Ethics within Street Photography

February 20, 2018  •  1 Comment



The street and Portrait: The Ethics of Representation in Street Photography




This project will have conducted research and undertaken an analytical viewpoint, to inform the audience on the ethics of street photography, how popular professional street photographers create their street images and the impact these have had on the genre, in addition to one’s own developmental practice.

Where Did Modern Street Evolve From?

In order to discuss street photography, it is important to establish the groundwork and historical factors that influence the work taking place in more modern times. This ensures appreciation for the development of photography and the understanding of progression and evolvement of photography as an art form.

When considering the history of photography, an important time in the development derives from the 1830s and 40s, being able to capture an image on to light sensitive paper, which ‘would revolutionise culture and communication from its beginnings up to the present day’ (British Library, no date a). The process took several hours to produce and the image would eventually fade (British Library, no date b), this was an innovative process at this time, and was the start to many more developments in photography.

Research shows the British inventor of photography, William Talbot having created a camera negative (British Library, no date a), which made photography a practical tool for portraiture and landscape. However, the British Library (no date a) also notes that Talbot did not achieve the success that was perhaps forecast, due to issues in the photography such as a lack of sharpness, a concept which has continued to be critical. This perhaps leads to the development of different methodologies for photography, along with a natural improvement in technology.

The history of street photography cannot be discussed without the involvement of Paul Martin, said to be ‘one of the first photographers to try and capture everyday life in the


capital’ (The Telegraph, 2018a). These images can be seen to be candid, of the poor and working class, a question derives surrounding the link between these images and ethics, it is possible that Martin was aware of documenting the current state for future use, ‘to roam the streets of London with a disguised camera, taking candid shots solely to record life as it was’ (The Telegraph, 2018b). This awareness can be further seen by the use of a disguised camera, likely to be able to fully document a true representation, but also a possible link to the ethics involved, which can still be seen in work today.

(Martin, ‘a magazine seller at Ludgate Circus’, 1893 in Phaidon, no date)

The image above was taken in 1893 of a woman selling newspapers, this has become very influential because it was one of the earliest images that helped to establish street photography, becoming a starting point of the street genre.

Ethics amongst people and societies within the 1800s could be said to not be as sophisticated as within modern day society, with the camera becoming more portable, photography was a change in how society could be viewed, ‘photographers use their cameras as tools of exploration, passports to inner sanctums, instruments for change’ (Draper, 2013). In many ways photographers have been exploring what it means to be



human within their current and modern society, as well as what this means for the subjects within those images, still a controversial topic.


Chapter 1 – Diane Arbus

Diane Arbus appears to be one of the pioneers of street portraiture, with an intriguing journey alongside developing photography, attempting to implement street portraiture in to an art form and leave street photography with an impact.

Arbus’s profound need not only to see her subjects but to be seen by them drove her to forge unusually close bonds with these people, helping her discover the fantasies, pain and heroism within each of them, and leading her to create a new kind of photographic portraiture (Lubow, 2016).

Diane Arbus was a fashion photographer at the beginning of her career, but Arbus longed for the chance to be able to express the true characters of America, she left the fashion scene and made a career out of being a street portraiture (Biography, 2018). Photographing people that she felt needed to be exposed for their qualities not for their overall appearance, ‘She saw in me the frustration, the anger at my surroundings, the kid wanting to explode but can’t because he’s constrained by his background’ (O’Hagan, 2016). It can be assumed that Arbus often saw herself, and how she was feeling with the world, in her portraiture. The viewer often did not understand the idea or vision behind Arbus’s work, who was often on the forefront of criticism and the work often being criticised as a freak show, but with this, part of the reason Arbus is still being discussed, ‘the Diane Arbus we now know, and continue to be intrigued and disturbed by, emerged’ (O’Hagan, 2016).

Ethical Aspects

Arbus’s work has always had an edge, with images that have been interesting and of a strong subject matter promoting controversy, ‘it’s easy to dislike Arbus’s photographs. Dwarves, nudists, transvestites, looming faces lit by flash’ (Wood, 2016). Arbus felt her work was a representation of herself and also sacrificed part of herself to the images that were being captured ‘the photographer wasn’t stealing souls –far from it; she must give something of herself, too’. However, along with this commitment, her work can be seen and portrayed as unethical, ‘if Arbus undoubtedly felt at home among the outsiders she


photographed, she also experienced a frisson of guilty pleasure...“I felt a mixture of shame and awe”’ (O’Hagan, 2011).

