Street photography or voyeurism?

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by ndro777, Feb 2, 2006.

  1. Just curious to understand where's the line between capturing
    interesting object on the street and voyeurism. Do you approcah your
    object once you captured their image? Do you just believe it is your
    prerogative if you are in public places?

    Just wondering.
  2. Not sure of any line, but definately there's an element of voyeurism. Yes its my perogative. Sometimes approach an object, usually not. Often the object is moving anyways. I have no simple answer as to when or not to. If I really think someone is going to object or they've actually indicated they don't want to be photographed, I will usually honor that but then, for me, its a balancing test of many factors. I suppose it has more to do of how you identify with personal space. If you believe or are in a frame of mind that "we are all here in public sharing space and time, and I'm going to capture the wonder of it all" then I suppose you won't think of it as being voyeuristic. But if you feel like you are capturing people's private moments even stealing them, like we all must at sometimes, then you are a voyeur at that moment. Do you have a problem accepting that you may be a voyeur?

    Just wondering.
  3. In criminal voyeurism cases it is usually a mtter of one capturing an image of another for sexual gratfication without the consent of the other when the other is in a place where there is a reasaonable expectation of privacy (i.e a bathroom vs. outdoors in a public park). Texas has a different and ridiculous law about improper photography.
  4. As I recall, the Texas law in question says that you can't take photos for sexual gratification in a public place- which seems like a pretty good dividing line in response to your question.

    There was a news article some time back where they'd arrested a guy here in the Dallas area- made for a lot of discussion here on The upshot of it was that the DA saw the photos the guy had been taking and said there was no case to be had.
  5. "Criminal Voyeur case..." YIKES! Ok, not a voyeur, have never been, I was confused...etc blah..

    But does voyeurism always denote sex? I thought just watching people was a form of it as well.
  6. Does one need a camera to be voyeuristic? I think not. People look and observe other people all time. I don't understand why SP gets such a bad rap. Maybe if they are using a 300mm perhaps...
  7. Too late, Barry. You are already in the database...
  8. Well, I wasn't very clear about the definition of voyeurism that I meant. define voyeurism as:
    voyᄋeur (voi-yûr)
    1. A person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point.
    2. An obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects.

    If I took say 20 pictures of someone with interesting feature while following him/her to get that perfect lighting, will that be classified as definition number 2?
  9. I think that "criminal voyeurism" is one of those things that is hard to define. Some call one thing art, while others call it crap (in some cases, literally).

    I have seen the portfolio of on PNer that I think crosses that line between street photography and creepy voyeurism. I forget the guy's name (even if I didn't I wouldn't post it), but his photos show very poor technique and consist mainly of good looking women's bodies. No heads, just bodies. No value really, other than to ogle.
  10. voy�eur<p. Pronunciation Key<p> (voi-y�r)<p>

    1. A person who derives sexual gratification from observing the naked bodies or sexual acts of others, especially from a secret vantage point.<p>
    2. An obsessive observer of sordid or sensational subjects.<p>

    Pick the one that best discribes your proclivity.
  11. If you look at it from the street photography standpoint, it may be hard to find a dividing line. So look at it from the other end. When I was living in CO, they had a guy get into the "pit" in a pit toilet, covered with trashbags, so he could video women using the restroom. With people doing stuff like that, there's not much question.
  12. ...they had a guy get into the "pit" in a pit toilet, covered with trashbags...

    Sounds like modern art to me--please tell us he didn't have an NEA grant.
  13. Voyeurism is only in your mind. If you feel yourself guilty for what you do, that's it, otherwise it's not. To me, hip shots give a sense of voyeurism, and hence I don't usually practice them. It is easier to compose from the eye anyway.
    <p><img src="">
  14. >>>"criminal voyeurism" is one of those things that is hard to define.<<<

    It is very easy to define. It has been defined repeatedly. I just gave the definition that most states use if they have a criminal vouyerism statute. Filming people undressing in a changing room, using ther bathroom, or having relations in a bedroom without consent and for the desire of the picture taker or others is what these statutes are designed for.

    There can be some debate as to when someone has a reasonable expectation of privacy in a particular setting but most cases are clear cut.

    If you shoot a picture of someone on the street, where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy, it may or may not be impolite. It may or may not be for sexual gratification. Indeed the same picture may be for some and not others. Its difficult, however, to make the case that capturing private acts on film, where privacy from such events is expected such as a changing room, is art. Even if it were, the First Amendment doesn't give one the right to free speech by uttering it in someone's house, nor does it permit secret photography of someone in an intimate moment in their house either.

