experiment 09

It’s delicate to take pictures of innocent people on the street, although it is not illegal to do so. I did many experiments before, but never published, always thinking how I would feel when seeing myself …

I’d like to make an exception here: this guy is my “twin-brother” look alike (15 years ago). Although, I carry a whole lot more weight, and I am probably a lot less innocent …

I found some guidelines on street photography in: Street Photography and the Law,

But I also remember that a colleague, a photography teacher in a different class, talked about impolite photography during our break, and this would probably be the perfect example of that …

…  what do you think?

Picture by bvdb (whoisbert) august 2015 – italy – Nikon D3300 – x_DSC_2471


24 thoughts on “experiment 09

  1. Hi Bert. I personally think that it’s very inappropriate to photograph strangers without their consent. As a mother, it just about sends me over the edge when I see people photographing my child at parks, etc. We do not do the Facebook or social networking thing at our house, and I am not comfortable with my child’s photo being published on the internet. Because there are a lot of people out there who have been the victims of domestic abuse or stalking, and have had to move as a result, I also think it’s inappropriate to photograph them in the event that their abuser/stalker sees the photograph online somewhere and is then able to determine where their victim has relocated to based on where the picture was taken. Just my two cents. Thanks for providing this space to engage in this discussion!

    • I’d never photograph people under age. I understand your concern.
      My genuine question on my blog has lead to answers. I’ve concluded that I will only photograph people with their explicit consent, and excluding minors.

      • I realized after I hit “Post Comment” that I may have come across as a little too impassioned. I hope you took my comments in the spirit that they were intended (which was good, of course). All the best to you!

  2. The other day, as I leaned over a railing, gawking at a cluster of giant purple-clawed crabs that were waving at me, I suddenly became conscious of a very loud, bizarre-sounding squeaky bicycle horn. I whirled out of the way and turned to face the smiling face of a fine lass pedaling away on a city-cruiser adult tricycle. The honking continued. I analyzed the large, broad handlebars, shimmering in the late afternoon sun, only to be met with three pairs of lively oil-black eyes nestled in a frill of snowy-white feathers. Yes, upon her handlebars roosted three bright cockatoos, head feathers bobbing back and forth in unison! And dangling around my neck was a camera that was about as useful as a rock.

    “Ha ha,” she said, “at least my bicycle horn is in good working order!”

    And with that, she and avian companions, slowly pedaled past.

    “Indubitably!” I smiled back, cursing myself for not having the courage to ask to snap a photo.

    In deep sadness, I watched her vanish into the rusty light beyond. I sensed that she even invited a photograph to be made, but I was too paralyzed with fear to even ask. Yet, every time I have done so in the past, people have always responded so positively, with enthusiasm and curiosity. And the best part is always the stories. The stories and anecdotes people share with me over a lens are, by far, the most enriching part of the experience. A quote comes to mind:

    “Lately I’ve been struck with how I really love what you can’t see in a photograph.”
    – Diane Arbus

    But, alas, I am usually far too timid…far too reserved and shackled to attempt to capture a sudden unique and living beauty that flashes across someone’s face, striking me so deeply.

    I saw a lass dancing ballet in the swash of the sea a few months ago. I am still lamenting for not attempting to take an abstract photograph of her and talk with her about her love of dance and sea…

    I want to be polite and kind in all ways, but the pain of losing some incredible moments continually haunts me. Perhaps it is not so rude? I ask permission either before or right after I take the shot. I am usually terrified of distressing someone. I am horrified that they will demand to see the photo, and after seeing my inept and botched shot, will lambast me. That has yet to happen. And the camera gives me an excuse to approach people and learn something from them, to absorb the little glimpses they share with me about their lives. Often one comes away far more enriched.

    Another time I did manage to take an abstract photograph of a man who told me, after I snapped the shot, and I smiled to him, that he was recently released from prison. We walked together for half-an-hour in the rain and he shared stories from his life and how much the city had changed since he had been inside. He encouraged more photos. It was phenomenal.

