« Open Mike: Worry | Main | Hillary Clinton Photoshopped Out of Situation Room Photo »

Monday, 09 May 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Well then you get a similar situation than in touristic parts of South America (say Cuzco or Quito) where kids will only let you take pictures if you pay them. I don't think that it is a very positive evolution, especially for people interested in candid street photography.

I'm living (and, thus, photographing) in China for a year, and from my experience Chinese people generally don't mind to have their picture taken. Except old people. So I always politely ask old people if they mind. They usually grumble and wave me off, but some of them are ok with it - and the pictures are better for it. People who don't want to have their picture taken don't usually look engaging anyway.

The money would probably work, but I believe in that case, it was more, as is often, of a case of privacy invasion and hurt pride. Probably if you asked before trying any shooting it could even produce the opposite reaction. He might have felt pride about his bussiness. But when you try sneaking, it doesn't work, and then ask, the respect is gone for good.

Ah go.. waan, try it.
You'll come away embarrassed, for two minutes at worst.

Nix to lose, everything to gain. I'll bet you'll get a positive response from a clear majority.



You might want to check out $2 Portraits by photographer Thomas Hawk (www.thomashawk.com)and see what his experiences have been.


Interesting article. I'm strongly attracted to street photography and San Antonio presents plenty of opportunities for shooting. The challenge for me is the social aspect of invading the comfort zone of my subjects. In that regard size does matter. I've had much better success using my E-PL1 than my 5D. I hope the X100, if it ever gets here, will be even better. Once I settle into a shooting on the street rhythm my anxiety disappears and so does that of my subjects. Maybe the real issue is fear of uncontrolled social interaction.

Personally I'd never pay anybody for a street shot. Not because I think it's wrong to do it or that's it's against some sort of code, I just have this strong sense that what I'm doing is a good thing. Even If only I ever see the photo and they're bad, I know it's worth doing.

I've always tried to pay my subject with my respect and attention. I've messed up the odd time but those two things are worth a lot more than a few quid and I try to go out well hipped with them

I think Kirk Tuck has it right, at least as it relates to respecting the people you take photos of. It is true that people in public have no expectation of privacy and that the photos you take when you ask permission are different to those taken without permission (I usually, but don't always ask). But still, if you respect the people you photograph, it shows in the end result.

Coincidentally, Gordon Lewis also has an interesting recent post on street photography: http://shutterfinger.typepad.com/shutterfinger/2011/05/the-other-challenge-of-street-photography.html

An excellent article and one that rather sums up my feelings about propriety.

However, it does rather limit the types of street shots you end up with. There is a certain level of spontaneity that is lost with this approach.

When I plan to include someone in the frame who will be obviously recognisable, I generally gain assent through a nod or a glance, sometimes even conversation, though I have only once been asked for cash by a rather aggressive drunk who I refused. If I paid everyone I shot, I would be broke in a week.

But I do feel, especially from engagement in some "other" forums, that many photographers are pushing the "rights" issue too far. In most countries photographers have no constitutional rights at all. To talk about "photographers' rights" is therefore a nonsense. We have the ability to conduct our trade in public, not because we have "rights", but because it is not specifically prohibited.

"People have no right to privacy in public places" is not the same as "photographers have the right to shoot people in public". It's simply quid pro quo.

Lack of prohibition is a lot easier to change than a constitutional right and can happen if the public mood changes. After all, harassment is still harassment and issues of personal privacy are being brought into the spotlight more every day. Pushing cameras aggressively in people's faces and shooting kids through a long lens is bound to annoy or raise suspicion. It's just human nature.

This issue warrants discussion. Photographers should use all avenues at their disposal to talk about it and reach some level of consensus on what comprises acceptable conduct in public. Some will ignore it, but they will hopefully be a minority. Peer pressure is more powerful than any law (try finding reliable informants in a slum).

I fear that if we don't have this discussion and continue to whine about our rights whilst alienating the public at large, we (as a group) stand a good chance of bringing prohibition upon ourselves, one law at a time.


