Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Street Photography–Et tu Brute?

You’ve seen the photos of some famous street photographers and been impressed with their visual narrative. Or you’ve bought your camera and are close to urban areas – you could do landscapes and travel but those genres are so far away and so infrequent. You really find people in the street interesting, so you’re interested in street photography. But then it gets all difficult.  So let’s talk about a few things.

Knowing legal rights

In Australia, the most quoted source is the Arts Law information sheet available as a downloadable pdf. Briefly

  • taking photographs of people in public places is generally permitted.
  • if you are using your shots for a commercial purpose, such as for an advertising campaign or competition, you should obtain a model release form signed by the subjects you are photographing
  • There is no restriction on taking photographs of people on private property from public property.
  • Can taking photos be a criminal offence? Yes – read the document – case precedents and exclusions are cited.
  • Mark Davison has written an essay on photography in public in Victoria, Australia
  • For the UK, this is the advice.
  • Enjoying Yourself

  • You can’t enjoy yourself if you have to contend with expressed upset and anger from the people you take photos of. Regardless of whether  you have the right to take a photo of them or not. If you are argumentative and robust, yes, of course you can stand up to a scene in public but that is time and effort lost from the shooting. If you are faint hearted, it could spoil your day out to the extent that you pack it in.
  • A lot of enjoyment is in yourself – you’ve got to be at peace with yourself. And that’s before you aim the camera and press the shutter.
  • Emulating another photographer idol who euphemistically has balls of steel or adopting approaches that don’t suit you, might carry off one time, but progressively, won’t be sustainable.
  • You’ve got to develop your own mental state, your own approaches.

    Your Self Interview about your subject

    Of all the photography genres, Street insists on the most two way engagement. Landscape is one way. Have you ever had a rock talk back to you? Studio photography and Weddings – you do have to handle the client and the subject but there’s no doubt what your motives are. But in Street Photography – What are your motives? No, it’s not me you have to contend with – it’s the people you take a photo of and more importantly, it’s you, because you are the one who has to rationalise to yourself.
  • So, why actually, are you taking my photo?
  • Will my photo appear on the internet?
  • Will you make money from my photo?
  • Isn’t there a law about taking photos of me unawares?
  • What if I ask you to delete my photo?
  • Can I see all the photos you just took?
  • Why are you taking photos of my kids, sis, wife, gf? Are you some kind of pervert? Why don’t you play fair and take photos of your mother / wife / gf / yourself doing weird things and post them online?
  • Look, I’m not supposed to be here and you’ve taken a photo of me. I’m distressed, angry and upset. What are you going do about it?
  • ________________ over there doesn’t want you here. Could you go away now?
  • I’m calling the cops / reporting to the authorities. Does your employer / spouse / mother know you do this?
  • I’m bigger and tougher than you and I don’t like your face or how you’re carrying out your intrusive activities. Feel like making my day? These are not necessarily the questions you will be confronted with, but they could very well be things that people think about you. Be comfortable with your own answers – if you don’t believe your own answers, your photos are likely to show it.

    Seeing what others shoot

    Street Photography covers a multitude of styles. And although it’s about people, if you spend the time looking at various photographers’ photos, there are posed headshots (Robin Wong), there are full length posed portraits with interviews (HONY), there are environmental people and where they live / work (Yeow Chin Liang), there are general things that catch the eye – (Erwin Vindl, Thomas Leuthard), there are questions about why (Benizi Santamaria), viewpoints of the curious nanny (Vivian Maier), people in suits (Eric Kim) – there are heaps of different styles.

    Various Perspectives

  • On how I approach strangers in the street | An Afternoon with Brandon Stanton | Humans of New York: Behind the Portraits | Brandon Stanton: The Good Story
  • Karlo de Leon: How to build confidence in photographing people 
  • B & H Video: How to Talk to Strangers: 7 Tips For Photographing People – Adam Marelli
  • Ming Thein's Thoughts on Portraiture
  • Joel Meyerowitz: Video: Milan 2013/10/28 | 1981 documentary
  • Henri Cartier-Bresson Video: 1998 “Pen, Brush and Camera”
  • Video: Street Photography Interview with Justin Vogel in NYC with Eric Kim | flickr: HCSP
  • Bruce Gilden Video: What Makes a Good Street Photograph?
  • Daido Moriyama Video: Near Equal
  • Garry Winograd Video: Visions and Images 1981
  • Video: The Many Lives of William Klein (2012)
  • Video: Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005)
  • Ben Fewtrell: Taking Photos in Public
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