If you ever wanted to take a photo of someone in a gas mask, August was your month. Brandon Long’s self-portrait at Salvation Mountain and Jason Hardwick’s image of a person using a smartphone on a trolley would have been nice images in and of themselves, but the gas masks added a special touch. Finding those unique moments that make you think “What the heck?” — that take something mundane and make it new again — that’s something we never get tired of seeing.
Otherwise, this month’s picks are a mix. Squares were represented heavily in mobile week. (Hey, did you hear they’re all the rage now?) But we also had a couple of square-format film shots, which, due to old or defective film, seem more “photoshopped” than the mobile images.
Meanwhile, a reader wrote in about our lead photo in our profile of Daniel Schaefer:
“I would not want to be photographed in a very PRIVATE moment without my permission and then have that photograph put in a major international newspaper. Just because you are outside your home does not mean you give up your right to privacy. She is not in the street. Hmmm, I am not sure I can say much else, not knowing if Schaefer asked her permission and if the L.A. Times even required it before printing/posting this. What are the rules?”
While I’m not sure whether Schaefer got permission or spoke to the woman after taking the shot, part of the main motivation for street photographers is to capture the essence of everyday life. If you can catch that private, unguarded moment that really gets a person, all the better. Sometimes, photographers can use clandestine methods, like Walker Evans’s very candid photos of New York City subway riders taken with a camera hidden in his coat. Others, such as Elliot Erwit, Mary Ellen Mark and Henri Cartier-Bresson, are classic street photographers, sometimes capturing very private moments without the subject’s knowledge.
In this case, Schaefer captured a very beautiful private moment, and asking for permission surely would have ruined the veritas of the image. That said, if she seemed aware or uncomfortable, I would have gone up and talked to her afterward, introducing myself and explaining what I was doing and why. Sometimes though, a smile and a nod acknowledging your presence will suffice.
Take a look at our favorites from the month, and be sure to let us know if you think we left any out in the comments.
[Updated Sept. 7: I heard back from Daniel Schaefer over the weekend. His response is below:
As a photographer, I may not be the best person to answer to the comment, my philosophy isn't as impassioned as some others. In my photography, I try to capture private if not secretive moments, because no matter how private or secret, there is a degree of immediate recognition that someone out there will feel when viewing the image. Yes it can be intrusive, and yes, morally it can be questionable at times, but I feel that part of my job involves ignoring the morality of the image for a moment, and allow others to experience it as they will, be it negatively or positively. Sometimes, the painful decision to expose the subject must be made in order to open up that experience to others who might find some sort of connection in the moment, be it a feeling of pity, love, lust, hate or rage. As a photographer, in some ways, I give up my right to an opinion in order to make the work accessible to those who it might mean most to.
What do you think? Do photographers have a right, or a mission, to intrude on the privacy of others, regardless of whether that individual has an expectation of privacy?]