Friday, September 18, 2009

On photography, legalities and other things.

I'm primarily a street photographer - I try to capture snippets of the strange tableau called life 'as is' as candidly as I can within public places such as streets, malls, parks, beaches, conventions and so on. It's an approach that requires me to be constantly on the watch and constantly moving, trying to preempt that perfect moment so that I can point, frame and snap without missing it entirely. As such I have to be quick to anticipate, quick on my feet, and quick to pull the trigger... things I often fail to achieve!

Atlas in infancy?
Child and water feature, Forrest Chase

As far as photography goes, I'm quite the neophyte. I know just enough to know what I'm doing, but don't have enough experience or confidence to consistently capture the weird and wonderful. Such is life. As with anything you've got to keep trying at it, otherwise you'll never quite make it.

One of the most singularly frustrating things about being a street photographer though is some person's reactions to you trying to take the perfect shot. I've been yelled at, told off or threatened with legal proceedings more times than I have bothered to count. Most times I'd just smile and move on, but then there's the occasional fellow who reallys gets under my skin. Seriously, know your rights before having a go at me!

No, Mr Bond. I expect you to die.
... no Mr Bond, I expect you to die.
Evil mastermind planning world domination? Forrest Chase

There's no law in this country prohibiting me from snapping your photograph when we're in a public place. By virtue of the fact that you are in a public area, you automatically lose your right to reasonable privacy - meaning that I can snap a picture of you, your children, or even a picture of you frolicking naked on the sand if you're at a public nudist beach. The key word here is 'public'. Any issues you take up with me aren't legal, just merely questions of (1) personal taste, (2) perceived decency, or (3) paranoia that I'm a pedophile or (gasp!) a terrorist.

If I used your image to sell something or in an illegal manner, sure that's against the law. Just snapping a picture of you isn't, so please stop insinuating that it is. Incidentally, grabbing my camera, threatening me, or performing physical violence is against the law. A delicious irony that I'll savor when you're on the wrong side of those iron bars.

Child in a pram, Hay Street Mall

In my experience, persons with young kids, the elderly, and persons of African descent are most likely to take offence to my photography. Sure I can understand that some parents are overprotective of their little bundles of bawling, pooping, joy - even if it is unfounded; but elderly and persons of African descent? That I can't fathom. Perhaps it's something to do with a deep-seated pride or cultural touchiness I know nothing about? Please feel free to enlighten me if so.

My primary problem with being a street photographer is a lack of confidence to get out there in front of a person and obviously shoot that person with the person's full knowledge that they're on not-so-candid camera. That's something that I seriously need to get over or work around somehow. I notice that the more I photograph the more confident I get, but at the same time I'm not quite where I want to be with my photography, and I think it shows in the pictures I take.

Well, I'm off to take more pictures! Practice makes perfect hey?

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