There is always an interesting debate to be had about whether to ask somebody in the street if you can take their photograph, or whether to take the photograph surreptitiously. I must admit I’m torn between both approaches. I do though use both methods. A case in point being the above picture, where I saw the photograph come together ahead of me and which would have been a totally different photograph if I had waited and posed it.
I suspect though that many of the really interesting photographs taken on the street by photographers such as
Gary Winogrand http://www.moma.org/collection/artists/6399,
Bruce Gilden, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkIWW6vwrvM
Joel Meyerowitz https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Qjym5uliDw
and the late Tony Ray Jones, wouldn’t have been the same if they had asked first. Can you imagine Cartier-Bresson asking, rather than being the invisible photographer observing from the sidelines?. Each photographer has their own approach, and to my mind it is that approach that gives the look of their photography its own individual characteristic. I find myself asking whether that is true of most of todays photographers. Not that I’m in anyway critical, but there does appear to be a relentless sameness to a lot of work. Maybe I have a sense of sadness that fewer photographers stand out today, than in yesteryear.
Back in July B&W Photography Magazine published a photograph by the photographer Matthias Frei,
some months later in the same publication the photographer & writer Tim Clinch posited an interesting viewpoint on whether the woman in the photograph knew she was being photographed and more importantly whether the subject would want to be remembered in that way. It’s food for thought and maybe something that needs to be considered carefully.
My wife finds it somewhat embarrassing that I don’t always ask, and that can lead to many a terse word. I tend to make less photographs when I’m out with her than when I’m by myself. It’s not that I don’t enjoy her company, it’s just that I have a tendency to worry about where she’s going, whilst I’m looking for the picture.
As a contrast to not asking, this is a photograph I took some years back at Borough market in London. I did ask, and the subjects first response was to pose and smile. I waited until his guard dropped and he wasn’t smiling so much and made the photograph.
Earlier this year I returned to Borough Market and gave him a copy.