Depending on where we are and what we’re doing, we change how we behave. These aren’t affectations, but rather it’s about behaving appropriately. For example, when you’re in a library, you wouldn’t shout or run. It’s similar when you practise street photography: you need to be sensitive to your environment and adapt your behaviour accordingly. Depending on where you are in the world, and perhaps when, too, your street photography behaviour will change as well.
Let’s consider two contrasting cities: London and Mumbai. They vary hugely in terms of culture and as a consequence, how you’d shoot in them would vary, too.
Londoners are used to keeping to themselves on public transport and generally being as unobtrusive as possible. Getting too close to someone or staring, for example, is considered rude and not in line with cultural expectations. Furthermore, it is almost as though there is stigma associated with taking photos of strangers. You might find it necessary to be more cautious and restrained as a consequence.
Mumbai is a heavily populated city with noise, bustle, and general activity on every street corner. The sensory overload is at times so overwhelming that deciding what you want to photograph can be a struggle. As a result, the sense of personal space becomes much smaller. There is no choice in the matter. You are often walking on streets so crowded that physically bumping into people is common. People are more curious and inquisitive, and consequently do not tend to become hostile even if a camera is pointing directly at them. On the whole, it is viable to openly shoot without negative repercussions.
There is a general sensitivity that exists around photographing children in the UK. A paranoid society has made it unacceptable. Sometimes, asking parents or carers if you can photograph their children will be necessary and then they could well say no. In which case, you don’t have much option other than to abide by their wishes, however frustrating it is.
In Mumbai, things work a little differently. Children absolutely love the camera and almost fight to be in the frame.
What is most important is that you show respect at all times, irrespective of cultural differences. If a subject is not comfortable with being photographed it will show.
Before traveling to another country read up on the culture and how this could affect your ability to shoot. Adapt to local customs to ensure that you won’t end up upsetting anyone. It always helps to know what the local laws are and whether photography could be affected.
Whether you shoot with a digital SLR, a Holga or the camera on your phone, today’s cameras let you seize the moment and shoot whenever and wherever you like. This makes them perfect for street photography, the genre choice of some of the greatest photographers of all time, with names like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Weegee and Robert Frank turning gritty reality into iconic images. In The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto, Tanya Nagar will open your eyes to the photographic potential of our urban world, offering the tricks and techniques that put you in the right place, at the right time, and let you create amazing photos.
The New Street Photographer’s Manifesto by Tanya Nagar
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