I mostly do street photography, and I always ask people for permission to take pictures of them. At first they are usually suprised and ask who I work for. I reply that I don't work for anyone and I guarantee they will never see this picture used for anything. This usually makes them much more willing to let you take a picture. Regarding paying people for letting you take a picture of them, it really depends on the situation. Some people mean "I'm not sure, maybe" when they say no, and other people mean no when they say no, and it's important to respect that.

I wonder if Cartier-Bresson asked the puddle jumper for permission? Street photography imo is more than pretty girls smiling for the camera. In fact asking for permission breaks the implied contract between SP and viewer that photos are candid - not posed. Once you start interacting with the subject you change their behavior, you lose any chance for spontaneity let alone decisive moment. Cajole people into posing for you, pay them if you want but please don't call it street photography.


A few years ago I summoned my photographic courage (and a friend as an assistant!), and went out in the streets to take pictures of people in the wild with their full consent:


In the province of Québec, since what was called "L'affaire Duclos", a photography trial that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, (the whole judgment here: http://csc.lexum.org/en/1998/1998scr1-591/1998scr1-591.html), publishing pictures of strangers taken without their consent is not even unethical: it's downright illegal. You can take as many pictures as you want without their consent, but if you're trying to publish (even for free!), you NEED the consent, end of story.

(In other words, Kirk Tuck's advice: "here're the rules: Okay to photograph person in public. Okay to show photograph. Okay to use photo for art and editorial (magazine/newpaper) use" is absolutely wrong here, and if he behaved here as he can do in the USA, he would get prosecuted, unless he could demonstrate he has prior consent.)

I was out on the street to take pictures that would be eventually included in a small magazine, so my practice that day fell under the legal framework of the Duclos affair judgement. Every time I saw someone who looked interesting, I stopped them, asked if they minded if I took some pictures of them, and showed them to my assistant for the paperwork. The model release stipulated that they relinquished all form of monetary payment.

I took the time to explain them what I was doing, why I was interested in them, and what I would do with the pictures. All of that was fairly easy. What was harder was to take an interesting picture. There's no "decisive moment" you are going to catch. In fact, it's more like an impromptu portrait sitting, so that you are trying to catch something natural, spontaneous, but under the aegis of your encounter.

I don't think it makes for uninteresting pictures, especially since I find that the tropes of strangers-caught-in-action-at-a-decisive-moment is so overwrought nowadays. Instead, you get to capture not a stranger, but an encounter: the space between yourself and the person. Being a nice guy really helps in this situation, and will result in fewer shots of "weirdoes glaring at weirdo photographer snapshooting them." Goodbye Winogrand, Hello Alec Soth.

Many were alarmed by the consequences of the Duclos affair, saying it would spell the end of an era, and that all photojournalism would be dead. Nothing is further from the truth: the Duclos affair instead forced street photographers to be relevant, since the only reason why a photog would be allowed to take, and publish the portrait of someone without their consent is public interest. There is no such thing as "art photography" for the Canadian law, by the way! You are either relevant for the public interest, or you ain't. News photographers are automatically out of trouble.

No, the real trouble is for artists: you can't fawn in hiding before a natural beauty and snap spontaneously graceful pictures of her for your "street photography" exhibition at the next door café.

I can't say I disagree that much, because in the end it empowers the subject. The only thing I regret is that it does not protect people beyond my borders: crass exploitation of people can still continue unhindered by poverty tourists. But since people in other countries are "exotic", who really cares?

Use that pretty view camera you got and they'll pay you ;-)

that money thing often gets in the way, but then so does that fear thing... money is often the gimmick to counter all other contact.

but it of course is remote, synthetic, and only of limited value...

-- to a dog bumper sticker around: wag more bark less, perhaps
"wag first, click next" could work....

empathy would reveal that YOU are in their background, not the other way...

Once you ask someone for permission, or pay them - they ARE posing, they are doing the thing they do whenever they are in front of a camera.

It's not SP in the traditional sense.
It's like taking pictures at the zoo and calling it wild life photography.

A year or so ago, Mike hosted a video on TOP of Bruce Gilden "working the street" in New York. Now I couldn't do that, and as an approach, I find it utterly disrespectful of other people. "Taking" a picture in the most literal sense, and without the grace to ask. But, Bruce is a member of Magnum, and I'm only a hack hobbyist, so he's got bragging rights on me.

word: Model release. Payment for use of an image, means that permission to take it is a given.

