>>>> Street Photography eXchange #37a <<< Locked

Started Mar 26, 2013 | Discussions thread
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you might as well ask...
In reply to hexar, Mar 27, 2013

why we take any photo of anything other than the most banal subjects.

in street photography, one takes photos of what is happening around you. one of the reasons why it is practiced on streets is because so much happens there, and yet everything that does happen is public. every moment has the potential to become decisive, to be transformed into an event through a photograph.

are you seriously suggesting that you cannot see how either of the pics fad posted would have any value to people besides the ones pictured? if so, wouldn't that apply to all street photos? heck, pretty much all photo period?

if you cannot see the point of 'capturing and saving' single frames of street life in all its myriad manifestations, then possibly street photography is not for you.

now, as to whether you personally might feel a voyeur looking at these photos, well, that is hardly surprising. many of the most accomplished photographers in history have pointed out that all photographs, to a greater or lesser degree, invoke the spectre of voyeurism. the single most famous and widely recognized theorist and writer on photography in the united states (echoing her teacher roland barthes, possibly the most widely recognized authority on the theory of photography in the world, who concurred, and heidegger, who dubbed the era of the camera the age of the world picture, etc, etc.) made the voyeuristic relation cultivated by the camera the main theme of her book on photography:

"While the others are passive, clearly alarmed spectators, having a camera has transformed one person into something active, a voyeur: only he has mastered the situation. What do these people see? We don't know. And it doesn't matter. It is an Event: something worth seeing--and therefore worth photograph­ing. […] Crushed hopes, youth antics, colonial wars, and winter sports are alike--are equalized by the camera. Taking photographs has set up a chronic voyeuristic relation to the world which levels the meaning of all events."

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--susan sontag

so one might as well rail against history itself.

of course, no one on these forums has ever suggested, as far as i have seen, that photos with a purely prurient intent, or ones which might potentially be harmful to children or to their subjects generally, or otherwise are clearly beyond the pale of a civil public forum should be displayed here.

but it is disingenuous to imagine that the issue of voyeuristic pictures won't come up in the context of taking photos of strangers, or even taking photos of your friends and family and displaying them in public to strangers. the question is whether or not, and how, to have a critical, engaged, and productive discussion about the issue when it arises.

some of the most beautiful, and occasionally thought provoking, photos i have made (albeit, as is my habit, at 50mm or shorter) involve similar subjects to the ones frank has posted:

there is no denying that questions about photographs such as these arise--indeed that is partly the point--and the recent florescence of questions about the 'ethics' of street photography in this forum only highlight that. following sontag and heidegger, such questions lead towards a more critical understanding of modern society and modernity itself--which, coincidentally, is consonant with classic themes of street photography generally.

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