The work can be enriching and of great interest, linking to styles of photography in the more modern era. However, recreating this work could be seen as unethical as it is debateable whether this style is taking advantage of subjects, possibly by being in a position of power and not providing the subjects with respect for their lifestyle. Although, some may see this style as paying respect to society, taking a snapshot of reality to show future generations rather than relying on told stories.

Arbus spent time with subjects, understanding and befriending them, but some images can seem cruel, ‘making pictures of circus and sideshow “freaks”, many of whom she formed lasting friendships with’ (O’Hagan, 2011). It is common for photographers to take a range of photographs and choose which represent their vision and aim, Arbus is no exception. Through contact sheets, Arbus takes a range of images, the photograph chosen represents her candid style of the scene she chose to view. A question derives around whether Arbus is therefore taking advantage of the subjects, perhaps not being a true representation of their character, but of Arbus herself. Whereas, photographers may argue that this is their purpose.



(Arbus, ‘Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C, 1962, in Benard, 2013)

(Arbus, ‘Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C, 1962, in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2017)



The multitude of images and the choice of one, which is seemingly in line with Arbus’s other images, can be seen above. Arbus captured this boy in Central Park whilst playing with a toy grenade, the images on the contact sheet show the boy playing in the park and posing for images. Arbus’s style has been captured, photographing people who were unique, often on the fringes of society. This image reveals that Arbus could have set up other work to look more interesting, perhaps by capturing the subjects off-guard for individual gain. Further linking to possible ethical dilemmas, whether Arbus was constructing images to have more edge by capturing subjects off-guard. It is possible Arbus was misleading subjects, giving them hope of more than simply involvement in an image, in order to get an image that other photographers may not have captured. On the other hand, by capturing subjects as their own characters and true selves could be seen to be respectful, Arbus seems to deter having subjects posing for images. Although with evidence of particular images being chosen with a distinct view of a situation, may suggest otherwise.

Another aspect consists of the methods used to capture images, using a twin-lens Rolleiflex (Walker, 2015a), Arbus chose to not hide the camera and felt that the subjects partly enjoyed this, as confirmed by Wood (2016), a stand-out feature compared to other photographers, especially for that period in time, when cameras are still being hidden today, which can be seen when involved in street photography. Dougie Wallace and Bruce Gilden, another two influential photographers, that may have been influenced by the methodologies of Arbus (Jacobs, 2014) through similar images and styles. However, a competition of which Dougie Wallace is a judge, states the number one tip for street photography ‘shoot from the hip...that way your subject won’t see you shooting’ (My Town, 2017), showing a clear difference in street photographers style.

Despite ethical dilemmas with Arbus, she was interesting, and was bound to capture audiences that loved and loathed her, as Shea (1967, cited in DeCarlo, 2004) commented ‘some people like to think of her as cynical. That’s a total misconception...She was very emotionally open. She was very intense and direct, and people related to that’. Subjects could relate to Arbus partly because of her style and technique, spending more time with them, although this likewise can be criticised, ‘Arbus herself had mixed feelings about her


ability to draw out her subjects. “Kind of two-faced” is how she once described herself’ (Shea, 1967, cited in DeCarlo, 2004).

Usage and Views of the Photos

It is clear to see from research that Diane Arbus is still involved in street photography discussions, and her images are still being used, long after her death, ‘by 2016, every major art museum in the world had exhibited work by Diane Arbus’ (Bukhonina, 2016).

Below is an image of the twins photographed in 1967, Arbus had several images of identical twins and ‘no one knows how Arbus learned about a small-town Christmas party being held for twins in 1967’ (Art Institute Chicago, 2013).

(Arbus, 1967, in ABC News, 2016)

The twins have inspired the 1980 ‘The Shining’ movie, where twins appear in the film in green dresses, a very similar feature to Arbus’s image (Bukhonina, 2016). This not only shows how the images are influential, but also how they may be perceived by viewers, even as scary.



People may view the work at a first glance as strange and take a dislike to it, but perhaps once the viewer sees past this stage, if they give it the chance, then they are unleashed to the unique and thought-provoking characters seen by Arbus. The image of the boy with the toy grenade in Central Park was captured at a time when America was at war with Vietnam, on first glance the boy looks frustrated and could have learning difficulties. However, if the viewers were able to see the contact sheet, it can be seen that the boy was posing for the camera, and somewhat ‘playful’, once again displaying the power of the photographer.