When he street shoots in NYC Joel Meyerowitz now has an assistant following him around and getting releases from the people he's
just shot.

In many cases, paying is unavoidable. 100% of my portraits are 'street' (as in 'street' vs. studio) and 100% are ordinary folks, no one famous. Also 90%+ are in very poor countries / neighbourhoods. I am very often asked for a small amount of change for a photograph. In places that are 'photographic destinations' such as Ethiopia's Omo Valley you will have to negotiate the 'click rate' before you enter the village. Outside that situation, if someone asks first, and doesn't demand aggressively, I will give them something. I normally won't pay if they ask after the fact (unless obviously making their living from being photographed, but I tend to avoid those guys).

There is inherently a small bit of exploitation in this kind of photography. I'm thereore happy to give something back if asked. Sometimes it is loose change, and sometimes it is just a 'shared moment' and showing your subject how they appear on the LCD. When you have in your hand an object that can represent more than a years income (even multiples of it), anything else just feels wrong.

It must be said though, while I do this very often in India (where I live) I would feel very strange handing over spare change in the UK (where I am from...)

Who will know, looking at the resulting photo, whether it is the result of spontaneity, or a posed shot? (however spontaneous it looks). Never look for truth in a photo

A quick re my prior comment - I was rashly assuming that people would understand I was talking not about the ethics of street photography per se, but about whether we can tell the difference between an opportunistic "decisive moment" and a self-conscious one (paid-for or not)

"Once you start interacting with the subject you change their behavior"

Yeah, and don't want that


I find that people in smaller towns are quite agreeable to have a photo made of them. They aren't strangers after saying hello to them. If they answer, "Howdy Stranger", I keep on walking.

Excellent article.

I do think it important to note that what Kirk is talking about and doing is portraiture first and foremost. The fact that it is on the street and not commissioned is where the social/ethical conundrum comes into play. Actually, that willingness to be photographed is required in this case. Without, Kirk looses all sense of connection with his model/subject and can't make these sorts of images in the first place.

The type of shooting I, and others do on the street require just the opposite in terms of engagement and consent while making the photo. That said, what isn't different is the respect and care taken to not offend, harm or slander people and to respect their wishes. If someone is upset and asks why you just took their photo without asking, don't wave the copy of "the photographer's rights" you carry and demand you are within the law to do it, just politely explain what you are doing and why you think you might have just made an interesting photo. Digital makes it easy, as you can show them the crappy photo you just snapped. Most people are flattered and will wish you well in your silly endeavor.

It's fine to know your rights, but it is far more important to know your boundaries and to show respect when photographing in public, no matter what genre you shoot. The other thing that has become very clear to me, is that in the same way some people shouldn't be police officers or bartenders etc. some people should simply not be street photographers. I hope they know who they are.

I'm always a bit amused when people read a literal manifesto into the things I've written. While I make every effort to hew to the ethical standards I wrote about I certainly take images when I see something/someone incredible and worry about the approval at a later stage. But I always try to keep in mind how I would feel if someone clicked me.

My article was meant to be a guideline rather than a sharp demarcation of the rules of engagement.

I am fascinated to hear about the way the laws differ in other countries. I've worked all over Europe and the Caribbean and certainly understand the need to fine-tune my approach.

That being said, "tacit approval" in many instances means merely catching the eye of the intended subject, a quick nod and smile with camera presented. A return smile is the tacit approval.

I feel sorry for Joel Meyerowitz's assistants. The gathering of "after the facts" model releases has to be a thankless job.

The next thing I think we all need to discuss is the morality of current model releases. We ask for everything. We give them nothing. I recently heard Seth Resnick speak. He contracts with his subjects and his model releases give the subjects a cut of all future profits. It's really worth a discussion.

A subject close to my heart and my shooting style. I like people in my shots, but would prefer they behave as if I'm invisible. Not necessarily a tough proposition. I try to blend in, look humble, become boring, look serious yet unthreatening. It's a constantly-shifting dance. Above all, be nice.

