Friday, October 10, 2008

Street Photographers - Born Pachyderms?

My continuing obsession with whether I should ask or not ask to take a photograph (SEE HERE) was piqued again today, when I saw a post on the Alamy forum from a fairly inexperienced non-professional photographer, who was despondent because his chosen subjects were refusing him permission to photograph them. He writes (all spelling is per original text):

"I'm getting tired of rejection and considering more desperate measures. Anyone would think that having your picture taken captures your sole**. I was in the local library and thought it would be good to get a picture of someone actually browsing a few books on the selves. I approached five people and they all refused to let me photograph them....In future, I'm not going to ask. I'll just start snapping away regardless."

Well, that disillusioned snapper could take a leaf out of the book (several published books, actually) of renowned New York street photographer Bruce Gilden. Not only does Mr Gilden - a full member of the highly prestigious and world famous Magnum Photo Agency - not ask for permission to photograph his subjects, he sticks not only his camera, but also his flash gun as close to their noses without literally getting up them as possible. Although, he does manage to get up a few people's noses metaphorically, now and then.

I'd welcome the chance to ask Bruce - and other photographers with similar modus operandus - how they think their subjects feel about this seemingly intrusive style of photography.

Bruce Gilden's photography is, to me, is reminiscent of the work of his fellow Magnum associate, British photographer Martin Parr. I have, for a very long time, looked at Parr's work with awe, fascination and dread, feeling almost sick at the thought of getting so close to another person and doing something of which they might not approve. I would certainly welcome the chance to ask if they mind if the subject doesn't like being photographed. And, did they have to grow a thick skin (that is; become a pachyderm) or were they born that way?

In the meantime, and while I'm still pondering where I stand on this issue, you might enjoy the You Tube video of Bruce Gilden in action - just click the start arrow, below.

** At this point, I was tempted to add - only if you lie on your back and stick your feet in the air.

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