On Confrontation and the Debate of Self Defense in Street Photography

When it comes to street photography, there’s always a risk of confrontation.

Street photography is all fun and games, until someone decides to get angry. While most people usually won’t blink an eye, sometimes you’ll catch someone who is ready to air some aggression. If you’re a smart street photographer, you’ll know how to avoid confrontation in most cases, but it still happens. There are many ways to defuse a confrontation and settle any aggression thrown at you. But what if it doesn’t settle down? Then what?

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Street Photographer Beaten and Bloodied at Notting Hill Carnival

In the UK, August Bank Holiday is a vibrant sign-off to the British summer. However, it would become a dark day for this street photographer.

On Monday 26th August, Swansea based street photographer, Math Roberts, was shooting at Nottinghill Carnival. It was the final day of one of the world’s most talked about public events. At around 10:30 pm on Moscow Road, while talking a photo of a couple embracing each other, Math found himself in a violent altercation.

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Street Photographers Share Stories Of Confrontation (And Overcoming It)

Lead photo by Suzanne Stein. Used with permission.

Street photography and confrontation can go hand in hand. The fact is, some people just do not want a camera pointed at them. Most of the time unwilling subjects communicate their disapproval in a respectful way. However, sometimes they react in an aggressive, hilarious and just outright bizarre fashion. It’s a nightmare for many of us, and we try to find ways to get out of those situations. We spoke to a number of street photographers, asked them about the more memorable stories of confrontation and what we did to overcome it.

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Street Photography: Confrontation and Bad Advice From My Former Self

Lessons in street photography don’t always age well. Over time, our education deepens and our perspective matures – leaving us a little red in the face over words we once spoke.

Several years ago I wrote an article giving advice about managing confrontation in street photography. I spent time putting together an action plan, including ways in which you can avoid confrontation altogether. At the time I thought it was gold. I shared it as much as I could, and in fairness, a lot of people thought it was good – I imagine they were as green as I was. Looking back, there was some terrible advice in it. So terrible, in fact, I’ve removed the piece. Let’s take a look at what went wrong and I what I wish I knew then that I know now.

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Street Photogrphy and Dealing With My First Confrontation


This blog post was syndicated from Chris Gouge. It and the images here are used with permission.

I wrote in last weeks blog post about conquering fears, how photographing people in the street isn’t as scary as most people think and how usually people won’t even notice you.  In my time of doing street photography, while although a relatively short time, the vast majority have either not noticed or ignored it, assuming I was taking a photo of something else, a few people have played up to the camera and a very small number have very politely asked me not to take their photo.  However, while I was in Madrid I encountered my first confrontation and angry subject.

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Reader Question: How to Avoid “Getting Punched in the Nose” in Street Photography

julius motal the phoblographer composition image 01

Most of the emails we receive from readers merit a quick response, since they’re usually something gear-related. Occasionally, we get an email that calls for a much longer response because of the question’s depth. This email comes in from Sharon Eylward who noticed that most of the photographs on this site are street photographs in which the people are unaware of the camera. Sharon wants to know how to practice street photography “without getting punched in the nose”.

It’s taken a while to figure that out, but here’s our answer.

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