Sunday, November 27, 2022

Just Like Life


Sleeping Buddha, Hilo, Hawaii. by Steven Boone

Recently I was publicly accused of disrespect by someone I do not know. It happened when I posted a photo online in a Facebook camera group I am a member of.  The photo was one of the street photos I love to make. I have thousands from all over the world spanning decades.  When I first read the comment, I did not understand it. “This is no respect.” I assumed the person that posted could not speak good English. I thought he referred to the person I photographed who was unkempt. Then, later I realized he was referring to me. Several other comments were negative. Others positive.

Hurt, Oaxaca, Mexico, by Steven Boone
(This is the photo that caused the controversy.)

Here is the story:  Several days a week Amy and I go from our home in a village outside Oaxaca, Mexico into the city to shop for necessities. We were walking in Oaxaca Centro. I always take my camera to be ready if I want to take a picture. I know how to look and see amidst the crowded, sometimes broken streets full of traffic. Among the shamble of shops and pedestrians a swirling kaleidoscope of variations occur and usually I take a picture or two worth saving. This day, as we walked carefully over a crumbling sidewalk, I saw ahead an impoverished young man with severe problems. Without shoes, dressed in rags with one foot bandaged, the other exposed leg had many sores. Slumped against a wall, on the steps of a financial institution, he was sleeping. I paused and took the picture. Scenes such as this are part of the fabric of life. We all need to be aware of how others live and suffer. And, yes, it is difficult to see.

After taking the photo, I took change from my pocket and rested it on a ledge by his arm. Then Amy gently put banknotes in his hand. We walked away. I looked back as we crossed the intersection. He was smiling and staring after us.

Canada,  -Vivien Maier, (American, February 1, 1926 – April 21, 2009)

In the annals of photography there are great examples of fleeting candid moments where the subject is unaware of being photographed. It is when maximum honesty exists.

It is legal to take photos in public places that include people. No permission required. Candid photography to me is almost always better than posed. But it is more tricky to get a good result. There is no set upit is all spontaneous. 

Trolley, -Robert Frank, (Swiss, November 9, 1924 – September 9, 2019)

It begins and ends in a fraction of a second, and happens millions of times a day on earth. That is photography. No use to try and kill it with rules. It does not belong in a box and will always escape confines. Just like life.

Ireland, Josef Koudelka (Czech-French, b. 1938)
Sophia Loren and Jane Mansfield, by Joe Shire, (American 1917-2006)

The Terror of War, Nick Ut, (Vietnamese-American, born 1951)

After the Opera, Weegee, (American, June 12, 1899 – December 26, 1968)

Famous street photographer Quotes:

“I have no inhibitions and neither does my camera…,” “To me a photograph is a page from life, and that being the case, it must be real.”  -Weegee

“Photography can be a mirror and reflect life as it is, but I also think it is possible to walk, like Alice, through a looking glass and find another kind of world with the camera.”  -Tony ray jones

“Most of my photos are grounded in people, I look for the unguarded moment, the essential soul peeking out, experience etched on a person’s face.” -Steve McCurry


Unknown said...

Hi, I am the person you quoted. And yes, I still see it as an act of disrespectfullness to exploit the vulnerability of homeless and ill people living in the street. I was a social worker before I retired and had many points of contact with the loosers of our society. In the country where I live, its a penal act to take photographs of people without their written consent (and there are good reasons for it) - well, of course there is a legal greay area.

But anyway its good now to know your story. This should have been a part of the picture. That you payed the man for his picture is more than many people would do, but this is no proove for respecting a person.

You have your story and background and for sure, there are many great photographs in your vita. And I have my opinion about people who exploit the misery of other people to a public. Comparing this picture with the Napalm girl is dishonorable in my opinion.

And hey, someone suspected me of being envious as I critizised the fact of expensive equipment to be used to legitimate this kind of streetphotography. As being a Leica photographer myself, its nothing like that, rather being responsible to the value of life.
Best regards Kilian CabGuy

Steve said...

Okay Kilian CabGuy. Thank you for your comment. When I was in Berlin and took street photos, sometimes a person stopped me and made me erase the photo I had just taken. Germany was the only country this happened and I have been many places. So I understand that culture differences exist. We cannot expect universal agreement.