Leading to Suicide

Arbus ended her own life, the reason is not clear, but one reason could be the torment the images had on her wellbeing, with a photographer being close in nature to their subjects, and with a wide variety of subjects, this presents a certain danger. Perhaps Arbus felt the negative criticism of photographing ‘freaks’, with an extension of herself in those images, ‘she was a pained martyr figure who photographed “freaks” as an extension of her personal suffering’ (Mar, no date).

Because of the way Arbus was almost ahead her times, she may have found it hard to be accepted as an artist, evidence shows she tried to sell bodies of work for prices well before their time, ‘$1,000 per set. The project, however, was ahead of its time...“She was trying to package photography as an art form before it was really accepted as such,” says

Phillips. Recently, one of the sets commanded $380,000 at auction’ (DeCarlo, 2004). This demonstrates that not only was Arbus ahead of her time with her images, but also that Arbus was perhaps trying to sell her imagery as art. Something which can since be indicated to have been a success, ‘in 2015, a print of Child with a toy hand grenade in Central Park, N.Y.C. 1962...would sell at auction for $785,000’ (Lubow, 2016, p.611).

If the world was not ready for photographers to be accepted as an art form, this may not have helped with Arbus’s mental or wellbeing state, not being accepted for herself in her environment, ‘Arbus's short and troubled life resulted in a body of work that was, and

continues to be, both celebrated for its compassion and condemned for its objectification’ (The Art Story, 2018). The viewer and community were clearly struggling with the acceptance of the unique characters that Arbus captured as being art, often the images were called freaks, Arbus was trying to show a wider audience of the difference and an inner beauty. The significance of Arbus’s work is still prevalent and of a great influence.


Chapter 2 - Bruce Gilden

It is a challenge to undertake research or participate in discussions around street photography and street photographers without coming across the name ‘Bruce Gilden’. Gilden is a clear choice to be involved in this dissertation, with work that could be described as mesmerising (Fulleylove, 2015) to newer and less experienced street photographers. The work of Gilden will be discussed further within this chapter, the work that seems to have connections with the style of Diane Arbus, and yet including his own portrayal of characters.

Bruce Gilden is a self-taught photographer with a passion for street portraiture, born in 1946, Gilden went on to study sociology at Penn State University where he later chose a lifestyle of photography, possibly being influenced by the Michelangelo Antonioni 1966 Blow Up film (Magnum Photos, 2014). Gilden was recognised worldwide, ‘his confrontational, graphic style and his use of flash have rendered his black and white images immediately recognizable’ (Magum Photos, 2014). It appears that Gilden uses flash to create a well-lit subject with a dark background, this may be so the viewer focusses on the subject, and not the background. These aspects may be a leading factor in how Gilden established himself as a successful photographer.

The quote by Gilden in WNYC (2008a) clearly displays his confidence in his work, interest and passion, ‘if you smell the street by looking at the photo, it’s a street photograph’, with this also being an indication to how street photography should be displayed. Suggesting that street photography should be clear and obvious, not allowing the viewer to have mixed messages surrounding the context.

Methods Used to Capture Gilden’s Images

Gilden has little interaction with the subjects captured, he does however get close to them, in to their personal space, in some instances with a high likelihood of causing controversy. With critics having said that Gilden is rude and unethical, often cruel. O’ Hagan (2015) for the guardian states that ‘Bruce Gilden’s mugshots are exactly that: the result of being

mugged by his camera’. A connection can start to be seen between Gilden and Arbus, both have been criticised for their images, the subjects and style of photography. Although with this, also comes a difference, it appears that Gilden is more extreme in the way that he captures the images, not befriending them or taking the time to know them, ‘I mean, they're my friends. I've never met most of them or I don't know them at all, yet through my images I live with them’ (Walker, 2015b).

The images by Gilden appear to be honest portraits of the subjects with seemingly no posed smiles. Some of Gilden’s earlier work is focussed on candid street portraits with an emphasis on the movement in the background. This could be said to hold more context and excitement to the images, compared to more recent work which has limited space and emphasis on the background, some photographers may be asking for more from these images.

