An interesting Reddit thread has popped up, highlighting the difference for men and women in candid photography.
We all know the stereotype — a middle-aged man with a big camera and long lens, photographing people passing by. He must be a creep, a child snatcher, a voyeur with ill intention. Most of the time, I feel confident saying those labels are unfair; most people have good ethics and only want to capture candid moments. In this thread, photographers highlighted some of the everyday issues they feel and face when out shooting in public.
Candid Photography for Females
The OP wrote about how they were photographing young children blowing bubbles on a hill. The photographer was female and spotted them from her home. Thinking it would make for some great photographs, she grabbed her camera and telephoto lens and started shooting. On reflection, she thought about how this may look inappropriate (an adult photographing children from her home). But the response she received may not have been the one she was expecting.
“Yeah– the idea of a young woman complaining about (her) image here seems out of place; it is truly incomparable to what it is like being a male photographer…”— Reddit User
One user wrote: “Try being a 40 yr old man trying to photograph my son in the park. It’s fine while we are close together and having fun, but eventually, he runs off to play, and I’m a grown man standing alone near a playground with a camera.” Another responded, “Yeah– the idea of a young woman complaining about (her) image here seems out of place; it is truly incomparable to what it is like being a male photographer…”
In a lighter response (albeit in slightly poor taste,) a Redditor said, “Lol just lean into it carry some Haribo.” And then there was this: “Pervert. Should stick to sniffing women’s hair on the bus like the rest of us.”
Candid Photography for Males
Bad jokes aside, the thread raises a genuine issue faced by candid photographers. And while women are not exempt from the stigma, it’s certainly something disproportionately directed at men. For example, we all remember Hilary Duffs over the top reaction to a man photographing children in the park.
It’s an unavoidable struggle men have to face because of a very few bad eggs. And it again raises the question, should men avoid photographing children altogether in a candid fashion? I don’t think so.
“Children make more interesting subjects as they tend to let themselves go, whereas adults a more like to have boundaries, especially when out in a public space.”
I’ve been shooting street photography for almost a decade, and although I pick my moments, I’ll always defend the right to photograph people in a public space, including children. But how you do it is what’s most important. Let’s say you’re photographing naked children running around and playing, something not uncommon, especially in the summer. While you may not be sexualizing them, the process does become questionable, and one can empathize with why a parent may not respond well to this.
If, however, a child is dancing, laughing, and interacting with everyday life, then these are beautiful things to document. Children make more interesting subjects as they tend to let themselves go, whereas adults are more likely to have boundaries, especially when out in a public space.
So to all my fantastic female photographers, enjoy your “female privilege.” Most likely, the world won’t think you’re a creep. And to the men, be careful, thoughtful, and empathetic where necessary, and you shouldn’t have too many issues when shooting the candid frame.