A sobering tale of street photography being perceived as threatening behaviour.
Today I am reduced to posting the kind of image that inspires within me self loathing; a hipsteresque image of coffee and my camera (the only thing I despise more is the horrible ice cream glass some chains insist on for lattes).
I lost my bottle. I tried to take an image of a guy on a BMX, lost confidence so asked, and was told to beat it (in more colourful language).
I should have carried on shooting elsewhere, but instead gave up for a while. The reality is there is very little conflict in street photography. Yet, when it happens, it makes me want to give up. I listen to John Free tell me that street photography is a noble endeavour. But sometimes it seems to be perceived as less than honourable.
It is a fairly mainstream activity. Today I listened to part of the fascinating story of Vanley Burke documenting the experience of the African-Caribbean community in England. This was a Radio 4 programme. Hardly an underground or especially edgy source. The story told the response of some of his subjects discovering his candid shots. In the main they sounded ok with it and some sounded pleased.
However, with some of the present anxiety over GDPR (which will hopefully turn out to be unwarranted) and the potential for conflict, I wonder if it’s time for a change of direction. Or at least until I get my bottle back.
In these circumstances I enjoy doing something different. For example, occassionally I get the opportunity to photograph events. It gives me the chance to plug in the flash and take some non-candid shots and portraits. I find that mft cameras can generally deal well enough with the light conditions and my little Nissin i40 flash does a brilliant job with the problem situations.
As we wandered through the city, we came across these guys doing parkour (or free running).
It amused me that they had found an alternative use for the security barriers that could block the route up to Edinburgh Castle and Royal Mile.
I took some shots and got chatting with them. They were happy to be photographed and we talked about the simple beauty of their sport; basically requiring only a pair of trainers and some concrete obstacles.
That’s one of the things I love about photography. Although street photography is often solitary, sometimes it affords the opportunity to speak with fellow citizens.
Comfortable shoes and concrete are essential to street photography too, and I appreciate the shared simplicity of exploring the metropolis, albeit at a slower pace than parkour.
I’m compiling a list of useful information regarding street photography and GDPR. As yet things seem unclear. See the foot of this post.
Now that I’ve got your attention, perhaps this post would be better entitled ‘ The future of street photography’.
The image above is actually a portrait of a friend. I’ve blurred it to conceal his identity. But such images may be the future of street photography.
Recent changes in European data protection law (known as GDPR) appear to consider our faces a form of personal data. It’s not clear whether all images taken in public will require a model release, or whether current exemptions or allowances will persist.
However, apparently, the Maltese authorities are recommending that images without a release form have faces blurred to conceal personal information.
The web is full of comments from different perspectives and as yet it is unclear what GDPR may mean for street photography and documentary or travel photography for that matter.
Only time will tell whether the end is near for this most beautiful and significant genre of photography.
Here are some links I’ve found interesting for more discussion on this topic.
– pages 14-16 of this document discuss how identical pictures can be considered both personal data and not personal data depending on context. This comes from the ICO, I think concerning earlier data protection law.
So, it turns out that shooting analogue doesn’t cure GAS at all.
After a few weeks of using the Trip 35, which I really love, I’ve managed to get hold of a film camera with auto-focus. This lovely Rollei compact belongs to my brother. I don’t think he’s used it much in the last 20 years, and he kindly gave it to me.
This is the first 35mm camera I’ve had with autofocus and I notice a big difference. Far fewer shots are not sharp and shots seems much sharper than using zone focussing with the Trip 35.
In fact this camera seems to achieve focus very quickly, probably faster than my MFT cameras. Here’s an example of a snatched shot while crossing the street.
I’ve now processed my second film. Again it was Ilford fp4. The camera this time was a Trip 35. It worked well for street photography although I found the zone focussing a challenge. I got 38 images on a 36 spool which seems good value too.
Here are a few favourites from the resulting images. They are not the sharpest – that’s probably my fault.
Today I was trying to grab a few shots between giving friends a lift home, working and dinner. Such is the life of a middle aged hobbyist. I look back on my wasted youth with envy. Why didn’t I buy a Leica in my 20s when I could have afforded one (maybe). Why didn’t I take street up phototgraphy when I actually still visited some of the world’s vibrant cities. Not that I’d change anything in the present, I’m glad with where I’ve ended up.
Anyway, I was messing around with Lightroom Presets. I used one that Eric Kim gave away years ago – it mimics fuji velvia 400. Now, I’d normally never crank up the contrast or reduce some of the saturation like this, but I was delighted with the results. This is pretty much the image in my head when I took the photo; the raw file looked nothing like it.
Hats off to Eric Kim for the preset and for giving it away for free. I suppose this shows one of the challenges and opportunies with digital. The raw sensor data gives pretty flat images, so you can shape it in thousands of ways. But you are limited by your imagination and willingness to spend time experimenting. With analogue much more was decided at the start by your film choice.