Last edited by el wacho; 02-25-2014 at 09:50 AM. Click to view previous post history.
As TFC said: They do not have any legal expectation of privacy. It comes down to whether you will be guided by your morals rather than the law. I have no personal motivation to photograph "the homeless" as a theme or group, therefore I don't. That said, one sometimes meets interesting characters on one's travels, and one may be tempted in the circumstances of the moment to take that character's picture. That he/she might be homeless would be completely besides the point. I agree also with the general sentiment that one should shy away from exploitation and creating "artporn" as TFC puts it. Of all the wonderful things one can do with a camera, why would you want to use it to show vulnerable people as being weak, dependent and destitute if by doing so you do not change their prospects for the better? If you at least engage your subject, then much of the moral dilemma is dissolved. Even then, the theme sort of has been beaten to death and I hardly see the point. It is a far greater challenge to make a good portrait from any random person, to capture that person's essence without relying on all the damage the elements and hardships have done to the person's face and body.
As an aside: Many of the homeless in my country are either fugitives from law, or fugitives from creditors. They distinctly dislike having their photographs taken. So it is not a good idea to just snap away without someone's permission.
What's bad about taking a photo?
Ethics? Ethics about what exactly?
If it's an interesting homeless, snap away. If it's an uninteresting homeless, then don't bother wasting film.
Cute woman on the horizon? Snap away, my friend. What? A bland, fatty, generic woman on the corner? Don't bother wasting a valuable squate inch of that film that's inside your camera.
Hey look! A guy picking is nose? Snap a picture, it's so funny! What, you mean I shouldn't take his picture because he's a poor defenseless dude unable to defend himself properly with that finger halfway in his nose? I guess it's a good point.should I help him out then? Give him some change so he could buy a box of Tissue?
Ha ha. This was good.
Originally Posted by NB23
How do you know these people are, in fact, homeless? I had a friend who lived in a poorer part of Hollywood and there was an old lady who used to sleep on his wide old-fashioned porch. He'd call the cops and they would say to her. "Now, Martha, you know you have a perfectly good apartment you can sleep in."
I do not take photographs of unfortunate-looking people just for a middle class-superiority thrill.
Would it be okay to take photos of homeless people in war-torn Syria? People who might be helped if the world knew of their plight?
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From a legal point of view, if it's in public or seen easily from public access (in the U.S.) it is legal.
From an ethical point of view, treat them as you would someone who is not homeless.
Personally, I do not take pictures of people in "street photography," but I don't have anything against it. If I'm walking down the street, I cannot keep someone from taking a picture of me any more than I can prevent them from looking at me or saying "hi" - it's part of life.
Of course, different people have different "ethics" on photographing people in public (homeless or not), and this can open a debate. To me the important part is treating them all the same according to your ethics.
They are all people, so be consistent and treat them as such.
A friend of mine takes pictures of all sorts of people, among them homeless people. He portrays them in a very dignified way, and puts a lot of soul into the photographs. But he's also an extremely gifted people person, who manages to actually get close to these people and make friends first. Then he photographs them.
I think his work shows all of the people he photographs from a side that is perhaps unfamiliar to most, he sort of gives them a voice. That makes me think about the homeless, and how I can perhaps contribute more to making their lives better when time comes to make charitable donations, or if I have time to maybe donate my time.
If done right, I think photographing a homeless person can be beneficial to them. Indirectly, of course, because of raising the awareness, and putting a very human character to their existence. I don't see any problems with that.
What I could potentially have problems with is exploitation for the reason of benefiting from it personally. If that's the motivation behind the photographs, then I would find it distasteful and rude.
"Often moments come looking for us". - Robert Frank
"Make good art!" - Neil Gaiman
"...the heart and mind are the true lens of the camera". - Yousuf Karsh
In general I think it is unethical and I can think of several pictures I did not take because I like to think I have some respect for fellow humans, but a lot depends on the reason behind the shot. If you are photographing homeless, starving or any disadvantaged member of society for you own artistic bent (art porn as someone mentioned), then I think it’s not on. If you are a photojournalist and your images may help to stop a war, bring food and shelter, then I think it is valid. So the context in the way the shot may be used and its multiple shades of morality therein are very important.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
I agree with you entirely Clive, although I do do street photography I avoid shooting anyone who looks down on their luck because "their for the grace of God go I"
Originally Posted by cliveh
Here's my cents. What's ethical and what's legal are 2 separate things. Also, photo essays on homeless have been done before. What can you offer that is different and helpful as a photographer? As a photographer, are willing to go beyond what's on the surface? Gordon Parks photographed impoverished in the favelas of Rio. He lived with them for a while to gain their trust. How deep are you willing to go?
"Photography, like surfing, is an infinite process, a constantly evolving exploration of life."