What is appropriate in street photography?

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by John Peri, Nov 24, 2017.

  1. I came across a thread in the "photo site help" section yesterday referring to a street photographer who specializes largely in beach and street scenes containing young women. Personally, I find the work sociologically interesting as a photographic record of a certain cross section of society in a particular geographical area.

    The photographer was referred to by a fellow PN member as posting "Kiddie P", with "an unhealthy obsession with under-aged women", of which I saw not one in his portfolio, other than a single photo accompanied by adults on a theater stage! Rather predictably, this was taken up by a couple of people, confirming the mental note I had made. Thankfully, management got there quite soon and removed the offending language, the title and personal remarks. Let me just add that 41 of this author's works have been selected by management as "Editor's Picks" which I find somewhat reassuring.

    It nevertheless got me thinking this morning about Cartier-Bresson who appeared to have spent a lot of his time "stalking" children to photograph in the street, photographing them in the school yard etc., according to one biography, apparently hidden from view by a wall .. I wonder if the same people above would refer to him today as a child molester at heart …!

    Of course laws have evolved and in France, for example, if someone is not obviously in a public setting or activity (e.g., sports), as long as they are not trespassing, they may photograph to their heart's content, but one cannot use the pictures after without written consent. However, there are no special laws to my knowledge regarding women, at least not in our part of the world (sic), though photographing someone else's children in public appears to have become rather taboo. I have some kiddie street photos in my portfolio, I actually took them with my father's Leica M3 when I was around 15, they had not stepped on the moon yet at this time. Progress is two faced.

    Moderator Note:
    Thread moved from "Street and Documentary Forum"

    The OP designated this as a "follow up" to another thread (Post #26): so this is NOT just a simple question as per its title, but a broader and more general conversation.

    Note also, personal attacks will not be tolerated so please stick to your opinions of topic and not attacks on other members.

    BTW, That "other thread" has now been deleted.

    William Michael
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2017
  2. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    First off, while I have a chance, I'm a great admirer of your work, John :)

    I can't say the same about the photographer in question. Let's just say his work doesn't appeal to me as I, personally, do not think there is any artistic merit in it.
    (Sorry if you are reading this!) As to the reactions of the few- over the top! If you don't like - move on.

    As to children in photographs, it's difficult nowadays.
    I put them in the same category as other small animals - dogs, birds on sticks, rabbits- they have no appeal to me.
    Cats and meerkats are fine though :)

    In the UK, if you and your subject are on public ground there are no restrictions to photography.
    JaneCave and John Peri like this.
  3. John, I think you’re mischaracterizing the other thread. You claim that the OP’s cause was “taken up” by others. And yet I was the first “other” who came along and the one you seemed quite irritated by and I said quite clearly to the OP that his calling this stuff KP was over the top and did a disservice to an understanding of the really horrendous acts of harm to children. I went on to say that I didn’t want PN to take any action regarding the photographer and I said I find his stuff creepy and , like Ken, when I see his stuff, I click away. I later added that I think his body of work denigrates women which I believe is an opinion I’m entitled to as you are to yours.

    That PN editors choose certain photos does not impress me in the least or affect my opinion of photos.

    Had Bresson had a portfolio full of scantily-clad children out in public and not much else, I think most thinking human beings would have been wary of it.
    gordonjb likes this.
  4. Well, I must conclude that in the opinion of some, it is ok to photograph little ten year old boys in shorts, men, male travestites and drag queens in the street (the latter examples being your case Fred), but not women on a beach in which case it becomes "creepy" and "denigrating". Personally, I enjoy seeing how people behave and dress in public, including in your photos Fred, it is a reflection of our times that differs strikingly from that of my youth and such photos will be a reference for future times. A few less postings on the critique section may be appropriate, just my opinion, but we are all free to do as we please, a constant idea expressed on these pages but not always lived up to when it concerns others.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
  5. John, I suspect your mind can wrap itself around the fact that the drag queens I’ve photographed on the street have been part of a known and intentional collaboration, not a product of my photographing their rear ends from behind. I also suspect you can tell that, whether you like the photos or not, it’s most often mood, facial expression and gesture that I’m working with as opposed to how much skin is showing and what titillating effect I might capture without being seen.
    gordonjb likes this.
  6. Have a look and decide for yourself instead of theorizing about it.
    If the women were men they'd be different pictures and I'd probably think about them differently. Just like if a picture of a flower were a picture of a tree instead, I'd think about it differently.

