Not everything you see should be photographed. Maybe is part of an ethical conduct you have, or maybe the image hasn’t enough quality for your standards. I believe that it’s not an ethical practice to shoot on anybody in the street. I don’t think that hit a person with a violent flash in the face is a good practice. The main subject’s photo became more your conduct in the street, scaring people, than the surprised person (sorry Gilden). Once you take one or two of those there is nothing more.
I have a credo. There are some practices, objects and persons that I try to avoid when shooting in the streets, no matter the surrounding claims for a shot. This is my list (always improving):
- If any person say no, then stop shooting. Maybe you can talk and convince them. But a no, is a no. This doesn’t mean also that you have to delete the photos taken.
- Don’t interfere with the people, including you in the street actions you photograph. You are not the subject, your are the persistent register of the life in the street. You shouldn’t provoke or create the scene at your convenience.
- Maintain a personal private distance. Don’t shoot at one feet from person faces. This isn’t respectful.
- Always declare your intentions when someone asks. Don’t be shy, you are a urban, street historian or ethnographer, or an artist, or all of them.
- Trash cans, any size and form. This applies really to any ugly object that city or county administration put to disturb our views.
- Cars and other vehicles, unless they have a very particular body or sign. Point toward the buildings and sidewalks.
- The ugly orange barrels in the street (repeating number one). For a number of reasons, I hate any big plastic device with saturated colors.
- Homeless people, unless there is a social justice comment, or a particular action or feature not expected from them.
- Street performers, easy shots. I take those, only if there is a story behind the images, as in a music festival or a cultural photo essay.
- Person with visible disabilities. They might be very unusual or shocking to the eyes, but they are not for you for publish.
- Police or security personnel, unless there is a project about them, of course.
- Some children. No babies. No problem if you got consent of their parents. There’s no legal violation, but it’s very uncomfortable for parents when a stranger take a photo of their children.
In no way I have avoided all those items. These are guidelines, practical patterns, that let me to be free for other important actions. They are part of my preparation, my planning.
Many photographers have followed the contrary of what I enumerated above. It’s OK with me. But I want to see their principles, their justification in good, beautiful images, in comprehensive visual projects. There are many examples of good strong propositions and examples, from Gilden to Arbus.
Has I said in other posts, it’s good to create a workflow system and your own photography practice theory. It doesn’t include only your settings parameters, the paradigms of your craft, but also your ethical principles of what to do and what to avoid. This is part of the your planning, your assumptions and artist credo, commanding your decisions and actions.