Permission to Take Pictures?
I mostly photograph weddings, however, I would love to experiment with street photography. I find street photography is a great way to capture expression both with people and buildings. My problem is that I am probably too concerned with the reaction of people. When I stand on a street corner with my SLR and wide angle lens, I can't help notice the look on people's faces. Things have changed in the past decade. People are more suspicious and less likely to be photographed or have the outside of their buildings photographed. This may not be a problem in large cities like New York or tourist destinations, but I would love to capture the images of everday life in small towns, especially here in Florida. My concern is how to ask for permission without sounding like either a terrorist, sex offender, or lunatic in general. My only purpose for the photographs is for artistic development. I don't want to lie and say that I am either writing a book or a student photographer. Any suggestions?
each situtation is different. Many times there's no need to ask permission - just go ahead and take the photo. But it often takes practice to be comfortable doing that.
This question comes up all the time on the streetphoto list:
check the archives (I'll see if I can find a couple of the threads)
Working on it as your own personal project is entirely legitimate - as is saying so: "I'm working on a photo project about Key West...or whatever"
both go into it.
Bottom line, everybody has their own means to their own ends, so you just have to figure out what works for you to get your shots.
Lose the tank...
One of the last places that 35mm fits into my constellation is street & festival photography. It is just much less assuming and easily subdued. Barebones, older camera with no motor drives, humongous zoom lenses, or any of the like. I am beginning to think along the lines of a small rangefinder like a Retina II just for such things.
MF isnt really that bad if your body is small (the camera, I mean). I haul a big RB67 around and do a trick. I pick a focus on something the same distance I want to actually capture something, and then quickly swing composition on the target and click. Usually catches them unawares. Asking permission spoils the whole thing. Did Cartier-Bresson ask permission?
When you come to a fork in the road, take it...
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A Rollei (or such) TLR is also great for this stuff - not quite so quick and easy to use but
a) people don't realise you are taking a picture half the time as you appear to be examining your belly button
b) even if they do realize, they just don;t seem to find the funny old camera threatening...
I think that no matter what type of camera I decide to use, I will still encounter the suspicion.
Originally Posted by Pragmatist
It also seems that there is more hostility toward photographers nowadays. The media and entertainment shows have shown so many clips of celebrities bashing their paparazzi stalkers that it has become commonplace to yell at anyone attempting to take pictures on the street. It appears as if people believe their personal space is being violated by being captured on film. Several years ago I made the mistake of photographing Amish people in Lancaster, PA. They were downright angry and rude toward me. I then found out that I had unknowingly imposed myself in their belief system.
Although I know I have the legal right to photograph just about anything on the street, I am concerned about some irate jerk grabbing my camera and smashing it because he thinks that all men taking pictures on the street are either ruthless paparazzi, child molesters, terrorists, or someone about to sell his images without his consent. Yes, I could have him arrested for battery or criminal mischief, but that won't replace my prized Nikon F2A.
There's also PhotoPermit.org for moral support and many different strategies discussed in the forums
My attitude is to approach street work as I would people at a party or a bar -- open and friendly and interested in them. Almost everyone responds well to me expressing THEIR importance....
I've been plotting a contingency plan for shooting people, just in case some confronts me. It involves three things.
1) A business car with my name & url on it.
2) A pack of sample prints on me at all times.
3) An offer for a free 5x7 of any photo I've taken where the person is the subject.
See, bomb defusion & marketing strategy all in one. Granted, I don't have business cards made up yet to test this, but I do carry sample prints and those have helped me in plenty of situations. (Mostly to put digiheads in their place when they ask me why I use what I use.)
Thanks for the link! I just spent some time checking out the different threads there and I must say I am now even more paranoid than before! I guess I have been somewhat lucky (or maybe being 5'10, 250lbs helps) compared to what many people at PhotoPermit.org describe. It's the "photo vigilante" who I am most concerned about. My fear is not knowing what level of stupidity he or she may reach while "defending" or "enforcing" some imaginary rights. Unfortunately here in Florida very little can be done when one's civil rights have been violated. If you have the time and money to spend on a top notch attorney, then you might get some justice and possibly monetary restitution. In my case, I would be out one of my treasured collectable cameras and/or lenses.
Originally Posted by bjorke