Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2005/04/19

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Subject: [Leica] BD PAWS
From: bdcolen at (B. D. Colen)
Date: Tue Apr 19 10:22:33 2005

How did we get from shooting scenes in public to pornography? Good Lord.
And "stealing" photos? Well, at least we know where you're coming from.

And by the way, one can do documentary work without asking for
permission and without talking to subjects afterwards - depending upon
what one is documenting. I would politely suggest that you are confusing
doing anthropological work, or ethnography as you would have it, with
doing photojournalism, traditional documentary photography, and street
photography. I can guarantee you that Gary Winnogrand, Lee Friedlander,
and, for that matter, HCB, didn't go up to their subjects afterward to
chat them up and get releases. If all photographers had adhered to your
"high" standards, the world of photography would be a pretty barren
place. ;-)

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of
Karen Nakamura
Sent: Tuesday, April 19, 2005 11:51 AM
To: Leica Users Group
Subject: Re: [Leica] BD PAWS

>Very rarely do I ask for permission---most of the time it ruins the
>moment.  If someone sees I'm shooting and says, "No pictures," I 
>respect that, otherwise, I take my shots. Am I taking advantage of 
>people? I guess I am. Geez, now I feel like a criminal...

That's fine. Ask for permission *after* the photograph was taken, 
especially if you are going to post it to the web. Get to know the 
person whose photo you were taking and make sure they know what you 
are going to do with it.  You should make an honest effort to get to 
know your subjects otherwise you really are just stealing a photo. I 
scoff at the notion that you're doing documentary photograph if you 
can't even be bothered to ask the person what their name is or what 
they are doing.

If you saw someone taking secretive pictures of your daughter in 
public with a telephoto lens and later found those photographs on the 
web, how would you feel?  Like her privacy was violated? Like he was 
a creep? It's the golden rule: do only what you would have others do 
to you. But again, if you have different ethical standards, that's 
fine.  The fact some folks  are getting in a hissy seems to indicate 
that they do feel guilty about what they do.

I believe in guilt-free photography and the way I try to make sure 
this happens is to make sure that  I am operating as ethically as I 
can. You don't have to adopt this standard if you don't want to. My 
own role model in this regard is Eugene Smith. He was also accused of 
posed photographs, but they didn't detract from the powerfulness of 
his work, especially in regards to Minamata.  Recall the photo of 
Tomoko bathing (google for it if you have to). That was taken with 
permission, the bathtub was set up as a mini studio for it. It still 
remains for me one of the most powerful photographs of all time.

If you think of all of the really good human photographers on the LUG 
and look at their work, I think you'll find more than 90% of the 
photos are ones where the subject has given the explicit consent to 
shoot.  Tina Manley's wonderful work comes to mind immediately.  In 
my own photographs of disability protesters, people know that I'm 
taking their photo. I try to make sure all of the organizations 
involved have my business card and know what my work is for. It's the 
right thing to do. Having permission allows me to take my time taking 
the photograph. If you think that permission means posing, you 
haven't really tried to do documentary photography.

I'll say it one more time: This is my own standard for behavior. You 
don't have to follow it if you don't want to.


Karen Nakamura

Leica Users Group.
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In reply to: Message from mail at (Karen Nakamura) ([Leica] BD PAWS)