Photos Removed

TexasDeb really got me thinking about the ethics of street photography. I had been reading forums and blogs about street photography and came away with the idea that many photographers assume that if something is legal it must be ok.  Many will offer the argument that sneaky photos are more natural and probably lead to better compositions. But, the more I thought about it the less comfortable I felt. The enjoyment I get from taking a pretty picture has no weight against the issue of another person’s privacy. I think street photography by definition objectifies people and is disrespectful regardless of the photographer’s intentions. Also, even if I have good intentions others might not and could use those photos in ways that could be hurtful. As a result, I removed those photos and decided on a policy of seeking permission in the future — I’d rather lose the shot if it means I can gain an opportunity to build community. Plus, I may actually get to know more of my neighbours this way. =) Thanks, Deb for the gentle reminder.

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18 thoughts on “Photos Removed

  1. oh good on you Debra … how to say this . I personally find the intrusion of everyone in hand with phone and camera clicking away a sad mad intrusion – I talk to my daughters about face book and their candid assumption of photos they put up.please do not put my grandchildren
    out into the public domain and leave me out of it too I say. it’s ok Mum they tell me but is it ? really ?.
    I loved your photo of the young girl women and I love all your candid nature shots -you have a great eye and a respect for subject. it is a joy as everyone notes to see people and places and yet I do feel on a deep soul level that it can be a violation – a type of voyeurism and that for arts sake can be taken too far .
    we each have to find our way thru these issues of privacy and intimacy but I do applaud you and texasdeb for raising this issue and allowing us all to have a good ole think about it all.
    Sandra

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  2. I’m uncomfortable with street photography, but I love and appreciate the story, the message, and the special moments captured. Seeing to it that the photographer must be careful with posting or might be trespassing somebody’s privacy.

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    1. You have summed it up so perfectly. Ty. I do love the drama and story and it is a privilege to see new places and people. But yeah … being mindful of privacy is important.

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  3. I don’t really do street photography. On the rare occasion that one of my posts features a person (like the Bee Keeper) I am careful to get permission first. I really enjoy those blogs that do capture a moment in that way. I feel that it brings me closer to understanding the hustle and bustle of the way that other people live their lives. I never feel anything but empathy and love for the people in the pictures and it reminds me how small and unimportant my own little world is. I also love to see far away places. When I photograph nature I am consciously trying to raise people’s awareness of the little things around us and I think that street photography works in the same way and it is a god thing. Of course you should have permission if you want to photograph an individual but a street scene is different I think. Street photography is important and compassionate and should continue… except for Google :)

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    1. I love those sites and I was drawn to trying to photograph people. They really are as lovely or as interesting as birds and anything else in nature. I have especially enjoyed images from cities: places I’ve been and places I may never see for myself. That enjoyment and the excitement of learning more about photography kept me on the fence.

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    1. It really is popular and some people do take it to the level of art. I just feel really uncomfortable participating.

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  4. The history of photography is rooted in images of people, either knowing or unknowing. Cartier-Bresson, Eve Arnold, Martin Parr, Tony Ray Jones, Capa, Taro, Dorothea Lange, Walker Evans, David Hurn, Bill Brandt, Robert Doisneau, Weegee, Bruno. Barney, Lartigue – believe me, I could name many more and a world without their images would be bereft. I take photos of people, sometimes I ask, sometimes I do not but I respect all of the subjects in my work. If they look odd it is because they present themselves in that way, a way which they are happy with.

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    1. I appreciate that there is a history of taking people’s pictures unaware. And some of those photos are true works of art and unforgettable. Since public photos are legal in most places, I suppose each photographer probably has to answer his/her own conscience. I can’t speak for others but for me, the issue feels much more clear. I realized that even if I feel respectful there is more going on than my intentions. I have to take into account the subject’s feelings/possible objections and also the potential for others to use an image in hurtful ways. So for me I think it is important as a first step to receive someone’s permission/consensus before going ahead. If I am patient they might even forget I am there and I can still catch those spontaneous gestures and moments. I recently found a site where the photographer does a mini interview with the people he photographs and I like that approach very much. It turns the subject into a person, gives them a voice and adds some value to the image.

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  5. Well jeepers Deb, I was in no way meaning to invoke a moral storm. After reading a post recently about what the guidelines are for putting people into garden photos I was honestly curious as to what your thoughts are on the subject and what your practice is.

    In these days of reality television I think many people (under a certain age anyway) are quite open to the idea that everything/anything they do in public is fair game for photos and past that posting to the internet. I am old enough to feel otherwise. I’m not sure how I’d react if I discovered what I thought was a private moment (even in a public space) had been captured without my knowing and posted to a public forum.

    If it was done with respect (as I believe yours was) I doubt I’d be offended, but I honor your hesitancy. My own awkwardness and shyness at the idea of approaching strangers has kept my camera turned off more often than not. Your photo was beautiful, it was respectful of its subjects, you shared it with every good intention, and yet I completely understand why you pulled it.

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    1. It was a pretty picture but even as I was posting it I felt a twinge. When you asked about it I realized I should have honoured that twinge. I am grateful that you helped me clarify my position because I was kind of sitting on the fence.

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  6. I haven’t taken many photos with people for my blog, though I just recently posted an article about a trip to Oregon where there were people in some of the photos. It is a tricky proposition, isn’t it? As is posting photos of private homes and buildings without expressed permission; I’m also uncomfortable with that. Randoms shots of people enjoying gardens–it creates life and connection for the rest of us, but at what cost? It’s certainly something to consider.

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    1. When I asked myself to think about it honestly I realized I was being lazy and cowardly in not talking to people first. I appreciate your comment, Tina.

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  7. It is a tricky one. Photos of people are always interesting but if you ask permission they will instantly be posed and lose all interest. Photos of small children are so lovely but we can no longer go around taking photos of small children as we did in a more innocent age. Years ago I took a wonderful photo of a little girl standing in a sea of pink magnolia petals, throwing the petals into the air with such a look of joy and wonder on her face. Nowadays you couldn’ t take such a photo of someone you didn’ t know.

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    1. I guess if it is a matter of art vs people’s feelings I kind of have to go with the feelings. Thanks for comment, Chloris =)

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