Street Photography Alarming the Public
“I don’t try to hide what I do, that would be folly” - Martin Parr
I thought I would share a recent street photography experience in London, which in light of the recent terror attacks, acid attacks and high value shop robberies I think it is worth consideration.
There are many clips on youtube of street photographers standing up for their rights to shoot in public when challenged, and rightly so. However, as photographers I think we must take some responsibility so as not to unnecessarily alarm. The case in question involved some amazing light shining through some scaffolding an across the front of a posh jewellery shop in central London. It was not the shop that I was interested in, but I was working the scene waiting for interesting characters to walk into the light.
The frames were mostly rubbish.
As it happened the frames were mostly rubbish, but that's not the point. But just so you can see what it was that attracted me, I have undeleted the best frame. I just wish the white vans had not been there. Check out the amazing light!!
Actually, on this frame I had my back to the shop, but hey ho. From inside the shop I guess they must have seen what looked like someone photographing the front of their store. This must have been somewhat alarming for them, so one of them was sent outside to have a cigarette and check out what I was doing. It was very obvious (to me) that he was trying to pretend not to be watching me.
Through years of shooting street photography I am very aware of what is going on around me, so his half hiding behind a phone box to watch me wasn't fooling me. I could have left him there and carried on with what I was doing, but you know what, there is no need to alarm people and I saw an opportunity to promote photographers as decent people.
The conversation was all very civil
After approaching him I explained that I did not mean to create alarm them with what I was doing. I explained that I was a photographer and gave the guy my card. I also pointed out the light that I was trying to photograph and that I wasn't actually interested in the shop at all. The conversation was all very civil.
Had he been a more interesting character, I would of course asked for his portrait. In the light. :-). He went away with hopefully a respect for my approach and the civility of photographers. Now, as for a security guard running out yelling that you can't take photos and being aggressive, or another shop keeper shouting that I can't take photographs of their shop windows because it is copyright, well those are stories for another day.
In case anyone wishes to find this light in London, it was 20 meters from the Leica City store, near Bank station. I will be back to continue to work the scene. There might be something magical that I can capture there. If the vans belong to you, please move them.