Ashamed to be photographed?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by Roger Hicks, Jun 24, 2006.

  1. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    In the thread about 'what don't you photograph on the street', two people have expressed their opposition to having their picture taken, in quite strong terms.

    This intrigues me. When I'm in public, I'm fair game. Why shouldn't I be? What have I to be ashamed of?

    How do others feel about this? And how do they feel about people who feel they have some sort of right not to be photographed?

    How much poorer would photography be if everyone took this pusillanimous attitude? What would happen to our understanding of the past? Because, afer all, the present soon becomes the past...

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  2. micek

    micek Member

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    I'm not aware of having ever had my picture taken by a stranger in the street, but I suppose my attitude would depend on whatever I was doing at that moment and on how pretty the photographer might be.
    If someone objected to me taking a picture of them I'd feel it would be rude to insist, that's why -hypocritically- I try not to be noticed when I release the shutter.
     
  3. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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    The words ashamed and pusillanimous (cowardly - timorous) just might be a wee bit too strong in this context...maybe they just don't want their 'private space' invaded by a stranger stuffing a lens in their faces.

    Murray
     
  4. unregistered

    unregistered Inactive

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    First you're going to have to explain "pusillanimous". Only $.25 words allowed here...no $1.00 ones :smile:

    Personally I don't like it, but if I don't know then big deal.
     
  5. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I agree with you, Roger. Consider all those "security" cameras watching and recording our every move.
     
  6. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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  7. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Murray,

    Doesn't have to be 'in your face', though, does it?

    And if you only notice afterwards, well...

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  8. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Although I don't particularly like my own picture being taken, I don't get the argument that taking a picture of someone on public land is somehow in one's private space. Why bother going out in public then?

    I don't think anyone here is advocating being a paparzzi, but a picture of you in public is fair game (except in the Province of Quebec - the only place in the Western Hemisphere).

    The replies I've read remind me of a couple ex-girlfriends I have. I'm still very good friends with them and a couple times, when we've gone out afterwards, I remember them being ...ahem ... shy. I keep reminding them that all I have to do is blink and voila! Instant recall of some of our more intimate moments and some interesting parts of their anatomy too.

    What did they think, that I'd lose my memory after we broke up?

    Blink, Art.
     
  9. Helen B

    Helen B Member

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    If 'pusillanimous' is applicable, then I think that it should be applied to many street photographers. The sneaky ones, who try to take our pictures without us being aware - and fail, most of the time. I'll also add superficiality to the charges. They haven't the guts to engage, to connect with their subject, because all we are to them is an opportunity to demonstrate their cleverness.

    That's what I don't like: being a part of a shallow photo.

    Best,
    Helen
     
  10. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    I'm okay to be on either side as long as there's some kind of manner being practiced. It's a matter of how I communicate with other people in most cases, and I usually do okay.

    And I keep the photos I have taken as private as I can to avoid the potential problems in the future.
     
  11. AeisLugh

    AeisLugh Member

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    There can be any number of reasons why one wouldn't want to be photographed. I know quite a few people (mostly female friends) who seem to be adamant about the fact that they look horrible in pictures. Doesn't matter if you can show them they do, in fact, look great, they'll always say they hate the way they look in pictures. And when it's a stranger on the street, it's hard to know if that photo might end up published. When it's a friend taking snapshots and they're sure it'll go no farther then that group without their permission, they'll be ok with it, but for a stranger, they'll never know.

    LoL, a few months back, there was a young lady on the bus who had the most gorgeous eyes I've ever seen. I could have just snapped a picture without her knowing, but since I've always been told to ask first, I did. Poor girl stammered for a good 30 second before I finally told her she was allowed to say no, I wouldn't be affended lol. It's really a shame, it would have made a great picture.

    The annoying part of it was the two teenagers sitting directly behind me that decided I was trying to hit on the girl and spent the rest of the bus ride making comments about the "dirty old man"
     
  12. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Helen,

    Can't quite see your argument.

    First, would you dismiss Cartier-Bresson as shallow? Because I can't believe he always 'engaged with' his subjects in the sense of talking to them first, etc. Likewise Brandt, Bourke-White, Brassai, Rai, most of the staff of Picture Post...

    Second, who decides what is 'shallow'?

    Third, even if it is 'shallow', what do you lose by being in it?

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  13. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I don't mind my photograph being taken when I'm in a public place although like Helen I dislike the cowards who use long lens to do it. I also enjoy making street photographs and use my favourite 20mm lens to do so thereby giving the subjects every chance to question me or turn away, for I am often very close when I make the exposure. However I do have one personal rule, that is, when I process the film if an exposure is, in my opinion, showing the subject in a manner that I would not like a loved one shown I destroy the negative. No matter who we photograph on the street everyone deserves to be given dignity.
     
