Ethics in Street Photography

Ethics in Street Photography is a hot topic which everyone discusses at a certain point. After all we photograph strangers without asking. Spontaneity and real life are the topic of street photography.

Bruce Gilden is infamous for his style of mugging people with a flash gun and recording the reaction. His apologists usually argue that he is entitled to do that because he is such a great artist. I completely disagree. Nobody is entitled to harm over people in any way. The wellbeing of a human is more important than art. I do not like such pictures.

Also I do not like voyeuristic pictures of sexy girls who are completely unaware of being photographed and in which sexiness of the subject is the only thing which makes the picture. Or any pictures which show people in embarrassing situations. This includes particularly photos of homeless and beggars. As they are usually powerless and can not easily defend themselves against intrusive photographers this is really bad taste. It might be different if a professional documentary photographer takes such pictures. In my opinion it is very important to separate artistic street photography from documentary photography.

Here are my personal rules for taking pictures of strangers and publishing.

1. I am obvious and do not hide. The girls in this picture saw me with the big Nikon DSLR and did not turn away. They seemed to be proud of their great looks in this light and this leads to the next rule.

Two beautiful girls saying farewell in a brightly illuminated entrance in very heavy, dark rain, neon lights, Bladerunner athmosphere

A Farewell in the Rain

2. I want that my subjects look awesome and my very best to let them shine. I want that they are proud if they ever stumble upon their pictures.

3. Whenever possible I anonymise. A silhouette can tell more about a situation than a detailed face shot. Handscan tell more than full body shots. And blurriness and Bokeh can tell the emotional side as well.

Silhouettes of two strangers encountering by chance in front of a Cafe. The picture has two distinct halves formed by the red glass front and the entrance of the Cafe with a clear window.

A Chance Encounter

A black and white picture of the hands and chopsticks of two persons at dinner in selective light