Dangers of Street Photography

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by reallife, Jun 16, 2017.

  1. My way of doing street photography is to stand in one place for a while and see if any interesting people appear. After a few minutes I move on. I had been doing this for about an hour when two community police officers came up to me and told me that two people had complained to them about me photographing them.

    I pointed out that it is not a crime to photograph people in a public place. Nevertheless they wanted my name and address and did a check on me to see if I had any convictions. They also wanted to look at the shots I had taken. All this took place in public view of everyone making it look like I was a criminal.

    At the end I told them I was going to make a complaint and they said that was my right. I couldn't be bothered to make a complaint but I'm posting this to see if anyone else has had any problems when doing street. Keith
  2. By standing in one place and sniping at pedestrians with your camera you are what Wyatt Earp would say "Disturbing the horses." Had you encountered Earp, you would most likely wake up in jail with a huge lump on your head. You are making people feel uncomfortable. While it is not illegal to photograph people in public places, every cop has a shopping list of infractions you could be charged with, including loitering and disturbing the peace.

    Thanks to Loretta Lynch and the ACLU, police are required to document every encounter with a citizen, regardless of whether charges are filed. In Chicago this is an odious and unwarranted task consisting of a multi-page report which takes about 30 minutes to complete. That makes you very unpopular at the time. Try not to make it "worth their time."

    You might consider a change in strategy. Keep moving and be alert to possibilities. If nobody sees you twice, it's unlikely they will file a complaint. Police too will probably observe you for a while before approaching, so don't be there for more than a moment. Watch your six too. More and more people are being robbed of their cameras and cell phones in urban areas, even in crowds.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
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  3. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    In our current culture of 'heightened fear' doing anything unusual in a public space has become suspect. Especially so with 'unusual' equipment or cameras. I fully expect that this will take a geometric leap really soon in light of the circumstances surrounding the Washington Ballpark shooting.

    The key here is to keep moving, and appear "touristy." Learn techniques to quickly capture images--and for goodness sake don't appear to be a creeper with a camera glued to your face. Print yourself some business cards that say "Real Life Photography" or whatever as a credibility building tool. Be very careful in the proximity of any sort of governmental buildings. This gets a very quick turnout of multiple security/police agents. Now, you do not have to show them your images any more than you are required to share the contents of your cellphone. The reality is that even though this is our 'right' such refusal may quickly escalate to an "interference with a law enforcement officer" charge.

    Never forget that 'rights' are nothing more than words on paper until accepted or sussed out by a competent jurisdictional authority. Remember that we live in an age of 'instant outrage' in which ANYTHING that bothers someone else immediately turns into something much grander and public.

    Move around a lot. Be observant of your surroundings. Do not make a spectacle of yourself. Don't argue with anyone in a uniform. Have fun taking photos... :p
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
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  4. Papa hit it -- move around. Be a friendly tourist. Cooperate with Police, unless you feel strongly enough about the issue that you would be willing to hire a lawyer and go to court. I cannot imagine telling Police that I planned to file a complaint. Most times it wouldn't change anything, in a few cases, it could be more than a bit awkward, like having a cigarette while gassing up the car. I was a police officer as a younger man, If you want to stay still, I have found outdoor restaurants, particularly those with balconies to be excellent, since you have a reason to be there and are separated from your field of view.
  5. I posted about a similar situation a little while ago. I won't give up my rights, nor will I ostentatiously insist on them. I will say that I have had FAR more pleasant encounters than angry ones.
  6. Thanks a lot for all the advice, it was all useful. Since that encounter I have given up doing street, its too much of a worry.
  7. My style is very similar; however, rather than " stand in one place for a while," my physical disability forces me to "sit in one place for a while." I literally cannot walk/move around and take photos, as others as suggesting, especially since I use a cane, crutch or rollator when I walk. Of course, that somewhat works to my advantage because law enforcement officials and other people assume I am resting (which I actually am) when I linger in one place. So I just take photos to my heart's content until I decide to move on to a different spot.
  8. You don't have to give up your street photography, do as a couple of the posters said - change your strategy and use some common sense.
  9. PapaTango

    PapaTango Itinerant Philosopher

    For many years, I had a fear of doing street photography. With film, I was far too much the technician--farting about with settings and focus. And end up missing the shot (in the moment) that I was trying to capture. :(

    Digital has changed this up. I set the aperture and ISO--quickly frame up the shot--and let the camera do the rest. That is often for the best, as I have to make the candid admission that I am an arse photographer. Photographing arses in public can get you into REAL trouble. Take these two for instance:


    Something has to be a bit interesting, such as this on the Capital steps in D.C.:


    Wonder what these guys think of arse photographers?


