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NOTES on street photography

November 2019

“Moment” is street photography’s buzzword. A kind of claim to impunity for churlish behavior. Thrusting a camera in a non-consenting person’s face, though, is only the beginning of problems.

Leave aside the ranting gestures of the mad, the quick jerk into the street to leer at a stranger on the other side. The telling words “shoot” and “flash” that should be precautionary but are all too evidently read as a challenge to imperialistic men in the age of personal branding.

Disregard any lingering superstitions about the camera as a soul thief. Ignore any suspicion there is wisdom in warnings about the sin of graven images and misrepresentation of lives. Whatever may be moral or ethical, the issue remains that street photography is often by the privileged and of the exploited.

Questions about what can be accomplished with a camera in the public world of the everyday living should hammer at gazers. Curiosity is not an answer. Curiosity risk putting yourself where you are not welcomed. And to grasp for answers in picture-taking is only more judging. The act of street photography is damned near preaching and moral relativism.

A start at an answer to living with the urge to photographically document is to hear. To attempt a beginning without an extension of looking but with open hearing is at least to attempt to begin in earnest. Caption every photo with big letters: ALL THIS IMAGE SHOWS IS A NARROW VIEW OF ONE CAMERA AT A CONTEXTLESS TEMPO.