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to see and to be seen

2012.07.25
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i know that some of you will frown about this. but i believe that public space is public space - there is no right for privacy there. it means, whatever you do when you move out of your private zone at home, is being potentially visible to others, may be recorded, documented, analysed, used for someone else's purpose or simply appear in a completely different context.

why is this important? because in the age of internet and global connectivity of everyone with everyone else, too many people make the dire mistake of assuming that privacy is a right being carried around everywhere they put themselves. it is not. in fact, this concept of privacy is totally insane and has never existed at any time in history nor any place or culture in this world. we are public appearances, whenever we mingle with others. and the fact that we now have devices to document this, doesn't change anything - at least not in this basic situation.

this is important for photographers. so many of us, me included, shy away from taking people pictures in public. we learned - or assume, for that matter - that celebrities are annoyed about the constant paparazi hunt, and we fear that we're doing something similar when we shoot in public. we try to avoid criticizm and scolding by angry people who didn't want to have their picture taken. we want to be polite and ask them first for their permission, and of course obey if they deny it. this is because photographers are usually very nice people, full of ideals, lovely characters and a general soft spot for humanity.

but i tell you people: stop bullshitting yourself and everyone else. there is A PLENTYTUDE of amazing subjects and scenes and great scenes out there, just waiting for you to point your lens to! overcome your prejudice, your nicety, your fear of getting clobbered, your shyness behind the lens... go out there and sin in the name of lumière!

because photography is as much a social skill as it is a technical. and that means you can interact socially with your environment though that camera. there is so many possibilities to do this in a non-violent way (and even the violent ways may be fun). pretend shooting something aside the target you actually want. use long tele lenses. shoot people in a crowd and swiftly move on. smile your most handsome smile after you took someone's portrait. pretend not to understand his or her language when they scold at you afterwards. have a "journalist" badge with the logo of a local newspaper on your chest. wear good running shoes and keep your equipment always neatly pocketed for a tight escape.

most of all: stop bashing yourself with moral. there is non behind photography, there is none behind being in public, and there certainly isn't much in being interested in other people's oddities.

just one warning: don't shoot people in public in texas. they wear guns there and they don't hesitate to use them.


13 Comments
caroleagle Love your people shots. And I agree with you but I think that might be because I don't care if people snap me. I used to live near Tower bridge about 20 years ago. The nearest supermarket was on the other side of the river so I had to cross it in slow motion with the gazillion tourists all snapping away. I must be in thousands and thousands of pictures of Tower bridge. Probably scowling in most of them. Tourist pace is so ANNOYING when you're not one. Anyway, got me inured to strangers camera's. Tis a tricky one the privacy thing. Big fear of people taking pictures of your children out there and using them inappropriately. i should say FEAR. I worked in a photolab back in the 90's and I remember a policewoman waiting for some guy to pick up his photographs because one of our staff had reported one of his images. His naked 5 year old daughter on a rocking horse. Now there's an invasion of privacy. Not allowed to photograph your own child because she happens to be naked. Had the same problem (without the police) when James was 5. The school was doing Noah's ark and it had engaged Kiddo so much he made an Excellent ark at home with an upturned table and a bunch of toys. I took a polaroid to show them at school (I worked there) and just before I snapped he said "Wait! you need God in it" and dived into shot. It was summer it was bed-time he was naked. You couldn't see his 'privates' (horrible word :)) he was scrunched up and looking mighty cute as God with his Ark.. Anyway. I realised the nudity might be a problem but as I was friends with his teachers I showed them anyway. They liked it and, much to my surprise, took it of me and put it up on display with the Ark stuff. I was touched and thought how wonderful! They're humans and not pc zombies. Very unexpected but nice. I was wrong of course. They hadn't noticed he was naked but a few days later (Blimey this is one long comment, there is a point coming, I think) a parent noticed and complained and I got hauled into the Headmasters office. I thought he was a friend too but... He was furious and said I could have got his school closed down! which may be true sadly and then, though I can't remember how he worded it, he practically accused me of being some kind of child abuser. OOOh still makes me mad. Anyway the point of all that is privacy issues have been attached to some highly emotive subject's and it's all gone a bit looney. I'm not sure if there isn't some law (in England anyway) about taking pictures of your own children in the bath !!!!! Hmmmm suspect I might not have made a very coherent point O.o it's sunny and hot here my brain is struggling to resume basking lizard mode. Not that I am basking. I'm at work :(
caroleagle · 2012-07-25: 08:21
caroleagle Sheesh! What a comment!!!!
caroleagle · 2012-07-25: 08:22
Lsample Call me a wimp and/or sissy. But I must beg that we find another way to refer to "shoot ( ing ) people in public". So many of my fellow americans ( sic ) are engaged in bitter debate about how to get a handle on the shootings. And far too many, in my opinion, are of the mind that arming everyone is the way to go. But, as to your point regarding privacy, I will go along with your point until we start talking about children. I believe that should be absolutely verbotten without clear permission from parents. Oh, and nice pics!
Lsample · 2012-07-25: 08:27
DancingDolphin I absolutely agree with your comments with the same inclusion as Lsample... it does not apply to children.

