Quote Originally Posted by 2F/2F View Post
It all depends on so many things, and I don't think the answer lies in the Internet. I say just get started. The practice and experience will lead you down the right path, eventually.
Good advice.

I may be a little help here. As a guy who works at a homeless shelters for years and just finished a small documentary on subway buskers in New York City, I work with and are friends with the people you want to shoot. It's a mixed bag out there if you're shooting people. Some will yell at you, some don't give a flying f$#%. You have to be prepared to deal with everything, but keep in mind, you're not doing anything wrong. When someone enters the public sphere and performs an action within it, they give up their rights to privacy -it's as simple as that. A street musician has to expect photos especially if they're performing. But, it would be a nice gesture to offer a photograph in return or money. My approach was emailing them my vision of my documentary and letting them respond, then we call, talk and they get a ton of free photos and I get a ton of free shots. As a result, I've built amazing relationships with some of them and we're even friends who go out to dinner, hang out and I even walk one of the busker's dogs part-time.

As for the homeless, they're a group that has been poked and prodded by researchers, photographers and documentary film makers for years, not to mention the police. Many want to be left alone. Some don't care. Some I wouldn't approach with a camera at all. You really have to use your best judgement and be genuine, honest and assertive. Many homeless have mental health and drug issues that you probably don't have the skills to deal with if they freak out. That being said, I've had plenty of homeless people come up to me and say "hey, wanna take a picture of a homeless person?" and I just snap a couple off, thank them and wish them luck. You could offer money for some photographs, but that doesn't help them feel any better about themselves -it's just like paying someone to scrub your toilet -they get the money and it's all they feel good about. I saw a really sensitive and genuine body of work on homeless people where the photographer brought them into the studio and treated them like models, got to know them a little and really brought out the beauty in them. I wish I knew who it was.

I think the bottom line is that you can take photos of anything, but if the person says, "please don't", then don't. It's just a matter of respect. However, you should have a discussion with them and just let them know you didn't mean any harm. A lot of people think that because you take their photograph, you're taking something AWAY from them, when in fact, you're giving something to them -a perspective and vision that may be good or bad. But you're recording an image that is true of something that actually happened -the camera doesn't lie. Just be confident in what you're doing, get out there and just shoot and see what happens. I've never heard of a photographer getting beat up that wasn't a paparazzi and certainly none that have been killed by the person they were taking pictures of (unless it was a war). So, I think the odds are on your side for safety. I've been yelled at a couple of times, but I either engage with them and let them know where I'm coming from or if they are completely belligerent, I just walk away.

If you want to see an extreme example, look up some videos of Bruce Gilden. I would not recommend that approach to start out with, but he really knows how to work a crowd and get away with a lot of the shots he takes. I like his older stuff when he was less intrusive or his newer stuff that has nothing to do with people. But it's interesting to watch and see people react. It's a social psychology class at work there.