In addition to aesthetics (street photography as art) the ethics of street photography is of great interest to me. Even though some photographers think anyone in a public space is “fair game” for the camera, I am more cautious. Our subjects often do not give us permission to photograph them or are completely unaware of us. In my opinion we therefore should ask ourselves five fundamental questions before we publish our photos for all to see.
1) When no permission is granted to the photographer, how will the image be used – commercial vs non-commercial purposes? This is a legal and an ethical question.
2) Is the photograph presented as a spur-of-the-moment image on the street or was it posed? Was the photo a re-enactment?
3) What does the photo represent? Is there more than one interpretation of the photo? Is a photo of a homeless person true? Is he/she really homeless?
4) Was the photograph taken because there was a power difference between the photographer and the subject? Photos of children, the elderly, sick and disabled people fall into this category.
5) Does our photo advance our understanding of the human condition? Does it have social value or is it merely exploitation.
Please tell me if you believe any photo of mine has ethical issues we need to discuss. I would enjoy your input.