The ethics of shooting homeless people

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GivenToFly Junior Member • Posts: 48
The ethics of shooting homeless people

Hello everyone!  I live in San Francisco, and there was an opportunity for a terrific shot yesterday consisting of three homeless people sitting up against a wall on the street, with a mural on the wall that included paintings of people.  So would've been a mix of real human beings with people painted on the wall.  There was a lot to work with in terms of lines, spacing, composition, etc.  All I had on me was a fixed lens, 50mm FF equivalent, so there was no way to take the photo without being totally obvious about it.

I felt absolutely terrible about the thought of taking the photo; in normal situations, it could feel like an invasion of privacy, but it especially felt unethical and exploitive to take a photo like this of homeless people.  The mere fact that I'm describing this scene in terms of its photographic and artistic merit -- the lines, spacing, and composition were all so perfect!  the interplay of real human beings with a painting on the wall, how wonderful! -- instead of the tragedy that is homelessness makes me feel guilty and makes my skin crawl.

I'm wondering what others think of a situation like this.  Is it immoral to take a photo in this situation, especially if you're taking several minutes to find the perfect shot and multiple photos?  Does giving money to the homeless people in any way make up for any moral questions?  What would you have done under these circumstances -- take the photo or walk away?  Do the ethics change if you have a zoom and could've inconspicuously taken the photo without being noticed?

Many thanks in advance for your thoughts!

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