    As to street shooting, it is generally more a question of courtesy. Some who photograph others on the street, might not like it if someone were taking the same type of shots of them. Some scenerios seem fit for photography that captures people, others don't. An image with a lone figure walking on the beach is more asthetically interesting that just another beach picture. This thread seems to ask about shooting people in particular though. One runs a a pretty high risk of being obnoxious if they tend to shoot "people picures" of strangers out in public without some aditional purpose.
  15. Alexander Pope, who was admittedly a pretty odd sort of cove, famously wrote that "The proper study of Mankind is Man". I'd say that street photography falls under that heading, sort of nature study in the beast's natural habitat....
  16. Everyone looks, whether they have a camera or not. Street photographers just choose to go one step further. Most people are curious about others to one degree or another.
  17. "i am a photographer. im a voyeur. im an observer. some the things i see are hard to look at, some are not... but i have to look at them. thats what i do. thats who i am."
    mary ellen mark
  18. There is room for much thought in photography, but often it happens after the
    fact. You cannot do good street photography if you are constantly checking
    with an internal censor. You have to shoot first and ask questions later. (I
    often shoot with the camera away from my eye specifically to make accidents
    happen--unexpected framings and odd compositions I wouldn't consciously
    choose through the rangefinder.) But then you look at the negatives and
    decide what to print, or print something and decide whether to show it. I once
    took a picture of a girl half-asleep on the subway, very close, and it came out
    beautifully, in the technical sense. But she looked drugged, stupid, ugly--a
    stereotype of the ghetto person wasting her life. It's a cliche that the camera
    doesn't lie, but there was nothing true about the picture. I didn't know
    anything about this girl. The voyeurism, or exploitation, or injustice--whatever
    you want to call it--would have been in showing such an image, not in taking
    it. "It is not that which goes into a man that defiles him, but that which comes
    out of him."
  19. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Here, you decide.
  20. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Sorry for the lame presentation on that, I was trying some new software for slide shows. I think you have to hit the play button.
  21. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    Cool shots. Which adobe gallery version is that? 2? I used the latest one that came out, seemed a bit cooler. you could drag the thumbs around on the monitor and keep them to one side as faves.
  22. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    It's not Adobe, it was something I found on the web.
  23. Does it offer any control of timing, from slide to slide ?

    Some very good ones, by the way.
  24. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Does it offer any control of timing, from slide to slide ?
    It might, if you can get the source for the swf file. But I don't see anything in the files I can look at that lets time be a variable parameter.
  25. EricM

    EricM Planet Eric

    Jeff, it's adobe flash gallery 1, just used made this here to show you.
  26. Not really an answer. It is just a question. Imagine this situation. You get a picture of somebody in the street. That person does not notice it. You decide to publish the photo in or in a book or else. Do this person has the right to claim the ownership of the photo because he is the main subject on it? And about children, do their parents have the right to do not allow people taking photos of their children, even in a public place like a park?
  27. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I can only speak from a US point of view.
    Do this person has the right to claim the ownership of the photo because he is the main subject on it?
    Absolutely not. The photograph is owned by the photographer. Ownership (copyright, generally speaking) has nothing to do with the subject unless the material photographed is copyrighted, or maybe trademarked.
    And about children, do their parents have the right to do not allow people taking photos of their children, even in a public place like a park?
    Not in the US.
  28. Its a bit more complicated than "absolutely not" -- if you photograph a person on the street and If you use the photo for commercial purposes, there are issues regarding the "Right of Publicity" and privacy laws, for example. The distinction between art and commercial use is not always as clear as one would like and varies from area to area.
  29. The issue, in my mind, is how vague the law might be. In Texas the law leaves the issue of intent up to the police. That's not a good thing.
  30. I am studying a Masters degree in photojounalism and am currently writting an essay on this subject. I find your comments extremely useful and interesting. I too regularly shoot from the hip in order to create an utterly candid image. I do also sometimes feel guilty about 'stealing that moment' , but how else can a true documentary image be created, as once the subject is aware of the camera, the subject changes their persona?
  31. Unles it is a portrait, the person in one of many parts in a picture. When on the street I observe the whole scene, frame and shoot. My camera is in plain sight and everyone knows what I'm up to. At no time do I think about the private lives or privacy of the people.
  32. Rene,but what if you were challenged by one of those people in your scene who regarded you as a voyeur as you did not ask their permission?
  33. One of the old French photographers said that all photographers are voyeurs and I think that is true, sure fits me. jim

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