    If the very same pictures of men were taken, I'd think of the photos both similarly and differently. Similarly, in that I likely would find a portfolio full of sneaked pix of scantily-clad men creepy and denigrating. Differently in the sense that women have been more sexually abused and dominated than men in our culture, most often at the hands of men, as anyone with half a brain ought to get from recent news alone. So, yes, there would be some similarity of reaction on my part and there would also be different and sometimes much stronger emotions and cultural reactions at play in seeing sneaked pix emphasizing women's body parts vs. similar photos of men.
  7. The gender of the photographer is impacting people's perception. Nobody has a problem with me (an older woman) taking pictures of their kids in public settings, but if I was an older man they probably would find it creepy...
  8. Thank you for showing us a couple of your pictures on this thread Fred. I have never put into doubt the quality of your work, whose features you take care to highlight, I guess with a view to distinguish it from other people's more humble efforts - indeed, you have often made the argument of expression versus form, though to me it is situated in the eye of the beholder - not yours or anyone else's for that matter.

    I have checked the author of the works in question who thankfully until now remains unnamed. Indeed I found several rear-end views which by no means reflect however the larger body of his work. I find his work no more offensive than I find yours, each one to his own perception not to mention taste (sic).

    Moreover, one cannot be more Royalist than the King .. if the ladies in question do not feel demeaned in the attire that they choose to wear in public, who are we to say that it is "denigrating" for a photographer to display it and, within obvious reason, whatever the viewpoint chosen? I have received no clear response to this and frankly no longer want one.

    My sole premise once again is that though many of us may have what others consider "quirks", we can learn to live with other people's eccentricities, just as we expect them to accept ours, though undoubtedly some will be found more strange than others. I am not "dictating", as you have deflected in the past, I am taking up "the right of the author in question, of you and me to photograph what we want and show it", without yes, indeed denigrating comments coming from our fellow members .. this is what you wrote a week or so ago, referring however to yourself and your works alone.
  9. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Being in total puppy immersion at the moment, this kind of thread calls to mind the times that Chili chases his tail.
    I don't take photos of others children, people down on their luck, accidents, etc. I will on occasion take a photo of an attractive woman, but there must be a story -- in this case the reaction of the other woman in the photo.

    I don't dislike well done nudes of either sex, I dislike genital shots of either sex and physically unattractive nudes. Though I don't care for all of them, Fred posts some excellent shots of places I'll never go and things I'll likely never see, handled and presented with skill. A considerable number of the images are very powerful.
    As to the beach, or areas nearby, people wore what they chose to wear and presented themselves for public view - fair game.
    In the final analysis, as long as the activity is lawful, it all comes down to personal choice. Other than arguing, or trying to impose standards on others, I can't see where this thread can go to produce much of value.
  10. Check here - the images being talked about shouldn't be hard to spot: Search our Community | Photo.net

    With the possible exception of one, none of those fall into the category of images being discussed here.
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017
    gordonjb likes this.
  11. Thanks, John. I was specifically highlighting what I felt was important about my own shots of drag queens on the street (which you had referenced), not intending to distinguish them from "other people's more humble efforts" but intending to distinguish them from the particular photographer we're discussing, whose work doesn't come across to me as any more humble than my own. Humility was not the question on my mind.
    I'll give you my answer. It's, in part, why I find photography so wonderful and fascinating. Because a photo has the power (in varying degrees) to transform the reality of a situation into something else. Because photos often omit context, stop action, and focus in on certain elements of a scene, they can manipulate, exaggerate, highlight, and otherwise alter the perception of what was actually taking place. Of course, they can sometimes be quite accurate. So, I can take two very different pictures of a guy running along a beach in tight shorts, one which might benignly show him running against the blue of the water, including the crowd enjoying a beautiful day and exposed so that the water behind him feels alive and energized. On the other hand, I could zoom in, leave out the fun-loving crowd on the beach, and perhaps wait until the light catches his junk just right to make that the focal point of my picture and perhaps even exaggerate it. Both take the same reality and display it in very different ways, giving off very different vibes and telling a very different story. This is where our sensibilities as photographers comes into play and it's why photography can be such a creative endeavor, often revealing a lot about our takes on the world.
    I don't generally enter these conversations just for argument's sake or because I think I'm likely to convince anyone to totally adopt my point of view. It's a method of sharing ideas (and emotions). It's a way we can all broaden our understanding of how others operate and what potential photography has. There's nothing lost by a photographer hearing even negative reactions to his or her photos. That doesn't have to be taken as imposing standards on others. It simply gives that photographer information, which can then be dealt with in any number of ways. I know I've had some reactions to photos that have surprised me and made me think in new ways about what I was doing. I hope people will continue to be both negatively and positively honest with me about how they see my photos and I intend to continue being negatively and positively honest about my opinions of others' photos.
  12. Isn't this called "spinning" in American lingo?

