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Street photography and privacy

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Ihavenewfs, Mar 30, 2011.

  1. Ihavenewfs

    Ihavenewfs Mu-43 Regular

    Not sure if this is the right place for this question....

    ...but I greatly admire all of the "street shooting" in these forums and Watcher's detailed explanation was especially fascinating.

    I would love to try this spontaneous (but not) style but I wonder if there is ever a question of invading someone's privacy when they end up in my photograph? Of course if they are sitting in an outdoor cafe or walking down a public sidewalk, you could consider that they're "fair game" so to speak.

    I tried doing some street shots in SF and I found just the act of aiming my D300 down the street affected how people acted in front of the camera. With the EPL2 I would expect to see less of that.


    Note from Amin: I moved this post to it's own thread. Originally was a reply to this: https://www.mu-43.com/f57/getting-shot-anticipation-pays-off-10769/
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  2. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Marie... Shoot first, answer questions later.
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  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    Marie, I think there is always a question of invading someone's privacy. Even when there is a negative value to the privacy invasion, sometimes there is a positive value to balance that. It's a personal call whether any given photograph of another person is the right thing to do or not.
  4. akulya

    akulya Mu-43 Veteran

    Jun 21, 2010

    I find the whole process of street photography quite nerve-wracking. It is by far the hardest genre for me to approach.

    I would probably never any take street photos with a DSLR, but the smaller bodied m4/3 cameras look suitably "touristy" combined with one of the small autofocus pancake lenses to work for me.

    As I understand it, (in the UK) provided you are in a public place, and your subject has no reasonable expectation of privacy, you are free to photograph.

    This is, of course, always combined with a healthy respect for fellow humans.

    I usually set the camera up in advance, fully manual and carry it turned on just with a wrist strap; and try to see photographic opportunities without using camera, so my body placement, and light angles are done and checked before even lifting the camera to compose on the LCD.

    So far, my success rate has so far been half a dozen fair shots, and one decent one - in about a year of trying.

    I have always thought that just being honest about what you were doing is probably the best response to a confrontation, but luckily I have never had one.

    Good Luck!
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  5. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Look, we are all adults, well in one way or another.
    Follow your gut feelings. If you feel like your doing something you shouldn't be, you probably are. If you feel ok, it probably is ok.
    Your inner self knows what's right or wrong. You should also be tuned into the environment and the people present. You can feel the vibe of the image forming.
    You can feel the timing and if things just come together.

    If your nervous out there, that energy is reflected back and forth from you and the subjects. If you act as a warrior, innocence follows and breaks the negative energy and lets you be truthful in your work.

    By Warrior, I mean.... Every warrior goes to battle with a protected innocence.
    The warrior takes in all of their surroundings and fits in to do what must be done.

    Is this a battle? Yes, it's the battle one must overcome of one's own fears.
    You have to give in and surrender to your fears to overcome them.
    If you carry them with you, open, then that takes control of the here and now.
    Is Shooter crazy? Sure, but he knows when to choose his battles and that ain't on the street.

    Plan your work and work your plan.
    Decide what on the street interests you. Try to visualize images before hitting the street.
    Try to find those images out there.

    If you were standing in the crowd, without a camera, would you be nervous?
    Probably not. If you moved in very close to people, would you be nervous? Probably not.
    Would they be nervous? Probably not.

    Now, introduce the camera. Everything changes. But for who?
    For you, mostly because you have introduced an element that could be considered an invasion of privacy. Why? Because your frame of mind is trained to think that way.

    Take vrs Make. Small words but the effect of these words is like a hammer.
    If you are Taking photos.... It implies that you are Taking something.
    If you are Making photos, you aren't taking anything, your making something.
    You mind will have a freedom that it won't have, if your Taking photos.
    No guilt involved making photos.

    The camera...the Intruder!
    The camera does a few things, if not tamed.
    It can intrude on your vision, process etc. It can intrude on the subjects peace and tranquility. So, one must have a Zen relationship with the camera.
    It should only be seen during capture. That means, you have to know all about it so that you can forget about it.
    There is no camera better than the Leica M for this.
    Set the aperture, set the speed... Pull it out and click... Walk away....
    You have to get that from your camera, or you'll fail every time.
    It's easy but requires patience and a willingness to forget about it...except when needed....

    Hope this makes sense.....
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  6. Ihavenewfs

    Ihavenewfs Mu-43 Regular

    I suppose too that the reason behind a particular street capture plays into how the person behind the camera feels. I certainly don't want to think this to death or detract from the pure joy one can feel taking pictures but I have wondered. There have been moments when I wish I did have a camera with me to capture a child holding his dad's hand with trust as they make their way through a crowd - taking away with me a bit of that magic :smile:

    I thank Maeve for pointing out her earlier thoughts on Street Photography - you are both right that it is ultimately a personal call and in my case, my level of comfort in the situation.
  7. I think that these sentiments are exactly right.

    To be truthful, I have had different people question my motives while shooting. I let them know that my wife and I are journalists documenting the country and that we have an online journal that they can check into. I'm not trying to hide or sneak my shots and I fully respect them as individuals. Much of the time I ask before shooting however there are many times when I will miss the shot I want or the intent - - - if I great them first and ask - - - and so I take the shot without asking or acknowledging. Although most have noticed that I took a picture of them and I politely not my head and smile and if close enough, thank them. Other times when walking streets, I am simply shooting peoples activities in public areas and am not really after getting to know the subjects I am shooting.