Some strategies: let the subject enter your frame; indicate by gesture or body-language that you're not a spy; encounter resistance, move on to a new idea - those who don't mind outnumber the ones who do; if you've got digital, show your results - establish a connection, gain some karma. Hone your instincts, your manners and your approach and you can usually shoot with impunity, not that there won't be bumps along the road.

Payment is tricky. When it's demanded of me, I walk away, but I'll occasionally work out a small fee for street vendors who approach me. An agreement in lieu of a craft or a service that doesn't interest me. Don't really need that yard of traditional fabric but I'll take a quiet pose.

Getting tripped up over morality is self-defeating, in my opinion. Out in the public sphere, we should all be tolerant and respectful. An art-focused picture-taker is less bothersome than a heedless cell-phone gabbler, yet some citizens feel they have the right to assume dudgeon and try restricting a photographer's freedoms. For me, these busybodies are the true breachers of the so-called social contract, even if they fail to see the irony in that.

Another irony is I’ve encountered these tiffs far more often here in Canada than in my foreign travels where the cultural tensions are sharper. My name has a link if you’d like to see my theories in practice.

I dunno.

I think this works if you ARE looking for posed shots. But something tells me Cartier-Bresson didn't work like this. And I KNOW Gary Winogrand didn't.

Personally, I like to work looking for the extemporaneous, unposed shot--as I like to believe the Great Ones(as mentioned above)did.I have trouble going up to people & asking them to pose--feels like an intrusion to me.

But then, while I do it, street photography is a nerve-wracking experience for me, period--probably because I tend to shyness and self consciousness. Also because I never know how people are going to react these days, given the low opinion people seem to have of photogs (how did we get perceived as being pervs and creeps?).

If someone makes it clear to me they don't want their photo taken, I won't do it. It's not like my life depends on getting that shot....

I consider myself a street photographer as well, although I mean “street” literally, as I generally photograph buildings and urban scenes at night (think New Topographics after dark) and only very rarely do I ever include people in my photographs.

While I am all for behaving responsibly, I find it sort of weird to ask permission to do something for which permission is not required, especially when asking permission usually isn’t possible or practical, because the property owners are rarely present (in the case of industrial areas) or awake (in the case of residential areas) at the time of night when I’m out and about photographing.

And on those occasions when I am approached by somebody – such as this past Friday night -- the first words out of their mouth are invariably a threat of one kind or another, rather than a friendly greeting, so it should hardly come as a surprise that my initial response is generally to push back rather than to accomodate them.

I think the fundamental issue is that people today are less willing to extend to others the benefit of doubt and their initial reaction in the face of any uncertainty is to assume the worst about other people and their motivation.

I am old enough to know this wasn’t always the case a generation ago and I’m saddened to realize that circumstances have changed such that those days are likely gone forever.

The money method always work. But it depends also who you ask. People are more aware nowadays about privacy issues. It migh also help you could show the person some sort of credentials.

Try some homeless people and offer them some money or food. This pics are for me the bests street photos because it offers a background story that speaks by itself.

Never mind. Amen.

Most of my street shots are blind . . . hip shots. Or use a flip out LCD screen. Or use a very short focal length (including fisheye) and look past them. If you want impromptu portraits, that's fine, but that's not me. I'm after candid shots.

I've never been "busted", and I'd be happy to have the subjects see anything I've shown in public.


Several years ago this photographer came up with a novel idea, when homeless people approach him and ask for money, he offers them $2 to take their portrait. Very few people refuse. He talks to them to learn their story and now has a very extensive collection of grate portraits.
http://thomashawk.com/2008/06/introducing-christopher-and-start-of-my.html Here's a link to his flickr set of $2 Photos. http://www.flickr.com/photos/thomashawk/sets/72157605579131380/

Jeff H.

@Steve, you'll need to explain how this statement is quid pro quo:

"People have no right to privacy in public places" is not the same as "photographers have the right to shoot people in public". It's simply quid pro quo.

quid pro quo means that both parties get something out of the transaction. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours.

Like it or not, being in public means that I can take a picture of anyone I can see in public. Is it moral or ethical to do it? That's up to each person holding the camera.

Dave and Jeff,
I've read a bunch of the captions of Thomas Hawk's $2 portrait project and it seems to me he needs to raise his rates! Almost every caption tells of how he gets resistance to the low wages....


