Street photographers get a bad rep for being creepy, and this photo doesn’t help our cause.
Street photography isn’t inherently creepy. The process of shooting candid moments, telling the story of humanity, is truly a beautiful thing. But (sadly there’s a but), there are some creepy street photographers, even if they’re not consciously trying to be so. And while I’ll defend the craft to the death, I cannot defend this photo.
Street Photography and Its Bad Rep
I want to start by saying that I do not like calling specific photographers out. I take no pride in singling out the work of a photographer for all the wrong reasons — and I should say the photographer below is not the only one. But sometimes I have to put certain things to one side, especially when I’m defending the integrity of something I love: street photography.
Here’s the photo, and in case you don’t understand the problem just by looking at it, stick with me.
Andrea Morani took the above image, and it was reshared by popular street photography feed, Street Photography Story Telling (SPST.) In fairness to SPST, it soon saw the error of its ways and removed the photo, although this happened after several people, including myself, called it out for being inappropriate.
This isn’t art. It’s certainly not storytelling. Instead, it’s a voyeuristic opportunistic moment that brings shame to the craft.
This is a classic case of upskirting. It’s the act of a person (usually a man) taking a photograph of underneath a female’s skirt. And while the subject certainly helped by revealing all, she certainly didn’t do so with the intention of it being photographed and put on the internet. The photo is not an example of good street photography. You can tell me photography is subjective; I don’t care, this is poor form.
It Makes It Hard to Defend the Craft
People on the outside already have the impression that candid photography is inherently creepy. For the best part of a decade, I’ve had to defend it and teach people it’s not. But, I can’t defend this photograph. Not only is it creepy and inappropriate, this is illegal in many parts of the world, and rightly so.
Don’t do this. It’s not cool, and it’s the reason people hate street photographers.
“But it’s not like you can see her face.” It doesn’t matter. Projecting a subject doesn’t end with protecting their facial identity: it’s about protecting them as humans and being considerate of their dignity. What message does this send to people, especially women, about how men want to document them? This isn’t art. It’s certainly not storytelling. It’s a voyeuristic, opportunistic moment that brings shame to the craft.
“One bad egg shouldn’t spoil the whole community.” Maybe it shouldn’t, but that’s not how the world works. Those who are inclined to speak negatively about street photography only need the slightest reason to justify their stance — this photo gives it to them. And while some may suggest writing about it only highlights it further, that’s not the point. The photographer in question isn’t the only one who thinks this is okay. I’ve been shown several other examples of the same thing as well.
Call It Out
Street photography like this needs to be called out. We need to get rid of this poison and show the world what the craft is truly about – ethical documentation of society.
If you think this is okay, I challenge to go out and ask any woman if she would want a photo like this of herself taken and then put on the internet. I’m almost certain each and every woman would say no.
Don’t do this. It’s not cool, and it’s the reason people hate street photographers. On top of that, it makes it harder for all us genuine folk to defend the art form we love.