Gildens facing New York book has captured the feeling of being within New York streets. The style of Gildens work is to get close to subjects, from analysing the images, it appears that Gilden uses a flash with a mid-shutter speed to get some movement within the background of the subject, creating unique and dramatic images. The earlier work from Gilden consisted of black and white and on film, a change commenced upon a project in 2013 using the Leica S, ‘when I saw the results with the Leica S, I was ecstatic. So the project came at the right time’ (Leica Fotografie International, 2015, p.6).



(Gilden, 1992 Facing New York in Gilden, 2017a).

The image above is taken from Gildens ‘Facing New York’ book, this captures Gilden’s personality and character as much as the subjects themselves, a thought confirmed by Oscar Wilde as cited in Gilden (2015) ‘every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter’. The image has a comical element, the woman at the bottom of the image appears to be recoiling from the flash of the camera. But with Gilden’s use of a slower shutter speed, it has created a feeling of the women racing along the street too fast and in shock, with the camera and Gilden happening to capture this moment. Although, in reality, there is likely to be more happening in this image that the viewer is unable to see. Gilden is able to create a story from an image, without the viewer knowing the full story, allowing the image to have an air of mystery. In addition, the buildings create depth, and the use of the flash make the subjects visible and bright, helping the viewer to understand the focus of the image, even if not the story behind it.


Through the controversial methodologies Gilden uses in his approach, there could be a similar question to Arbus, whether the work is ethical. A debate appears to be common practice when discussing the work of Gilden, Eric Kim titles a blog ‘Bruce Gilden: Asshole or Genius?’ (EricKimPhotography, no date). This goes on to discuss how viewers react to a snapshot of images that Gilden has taken, those who dislike his work, perhaps do so based on a misunderstanding of the meaning or reasoning behind the images. Gilden does seem to have a relation to the subjects in the images, ErikKimPhotography (no date) states that ‘if you pay attention to what he says, he reckons to the people he shoots as his friends’, perhaps a way of Gilden justifying his work to his audience, or maybe Gilden sees himself within the characters. Either way, this is a connection to Arbus’s work, and conceivably a theme within street photographers.

The More Modern Bruce Gilden

The subjects appear different to Gilden’s early work, one change which could have contributed is by using the Leica SL Medium format camera to capture his subjects for ‘Postcards from America, Magnum Miami’ (Leica Internet Team, 2013). The other may be due to the style and content in the images themselves, with limited room for the viewer to look elsewhere apart from the subject. There is a possibility of viewers having difficulties to connect to this more current body of work, the people featured can prompt a negative reaction. On the other hand, displaying these images could be seen as unique as the subjects may ordinarily be ignored within society. Gilden also has extensive experience and knowledge within this field and creates interesting and thought-provoking images.



(Gilden, 2017b).

Above is an image from Gilden’s book ‘Face’, body of work in colour, a clear difference in previous publications. Despite this image being of one subject, the image is extremely detailed, with a sharp quality, it allows the viewer to become lost in the details of the face. The appearance is slightly distressed, encouraging the viewer to be intrigued as to the reasons and story behind the individual and the image. There are similarities to Arbus here, capturing people who have a ‘different’ appearance, ‘catalogued like a modern day freak show’ (Fulleylove, 2015). Despite this, Gilden is still able to provide the viewer with his individual style.

From 2013 onwards, Gilden travelled to small towns of America, starting with the Wisconsin state fair in Milwaukee (Leica Fotografie International, 2015, p.63), feeling as though he was able to capture the type of people he enjoyed photographing. The images captured during these times were not necessarily included in Gilden’s ‘Face’ book, however along with the context provided by Gilden, these images can be seen to be easier to relate. The extensive travel undertaken, further reiterates Gilden’s interest, passion and determination to capture


street photography. Arbus, likewise, undertook similar when photographing the circus. Along with the positive aspects that can be drawn from these ventures, it can also be seen that photographers may take advantage of people by grouping subjects together, to be seen as ‘different’, perhaps outcasts and ‘freaks’.

The areas and people being photographed by Gilden could be said to be on the fringe of society, perhaps skilled but not academic (Miller and Rodger, 2017). By targeting these types of subjects in these areas, Gilden photographed the underdog; the forgotten people, by making a book and grouping together highlights such as societies having clear divides between classes and rankings. Bruce commented ‘I consider myself an underdog too, that’s why I’m on their side. I see in their face they’ve struggled in life’ (Jackson-Edwards, 2015).