Uh, I'm surprised nobody brought up Bruce Gilden yet... Completely opposite of what the linked article proposes, and awesome at that...

Slightly off topic, but Steve Jacob's comment hinted at it. Saw this article in my local paper and web site last week:
N.J. Assembly panel considers bill outlawing photographing children without parental consent
Summary - some parents were alarmed when they caught a "creeper" videoing a swim meet that their young daughters were in. Police could only charge said creeper with trespassing and disorderly conduct, and even those charges didn't stick. So parents said "there oughta' be a law" and took their case to the state assembly, which has drafted a bill. State press association and ACLU are against it, parent says that families need protection, assemblywoman says bill needs more specific language. I understand why the parents are scared, but I fear for our ability as photographers to be able to practice our trade or hobby.

I have been offering $2.00 to those asking for money for years I think...or perhaps I read about Thomas Hawk first. At any rate it seems to work pretty well. If you are the type of person that needs to give to folks on the street for whatever reason (I'm not) then this will help you. If you're the type of person that looks to find exploitation in most human interaction (again...not) then this will hurt you.

Either way it's a $2.00 test and I've heard some pretty incredible stories along the way.

Photographer's rights downloadable document from Bert Krages, attorney at law:


PS: Good luck on Wednesday MIke.

Very nice and polite.

If Robert Frank followed his suggestions, he would have never published "The Americans".

Well said!
Have to say that i'm very much a street shooter, have moved from 35 mm to 4x5 in the last year and the difference is you HAVE to ask and it gives whole new dynamic, the LF camera really creates a t wo way respect and I believe gives a real dignity to the subject whoever they are.

...this reminds me of when I dropped out of photo school in the early 70's, I started working for a person who was considered the one of the premier product/table-top photographers in the region, and he was also located in the general area of the school, an old run down semi-industrial area north of the downtown district in my mid-western city.

The alcoholic and destitute street people in the area were so used to the neighborhood being inundated with photo students trying to take pictures, that they were pretty aggressive about chasing people away from taking their pictures. One day, my boss, from his window, saw a very interesting person like this sitting at a park picnic bench, so he grabbed a Hasselblad loaded a few rolls of 120 Tri-X in 120 backs, and ran down to take the guys picture. He was back after a few minutes when he was chased away by the guy, who was yelling: "Hey, no character studies here." I had to laugh at how glib they had become...

There was also a 'little person' working at a news stand on the street that was well know for actively chasing students down the block after they tried to take his picture.

Glad I never fell in love with the street photography thing and feel better about letting people keep their dignity...

I have never paid a subject for street photography because the spontaneity is gone if you do that. So it depends what your project is. What I find significant, though, is how quickly you take the picture. If you spend time fiddling with settings and framing, people become unhappy. I take shots very quickly, previsualising and pre-focussing before I lift the camera.f8 gives you all the depth of field you need. Pre-focus about 8 feet and leave it. This is what I always tell the students who visit my shows. Be really quick; the longer you take, the more annoyed people become.

As somebody who occasionally took news shots, I have a bias against paying. However, most of my street photography for the past several years has been in support of my painting, which is my major interest. A lot of street photography isn't right for (my) painting -- I'm not interested in spontaneity, or catching a critical moment. That's what photography is for. When I see somebody I want to use, I consider them a model, and if I think it will help, I'll offer money, and some have taken it. I also pose my people, just as if they were models, and usually take several shots, moving them around, getting them to do what I want. But, $5 wouldn't work anymore. I don't think $5 would get you much more than a sack of fries at a McDonalds, and people who want to get paid, want more.

Telling people that you want to use the photos for a painting actually seems to help more than money...at least for those who don't seem desperate for money.

Sometimes I take pictures of people who I suspect would be actively hostile (dope dealers down around City Hall in LA.) That's where the good old Panasonic GH2 with twistable LCD and 100-300 comes in handy.

Dear Michele,

That Quebec ruling is quite interesting. If I might trouble you with two questions:

1) It seems to me that, as the ruling is solely about the privacy rights of the subject and not about the content of the photos, it would not matter if one obtained permission immediately before or AFTER making the photograph. That is, I don't see why one couldn't make the true "candid" photographs before approaching the subject for permission to use photographs you made of them. 'Course, they may say no, but there's no harm done other than a slight waste of one's time.

