Consent in Street Photography

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by movingfinger, Nov 24, 2021.

  1. I just came across an interesting article on street photography regarding permission. Myself, being a fan of street photography and liking to do it, I am in full agreement with the tenor of the article, in the US permission is not needed, and I like it that way. Here's the article, check it out and what do you thing? Link here: The Sticky Issue of Consent in Street Photography
  2. Good read and love all her color photography.
    movingfinger and mikemorrell like this.
  3. One thing the article reinforces for me is that I’ve made the right decision by not participating in the Twitterverse, other than vicariously because it’s hard to avoid when reading the news and communicating with others. While I’m sure there are benefits to Twitter, the grievance-based, herd mentality, lowest-common-denominator aspect of it is unfortunate, to say the least. California wildfires are harder to get going than Twitter controversies and outbreaks of indignation over every perceived violation of the common and often shallow groupthink mindset. The author doesn’t dwell on but seems to recognized the Twitter flaw.

    The author’s writing is clear and clearheaded and I agree with most of it.

    I would like her to have said a little more about intention. Good intentions don’t always yield non-exploitive photos. I may take account of whatever I know about a photographer’s intentions, but often a photo goes well beyond those intentions and can be taken on its own terms, especially when put out into the public.

    And one final point. From the article:

    “Asking for permission before a photo is taken immediately nullifies any possibility of a candid moment.“

    While I don’t think street photographers need to ask permission, I don’t think asking permission nullifies the possibility of a candid shot. Candid means truthful or straightforward and plenty of truthful and straightforward shots are taken with permission. Only when we define candid as unknown to the subject does permission nullify its potential. There are many truths and realities other than candid ones, even on the street. So asking permission is neither necessary nor fatal. It’s possible to work with either … or both.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2021
  4. Can also mean unposed. Perhaps that is what the author was referring to.
    samstevens likes this.
  5. Yes. Perhaps the author did mean unposed. Still, I’ve gotten unposed shots even when I’ve asked permission. Imagine a bunch of people playing basketball in a schoolyard. I ask permission to take pictures and it’s granted. They then go about playing their game, not paying much or any attention to me. Voila, candid (unposed) pics even with permission.

    Or, I gesture to a street performer that I want to take their pic. In an instant, they nod their approval but continue interacting candidly with the crowd without any further break in their demeanor or concentration. Permission granted and still a candid (unposed) shot.
    movingfinger, Ludmilla and inoneeye like this.
  6. Knowing the kind of photos she takes i would think that she would be in agreement with you sam. It was probably only intended in the context of quick reaction passing moments street shooting such as the photo under discussin. In any case I agree.
  7. Yes, I think so, too. It was less a direct response to her than a further exploration of candidness and permission ... the variety of types of candid photos and the variety of ways one might ask permission, sometimes quite unobtrusively.

    Interestingly, I'm often amazed at how so many candid moments of people smoking cigarettes or kissing each other look posed. That's because people in public adopt poses all the time, whether for a photographer or for their own image in public, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. We all have a little Bogey and Bacall in us, whether the camera's on or off. :)
    movingfinger likes this.
  8. Interesting article that brings up an issue from many years ago. The courts ruled that adults out in public have no reasonable expectation of privacy but at the same time street or simply candid photos can’t be used to purposely embarrass or make fun of someone or promote an untruth. I’ve covered many news events and photographed whatever told the story and whatever caught my eye. You should keep in mind that those who may object to themselves or family members being photographed may just get right in your face.

    Rick H.
  9. I really like Dina Litovsky's photos since I discovered them on her Instagram account. Good articles too.

    In the Netherlands, the law recognizes the rights of photographers to take photos in public spaces*. It also recognizes the 'portrait rights' of people being photographed. So 'street scenes' that show multiple people are generally safe because the photo is not a 'portrait' of any one person. But still, one or more people in a group can object to a photo being published if:
    - they are clearly recognizable in the photo
    - their portrayal disadvantages them to a 'reasonable degree' (reputation, public image, etc.)

    *public spaces include outdoor spaces that are not owned or managed by an organization. Shops, Supermarkets, Public Transport, Museums, Work situation, etc are considered enclosed spaces where organizations can impose additional restrictions on photography. Usually by requiring photographers to request permission to photograph other people. The public generally has greater rights to privacy in enclosed spaces.

    Most of Dina Litovsky's photos that I've seen fall into the 'street scene' category (multiple people). In her photos that show a street scene with people behind a lit window, the people are often too far away to be considered a 'portrait'.

    The 'portrait' of the woman with her children in a subway is one which in NL the woman could object to. So it's one that I'd have asked her permission for (after the shot). I usually do this for any street 'portaits'. I've found it helps to say who I am, why I wanted to take the photo and offering a card with my name, address and phone number. I usually tell them that if they send me and e-mail, I'll send them a copy of the photo free of charge. Just being up front about taking photos lets people know I'm not a creep!
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021
    movingfinger likes this.
  10. What is legal, is not necessarily polite.

    In places where tourism is rampant, it's usual to give a little financial compensation.
    mikemorrell likes this.
  11. Having a "sensitive moral compass" I'm generally uncomfortable doing street photography. No problem with people who aim to be looked at, street performers and such. The images in that article were great and I'm at a loss as to how some of the lighting was achieved. I couldn't do as well in a studio. Here's one from some years ago. I was just hanging around on the street, pivoted 90 degrees to take the shot, and back. No idea if the guy really noticed me or not, but I've always liked the dog. Hated the piece of paper but didn't clone it out in the scan.

  12. I agree with your comment on lighting. Many of the images, including the one by the student Paul that prompted the essay, have an HDR quality. The composition and subjects are great, but if there's anything I dislike about the her photos (and the one by Paul) it is this artificial HDR quality. I prefer a more gritty natural look to street photographs. ...but then I was never a big fan of HDR in any circumstance except maybe staged still lifes.
    tholte likes this.
  13. Some people wouldn't like this shot because the girl is young. But the shot doesn't ridicule or sexualize her.

  14. +1

    Though, additionally, what is polite doesn't always make for a good photo! Politeness requires certain constraints that aren't always necessary or appropriate in all situations.
  15. The 1 out of 100 of yours that might not, though put in the context of your body of work, I wouldn't necessarily think you innocent of sexualizing her as you do the other young women you photograph.
  16. I don't want to stand on the street arguing the law with someone, just delete.
  17. Not sure where you get the "HDR" quality on the image but each to his own opinion.
  18. Good article for serious street photographers. Everyone that does street work has to set their own limits as to what is acceptable and be willing to take a little heat if some viewers get negative. I think a good street shot should evoke some emotion in the viewer, positive or negative.
  19. Consent? That is for street portraits where you can't get the shot candid or can't perfect the shot candid.

    Otherwise...I shoot for candid work.
  20. Yes, agree, but hopefully you won't get caught.
    Sanford likes this.

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