The images Gilden has taken are potentially unethical because within his books there are no stories or context behind the images to help the viewer relate to the portraits. Because of this, viewers may struggle to contextualise the rationale behind the images and therefore not relate. This may be why people can judge Gilden’s work, due to the images being true and raw, often presenting a struggle to look at the potentially weaker and more vulnerable aspects of the subjects. In an interview, it is discussed whether Gilden has ethics, to which Gilden defends himself (WNYC, 2008b). It is likely that Gilden does have some form of ethics, he will often be interviewed about his style of photography and be able to provide a reason and rational for capturing his subjects. Making comments about the subjects being friends, whether this is in relation to general friendships or not, prompts thought around his ethics (Walker, 2015b).

Many amateur street photographers have started sharing their work of homeless or an unhealthy side to society on the internet, however, the difference that could be seen when in comparison to Gilden’s work, is the feeling of a need for highlighting and showcasing the negatives to the viewer. Whereas, Gilden’s images, have a sense of respect and connection with the subjects, capturing the real people within societies.

Gilden having used a hand-held flash and a Leica, having stepped in to people’s comfort zone in order to capture particular reactions, is almost comical as well as unethical (WNYC,


2008b). The subjects have little control over the photographer, the image and the publication of such, especially in light of the internet, likely prompting a feeling of having been taking advantage of. It appears through research currently undertaken, that successful street photographers have a need to approach intensely. However, it can be argued that photographers are capturing reality, moments that would not otherwise be caught, a snapshot of the present, to highlight the past in the future to come.


Chapter 3 - Dougie Wallace

It could be argued that Wallace is one of the best street photographers within the UK, with his inspirational style and popularity within the industry, despite having a relatively short career. Having similarities to the photographers discussed in this dissertation, in particular, Bruce Gilden, but with another unique taste for street photography, there appears to be no one else quite like Wallace. The methods, style of imagery and impacts of Dougie Wallace will be analysed and discussed throughout this chapter.

(Wallace, 2016)

The image above is intriguing on many levels. The image represents a new way of discovering street photography, opening up options such as whether there must be people in a successful street photography image, ‘I noticed groomed and preened dogs being paraded around the streets at dusk...dogs had been elevated to fashion item status. This cultural shift fascinated me’ (Wallace, 2017). This image is focussing on dogs; however, this still says a great deal about the owners, despite them not being in the image, the viewer is left considering the story of the owner anyhow. Through discovering Wallace’s background and feelings with photographing dogs, it is clear to see his love and interest for them, how they can represent the owners, but also how their characters are strongly portrayed, ‘the dogs had human expressions, strong characters, individual personalities and I was hooked’ (Wallace, 2017).

Dougie Wallace has a similar style to Gilden by photographing the subject within their personal space, however, one difference can be seen by Wallace using two flash guns. Consisting of one on top and one on the bottom of his camera, creating an almost shadow less image of the subjects, ‘One is off-camera, connected with a cable cord, and two are on brackets on my Nikon D800 – one pointed straight down the lens and the other coming off a little bit to the side’ (Amateur Photographer, 2016). This unique feature suggests Wallace is creating a signature, helping his work to be more memorable to viewers and professionals in the industry. This may also help the images to be more effective, as the subject is bright compared to the background, making it easier for the viewers to see what the photographer’s aim and focus was, ‘distinct style of expressive street photography...his bold and visually vibrant style often works’ (Sauerwein, 2014).

Wallace started selling camper vans and driving them to Blackpool, in order to conduct his street photography, despite having limited funds (Orr, 2014), displaying Wallace’s enthusiasm and drive. Wallace was equipped with a camera to start photographing people enjoying their stag and hen do’s, he did this for several years making his trips to Blackpool. In 2014, he had his first book published ‘Stags, Hens and Bunnies’ as Wallace gained more confidence and status within the street photography genre, he started to get closer to his subjects. This is particularly prevalent throughout his next book ‘Shoreditch Wild Life’ where he is progressing to become an established street photographer. The local press was wanting a true representation of their community, showing all walks of life, in a respectable manner, ‘we want to work with the best artists to show all sides of this area’ (Hoxton Mini Press, 2014).