2) Does this ruling extend to the incidental appearance of people in street photography? That is, you can have a photograph that is about Persons X on the street and you can have a photograph of the street that incidentally includes Persons X. in fact, it's rather hard to do urban photography, save at 4 AM or close work, that doesn't include any number of incidental people.

US law generally considers incidental appearance irrelevant and not invoking any protection of subjects' rights. The Canadian law, though, being a strong endorsement of a right to privacy, it seems to me that an incidental appearance of a clearly recognized person is just as much a violation of that as a featured appearance.

Has this been resolved? I am not particularly conversant with Canadian or Québec law; it may be a no-brainer “up there” but I don't know the answer.


pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

Taking photographs of strangers IS a dirty business, and don't let anybody tell you differently.

I was more on the side of the self-proclaimed 'Street Photographers' before running into several folks at fairs and the like, laden with high-end cameras and 80-200 2.8 zooms that kept stalking my son and his friends. Sure, kids being cute is a cute pic, but when you're 5 feet away and refuse to meet my eye? Creepy.

Feeling that you have the freedom to steal someone's image and use it for your own desires shouldn't mean that you disrespect their right to ask you not to use their image. It's _theirs_, not yours, photographers merely borrow what we see.

Was "Morocco 2010" all shot with 4x5 then? I wouldn't have guessed...very nice set by the way, I really enjoyed that.


While I understand Kirk Tuck's sentiments, I can't agree. His argument seems to favor the technique he's comfortable with - and at the same time writes off as abusive the vast majority of street photography as we know it. Lurking behind the scenes (so to speak) is a whole set of assumptions - that photography is inherently aggressive and exploitative, that it needs to be modulated in order to be more respectful, that the sense of victimhood on the part of the subject is always legitimate but that the enlightenment provided by truly candid street photography can be safely driven away with no loss to humanity. Let's extend the argument - if it's abusive for me to take a candid photograph, is it abusive for me to look at another person? What if I form a mental image of that person and later draw a sketch from it. Have I broken the social contract? What if I don't draw and simply record the mental image? Oh, and speaking of social contracts - don't people enter into their half of it when they go out in a public street? Most basically - why are photographers so fast to agree that photography is inherently aggressive and somehow done in bad faith?

I wonder if anybody has tried handing out fresh baked cupcakes or such? It might work better than money...

I found that asking people to pay me to take their photo worked well.

In the late 1980s I was doing street portraits on NYC's lower east side and found that people who would not let me photograph them would literally stand in line if I charged them $2 and gave them the positive from a Polaroid PN film pack.

It was the only way I could get their trust, because they could understand why I would charge them, but I think if I paid them they would have been suspicious.

One of my best photographs is of a guy who stood in the middle of traffic panhandling, then went and borrowed a fancy suit to have his photo done for $2.

Across the street there were lines of people waiting to buy heroin or crack.

I guess I was as trustworthy as a heroin dealer, which I guess is a pretty big deal all things considered .

@David, relating to quid pro quo...

I was using the term in the common usage sense of "give and take", not the legal sense. After all, it simply means "this for that".

In this case, you have a reasonable right to expect members of the public not to give you abuse or threaten you simply for taking their picture. In return they have the right to expect you to do so in a way that is not obstructive, menacing or abusive.

No-one has the right to punch you, abuse you or take your camera if you shoot them, nor do you have the right to get in their way, follow them around, or cause them undue stress.

You don't actually have a "right" to shoot someone. An unwilling subject is perfectly at liberty to take any action to avoid you short of those mentioned above. They can turn away, hide their face, tell you they don't want you to, or cross the street to avoid you.

Indeed, if you were to persist after this point, it could be construed as harrassment.

I agree with bongo (and probably others - this thread has grown since I've been busy watching hockey and writing this). Street photography proper is a very specific thing. It should not be confused with 'street shooting,' the topic of Tuck's article. Tuck's tips are good but most don't apply to those wishing to practice traditional 'Street.' For that form, candid shooting is essential, as bongo explained.

While I try to respect the "social contract" Tuck mentions, I shoot first, and address the subject's reaction, if any, later.

