How to shoot strangers?

How to shoot strangers?
How to shoot strangers?

If you are interested in the genres of street, reportage and other types of photographs, where the main characters are people, then you probably wondered: how to expressively remove an unfamiliar person so that it is not a "passport photo" and not to get "on the hat" at the same time? In this article I will share my thoughts on this topic and my personal experience of shooting strangers.

Looking ahead a little, I will say that in fact, sometimes you have to get a cap, and solve internal ethical problems, not to mention the legal side of the matter. Is it even possible to shoot strangers? Isn't this an invasion of their privacy? How do Christians, Muslims, Buddhists and representatives of other religious denominations feel about this? Is it possible to shoot police officers? Is it possible to shoot at airports, train stations, in the subway? Is it possible to shoot in supermarkets and private stores? In which countries what restrictions apply? There are a lot of questions related to shooting strangers, and, alas, it is impossible to answer them unequivocally.

Is it possible to shoot strangers?

In this article, I will not consider legal aspects, because I am not an expert on these issues. I can only share some general considerations that I have learned for myself in dealing with lawyers. In short, in most civilized countries, you can shoot anyone and anything in a public place. Another thing is, if you decide to go into someone's house without asking, you can go to jail for it. In public places, in theory, everything we see can be filmed. If someone does not want outsiders to see his face or figure, or something that he carries with him, then hiding it in public places is his personal task. Roughly speaking, if someone does not want to be seen (filmed) in underpants, then he should not appear in public in underpants. Muslim women don't want strangers to see their faces? Please have a burqa. Not everything is so clear, of course, but in general and averaged across different countries, the situation looks something like this.

Let's imagine a situation — in a public place, a girl's skirt was pulled up, and for a split second her panties became visible. The photographer managed to shoot. Does he have the right to publish such a photo? There is no clear answer to this question, besides, it will depend on the laws and customs of a particular country. But in most cases, one of the main response criteria will be the consent or disagreement of the girl herself for such a publication.

Let's now imagine that the girl noticed that she was filmed in an obscene form, and demanded to delete the photo (to light up the film). Should the photographer obey? In this case, there is an unambiguous answer — the girl cannot demand this. But then the legal issue related to the publication of such a picture comes into force. Even if we assume that you can shoot anything, not all of this can be published and not for all purposes. For example, special restrictions usually apply to the use of certain photos depicting people in advertising.

Now let's assume that in this particular country where you took a photo and plan to publish it, the law is on your side in a situation with a girl. That is, you can legitimately post a photo of her with her skirt up. But you know for sure that the model won't like it. What should I do? And here comes into force not a legal, but an ethical issue. That is, the question of your personal attitude to this situation.

If we talk about the creative tasks of photographers, for example, about the tasks of street, non-stop art, reportage or genre photography (any terminology is conditional), then personally I prefer not to create potentially conflicting situations. In other words, if I accidentally take an expressive photo of a girl with her skirt pulled up, I will at least use my eyes and gestures (pointing to the camera) I'll let her know it explicitly. And if I see dissatisfaction, then most likely I will not use such a picture. Although, if it turns out later that the picture is very expressive, it is possible that it will be difficult for me to refuse it, and I will violate internal ethical restrictions. At the same time, if possible, I will try to contact this girl and explain to her why this picture is worthy of publication.

But there is one more point. As for girls, it often happens that they not only do not mind photos in panties, but also clearly want it. Therefore, in my opinion, it makes sense, at least through communication with gestures immediately after shooting, to dot the i.

So, we conditionally agreed that it is possible to shoot strangers in public places. But how to make sure that they don't pose in the frame? Do I need to do this? Again, there is no clear answer to these questions. There are many expressive photos where strangers pose, and no less, where they behave as if they don't notice the photographer. Sometimes they really don't notice it, but sometimes it just seems that way. In fact, it does not matter, because from the point of view of photography, only the final result is important, that is, how expressive the picture turned out to be. Moreover, from this point of view of the result, it does not even matter whether the photo was staged or not. Although this is a fundamental moment for many street photographers, I personally take it calmly.

Once I observed the reaction of a student of the course "Introduction to Composition", who found out that her favorite photo "Kiss at the Hôtel de Ville" by Robert Doisneau, which she considered the ideal of spontaneously filmed sensuality, is actually staged. The student burst into tears after learning about the "falsehood", as she herself said — the world collapsed in her eyes, deception is everywhere. An experienced teacher was able to convince her that the picture does not lose artistic value from this.

Street photographers are often interested in a particular place - a street intersection, an underground passage or, say, the reflection of shop windows in combination with unusual light. When we get to such a place, we react to the chiaroscuro composition, pictorial forms (for example, geometric), the position of the shooting objects (people, animals) and feel that something expressive can happen here, an unusual frame can develop. After standing in place for a few minutes, as a rule, you can wait for an interesting situation or choose a favorable angle. An inexperienced photographer is usually satisfied with the first result, and happily runs on. More experienced photographers often work out the plot to the "stop", which is usually determined by a change in light or people's reactions. It can easily take 20-30 minutes or 2-3 hours. During this time, sometimes several hundred pictures accumulate, which then have to be disassembled and selected one (more often) or several (less often) if they add up to a series.