Facebook Pixel Street Photography: Exploitative vs Respect

Street Photography: Exploitative vs Respect

Over the last couple of years we’ve seen a rise in interest by many dPS readers (and around the web) in the topic of street photography and street portraiture.

While I love the idea of documenting what’s going on in a neighbourhood there are times when I view some street photographers work that I can’t help but feel a little… uncomfortable at what is being presented.

By no means is it in all street photography but there are times where what is presented is very confronting – not only to those viewing the images but sometimes the act of taking some street photography seems quite confronting, intrusive and even at times exploitative to the subjects of photos.

While I think there’s certainly a place for using photography to document our culture (both the good and the bad) I’ve increasingly been worrying that some photographers might be overstepping the mark of late and in the process are almost exploiting the people and neighbourhoods that they photograph.

Today I came across the following video which tells the story of two street photographers taking a different approach as they photograph the Tenderloin neighbourhood in San Fransisco – an area that is often known for being a rough and dangerous part of the city.

Photographers Brad Evans and Travis Jensen share in the video about how some street photographers have photographed that neighbourhood in a way that focuses upon the negative aspects of the area and that exploit the people there in the way that they go about their photography – but with their project they wanted to photograph the neighbourhood in a way that respected everyone that they photographed.

The other aspect of this book and magazine project that emerged from this is that profits were shared with a community group to put something back into the neighbourhood.

I love the philosophy of street photography expressed in this video – it’s well worth watching.

More than photography from sidewalktalk.dk on Vimeo.

I’d love to hear what you think on this topic. By no means am I arguing against street photography or even using photography to document some of the challenges and hardships that some people face – rather I’m wondering if this can be done in a more respectful and caring way – a way that not only highlights the issues but which also treats people with respect and dignity through the process.

Over to you – what do you think?

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Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse

is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals.

He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

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