The Death of Street Photography

Credits: akula

The law courts killed street photography; they shot it down in the streets. In Canada you can take pictures in a public place, however you could be open to a lawsuit if these photos are publicly displayed. It is not so much what you take pictures of; it’s what you do with them, and who you can identify. Classic candid street photography can get the photographer in legal trouble. One way to get around way this is to stage the photographs; there is really nothing new in doing this. Some of our most loved “candid” photos from the past were staged, for example Weegee’s 1943 photo “The Critic” was staged, this does not detract from its social commentary. Contemporary photographer such as Jeff Wall carry on this tradition of staging photographs, for example his 1982 photo “Mimic” is a scene he had observed then recreated using actors. In some ways these photos represent hyperrealism, more real than what one could have gotten shooting from the hip on the street. The inspiration, the impetus comes from observation, the photo is then executed in a deliberate fashion, the aesthetic and the narrative coming together.

written by akula on 2014-06-17


  1. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    In the '70 we were more free than after Reagan - Thatcher "liberal" period... Too many laws to "protect" the privacy (and to insulated people, destroying socialization), and many laws than kill creativity and art. Money make money but destroy creativity and happiness.

  2. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    These laws anti-street photographer were made in Canada by Conservative or Left political party?

  3. akula
    akula ·

    @sirio The laws that are being applied are not new and often are not specific to photography, Although it may not be illegal, publishing a photo that could hurt someone - physically, emotionally, financially, or professionally - this may get the person sued. I read about a case of a photographer taking a picture of a girl reading on the library steps, it was put into a brochure. The girl successfully sued the Canadian photographer because she was teased over this photo at school. In other words it is not so much that street photography is a crime, it is just that the photographer risks being sued.

  4. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    We are in a strange period... everyone reveals every little thing personal on social media, while everyone fears photos in public situations, and interaction and social history are lost, so, a solution is that LC-a, palmed and shot from hip, or a Lubi, peaking from a little hole in your lunch bag, shooting while lunching. Imagination, innocent expression and a bit of ruthlessness are required, sometimes...

  5. akula
    akula ·

    @herbert-4 Did Miroslav Tichý get it right?… - Candid photos are exciting fun way to shoot, however, there is always a line that must not be crossed.

  6. herbert-4
    herbert-4 ·

    Tichy had mental problems, but became part of landscape with his cameras and photos contributing to World Art, so, probably, yes. But you don't invade private moments, and don't be conspicuous. Have empathy...

  7. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    [The girl successfully sued the Canadian photographer because she was teased over this photo at school] This is absurd. We live in a legalistic system, where some peoples goes to the judge just to get money. We don't live in a legal system where justice has a regulatory role in the proper functioning of society. And this thanks to the policies of "all is fair in order to make profit" of Reagan and Thatcher.

  8. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    Candid photos are ok, if you speak to the people (even after) you took the photo. I often use "loudy" camera as my Praktica, I don't want to hide myself. I want to enter into complicity (empathy) with the people photographed. Never had any problems!

  9. rooftophoto
    rooftophoto ·

    I love street photography and is 2 much laws against it in UK , me photographer not terrorist lol , Nice Post =)

  10. inrod
    inrod ·

    Germany has the same problem. Don't shoot faces on the street, of people, you don't know, or you haven't asked before shooting!

  11. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    @inrod strange law of a strange era

  12. sirio174
  13. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    From this article: [Last year, France’s new minister of culture, Aurélie Filippetti, promised she would look into revoking Article 9. In an interview with Polka magazine, Ms. Filippetti argued that it was unacceptable to prevent professional photographers from sharing their vision of the world with future generations.

    “Without them, our society doesn’t have a face,” she said. “Because of this law, we run the risk of losing our memory. This is even more unacceptable when you consider what’s going on online, where millions of images circulate without us knowing how they were taken and in what circumstances. Just to think that Cartier-Bresson or Josef Koudelka would have been prevented from doing their work is unbearable.”]

  14. akula
    akula ·

    @sirio174 excellent point, the laws need to protect the artistic expression not "privacy" in public.

  15. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    In every case, I found that people like to participate to photos project if well explained before or even after I took a photo!

  16. icequeenubia
    icequeenubia ·

    I love doing street photography but I agree with @herbert-4. We should be responsible and not put anyone in a bad light or demeaning position. This is a great conversation!

  17. sirio174
    sirio174 ·

    @icequeenubia In fact I never photographed a injured, drunk, or homeless people. We must respect these people in difficulty

  18. fartstorm
    fartstorm ·

    Cameras that look like cameras are better than cameras on phones or in pens or buttons on a shirt. If I use my Spinner 360 in a crowd, the law says I need every persons permission to publish the shot. The whole idea of privacy in a public place is absurd to me.

  19. akula
    akula ·

    @fartsorm re: the legality street photography. You can take photos of crowds (though I do not know what constitutes a crowd), newsworthy events (again up for interpretation), and public figures (what makes a public figure?) - I don't worry about incidental people (crowds) and make sure others are unrecognizable (heavy back light to create silhouettes or turned away from the camera) - people are scared because of social media - a photo at the wrong moment can cost a reputation, a marriage a job.