In preparing for the IRIS photo workshop this coming September 15, where Darwin and I will be co-instructing during the Cochrane Classic Car Show ‘n Shine, I found myself thinking about street photography. To be honest, I have few images in my portfolio taken at public events. Oh, I’ve worked with talented models before on a staged shoot, or wandered after tots after being given permission by a parent, as in these shots…
But I haven’t really worked a festival, rodeo or other public event very hard. And I think the reason for that is simple: I’m scared! There are two kinds of photographers in this world — those who talk (to people) and those who don’t. Being primarily a landscape and nature shooter, I definitely fall into the second category! So, I’m really looking forward to this IRIS workshop and fundraiser (all proceeds to non-profit IRIS!) since it will no doubt get me out of my comfort zone and stretch my skill level beyond photographing inanimate objects.
I think one of the scary parts about street photography (beyond having to talk to people you don’t know) is that the rules on what is allowed and what is not are very grey. It all has to do with the tricky concept of privacy. A person attending a parade would reasonably expect to end up in a few snapshots taken by people at the event, or even land on the cover of the local paper. But would that person expect to become your new homepage?
And then there’s photographing kids…wow, talk about a situation fraught with danger. Most of us just don’t take the shot.
But some of us become what IRIS co-founder Royce Howland calls ‘sniper shooters’. We hang back, skulking at the edges of crowds, slouching under trees, waiting with long lens to steal a candid of a captivating subject without their awareness. Some photographers are very proud of their ability to ‘steal’ images from their subjects. Look at the vocabulary we use…’steal’…’stalk’…’take’. This kind of behaviour sometimes gets us photographers a bad name, and it should. Photography is all too often thought of as a hunting sport rather than a creative endeavour. While it is up to you to draw the line on what is appropriate behaviour when it comes to photographing at public events, I know we won’t be encouraging much thievery during the workshop on September 15. Instead, let’s all take a deep breath, smile and talk to people.
Maybe that’s the simple answer to the privacy conundrum: if you’ve made yourself and your interest in making an image plain to a person, and they’ve given their permission, then you’ve shown respect for their privacy and quietly made privacy a non-issue. That’s what we’ll be practicing on the 15th! Oh, and if you’re one of those photographers who, y’know, talk, please come out and help us shy shooters!