photographer works, but I find this method exploitative, and not true street photography.
Similar to the fact that we are all taught different manners while growing up, ethics vary from person to person. There is a fine line somewhere between capturing a true representation of someone, and invading their personal space to create a sensational image.
Other photographers who specialize in street images recommend that you carry your camera low and "shoot from the hip" so that people don’t know you are taking photos. Another technique is to hold your camera up, take the image you want, and leave the camera up to your eye until the person you have photographed passes by. That way, they are less likely to be aware that you have taken their picture.
A lot of people will agree and believe that they have a right to photograph whatever and whoever they want, but I have a problem with this. Whatever the reason, I say if you are trying to hide what you’re doing then you shouldn’t be doing it.
I am more of a landscape and scenic photographer, and have been known to wait for quite some time for a person to move out of my viewfinder before I make an image. However, a few years ago I had the opportunity to go to Toronto for a couple of days. An online book publishing company flew me from Halifax and interviewed and filmed me as one of only six people across Canada to be featured in some promotional videos. I knew I would have a few hours of personal time, so I took my camera with me on the trip. Carrying my camera almost made me miss my flight, but that’s a story for another time.
Feeling like a country mouse in the big city, I wandered the downtown streets trying to capture images that I wasn’t familiar with. I did take lots of photos of buildings, but that didn’t convey the feelings that I was experiencing. I did try the shoot from the hip technique, but that just felt wrong to me. In the end, I took an image of a woman who was walking ahead of me. Since I was shooting from behind her, she didn’t know I took it, but no one else who sees the image will recognize her either. To this day, I enjoy looking at this photo. It conveys the feeling I had while walking, a feeling of solitude amidst the traffic and confusion of the city streets.
|Feeling like a country mouse in Toronto, I tried to take an image to capture my feeling of solitude amidst the hustle and bustle of the city street|
Halifax “Port-o-Potter” Julian Covey was happy to have his photo taken while throwing pots on a portable pottery wheel on the waterfront.
A general rule of thumb is that if a person in your photograph is identifiable, you should obtain a model release if you intend to sell the image or show it publicly. And be aware that different countries have different rules, so a little research before your trip would be prudent.
How to do street photography is highly subjective, and there are no official rules. My personal rules are this. Respect people, don’t exploit anyone or take embarrassing or compromising photos. Ask for permission for photos where people are identifiable. Try to capture a human connection. Smile. Say thank you. Offer to share.
If you treat others the way you would want to be treated when you’re walking down the street, then that’s something good to focus on.