I shoot in my home town. I shoot with standard and wide lenses to capture scenes of people, not portraits of them. I try to capture something that's happening, an event that involves one or more people. Their surroundings provide context to the document and richer compositional elements to the photograph.

My goal is to make strong photographs that capture people being themselves in the here and now, so that future people will have pictures of our era to enjoy the way we enjoy looking at photos from past eras. Street photography is a form of documentary photography (with all its issues and more) that takes as its subject society and human nature. Widens it right out. As such, it's one of the grandest, most open-ended projects possible and one of the most baffling to people. "How can taking pictures of things so ordinary be important, and important enough to risk offending people?"

Usually, though, I find people get it. On the rare occassion when a nod of acknowledgement or smile of gratitude doesn't reassure a cranky subject, a quick explanation usually does. I tell people I'm taking pictures of the street, of life in the city, and they readily understand that they're part of that, in the middle of it, along with me and my camera.

Sorry to go on, but I feel strongly about the importance of street photography especially at this point in history. There's a chance that the shape of things will change dramatically in the next 50 years because of people's reluctance to address global climate change. Pictures of how we lived in the early years of this century will become even more important if so.

Hmmm. Let's take into account another matter...

$2 per person. Let's say, 100 persons per month. $200. Here in Croatia, it's about 20% of the average salary. Or about two thirds of the minimum guaranteed salary. Pretty prohibitive.

Glad you like it, actually IMO "timeless morocco" shot the year before is better! All shot on Epson RD1s or Hassy Xpan.
Have been concentrating on 4x5 since returning from 2010 morocco trip, see "hiiuma" also at www.Clive-Evans.com

Ah yes, that looks more like large format. I didn't think the Morocco work had the look of 4x5. Although it looks good.



I'm surprised to see the Puddle Jumper held up in defence of the right to shoot first and ask no questions later.

The jumper is blurred and backlit, and likely unrecognizable to his (her?) own mother. Does anyone seriously think HCB ought to have asked permission to publish that photograph?

I doubt there's a judge anywhere, including Quebec, who would rule for the plaintiff in the hypothetical case of Puddle Jumper v. HCB.

As an amateur photographer in Quebec, I try to respect the law by getting some kind of permission, keeping human subjects' faces out of the picture, or making them unrecognizable (usually with a slow shutter speed). Accordingly, I would uphold the Puddle Jumper as an ideal toward which I should strive, not an example of the sort of photo that can no longer be taken because of those pesky privacy rights.

Yes, candid street portraits are very difficult to take under a legal or ethical system giving the individual strong control over the use of their likeness. But that hardly makes street photography impossible.

...just an aside to some of the comments on here: it seems that people who are doing a lot of street photography have the intention of either publishing it, or showing it somehow on a web site for personal glorification and advancement, or mounting it for a show to sell.

Regardless of what Cartier-Bresson was doing, or even Winogrand (or Vivian M. as of late), I come down firmly on the side of remuneration for anybody that aids in your attempt to make money. Sorry, but the creative world is spinning out of control with the idea that there are people that plan to make money off of someone else's intellectual property, be it their image or photo work (like the late JPG magazine was trying to do) or music or whatever. The world seems full of people that have an idea of how to make a living for themselves, but they need the input of your intellectual property, for which you will not be getting paid, to package that item and sell advertising to allow them a living.

Yeah, yeah, I know in past years, it did not seem like that for the Winogrands of the world, and before, but we all know it today, and even the homeless are smart enough to know someone is trying to take something of their image to make money.

Even two dollars seems petty and ridiculous, but it's at least a start.

I hope Ctein gets back to read answers here, but here I go anyway:

>>>Dear Michele,

Oups! It's Michel. But I'll excuse ViaVoice in training.

>>>1) It seems to me that, as the ruling is solely about the privacy rights of the subject and not about the content of the photos, it would not matter if one obtained permission immediately before or AFTER making the photograph. That is, I don't see why one couldn't make the true "candid" photographs before approaching the subject for permission to use photographs you made of them. 'Course, they may say no, but there's no harm done other than a slight waste of one's time.

