Friday, January 14, 2011

Fear and Loathing with a camera in the streets

Many people, myself included, have a bit of an issue with doing street photography, because a few people will get upset due to the general paranoia these days. And when it is security guards or policemen, who have particularly much hard-suppressed fear, this will often convert to anger and a desire to demonstrate their authority. This has been trouble for some photographers, even when they were fully in their right.

In most countries, if it is in a public place, you can photograph it legally. That includes children technically, but that's a very, very sore spot these days, and I doubt it's worth the trouble, sadly.

I read a tip somewhere, probably on The Online Photographer, which is: when you get confronted, you smile kindly and say that you're just an amateur photographer enjoying his hobby. And then you point to your camera and say something like: "oh, you'll love this camera, it's 12 megapixels and yet it's small enough for a jacket pocket, and it even has a 5x zoom..." Blah-blah-blah, full geek mode. You don't give him a chance to get a word in edgeways.

While doing this, you take a step forward, not too fast, to show them the camera. And after half a minute, almost anybody will quickly get the idea that you are no threat, you are just a very, very boring camera geek who they will want to walk away from very soon now. Show's over.


Tommy said...

You know, ever since we recently saw that information on that street photographer, Vivian something if I remember right, I've been thinking of going into our local small city and doing this.

But, your point of "because a few people will get upset due to the general paranoia these days" always changes my mind. I don't really want to get into any "issues" with anyone. But, then I'd kind of like to give it try. What to do, what to do?

eolake said...

Just try a little bit, first without people in the frame, then some from a distance... see how it goes.

I think just having an open and friendly demeanour is essential.

eolake said...

If one acts as if one is doing something wrong and trying to hide, people will *assume* that you *are* doing something wrong.

Mike said...

I wonder how history will judge us. Looking back at the spectacular street & candid photography taken even in the late 50s and 60s it seems sad that those days will never be with us again. How will future historians gather the information that they now get from those photographs? Will it be from TV? I don't think so - TV is far away from 'real-life'. There is something more, much more about a still photograph than an entire TV programme can express. Sadly most photographers will simply not do candids or street photography now due to the oppression of their freedom to take photographs in public places.

eolake said...

Well said, Mike!

Rich said...

A good way to try a variation of street photography is to go to a festival, parade, fair, rodeo... anywhere there's a crowd and it's expected there'll be photography. I've only had one person growl at me during a folklife festival. Probably because he was doing something illegal.
Something else that works for me - hang out in one place for awhile. Just pass the time and wait for something interesting to develop. Make sure your camera is ready to go (prefocused...). The cameras with flip out screens are great for being stealthy.

eolake said...

Thanks, Rich, great ideas.

The new type with a tiltable screen which will focus and shoot when you touch the subject on the screen are great for discreet street photography. So far there are no economical ones though, I think. And I think only Panasonic's models are fast.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you could use a hidden camera and have the pictures turn out. Or carry some heat. If people saw a piece on your hip they might thank twice about questioning you. ;-)