I like the first shot a lot... it reminds me of some Davids posted yesterday where the inclusion of something specific on the street is in good relationship to someone walking past. People themselves are rarely that interesting, it's the inclusion of something about their surroundings that make a street shot interesting. IMHO 8^)
DancingDolphin · 2012-07-25: 10:43
lyency what a nonsense! you must be kidding! - "photographers are usually very nice people, full of ideals, lovely characters..."? whom are you talking about? :/)
lyency · 2012-07-25: 11:36
stuey I'll just take these as great people shots.
stuey · 2012-07-25: 13:45
kopisusu Love all these 3 shots !
Oh Yes... very true indeed !
I just love shooting people in public.
In a few years from now... where almost everyone will be carrying a smartphone, or a camera, or a gaget of some sort, shooting people in public will become more acceptable.
Till then... shooting people in public will continue to be a tricky issue.
kopisusu · 2012-07-26: 00:17
????? sorry, in french :tout depend où on se trouve... A Beirouth ,j'ai failli me faire passer les menottes parce que je photographiais le soleil couchant sur la mer ... je n'avais pas remarqué que sur la plage il y avait un club privé où devaient se trouver des personnalités importantes.Même chose pour tout ce qui porte un uniforme :"no photo" au risque de passer des heures dans le meilleur des cas au poste de police.Ceci dit , je ne me suis pas gênée pour en "shooter"quelques uns à leur insu ;) et j'avoue que ce sont les photos que je préfère (même si elles ne sont pas d'une grande qualité),parce qu'il y avait un challenge ? braver un interdit? :) hope you can translate.Have a nice day :)
????? · 2012-07-26: 04:15
davids I endorse the sentiment 100% and indeed it is backed up by the law (in the UK at least). What's more of an issue here is hassle from private security when taking photos around the properties they are supposedly protecting... now that's really annoying.
davids · 2012-07-26: 09:28
Jarvo You are so right about photography being a social skill.
Jarvo · 2012-07-28: 14:03
JustmeG I must say...I have broken the rules of privacy and have taken tons of photos of people in public...I hope that doesnt make me the bad guy/girl :)) but I must say, I detest being photographed! :)) thanks for the insightful narrative and lovely photos!
JustmeG · 2012-07-28: 19:45
????? avallavumavettaves travain bavonjavour ! ; )) this is your lucky day :a new language (kidding)
????? · 2012-07-30: 05:10
Nychthemeron another warning.... don't take photographs near the Canadian Embassy building in Warsaw... I did... and was detained by the security guy and taken to the policeman in charge who took down my personal details and asked about my reasons for taking photographs in that particular place... so much for freedom of photography in a public place
Nychthemeron · 2012-08-26: 16:12
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Tagged: advise photography public moral toseeandbeingseen
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