Last month The Phoblographer broke the news about a UK street photographer being beaten and bloodied while on the streets of London. The story went viral and was re-posted on many other online platforms. Amongst the thousands of comments a disgusting trend materialized. People began to suggest the street photographer deserved his beating, and street photographers bring it on themselves. “I hope this will dissuade some of the creeps and douchebags from doing street photography,” wrote one user on Reddit. Another wrote that street photography is inherently creepy. They’re wrong, of course. And if you think the same, so are you. Here’s why.
Unwrapping Street Photography Myths
There are some extremely toxic ideas relating to street photography. It baffles me how so many people think street photographers come with evil or selfish intentions. Let’s take a look at some of them.
You’re a creep if you photograph people kissing: The photographer in question was attacked for photographing a couple embraced in a kiss. Some people suggested that the photographer’s motivation must have been perverted. First off, it’s 2019. The internet has far more entertaining options for people who want to get such thrills and kicks. They don’t need to go outside to see two people kiss. Secondly, kissing isn’t just about sexualization. On a deeper level, it’s a human connection, it’s authentic, and it’s a moment when people tend to feel most free and liberated. Documenting that moment is a beautiful thing. It’s not to excite or arouse the audience, but rather to remind them of how wonderful human interaction can be. This is vital during a time where we are fed negative news daily.
You’re a creep if you photograph children: This notion is complete nonsense. Photographing children on the street having fun, playing together is not creepy. If you think it is, you’re the problem, not the street photographer. Stop assuming anyone photographing a child is automatically sexualizing them. If that’s where your brain instinctively goes, you have some soul searching to do. Children have a carefree approach to life. They feel comfortable being silly and do not put limitations on themselves. Again, this is something that makes for great street photography, and it should be celebrated. The last thing people should do is turn it into something it isn’t. Focus on the real criminals instead.
We Don’t Think We Rule the World
Street photographers are self-entitled: What, because we go to a public space with a camera it means we think we rule the world? Does anybody realize how unintelligent that notion is? Yes, we make sure we know the law and act within it, but that does not mean we lack respect for ethics and are void of empathy. Here’s the thing: pretty much all street photographers do not want to upset people. I’ve spoken to a countless number of street photographers and not once have I heard one say, “The best part about doing this is upsetting people and making them feel uncomfortable.” Our intention is simple: we want to document the world we live in while creating something either aesthetically pleasing or carries meaning.
Street Photographers Need to Accept Violence May Happen: Seriously? Should we accept getting punched in the face as a part of street photography? “If they don’t want that type of confrontation, they shouldn’t shoot street photography.” Are these same people telling women not to wear dresses when they go outside? Because, honestly, it reeks of the same mentality. Making a picture of someone is not an attack. It is not a reason for self-defense. If a person responds with violence, it is an entirely unprovoked attack, and that person should be dealt with accordingly. Stop victim-blaming.
Street Photography Isn’t Perfect
Don’t get me wrong: I know street photography isn’t squeaky clean. Like anything in life, it’s a movement that isn’t perfect. Many street photographers and I work very hard to uphold a level of ethics and value to the craft. I’ve seen pictures of upskirting, zooming in on breasts, and general perversion. Plenty of people call it out when they see it. But relatively speaking, this kind of voyeurism in street photography is rare. Saying that all street photographers have creepy or ill intentions is synonymous to stating that all film shooters want to shoot nude photos of women with Kodak Portra for Internet Klout.
We’re a good community with a thirst for the world we live in. Candid photography can be some of the most compelling imagery in the industry. It can stand the test of time and become a historical document for future generations. Everyone should protect this art form. It’s important.
And if you’re really against it, go out and shoot it. See it from our perspective, and you will realize how fun it is and how the process stems from good intentions. But, if you want to continue to troll and rat on it because it’s the cool thing to do on the internet, then I stick by my statement – you’re an idiot.