    When I have made contact with people I'm photographing, I always attempt to get an email address from them so that I can send them the photos - - - and when at all possible, when shooting in public areas where I know that I can count on the subject being there, will return at the same time of day with a print. They are always so happy and thankful.

    Even when I have not asked to take a photograph of a person, but took the shot with a smile when I have passed by them - - - I have returned and searched them out to give them a print. I have received various responses from trying to figure out when I took the shot, to asking how much I want for it (which I always inform them, is a gift from me).

    With the over 20,000 images that I have taken in Costa Rica and Nicaragua over the past few years - there has only been one confrontation. While having supper in a small community along the carribean coast of Costa Rica - I noticed this stunning image of a bare chested physical specimen riding a beautiful horse along the road. I went to the entryway and raised my camera with 300mm zoom (600mm) and started shooting as he approached.

    After I had three or four shots off, he noticed my camera and immediately pulled his machete from it's pouch - waving it at me and screaming in very clear English to get that f'ing camera out of his face. I politely acknowledged, lowered my camera and quickly went back into the restaurant hoping that would be the end of it - which it was. BTW - I still used the shot - actually the one of his raised machete when he was coming at me - - - just smeared out his face like they do on TV.

    Of course these issues are one of the reasons that I love shooting in these Central American countries - - - not to take advantage of anyone - - - but to benefit from their tolerance and desire to find joy in life. I respect them and they know it and allow me to do what I went there for as far as my photography is concerned. I find shooting freely as I am walking around, much more difficult in my home country of Canada or in the United States - or at least I have to change my thought process and methods a little, to do it there.
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  8. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Apr 10, 2009
    Boston, MA (USA)
    As a dad holding my kids' hands all the time, I wouldn't mind in the least if someone stepped in front of me, made friendly eye contact, and took a picture of us holding hands. Having someone not make eye contact with me and then taking a photo of my son in isolation (without me) would displease me (although I couldn't stop that from happening and wouldn't try).
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  9. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Smart phones work great.
    On my iPhone, I keep my site on a page in my browser. If needed and it has been, I can show images of what I'm doing.
    This is a big help in confrontational situations.
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  10. mauve

    mauve Mu-43 All-Pro

    Mar 9, 2010
    Paris, France
    Not that it makes any difference, but last I checked, I still was a male :biggrin:

  11. Ihavenewfs

    Ihavenewfs Mu-43 Regular

    Sorry about that and I misspelled your name:frown: Not that this will be any consolation but whenever I have to type "new" I invariably type "Newf"...my co-workers take great delight in pointing that out to me.

    I still appreciate your comments on street photography and your photos are exceptional :smile:
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  12. Ihavenewfs

    Ihavenewfs Mu-43 Regular

    I have a feeling I knew you in a past life....it does make very good sense....thank you.

  13. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Marie, remember that time in 1860....uh... we better go private....
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  14. BBW

    BBW Super Moderator Emeritus

    I couldn't agree with Marie, more. Don, are you sure you weren't a classics major? You've nailed it - whether it's street photography or just about anything else I can think of in life. Well said, my friend.
  15. deirdre

    deirdre Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 9, 2010
    I suppose I have to answer this based on this picture by Javier.

    How much privacy can someone who goes out of the house clearly under-clothed expect while walking down the street?
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  16. I don't think the goal of a street photographer has to be to blend in and be discrete. I am am 6'4" and weigh 105kg. Add a camera to that and I am by no means discrete. I think the key is to act professionally and purposely. Don't try to be skulk around. If you are there and it is clear what you are doing, people can choose to act accordingly if they wish. I also don't see the type of camera you use as a critical aspect. These were taken with a Canon 50D - not your typical definition of a street camera. One of the guys over at seriouscompacts.com occasionally uses a Pentax K20D as well.

    IMG_2917-PPR2 Canon EOS 50D | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    IMG_3085-PPR3 Canon EOS 50D | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    IMG_3065-PPR2 Canon EOS 50D | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    IMG_2899-PPR Canon EOS 50D | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

    IMG_3079-PPR6 Canon EOS 50D | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
  17. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    Nic, Uh...Uh it just may be, I mean there's just a slight possibility that a 6'4" 105 KG man with a camera is ever so slightly intimidating.
    The rest of us mere mortal humans must rely on other attributes to make our way around the streets.
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  18. Understood, Don. I just wanted to point out that you don't necessarily need to "blend in" or carry the world's tiniest camera. Also that if someone doesn't appreciate having their photo taken, I'm not too hard to spot and they could easily make it known.
    • Like Like x 1
  19. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Phila, Pa USA
    True enuff Brother, true nuff!
  20. Briar

    Briar Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 13, 2010
    Bonnie Scotland
    When I'm on holiday abroad I have no problems taking street photographs ... I become a tourist and somehow I feel that gives me license to take photos of foreign (to me) street life. I'm not self conscious about holding my camera nor taking photographs in these public places. If people protest against my intrusion, I respect their feelings and turn the camera away without taking the shot.

    Put me on a street in the UK and I become self conscious about myself, my camera and my actions. I know most folk either ignore photographers or simply wonder what the photographer is finding so interesting in the hum drum of every day street life. Despite knowing this I find it difficult to relax into my surroundings and get a good street picture here in the UK. I wonder if its the familiarity of my surroundings and the culture that makes me feel my actions are more intrusive? Food for thought.
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