The Polite Street Photographer

I get it. You’re a nice person. As a photographer, you have great skill and charm but you don’t want to offend people. So instead of taking bravely composed street photos featuring human faces, you shoot the backs of people’s heads, which just doesn’t sound right in general, and if a person offers a mean gaze after you’ve taken their photo you offer to delete the photo and you cry. You have violated their privacy in public! Everyone deserves to be invisible if they so desire, especially if they are on city streets! How dare you do that you creep! You shouldn’t do that ever! Instead of shooting candids in the streets you should ask permission first! Be polite and have some goddamn manners!

I’m being sarcastic here because really you’re not being polite. Really you’re being a bitch.

Here is a quote which encapsulates my attitude:

“No one deserves to be praised for kindness if he does not have the strength to be bad; every other form of kindness is most often merely laziness or lack of willpower.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Maybe calling you a bitch is too harsh. Perhaps it is more accurate to call you lazy. Put simply: bravery requires effort. 

No person is born brave. Having a set of balls is a choice. Some make the choice to be brave early in life. Many of us develop bravery after becoming frustrated with the way life plays out when you mask your cowardice by calling yourself polite. I’m not suggesting you should be rude to everyone you meet, or even rude on occasion, but I’m convinced that in street photography, which is a form of direct-contact photojournalism, it is better to be an asshole and get the shot than to cower and pass up the shot….

We all are negligent. We all are bitches from time to time. I’m as guilty as anyone. When my inner punk-ass bitch flares up, I stay mindful that I should be brave as opposed to polite, and am able to correct my behavior when out shooting. Approaching a pretty woman in a tavern, with romantic goals, is a different set of circumstances altogether, but similar rules of bravery vs. politeness apply. Closed mouths don’t get fed. It’s far better to get shot down by 100 pretty women than it is to settle for and ruin the life of an ugly woman with your contagious cowardice, passed down to your seeds and their seeds, in perpetuity…

The best I can say about street bravery is: fuck it. Fuck the world. That’s a reliable philosophy to adhere to. Curse the entire world to hell and then raise your camera to your eye and compose your masterpiece. People on the streets have no right to privacy. They are in public. Did the men who pulled off the Boston Marathon bombing have any right to privacy while carrying bombs through the public streets that day? Wouldn’t the earnest, more photojournalistic thing to do, in hindsight, be to take photos of the perpetrators, even if they objected to having their photos taken? How is a camera a more substantial recorder of events than my own eyes? Both a photograph and testimony backed my the memories of what I saw can be used to convict a person in a court of law. Who is to say that one is right and the other is wrong, between my eyes and a Leica rangefinder?

Do what you want of course. You are under no obligation to be good at anything. If you want to take photos of people walking away from you and of hedges and homeless people who are in a daze, do your thing. Don’t be offended, please, if you spot another photographer watching you, mouthing the words: “What a pussy….”

I’ll leave you with one more quote:

“Sometimes in life there are events that you need to be a little foolish to handle.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Exit.

9 thoughts on “The Polite Street Photographer

  1. Ric, I hate seeing the back of somebody’s head as much as you do, and think they do have a nerve calling it Street photography. But on the other hand, you are a self-confessed Badass (December post), and this probably comes across in your demeanour , which probably makes people think twice about challenging you. Maybe you should cut the non-badasses some slack. Not every body has your confidence.
    On another point, did anyone ever give you a hard time when you are shooting sports, or was it ok as you were a recognised photographer? ☺

    Liked by 1 person

    1. One older black lady gave me a hard time shooting Soccer once. At the game where the first photo in the post was taken actually. My point is we all can be braver. One day you could save a life by nailing a shot of a kidnapper or something….

      Like

  2. The question I have is, what exactly is street photography? Is it just about a competition over who has the most balls to shoot people in the face and not delete those photos when they ask you because you are legally protected? Is that what makes good street photographs?

    Or is it composition, emotion, tone and the decisive moment?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Eric Kim is the only one authorized to “define” street photography. 🙂 I personally don’t like super close-ups. With wider lenses you need to be fairly close regardless however, and that’s the point. It you use a 35 or wider, you have to step forward.

      Like

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