The morals of street photography

I was out yesterday on the streets of Brighton doing ‘street photography’ (which perhaps should be better known as candid people photography) I got back home and while skimming through Digital Photographer magazine found an article “Morals and photography, what are yours”?

I’m not going to discuss the article (which I felt was poorly illustrated) or dwell too much on what my morals as a street photographer might be. However while doing a little more research on the web, I was interested to read that Robert Doisneau’s classic photograph of a couple stealing a passionate kiss on a Paris street was set up by the photographer. That makes me now feel a lot better about this image which I got on Carnaby Street in London last year….

Street photo of a couple kissing

And this I think captures what a lot of my street photography is about because I think that this is an uplifting image, this is the real world – no models, no influence from the photographer, this is how we/you really are.

I learned that a rare print of Doisneau’s photo was auctioned by the model for over $200,000, the image really is so famous that it little matters whether it was set up or not.

Yesterday I took this:

Woman in North Laines, Brighton

Now it may seem to you that she must have had knowledge of me taking this photo, but I do not think she did. This was the pose before I manoeuvred into position to get the image and was the pose as I moved away. So no, she is not expressing disapproval!

Why do I like the image? Because like my first image, it makes me smile, albeit in a different way.

I’ve no qualms about taking and publishing either image.

Now here’s a final image which I think is more complicated:

Asian tourist on Westminster Bridge

Why is this more problematical@ In that I was working with the woman in the foreground, who was posing for me, there is not an issue. She’s not ‘real’. But the other people are real. The woman on the left is not looking at me the photographer, but at the model. How you interpret what’s going on is up to you, but I don’t think of this as an image to make me smile. But it does make me think.

I like this image because it’s a happy accident. The model is as I intended. The bus too. The moving people blurring, yes, them too.  At the time I did not even notice the other motionless people, I was concentrating on the position of the bus.  The motionless people are the accident.

The observational woman and the photographer in the background standing out so vividly make this a very busy picture. And that’s why I like it – there’s a lot going on, different elements to think about and a composition that works.

I’m not going out onto the streets to take photos of people that show them in a bad light, although some street photographers will do this. I’m not sure that the observational woman in this image will like this photo of herself – if it were a photo of her only I’m sure that I would not publish it but she is just one element of this photo which pleases me overall so I’m not going to hold back.

I think this image captures something of our times. That’s what all good street photography should do.