In 2016, Wallace started his project ‘Harrodsburg’ focusing on the super-rich who shopped around Knightsbridge in London, this was where Wallace began to receive some criticism for his work. This is an interesting task for a street photographer to pursue, a common perception for a lay audience of street photography may be that it involves a certain type of person, perhaps in some form of poverty. Wallace has found a niche for documenting and representing a different side of the community. Perhaps this could lead to a political point, a need to represent the extremes of society, but maybe to also provide a connection between the divides, similar reactions from all when a camera is thrust upon them.

The BBC undertook a video on Wallace in 2017 (Cocker, 2017) focusing on the way in which he captures his subjects, showing his quick reactions, use of two flashes, and keen eye. This shows advice and provides influence on others, but it also captures the reactions of subjects, in some ways positive, in others this takes a more sinister negative approach. There could be a debate surrounding the reasons for Wallace’s transition to capturing dogs, perhaps partly due to negative feedback from humans.


Harrodsburg. The consequences of the rising economic and political power of the 'one per cent'. The emergence of an ultra-affluent elite who have turned London into a global reserve currency is changing the face of our city, pushing out it?s natives and pricing out it?s twenty-somethings. While the UK's economy was stagnant in 2012, £83bn worth of property was purchased in London without financing. Old communities are being uprooted and displaced, high-rise estates ripped out and replaced with overpriced wood and glass boxes. Grand new communities are being created, dubbed Little Doha or Qataropolis, containing houses so resplendent that they render Buckingham Palace a bit shabby. Kensington and Chelsea is the only area in the South East to buck the housing trend with 40% of properties empty. In a phenomenon nicknamed ?lights-out-London?, absentee property owners are pushing up house prices without contributing to the local economy, adding insult to injury for the hundreds of thousands living in temporary accommodation or languishing on social housing waiting lists. Through the prism of London?s lavish designer shops that resemble minimalist art installations, Dougie Wallace tells the story of glut, greed and the wealth gap found on the streets of a city which has seen a 400% rise in the demand for food banks in the last year. Harrodsberg Wallace?s name for the area which takes in Bromptom Road down to Sloane Square and up to The Ritz on Piccadilly used to house London?s ?posh?. Gulf millionaires came to Britain since the oil crisis of the mid-1970s, settling first in Mayfair and expanding to Knightsbridge. This has grown and evolved into the global super-rich buying up London homes like they are gold bars, as assets to appreciate rather than homes in which to live.Eid Festival or what has become known in the UK as Ramadan Rush is hailed by the arrival of the sudden and conspicuous influx of dozens of wealthy Arab royals and businessmen escaping??0K


(Wallace, 2016)


The above image shows the work of Wallace in Harrodsburg capturing humans. This image in particular is of interest, showing a skill to capture all subjects looking and reacting to the camera. In addition, the image shows more details with the longer viewers focus, such as the shopping bags and handbags being carried, an indicator of healthy finances, to the shop logo in the reflection of the vehicle, yet another clear indication of the type of people captured. The images captured by Wallace do not need much explanation and context, the image holds enough weight, with still allowing the viewers to build their own stories, a similar aspect connecting Wallace to Gilden.


(Wallace, 2017)

The image above is form Wallace’s ‘Well Heeled’ book, this image is fascinating and could be viewed over long periods of time, the dog portrays an almost human like quality. Having a personality, sitting on posh-looking green seats, fur looking luminous and silky, perhaps a feature helped by the use of two flashes. The eyes are looking into the camera, helping to omit the feeling and engagement for the viewer.

The style Wallace has used to capture his images could be said to be aggressive towards his subjects, this could be seen particularly from his work in Harrodsburg. The BBC video (Cocker, 2017) shows Wallace getting into the faces of the subjects, who have in retaliation attempting to get the camera from Wallace, which may be why he attaches a GoPro to his camera, to prevent this backlash from occurring. The BBC video even shows a shop putting more signs and advertising to prevent Wallace from photographing through into the shop (Cocker, 2017). Wallace appears aggressive when taking images, acting in almost a paparazzi style, which can be seen as ‘disgusting and perverted’ (James, 2015).

However, the images Wallace captures are intriguing as the subjects are cropped, allowing for more emphasis on the subjects. Another reason, is the subject matter being of the super-rich, showing and allowing the viewers to consider both positive and negative aspects of these lives. The harsh lighting used on these images may sound excessive, however this seems to work well and make these more inviting and attractive. Along with the change in subject matter for Wallace, the aggression appears to have disintegrated, Wallace (2017) confirms that his subjects do not chase after him. Showing that these reactions perhaps cannot and should not be tolerated by all, photographers could learn an immense amount from the combination of Wallace, Gilden and Arbus’s work.


