Today’s Street Photography

20150930 160628 IMG_0223 7D_DPP_Crop_DCE_censored.jpg

I had an interesting discussion with a reader and thought that I would share my opinion.

Except for photos at tourist sites (with the people very small in the background), I choose not to post photos of people even if the photos were taken on public property. And photos of kids are definitely only shared on Facebook or to friends and family by private link to Flickr and OneDrive albums.

But I have heard others use lots of justifications for publishing photos of people without their consent – many of the reason’s borrowed from photojournalism. This is highly controversial, and you can find plenty of web pages and forums on the topic, but I’m here to take us sideways.

I think the argument changes once a significant portion of time has passed. If someone Tweeted a photo of my child at a neighborhood park moments after it was taken, I would be more than a little irritated, but if they posted the same photo 20 years from now, I’m not sure anyone would be concerned. (In fact, they may be nostalgic.) Put that same photo up in a physical gallery or print it in a book (pre-Internet and pre-smartphone) and I don’t think privacy would be too big an issue (compared to today). (In fact, they may be surprised that their slice of life was worth “art.”)

But, modern social media is a new animal because:

1) Photos are:

  • immediate
  • accessible by anyone
  • shared and duplicated by anyone
  • and often includes geographic information in the photo, description or post/tweet
  • and anyone could act on that information or collect multiple pieces of information.

2) Post-Internet street photography does not have the benefits of:

  • Wisdom gained from the passage of time before publication/display (is it worth posting?)
  • Someone willing to say no — newspaper editors, book editors, and museum curators (as well as lawyers) evaluate the photos you want to publish. Social media has (practically) nothing like this.

To argue that today’s street photography is the same as pre-Internet street photography is like saying today’s fast food is the same as your grandma’s home cooking.

Modern social media has a lot in common with live streaming security cameras which is why people have issues with it, so please be thoughtful when sharing your images in social media. Remember:

dumb in private

P.S. Yes, I know the first photo isn’t street photography, but I don’t shoot street photography, but this public event on public property that required heavy censoring seemed a good illustration.


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