Street photography is interesting, I can’t deny it, however I think it is an invasive type of photography, and for that reason I tend not to do it as often as I would like. I prefer to be behind the camera rather than in front of it, and I hate having my photo taken without me knowing about it. Because of this I make damn sure (every time) that I ask permission from the person who I would like to be the subject of my photo before raising my camera and taking the shot. I follow by the rule of “If I don’t ask I don’t get” and also “if permission is not granted I move on”.
From what I have read (on photography forums and in magazines) it seems that I am in the minority and most street photographers adopt the paparazzi approach and just go for it. If this is your style, and you feel okay about doing it fine, but there are some people you should never photograph, unless they specifically ask you to.
Snatching shots of specific groups of people without their permission is morally wrong, and in all honesty sick, and those photographers who do steal photos of these groups of people should not be allowed to own a camera. The worst thing is that magazines and online publications use photos of these groups of people and some even encourage photographers to get these portrait shots.
So what are these groups of people you should never photograph unless they ask you to?
Loads of street photographers take photos of homeless people, and I have to say that it is something I just don’t get. What is the fascination of taking photos of homeless people who have nothing, and I mean nothing. These people don’t have money they don’t have food, they have no possessions, heck some of them don’t have any shoes, yet still there are photographers out there (and many of them) who insist of taking a photo of extreme poverty. One of the worst things is these photographers try and “dress up” their photos and say it is part of a theme or a bigger series of photos, which much of the time is utter rubbish. This series/theme crap isn’t the worst thing, and this accolade goes to the fact that the photographers try and make money from selling their images of homeless people. In my mind this is sick, I mean making money from someone else’s poverty and despair. I bet the photographers don’t give the homeless people any of the proceeds from the sales they make out of them. I bet these photographers don’t even give their “homeless model” a cup of tea and a sandwich.
Again I have to ask the question “why do photographers take photos of people less fortunate than themselves?” Taking photos of disabled people basically amounts to mocking them, and then trying to make money from the images is sick, and something I can’t condone. Taking street photos of disabled strangers, unless you ask their permission of course (and how many photographers have the balls to go and ask a disabled person if they can take a photo of them? I am guessing zero, although I would like to be proved wrong on this), simply isn’t on. If I am taking photos and a disabled person comes in to shot I instantly lower my camera and will not raise it to my eye until that person is well out of the way.
As well as physically disabled people (who have not asked you to take a photo) you should never take a photo of a mentally disabled person either. I have heard the argument “I couldn’t tell they had a mental illness” many times from not just photographers but also (and I am ashamed to say) my friends who mocked the mentally disabled person for no reason whatsoever. This argument doesn’t wash with me, and I don’t care how many times you may protest or try to disagree, you can tell when a person has a mental disability. Just look at the way they walk, look at the way they act, listen to the way they talk – these are all clues. Most of the time you don’t even need these clues as it is possible to tell a person has a metal disability just by the look in their eye.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.