    Another Diane Arbus quote springs to mind:

    “If I were just curious, it would be very hard to say to someone, “I want to come to your house and have you talk to me and tell me the story of your life.” I mean people are going to say, “You’re crazy.” Plus they’re going to keep mighty guarded. But the camera is a kind of license. A lot of people, they want to be paid that much attention and that’s a reasonable kind of attention to be paid.”

    I would love to become a little braver, and take the risk that I might distress a stranger for a second, in the hope that something far more worthwhile would soon follow- a human connection. There is something so much better than the photo itself- perhaps it is the pursuit, the experience, or just an unearthing of a deeper story, to hide in the darkness unseen in the photograph, but still so vividly sensed and felt, all the same.

    I do not suspect I will conjure this kind of courage anytime soon, but I will keep trying, all the same.

    Love the shot, Bert. Very charming and intriguing scene! He really does quite resemble you, I think. Oh dear. Another quote has come to mind again!

    “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.”
    -William Butler Yeats

    Always such a joy to come and visit your blog, dear friend. And thanks for stirring up some thoughts.

    P.S. Oddly enough, I was just reading a couple photo-articles related to this topic today! Thought I would share them with you.

    View story at Medium.com


    Best wishes,

    Autumn Jade


    Apologies for rambling on for so long…hope you did not mind! Happy weekend to you!

  3. I wouldn’t take a photo of a person in the street without asking their permission, and – like you – I am a little too shy to go up to a stranger and ask! I think also, if they were to allow it, I might be too inhibited to take a good photo – feeling self-conscious about it.

    I have, however, taken photos of the legs of dancers when I have been to Folk events!

    • thank you … I’m very grateful for your reply. I will now and then reread all these reactions before entering the city and perhaps feel bold enough to ask here and there, next try to make something of it 🙂

  4. I don’t believe in it, because it’s an invasion of privacy.
    The guy doesn’t look as though he likes it either; and then there are the people walking on the street too…

    My rule is: Ask.

      • My opinion on this issue is very strong, because I used to model for a living, …I’m not modelling anymore, but people still recognize me on the street and thus want to take a photo of me, I’m forced to wear sunglasses and a baseball cap when going out because I’m not into having my photo taken without my consent; and I always do not give consent, only my family can take photos of me without asking.
        Not even my friends can, and oh do they try, however, once I see or hear the click, they are no longer my friend for they had no right to not listen to what my boundaries are.

        Being in a position like this, gives me a perspective on the public use of photos that others may not be aware of.

        Now, the use of photos of people from war zones, is a different matter because it’s important for people too see the horrors and effects of war. Even then, if possible, it’s important to ask first, …I know people in Gaza who do not want thier photos taken after the wars.

        • indeed, journalism is another thing.
          Both your comments convince me to do the right thing: if appropriate ask, and otherwise refrain. Really grateful for your reactions.

  5. I heard that everyone who steps out in public gets many more pictures taken of them than they can imagine. Seems like one more wouldn’t hurt. After all, an address, name, occupation, and criminal record is not accompanying the photo.

    • Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt, but just like a loud burp, it remains kind of impolite, isn’t it 🙂
      I think i will only post polite street photography in the future, but that also means to overcome some shyness … not easy.

  6. You could always do the “pose a dog in front of them and pretend to take a picture of the dog” method. Of course, this works best if you constantly travel with a dog. And/or don’t mind a dog in every picture you take.

  7. This IS touchy. Why I like my 300x zoom. And if I know the person or know someone does, I track them down to share it. So far, so good. Always appreciated. Because I don’t keep unflattering photos – would hate someone doing that to me.

    • I think that the man on the pic would not be unhappy with the result, but tracking him down looks near impossible … to publish in 10 years time might also br an option … perhaps.

  8. I hate having my picture taken, so I guess without knowing the intent, it’s best to err on the side of “at least don’t show my face”. I will have to check that link out though, sounds kind of interesting.

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