Avoiding Exploitation in Street Photography

First and foremost, this isn’t a public space or right to privacy issue. This is about respecting the subject, muse, or culture.

Avoiding exploitation in street & candid photography-

Educate yourself on the difference between appreciation and appropriation in photography of POC & LGBTQ humans and cultures.

Before starting a project, recognize achievements and learn about the history of the subjects/cultures you may encounter in the public sphere. Humans aren’t walking around in public to be exploited for your benefit. Respect them. Period. Don’t make light of the human condition, living arrangements, education, etc. I’ll touch on that in a bit.

Avoid television imitation and the horrible clichés that they represent. Appreciate the natural human as they are and don’t change them to fit a stereotype for personal gain. If you go through a shoot without taking time to understand the culture you are capturing, then you are appropriating it and not appreciating it.

Exploitation of humans, female gender specific-

This isn’t the implied or nude photo shoot that was scheduled and planned. This is a skirt on a windy day when you’re not Marilyn Monroe. This is a breastfeeding mother who can’t see your telephoto lens. The human who identifies as a woman and dresses how they feel.

(Good general rule of respect, if you have to be sneaky or hide to get your “perfect” shot, and you’re not dealing with actual wildlife, don’t take the photo.)

Finally, consider the impact of your photograph. Is it disrespectful of the person or culture? Are you contributing to oppression or false narratives? Are you trivializing serious issues? These are all serious questions you have to ask yourself as a photographer if you want to stop perpetuating this cycle of copycat creativity on the backs of marginalized groups.

Profiting off of tragedy/misfortunes

First, socioeconomic status drives many a street photography series. Exploitation of those who are homeless, travelers, the working poor, and in neighborhoods where gentrification is happening, is a common theme picked up in bougie intro photography courses during candid week strictly for the shock value and higher grade. It’s time to change the fuckin topic.

You may never come across this experience, but because it is fresh in my mind I’ll put it out here.
People die, this is an everyday occurrence. You can’t avoid it. But you should be respectful of those who are grieving and respectful of the dead themselves. I recently saw a photo of a young girl overseas, gunned down for stealing a chair. It was a horrific scene. What bothered me next was the fact a child lost her life and there was a second photo showing half a dozen men trying to get the best angle of this little girl’s lifeless body.   Have some fucking respect. Don’t fight over the ability to profit over tragedy.

Don’t get me wrong. Photojournalism is important. Spreading awareness and knowledge over horrific injustices is important. But what’s the point of seven men having the same photo? One is enough.  One, in fact, is too many.

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