    Kiddie P., (without the abbreviation, since deleted by the management), "these types of pictures of women on the street", denigrating, creepy, demeaning, reducing women to some sort of collective, voyeuristic stalking, an unhealthy obsession with under-aged women, protection from potential immoral viewpoint, surreptitiously photographed teenage girls, perv with a camera, disrespectful and repulsive behavior, surprise that "no one's boyfriend or father has broken this guys nose or his camera".

    These are the terms used by you and others on this subject, it is unadulterated bullying and I object to it.

    I received some flack recently because I used the word "empathy" in the forum. How would you feel if your fellow photographers in our community spoke of you publicly in these terms?

    Did someone mention double standards, or is allowing anyone to photograph and post what he wants, I am citing you Fred, just for a select few?
  13. Maybe it's the way I read the OP of this thread, but there seem to be several issues at play here.
    One is categorisation - the original thread was about the misqualification of these photos as travel photography, and well, yes, I think it's fair to say most people wouldn't expect these kind of photos to be travel photography. This thread tries to frame these photos into street photography, and that's going to be equally complicated. Comparing this work with Cartier-Bresson hanging around children all seems a bit hyperbolic to me, and a rather clunky way to pull photos from girls on a beach, most of them very visibly taken from a distance, into what would be and not be fair game in street photography.
    For me, it's not unimportant to note that the surroundings in most of these photos is very secondary, while in most street photography the interaction between subject and surrounding plays a significant role. If I'd have to classify these pictures, it would be candid portraits.

    Second is more about intent and result - what is the photographer's intent here, and how do people perceive the results? This is equally going to be a minefield of opinions, and while I can add mine, it won't add much value. What is valid, though, is questioning it, just as it's valid to questionany other photo for whether it achieves what it was meant to communicate, and whether that message is important/funny/lovely/awful/painful/..... One can point to moral there, though there can be powerful and important images that need to get out there, even if morally they're in deep waters (think war photos).

    Now intent and categorisation tend to be close to one another, but there is plenty that falls through the gaps.

    The discussion on these photos being pornography is a whole other discussion, unless it would have been the intent of the photographer, and frankly nothing points to that. It was over the top to claim that, and muddied the whole discussion, which frankly was just about miscategorisation of these photos.

    So, what does this have to do with the question in the title of this thread actually?
    Uhooru likes this.
  14. Actually.....is this thread at all about what would be approriate in street photography, or is just some personal argument? If it's the latter, there is an option to just send a personal message.
  15. My apologies Phil, it was clumsiness on my part in pulling out examples of what seemed like derogatory comments about this person and his work. I should have re-read the threads more carefully.
  16. If these terms were used to describe me or my work, I'd take a careful look at my work, trying to be objective, and see if their ideas or the words they used had merit. If I didn't see it how they were seeing it, I might still understand their characterizations while disagreeing with them. Believe me, I've had plenty of unsavory things said about my work in varying contexts. Some of it I laugh off, some of it troubles me because at times there's a bit of homophobia behind some of the harsher words, some of it I've actually taken to heart over the years and it's helped my work grow, so I've been quite thankful for it. Words can convey a lot. I try to be in tune with what's being said, understand if I can why it's being said, and appreciate it even when someone is turned off enough to my work to curse it. Art and photography are messy. I'm prepared for that.

    John, you seem to keep forgetting that I was the first one to come along and tell the OP I thought KP was over the top and did a disservice to the very real and horrible problem of child abuse. You keep talking at me about what the OP said instead of talking to me about the things I can control, which is what I say. I did say "creepy" and "denigrating." And I stand by those descriptions. I think anyone who's read critical reviews of films, art, literature, and many other disciplines has encountered words such as that. If one's skin is too thin to abide such critiques one may just be in the wrong business. It's not bullying. "Bullying" is a current word being bandied about to deflect and try to silence others. It won't work with me. And it does a disservice to the real problem of bullying which, if you've ever experienced it you know is very different from someone saying that a photo is denigrating to women or is creepy. Wouter mentioned hyperbole. I agree.
    gordonjb, Uhooru and kendunton like this.
  17. kendunton

    kendunton Edinburgh

    I wonder if the photographs would have been taken if the photographer's wife ( or partner) had been standing next to them...
    gordonjb likes this.
  18. I appreciate your comment Wouter, but threads evolve according to replies. It is also a follow up to a previous thread in which a particular author was victimized for the content of his postings and where he showed them. I find all "quarrels" disgusting, nauseating, though some consider it a sport, but sometimes it is necessary to take a position, however distasteful it may be .... Edmurd Burke said that for Injustice to prevail it is enough for others to say nothing (not to use the exact words which could add new fodder to the hungry).
    Last edited: Nov 25, 2017

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