This blog article is about getting my point across and a feeling of frustration out of my chest. In the last couple of posts I featured a few candid black and white photographs. This is called Street Photography. Now, I've always loved Urban Photography which is about depicting a city and its surrounding. Street Photography is more about the people in the city, depicting their role, actions and emotions.
These two types of photography are very similar and it makes it easy to swing between the two without even realising it. Street photography was an easy transition for me since I like to capture cities. And people... well they live in cities. I also do some Portraiture which is about photographing people in an organised environment with very specific poses and expressions. So naturally I started to read about the subject a bit more and discovered a Swiss photographer called Thomas Leuthard.
A quick look at his Flickr page (link available at the bottom of this article) shows some striking B&W images. Most of them featuring people, some of them close up and looking at the camera, and others capturing people naturally going about their lifes. So far nothing shocking really. Although some photos can't help but raise the question: 'How did he take that?'. A question that obviously most photographers want their viewers to ask themselves.
But what does it take for a photographer to take close-up shots of a person to have them look right in the lens? Well, it takes the photographer to be right in their face, clearly invading their personal space, and then basically walk away very quickly before getting punched or swore at.
This is the link to Thomas' Flickr page. Have a look at his striking images then come back here because I have another link for a video showing his method (here - You can skip to the first minute).
So what do you think after watching the video? How do you feel?
I feel upset, frustrated, annoyed and violated for his victims. Did I just use the word 'victim'? Thomas Leuthard is making people a victim of photography. Now, there are a lot of people who like street photography, support it and practice it. But there are actually two type of Street photography (I would like to hope so). I like the one when the photographer blends in the background capturing candid moments of people mostly unaware of it. There is no need to upset anyone with photography. Some might say 'relax and be cool about it, it's just a photo' but it is not cool, really, is it? As long as somebody feels cheated and confused and out of control about what just happened is not cool.
There is a big difference between somebody not knowing their photo was taken, and somebody who had a flash right up their face while eating a burger. The photo was clearly taken to capture that expression of confusion and annoyance so the photographers doing that clearly know that it's not right. But they keep doing it because they don't understand the emotional impact - which is ironic since that's what they trying to capture - emotions. They're thieves. They steal expressions. Like the bad guy in children's movies. 'What does your dad do? He's an emotions thief! He captures people's expressions and keeps them locked in his camera leaving his subject frustrated and marked for the rest of their life'.
This type of photographers, like Thomas Leuthard, will probably go far because of the quality of the images and their uniqueness. But he sometimes treats people as a means to an end, using people for the sole purpose of achieving something. Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher widely considered to be a central figure of Modern Philosophy, states in his Theory of Morality that 'it is immoral to use another person merely as a means to an end, and that people must, under all circumstances, be treated as ends in themselves.' And for those who are unsure, Morality comes from the Latin moralitas, meaning 'manner, character and proper behaviour.'
Are you a photographer? What do you think of Street photography and the methods used?