Is the street photographer an endangered species?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by My Bokeh, Sep 8, 2006.

  1. My Bokeh

    My Bokeh Guest

    I was reading an article today about a show featuring the photographs
    of Lee Balterman. He spent years (particularly in the 50s and 60s)
    wandering the streets (and bars) of Chicago, camera in hand,
    photographing simply because, as he puts it, "I'm crazy about

    His photographs are quite wonderful, and capture emotions and moments.
    In the article published in the Chicago Sun-Times (here's a link:,
    Mr. Balterman talks about how he managed to capture many of his


    Getting the photographs wasn't always easy, in the bars or elsewhere. A
    World War II veteran who spent time in a French hospital after the
    Normandy invasion, Balterman battled in his hometown. "One guy threw a
    bottle at me, but he missed," Balterman recalls. "Sometimes they said,
    'You S.O.B., don't take my f---ing picture.'"

    "But you couldn't help yourself," Berlanga says. "Could you, Lee?"

    "No. I watched 'em, and when they weren't looking, I'd shoot,"
    Balterman says.


    Which got me to thinking...

    It seems as if the stray bottle or two is the least of a photographer's
    worries these days. With a greater awareness of privacy issues and a
    greater emphasis on litigious actions, is the classic, throw-back
    street photographer an endangered species? The hesitancy inherent in
    straddling the line between "capturing the decisive moment" and the
    subject's privacy (both out of respect but also out of not wanting to
    be ensnared in any legal wranglings) must have an adverse effect on the
    final product. Furthermore, in a world where the word "photoshop" has
    become a verb, has sensitivity toward privacy issues been heightened
    even more? Do street photographers suffer from the well-publicized
    celebrity/paparazzi feuds? I believe street photography as a genre is
    different from paparazzi photography in it's aim, goal, and spirit. But
    I also don't think that everyone (particularly non-photographers) see
    the nuances.

    Or perhaps I am just guilty of listening to Chicken Little. Perhaps
    it's not as bad as I've been led to believe.

    I love street photography, and feel it is a rich and vital use of the
    camera. I would hate to see it sterilized and sanitized to the point
    that it loses its spirit.

    Just a little something I've been mulling this afternoon.
    My Bokeh, Sep 8, 2006
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  2. My Bokeh

    Philippe Guest

    There's a guy on another NG that loves street shooting as well.. he's
    recounted a couple of times where local security has come up and told
    him to stop; couple of times where said security told him it was illegal
    (it wasn't) and the last time he mentioned where he got set up for a
    camera snatch (one guy instigated a fight while his buddy(I assume)
    grabbed the camera and ran..) running guy got stopped by a bystander,
    but camera was ruined (on bystander's head, unfortunately)..

    Seems to be a bit of a risky calling..

    Pics are nice though. ;)

    Philippe, Sep 8, 2006
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  3. My Bokeh

    Phil Guest

    I have seen many photos of a fantastic photographer based in the UK (among
    others). However his UK photos look pretty bland and boring compared to his
    other photos. I can't help but wonder why. Well, I think that a high
    percentage of westerners are arrogant idiots who are really uptight and need
    to chill out a bit. Of course, they all think they are lawyers as well.
    And yes, before you ask, I was born/live in a western country myself.

    Now, taking street photos of children in a western country is a another
    matter. Frowned upon!?! What the hell is this all about? In Cambodia for
    example, the children love having their photos taken, especially when they
    see themselves on the LCD.

    My opinion, take photos of what you want and deal with the consequences
    later. Of course I am not talking about obscene photos or commercial

    My final statement is that western media is the 100% cause of this problem
    for street photographers.
    Phil, Sep 8, 2006
  4. My Bokeh

    Paul J Gans Guest

    I'm lucky since I'm in New York. In crowds I simply
    pretent to be a tourist. That is, I think tourist. I
    scan the skyline (no New Yorker does that) and then
    take my camera and take a picture of the people on the

    So far nobody has even paid any attention.

    ---- Paul J. Gans
    Paul J Gans, Sep 9, 2006
  5. Me too. I used to spend quite a bit of time wandering the streets with
    a camera, and had a lot of great candids and grab shots to show for it.

    Though I've only had a couple of negative encounters, it now seems I
    always have in my mind the possible complaints: "This is private
    property", "Are you a terrorist?", "Did my ex-wife send you?", etc.
    Just my own mind takes the fun out of it.
    Scott Schuckert, Sep 10, 2006
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