Consent in Street Photography

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

  1. movingfinger, you could give a master class in spontaneous street photography just based on your Year 2020 summation slide show. Sadly now removed from this site I've found.

    I rarely make a point of photographing people, and am uncomfortable when I do, but so far have been awarded by either a smile or wave after they've discovered it. I have been confronted several times though by various security guards when shooting downtown buildings. Perhaps out of their boredom really, yet they always accept the explanation that I'm shooting it for posterity, an explanation which begs for a better answer.
    The photo of the woman, in the clip from Litovsky, comforting both children has a distinct Pieta sense to it, she's beautiful of course, but her caring is far more powerful and important.
    No one under any circumstances should follow or take any heed of the howling unwashed on social media, the megaphone of drivel and motive. If one has lost their own sense of purpose or judgement, just please stop talking and clicking.
  2. " I think a good street shot should evoke some emotion in the viewer, positive or negative "tholte.

    Most don't. Good observation.

    The reality is, the folks who spout on about street photography, rarely take a street photograph, or, at best just dabble from a good heathy distance.

    But then, those same folks are also experts on nuclear physics, brain surgery, or, any other subject you care to mention.

    Just a thought;))
    tholte likes this.
  3. Think you you missed the point, Fred G. A more relevant definition of "candid" suits better:

    'of a photograph of a person) taken informally, especially without the subject's knowledge.
    "it is better to let the photographer mingle among the guests and take candid shots" .'

    There's street, then there's portraiture, whatever the setting. Obfuscating the two contributes nothing. Did this ever detain Winogrand? Doubtful.
  4. I was thinking less about the fact of candid photography and more about the reasons one might take a candid shot. As Ludmilla mentioned, candids can get us unposed subjects. I mentioned truth. Other reasons might be spontaneity and authenticity regarding subjects.

    So, it's true that, according to the definition of candid as without the subject's knowledge, asking permission would obviously nullify that. My point was simply to delve into it a little more to see that asking permission doesn't have to nullify unposed, truthful, spontaneous, or authentic. Those aspects often associated with candid photography can be achieved even with permission. I'm not advocating one way or the other. I employ both methods. I'm simply noticing that there can be overlap and the results of candid shooting and asking permission are not necessarily mutually exclusive.

    Likewise, as I said, even the most candid shot (of a guy smoking a cigarette on a street corner) can have a strong sense of pose or lack of spontaneity.
  5. From the Merriam-Webster dictionary:
    "Candid (photography) -
    showing people acting in a natural way because they do not know that they are being photographed."

    Therefore, according to that definition, seeking prior consent would totally preclude a photograph being candid.

    But a wider definition would be: (brutally) honest, truthful, true to life, or perhaps naive.

    In France there are, apparently, strict privacy rules that would seem to preclude taking 'candid' pictures of anyone. Or at least displaying those pictures without permission.

    In most other parts of the world, permission to photograph people is not needed if they are in a public place, or plainly visible from a public place, or plainly visible from a private space to which the photographer has right of access.

    Regardless. There's no point arguing that you have the law on your side in the face of an objecting and belligerent 'subject'. And notwithstanding local laws, I think that a large degree of discretion and moral self-questioning should be used by photographers.

    Such considerations as: Will the 'publication' (in a gallery, online or such) cause embarrassment or ridicule to fall on your subject? Will it discredit or financially harm your subject in any way?

    Those considerations often seem to be waived by YouTubers, Facebookers and other 'social' media users, but that doesn't excuse their indiscretion and often downright lack of respect for their victims' feelings. We're all part of a human family, and I think the phrase "do unto others as you would be done by" is a good guideline.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2021
    mikemorrell and Sanford like this.
  6. _DSC5529-pos.jpg
    The above was taken years ago, and I think just as the bus driver 'clocked' me taking a picture. He was probably saying something like "Aye, aye, we're on Candid Camera" to the conductor.

    There was no open objection to my taking the picture, and now it's acquired some historical value in showing a small slice of life back in 1968.
  7. It sounds simple enough but it may not be that easy.

    Take Arbus. Many people, some very thoughtful, intelligent people, think Arbus was ridiculing many of her subjects. Many equally caring and intelligent people think Arbus was not ridiculing her subjects.

    And take the woman in the photo in the article. Some think the photo ridicules her. Others do not.

    The problem with rules of morality is that they have to be interpreted by widely divergent sensibilities and understandings. A rule like “don’t ridicule” sounds good in theory but, in practice, some people are going to see ridicule where others don’t.

    The laws of speech and expression are intentionally and vitally liberal. While each of us is entitled to use whatever degree of discretion we’re comfortable with, the law doesn’t require it. And that’s as it should be. The fringe cases can be indiscreet and provocative, and they have a place in art, in photography, and in life. It’s where disagreements and arguments ensue. While discretion may protect us from some things, it will stifle others. It’s not always warranted or desirable.

    “I cannot and do not live in the world of discretion, not as a writer, anyway. I would prefer to, I assure you - it would make life easier. But discretion is, unfortunately, not for novelists.” —Philip Roth
  8. I generally don’t ask permission, I take my chances, but I’m not obnoxious. I’m not looking for a fight. I’ve had a few object. One woman told me to contact her agent if I wanted to take a photo of her skateboarding in a public park. I still have it. It was a completely ridiculous suggestion in this case. I do sometimes get asked why I take the shot. I say I’m a photographer and like to take street images. Not been a problem yet. It’s much easier now, since everyone is snapping with phones. I do avoid taking people who I feel will object. Most times you can sense it. About a third are suspicious, a third are baffled as why people take photos like this at all, and the remaining third either don’t care at all or even like it.
  9. Ahh, yes, the hams and exhibitionists are out there ...

  10. ^ a good variety of reactions…. love the child’s expression!
  11. I agree that street shots that evoke no emotion or controversy have little point. Taking a shot of a bunch of people standing at a crosswalk is boring. Shooting the same picture with one guy's hand on the butt of another, even if embarrassing to someone, is what street photography is all about.
    by Alan Klein, on Flickr
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The child steals the moment: still rolling on the floor laughing at that expression.

  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Continuing the child theme . . .

    Sometimes it can difficult to get permission, firstly it might be ill advised to wake the Subjects and secondly, the 'permission givers' might be absent . . .


  14. I have noticed that, in a good number of my street shots involving people, there is a male person in the background giving me a nasty look. Usually he is a middle school or high school student. Anyone else seen this or able to explain this?
  15. I agree with you on this. If anyone is upset enough to confront me, I delete the shot as they watch. If I decide later that I simply must have the shot, I can restore it using free software.

    I once shot a picture of a lady's dog. She came over and asked if I were shooting this for an advertisement!
    Sanford likes this.
  16. Was it just the dogs tail end?
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2021
    samstevens likes this.
  17. atseaport.jpg
  18. No, I am into chickens, not dogs.
  19. It's self explanatory. They’re onto you.

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