Sunday, April 14, 2013

Photographing People on the Street

I would like to address an article written recently by blogger Adam Marelli, found here, addressing the issue of photographing people (in particular - strangers) who are in a public space.  There are a number of schools of thought on this issue, and Adam Marelli's has validity. I don't agree with him completely. What he suggests is not by any means a new idea. It's been around and written about since cameras were portable - I think that's ummmm..... The Civil War. I often engage my subjects in conversation when photographing them, but I also at times want to NOT intrude upon the spontaneity of the moment, or perhaps my intention is to capture specifically their reaction to me taking their picture (a la Bruce Gilden). I don't recommend using a long lens to shoot street, but not for reasons of surrepticity. Rather because using a wide lens creates much more a feeling of presence, and allows for more of a sense of place. Marelli offers the practice of 'hip' shooting as a foolish idea practiced by perverts or creeps. I often shoot from the hip for several reasons: it creates a totally different perspective, when I shoot on the street there's often not enough time to get the camera into position at my eye when a scene unfolds before me, and it's much less intrusive to the moment. Marelli is certainly entitled to shoot the way he wants, but to suggest that those who chose to do it differently are jerks is just immature and narrow minded. He sounds like a petulant child who insists that everyone must be or act the way he says.

My style of shooting actually demands that I use these techniques some of the time. I don't do it to display people as a 'piece of meat', rather it's to respect and not intrude upon their moments of introspection and at the same time present an image of a person deep within himself while in a disinterested and oblivious crowd of shoppers and other pedestrians. How else is it possible to portray a person's isolation and sadness in our sterile, disinterested, materialistic society. Are we to deny these feelings exist? If my image touches a viewer and/or helps him to identify with the subject and in so doing bring him to a place of feeling less isolated, then my purpose has been successful. 

The style of shooting I choose at times may by some be considered confrontational, that's just my photojournalistic training that comes out naturally. And if it serves to generate an image of haughtiness or condescension that I have picked up on and that attracted me to the image, then my intention to portray the person as I intuitively perceived them has been realized. I don't do it out of disrespect for the person or for sensationalism, I do it because it's a slice of real life, of real people who surround us daily and with whom we must cope and coexist. 

1 comment:

  1. I agree with everything above. I would not come down to hard on Adam. He makes great images also and is entitled to his opinion. Even if he says something disaparanging about a technique I wouldn't take it personally. I have spoken to strangers (people I didn't know yet) and asked for there portraits as well as grabbed shots w/o permission and have shot from the hip. They all have different feels in the image and feel very different making them. You make very valid points and I agree with them all. Thanks for posting.