Yes, it's absolutely possible to 1) take the shot 2) ask for permission and 3) publish if permission was granted. As a matter of fact, I think I might have mentioned that the ruling does not prohibit TAKING pictures: just governs what you can do with it. I decided to ask for approval beforehand simply because I thought it would be more respectful.

>>>2) Does this ruling extend to the incidental appearance of people in street photography? That is, you can have a photograph that is about Persons X on the street and you can have a photograph of the street that incidentally includes Persons X. in fact, it's rather hard to do urban photography, save at 4 AM or close work, that doesn't include any number of incidental people.

Yes, sadly it does. The basic criteria is always "being recognizable." If the photographic depiction of a person affords the potential for that person to be identifiable, then that person's consent matters if the photo does not fall under the circumstances that allow publication without prior consent (public interest, yadda yadda).

But even then: imagine a newsworthy photograph that also represents accidentally a bystander, external to the scene, in an embarrassing situation? Is the public's right to know limited to the central subject or does it extend to the whole frame?

I hesitate to extend the ruling outside of Québec because one key point of the decision is a right specific to Québec (because of our Civil Code), which we call "le droit à l'image" (one's right to control what is made of one's image). I think it was borrowed from France.

I don't think the issue has been settled because, despite the relative benignity of the judgement for news photogs, the latter have been extremely careful, overly so, in the recent years. So there hasn't been any high-profile case to further the details of the application of these rights.

IANAL, obviously.

"Glad I never fell in love with the street photography thing and feel better about letting people keep their dignity..."

How does taking someones photo on the street rob them of their dignity?
IMO Street Photography is not about exploiting, embarrassing or denigrating people. It's about capturing a never to be repeated moment that shows real life, not a posed reality.

Mike, I'm jumping into this late and maybe it's already been noted but I think I read somewhere that Philip-Lorca diCorcia paid the 'actors' who were genuine street people in his series, Hustlers. In any event I thought the series was powerful despite or maybe because of this practice.


...the statement was directly in relation to the stories I was telling about people specifically earmarking the destitute and alcoholic as 'acceptable subjects' for their artistic endeavors...

...let's face it, even in Franks Americans, there is an assumption of distaste in relation to most of the subjects, a little bit of the wry wink and elbow nudge, a little bit of the carnival side show, and "...boy, aren't we glad we're not THOSE kind of Americans ourselves...". Even that classic book met with complaints from critics at the time that it did not represent 'Americans', but that Frank, as a European outsider, photographed the things he felt were weird about the culture as sort of a slam.

Ditto for Avedon's 'American West' (not technically street photography, but portraits of people 'on the fly'), and ditto for the criticism of it at the time, i.e it wasn't pictures of people that make up the American West, it was pictures of people that make up some of the weirdest parts of the American West, drifters etc.

Let's face it, some people shoot street photography that make interesting and dynamic compositions of bodies in motion and the play of light, but most people shoot the destitute, drunk, weird, disenfranchised, and outsiders specifically because they know they are more marketable, and an inside peek at the freak show that will get more interest. Nobody shoots middle class people on the street that might be suffering from stress and denigration in the office and are out on a walk for an hour to decompress, and then market it as a plight that needs more action and response...

For laughs have a look at
which shows how "the paper's policy to never depict women[...] has, over the years, yielded mixed results."

My favorite is the 1st on off the bat: Pamela Anderson on the set of Baywatch!

I do a lot of street photography, spending at least a full day a week on the streets of various cities in Japan shooting mostly people. I have toyed with the idea of asking for permission or getting their contact information for further work (when I see someone especially photogenic) but I always end up giving up on the idea. I don't hide when I shoot. I stand openly and concentrate on my camera which is always a huge DSLR or a medium format film camera, always with lenses shorter than 135mm.

I've found that this makes me stand out quite clearly (blond skinny guy in Japan with huge camera) and gives people plenty of time to move out of the way or turn their faces away. In my experience this has proven to be the best way to do street photography without having to interact with hundreds of strangers.

Getting model releases and such is a great idea but I don't think even 1% of my photos are worth publishing so it would just generate a lot of extra work/bad will.

On a side note, there have been instances in Japan where photographers have been forcibly removed from the scenes of certain public areas (i.e. beaches) by police officers due to them creating a "public nuisance".

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007