    Oh well... :p

    Funny story, or not. In 1998 I had just moved to a VERY small town in Kentucky. At 1AM, I thought it would be a good idea to photograph the courthouse clock tower with my Toyoview. Long story short, I was arrested and spent 3 days in jail before anyone knew what had happened to me--as the family was still in another state. For what? Loitering, and creating a public nuisance. Everything was dismissed later. Why were they so whacked out? A suspicious stranger and a state trooper had been shot and killed the day before... :eek:

    Again, don't stop taking photos. Some of the best people shots you will ever get are out there waiting on you. Just take our advice and go with the flow... :cool:
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
  10. I don't have one particular style when doing street photography. At times, I have approached a potentially interesting subject, explained that I am strictly an amateur photographer and that I never sell my work, and asked if I could shoot one or two. In these situations, after taking the shots, I always show them to the subject(s). On most other occasions, I try to be as inconspicuous as possible and use my 15-300 zoom.

    I wish I did more street work. Hopefully, one of these days, I might become a jailbird as well.
  11. AND . . . sometimes an invitation is actually offered. Who could resist?
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  12. I would have no use for a photo of a stanger myself. I never go to a city and walk around anyway. Its just something to avoid.
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2017
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  13. Yeah, well, I do love the ranch, but once in a while I just have to go take a look at city folks. Kinda like making certain your compass or gps is properly regulated.
  14. What's it like for you, going to the zoo? When I go to the country, I don't go to look at country folks. They're not novelties. I go to visit with them and try to be neighborly.
  15. I went to San Francisco a few months back and my plan was to go the Leica store in Union Square as i was considering purchasing a Leica M6. I took a camera and figured i would take photos if i saw something of interest. However once I got there i could not find parking and the traffic was pretty crazy so I drove home. Wasted a full day and decided to forget the Leica. I eventually bought a Mamiya 645 and am having fun with that and no longer want to shoot 35mm. I am going to the DeYoung Museum next week as they have a quilt show going on and my wife wants to see it. I dont think i want to carry my MF around the museum but i always have my phone. In general I am more comfortable riding my bicycle or hiking then in crowded places. Most of my photos are family oriented and a few landscapes in the National parks that i visit on a regular basis.
  16. So? thanks for sharing.
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  17. Ross, if you go to the de Young, I recommend against the Summer of Love special exhibit, for which there's an extra charge. Save your money, unless you feel you have to see it. I went, thinking it would be fun to celebrate the 50th anniversary, and was sorely disappointed. It's mostly memorabilia we've all seen a million times, lots of Bill Graham concert posters, some rooms with predictable psychedelic light shows, and hardly any art or politics of the period. So it was not very substantive, and very disappointing for a major museum that so often has such great exhibitions.

    If you're into museums generally and haven't been to the new MOMA (on the other side of town), that's worth a visit, though not cheap. It's become an authentic big city museum, housing an exhaustive permanent collection and often lots of good traveling exhibits. The building itself, the architecture, the galleries, the staircases, the Richard Serra sculpture in the lobby are all treats. That being said, it's rare I can do two museums in one day, so you might want to save MOMA, if you're interested, for another visit.

    By the way, next time you want to shop at Union Square and you're driving, try the Sutter/Stockton garage about a block away. It's less expensive than most, very close, and there are usually available spaces. Parking on the streets of downtown has become virtually impossible. I'm a big fan of our public transportation, which saves me gas money, traffic headaches, parking tantrums, and tickets, and encourages me to walk as well. ;-)
  18. Sometimes I shoot candid street photos sometimes I'll take street portraits talking to people or otherwise getting their permission. There's nothing wrong in standing on a corner taking some snaps. Don't let a one experience damper your enthusiasm. Always be polite and generally there won't be problems. If you look like your creepy and sneaking photos, that will set some people off. I don't hide the camera or the fact I'm taking photos. BTW its not sniping. That's just a b.s. characterization that comes from an attitude that somehow you are doing something wrong .
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  19. Thanks for the tips Fred. If i go to Union Square again i was going to ride the train from Gilroy. Actually my son is home currently and i asked him if he wanted to go. He is a Leica guy and he knows how to get around in the city since he went to SF state. However he said he did not want to go. On the Museum thing my wife wanted to see an exhibition of quilts but i just looked up the current exhibitions and did not see that exhibit. I will need to ask my wife about it. I must have misunderstood or something.
    Last edited: Jun 17, 2017

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