Fear and street photography

A while back, I read a tweet from Eric Kim, a well-known and respected street photographer. His tweet was: “The biggest impediment to getting over the fear of shooting street photography is not liking having your own photograph taken.”  My immediate reaction was this was nonsense as many other fears about street photography immediately came to mind, but it did get me thinking.

Am I afraid when I am shooting street? It really depends where I am. If I am in Cork, my hometown, I can be hesitant, anxious and uncomfortable. There are fewer streets and fewer people. The chances of knowing someone are high. I can easily envisage a scene where someone could become aggressive or even violent. When I am in big cities, I am anonymous. I have a licence to photograph: I am a tourist. What I encounter around me is new, is interesting, is valid for documenting. When I am in my hometown, I do not have that feeling. What curiosity do I have about those I encounter on the streets of my hometown?

Now, I do not like having my photograph taken. But taken in what context? Posing for a photograph when on holidays or for a particular event like Christmas or a birthday, I am self-conscious; who isn’t? Being snapped surreptitiously when I am walking down the street; fine. If I am aware of it, I think I might be a little bewildered as to why someone would want to take my photograph. Being snapped when I am in an intimate moment with family, I would feel like it is an intrusion. Having thought about Eric’s tweet, I am still struggling to get his point. For me, the biggest fear I have about shooting street is invasion. Invading someone’s right to privacy. As I write this, I am beginning to consider that perhaps what he means is – to shoot street we have to get over our own fear of our own privacy being invaded in that moment when our photograph is taken. But this is not something I spend time thinking about, to be honest. When I am in public places the thought that someone might take my photograph never crosses my mind. Perhaps as someone who likes street photography this is naivety of my part. I don’t know.  Anyway, Eric Kim is a photographer I like. He has a good blog, posts interesting articles and can tweet things to get you thinking.

One of the fears I have when shooting street is killing the moment. Hoisting the camera, drawing attention to my action, putting people on alert that I am going to take a photograph. That is why the iPhone is so good for street work. What other fears do I have when shooting street? That’s for another post.

In the meantime, here are some of my most recent images taken out and about in Cork with the iPhone.

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4 responses to “Fear and street photography

  1. You have just summed up me and my street photography experience to a tee, Brendan. I live in a really small town and feel so self conscious when trying to shoot here. Luckily, I live near a pretty populated beach town which is where I get a lot of my shots from. I occasionally make it into Brisbane which is the capital city of Queensland and about an hour’s drive from my home. I had a day in there recently taking photographs and it was so different to trying to get a photo at home. You know, one of my biggest fears with street photography is that I will stuff up what precious little time I have in these areas of higher population. I fear that I will come home with nothing good and I’ll have wasted my time. I hate it when that happens. Anyway, thanks for a great read. Keep up the good work!

    Liz

    • Thanks Liz. Shooting street is liberating when you have that sense of anonymity. But when at home it can be so hard to free yourself up to get up close and shoot those you know. Fewer people, fewer streets too.
      But still I have lots of photographs on my Flickr stream from the streets of Cork.

  2. Pingback: Street Photography | Photographic Punctuation

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