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  15. catem

    catem Member

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    I think the more a photographer knows about their subjects, and the more the subjects know about the photographer, the better. This is what could be aimed at, whatever kind of photography it is. Then within that, do the best you can towards it.

    I think not engaging with subjects for the sake of it is often down to laziness. it's surprising how little you have to do, even with street photography to gain consent, and to dig a little deeper.
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Les,

    I completely agree as a general rule about not making someone look silly but even there I can willingly make exceptions e.g. politicians.

    For me, 20mm would usually be too 'in your face' (though my 38mm Biogon on the Alpa is equivalent, I suppose) but anything up to 90mm seems fair to me.

    The point is, are we willing to ban street shotography? And a good wedge of travel photography? Because if we personally refuse to be photographed, that's what we're advocating.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  17. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Much of the experience of city life consists of random fleeting encounters between strangers. I can see as much of a case for that sort of photography (Cartier-Bresson) as for the sort of street photography that is more documentary and personally engaged (Bruce Davidson).

    If I'm in the public sphere, I'm fair game.
     
  18. FrankB

    FrankB Member

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    Interesting you should mention CB, Roger. Wasn't he notoriously camera shy? :wink:

    For myself, I don't like being photographed for the simple reason that I've only ever seen two photographs of me (in 38 years!) that I've liked. The vast majority of them I've detested.

    That's enough reason for me, and as I'm the only person I have to justify myself to...! :smile:
     
  19. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Salgado. And at least three-quarters of reportage. Two more reasons not to reject street photography.

    As for 'laziness', I've done a modest amount of work for the Tibetan Government in Exile. Getting to know the community -- and indeed, getting letters of introduction -- is a bit different from getting to know every individual whom you photograph.

    Yes, CB was camera shy. Tough. Sauce for the goose, etc.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  20. catem

    catem Member

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    In fact CB often had some sort of relationship with his subjects, however fleeting....
    Martin Parr is a photographer who specialises in 'fleeting moments' but makes every effort to inform people he has photographed before publication of any photographs...
     
  21. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    Roger, I agree with your view of politicians probably because in my opinion most of the crop that we have here in the UK cannot be described as people :D

    I'm also in total agreement with the unwillingness to ban street photography but to prevent the possibility of a ban we must first persuade the politicians that we are right. Might be a long job!
     
  22. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Suggestion from Frances Schultz, in the form of an imaginary encounter with Weegee:

    "Excuse me, sir, I believe you are about to be shot. Would you mind falling to the right so it won't be a shallow photograph?"

    Stieglitz, The Steerage. Another unposed street picture.

    As for HCB's 'fleeting relationships', what evidence is there of this? I never met him myself but I have friends who did. One (Frank Drake) described his style as 'shooting before anyone had realized he even had a camera in his hand'.

    Finally, Les, you may have seen my AP piece in which I suggested a national contest for street photography, every month, with modest prizes paid for out of lottery money. After the London bombings, suddenly the police were asking for pictures -- when the rest of the time they were trying to stop photographers taking photographs.

    Cheers,

    Roger
     
  23. Markok765

    Markok765 Member

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    If they have a camera, they will be photographed. I photograph people that i find intresting.
     
  24. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Personally I have no problem with being photographed. But I respect the wishes of those who do not want to be.
     
  25. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    One place in Japan where I don't hegitate to take pictures of people is Kyoto. I don't go after any geisha girls, but some do that. Some people, undoubltly the tourists just go nuts in the evening hours when the geisha girls are getting ready to go to work.

    Sometimes the geishas are already companied with their clients when they are getting on a cab, etc, but you see a lot of flash light being fired from the cameras in the street. That's almost like the red-carpet treatment in Hollywood for some celebs appearing at a movie premire or something.

    Although the geisha culture is a too big part of city's attraction to be avoided, I sometimes wonder if there's any complaint about the manner of picture-taking there in general.
     
  26. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Why couch your question in terms of "ashamed of" and "pusillanimous attitude"? I do not believe it is right to cast aspersions on the characters of people of whom you know nothing. For myself, although I do not seek being photographed, if I am in a public place then snap away - not being the most photogenic of subjects, they will end up unprinted! :wink:

    Also, I have never been stopped by the police from taking photographs in London (they have no general power to do so) nor have I ever seen anyone so treated. The police may take an interest if you are near a government building (which in central London means just about anywhere), police officers being by nature or training drawn to unusual occurances, but once satisfied of what you are doing will leave you in peace.

    Bob.