The publication of the Spanish translation of the article “Breaking the News?” in a Facebook group dedicated to photography has aroused some controversy, especially among certain street photographers who were outraged by the term “depredatory” in relation to the attitude of the street photographer.
I think it offers no doubt that the street, as a public space, is a place of visual exploration par excellence, where the gaze – with and without camera – continually seeks the unexpected, the surprising. In the street we are alert to what is happening around us, and of this we know well who is moving through the crowded streets of the big cities. The street is, in a certain sense, hostile terrain, and strategies of “survival” are imposed. Children are required to be prudent and caution advises the old man. The use of cameras requires prudence – especially with the growing concern for the right to one’s own image – and a photographer who wishes to include people in his street images will have to develop certain strategies. There are many sites on the Internet that offer the best tricks and techniques for the photographer, and I have no doubt that serious photographers have a code of ethics and conduct. This does not detract an inch of veracity from the affirmation of the “predatory” attitude – add if you want the adjective “visual” – of those who photograph in the street: we go out to the street to look for the opportunity, the decisive moment, the confluence of visual circumstances that allow us a good shot. It will be to the carelessness or with the consent of the person, but it requires to put oneself in situation, to be attentive to identify that which allows to construct that the photographer’s intention has decided. The attitude is not very different from the animal – predator – that explores and waits for the opportunity to get its food. Evidently the term has pejorative connotations and the generalization may have been what has bothered rather than prompted the debate… The questions simply went unnoticed.
“…there is something predatory in the act of taking a picture. To photograph people is to violate them, by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” Susan Sontag
Some users comments:
I don’t think it’s right to use a specific event as a weapon against street photography. It’s one thing to criticize empathy, ethics, etc. in certain situations, it’s quite another to generalize just like that. Some documentary photographers take advantage in this sense when they photograph others in extreme situations?
If there is something that reconciles and empathizes you with the human being, it is precisely the street photo. I think Blas that you speak from the ignorance of this type of photographic modality.
These kinds of questions, or similar ones, should be asked by each photographer before taking / distributing his image, practice whatever genre it is. The responsibility of the image demands it.
Tell me what would be the history of photography or our own history without those street photographers who repel you so much… I’m telling you… NA-DA! There would be no witness of these societies, but Robert Frank, Blossu, Cartier-Bresson, Alex Webb, Trent Park, I could make an endless list… all of them are not called visual predators, nor unscrupulous people, nothing of what has been explained in this post has to do with street photography, more have to do with the ghosts that some feed on the subject and so it goes… they really give me more strength if you can!