1..2..3 Say Cheese!


‘Street photography’ is a type of photography that features subjects within situations, candid or not, within public places. Street photographs are mirror images of society, displaying “unmanipulated” scenes, with usually unaware subjects. With this form of expression and art, it arouses the principles and ethics that revolve around specific media practices, the guidelines and code of privacy that it encompasses. While in public, photography of random people is legal, and that includes children.

Ethics are therefore integral when involving unaware people and subjects in this form of work and art. Privacy, legal and moral concerns are stimulated when producing content that could be exposing someone in a particular way, shape or form. Capturing of moments inside a public space does not require a specific system of consent as it does within a private. For example, through legal precautions you have to gain permission to document someone’s image within a concert hall, though not in a local public park. Ethically, this function may not be smooth sailing to which the views and beliefs of people vary and will differ to the artist and their doings. And I do have some sympathy for this viewpoint, but I believe this is a highly subjective issue for which there is no clear and concise answer.

Garry Winogrand adopted this approach in photography where no filter of consent was acknowledged when conducting the fieldwork. He was recognised within the industry where his work resonated through “the idea that you can do whatever you want with your camera in a public space.”(Colberg, 2013). In today’s contemporary world this notion of street photography shines through the workings of the ‘Paparazzi’, which can be seen as a branch that correlates with those in public spaces. Ethics that are applied to the paparazzi are their obligation to the SPJ (Society of Professional Journalism). Journalists in this society are responsible for following the four main principles outlined in their code of ethics;

  1. Seek Truth & Report It
  2. Minimise Harm
  3. Act Independently
  4. Be Accountable

This form of photography in the public domains has produced evidence of breaching these ethics and has impacted many peoples lives through the course of this profession. Exploitation of children can is a major issue that is instigated which impacts and disregards core values such as privacy, safety (physical and emotional) and respect.

In my approach to photography the public space, I wanted to address the ethics that are attached as best I could. There were a variation of strategies I was aiming to implement in my fieldwork in capturing a person using their media devices in public:

  • Be Compliant:
    Objection may arise if a subject is uncomfortable to be involved in the work you are conducting, I aimed to comply to all factors that may have deem my doings as problematic. I may have legal rights in taking images of people but the negative confrontation  with reinforce and fuel the undesirable stigma that seems to be attached to Street Photography.
  • The Use of Common Sense:
    Use your sense of appropriation, presentation and judgement to gauge whether situations and those within those environments are in the right state to be documented. For example, be alert and aware in a beach setting of people and locations which could have backlash if photographed.
  • Mindfulness:
    Be mindful not to exploit one’s condition, lifestyle and way of function through what seems to be an interesting photograph. This links with common sense to which you can express the public environments and people without damaging and altering it’s integrity.
  • Be Open:
    Be open and honest in all aspects of your work, art and research. Because entering a public space with intentions such as photography does not make the space belong more to you than anybody else present. Address why you captured a particular moment where you have to the chance to turn a negative experience into a positive one.

I was pleased with the environment and subject that was captured in my photograph, I addressed all of the important components to successful street photography in my beliefs. Due to this blurred line between this form of art and human interaction, through my research and engagement I was able to delve further into art, our mobile devices and the differences between observation and intrusion.


One thought on “1..2..3 Say Cheese!

  1. I was directed here from your comment on my drone photography insight! and thankyou for the instruction as i’ve gained useful insights into a code of ethics that I believe could be applied to areas of my own research with drones. The UAV is something that has tremendous moral panic and are often used in “street” locations with little thought for your above points. I’ll definitely be referring to this with my eventual project about changing the way we think of not just drones, but aerial photography in general
    Cheers man!


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