Chapter 4 - Refection: My Work

link to this project ONLY Plymouth



(Hardman, 2017)

The image above is significant to me, being the first portrait I captured without permission. The lighting in the image has helped to capture and signify her presence on a winter day.

When starting my street photography, I was conscious to not offend the subjects, I would therefore approach the subjects explaining the reasons for my wanting to capture them in my imagery. Within my discussion with them, I would ask them not to smile, or to undertake a particular pose which relates to their style and my vision, I continued with this method for approximately a year. I felt this method went well, especially to start getting used to this genre of photography, knowing I was not offending the subjects. This approach relates to Diane Arbus, how Arbus would create a relationship with the subjects, which was possibly for similar reasons, avoiding possible ethical dilemmas.

However, with an expanding interest in street photography, I researched Dougie Wallace and Bruce Gilden, noting that they took a different approach. I was intrigued by the images they were producing, un-staged and an edge to them that I felt I did not yet have. In November 2017, I started to photograph people without asking, using the skills I had acquired through experience, research and influence, providing me with an eye for the unique and interesting characters within urban environments. Upon taking these images, I felt liberated and excited, able to be more honest and true to my photography. Developing from hiding my camera, to standing in front of subjects with my camera to my eye, waiting for the subject to make eye contact with the lens, creating interesting images. With the excitement and feeling of liberation, came a feeling of guilt, taking images of people without permission, however through research in to other street photographers, this seems a balance necessary to live with.

My street photography images have been used by the Royal Photographic Society and displayed in London alongside one of my idols Dougie Wallace, and Martin Parr. Although these images were the ones with permission, appearing slightly staged, it indicated that I have something to work with, inspiring me further to progress with my vision. Since, my images have been published in photography magazines, along with having had communication from Martin Parr and Dougie Wallace for further advice.


(Hardman, 2017b)

The image above is effective as the contents of the shop window have been illuminated by the help of a low-lit background, creating a contrast to help show the focus.

I have experienced some subjects showing aggression, likely to be in relation to the close contact to them, this was intimidating at first. The subjects tended to be female, research shows (Barber, 2013) that women may be more concerned with their appearance than men, possibly why females may be more confrontational, and therefore creating a barrier for the photographer. I relate my work to Gilden and Wallace due to their close contact with the subjects and candid style of capturing the true characters. However, I do not feel I am targeting a particular type of person, that may be mocking the individual. I am aware of possible ethical dilemmas and focus on capturing those true representations.


(Hardman, 2017c)

The image above captured a well-dressed gentleman walking through a lower-class location of Plymouth. The image appears to show the gentleman unhappy about the photo, but in fact we had a conversation and he was happy for the image to be used. Further emphasising the illusion of the photo, capturing the essence of the photographer’s intent, yet with a story left for the viewer to tell.



There is a strong juxtaposition with street photography, with ethical aspects and criticisms, compared to the capturing of a true representation of society, the importance in adding to the future of historical concepts.

The photographers discussed within this dissertation have a strong passion and views about street photography, considering what should be captured, how they should be captured and why. This allows them to build their unique style, differentiating them from one another, but also making connections and common themes across the genre, for others to interpret and adapt. These features may in turn help them to cope with the ethical underlying factors.

In order for street photographers to be successful in this genre, it appears there are many elements to consider, some of which have been researched and discussed throughout this dissertation. Such as a need to learn and appreciate previous photographers in the genre, in order to understand and develop; ethical considerations and accepting the juxtaposition between both positive and negative features. This perhaps comes from experience, knowledge and a skill as a photographer.

It seems clear that the art form of street photography, which could perhaps be expanded to art and photography as a wider concept, is a subjective matter. Relying on one’s own experiences, skills and attitude, alongside the development of appreciation and knowledge to become triumphant within the genre.

Looking to the future of street photography, it could include more inadequate images by amateur photographers, making the genre become clouded and unclear. However, there will continue to be passionate and skilled street photographers developing unique bodies of work, to help support and progress the genre. Having viewed the evolution of street photography through some photographers, the future is likely to be encouraging as we see a progressing and developing genre to date.





Graham Wilson(non-registered)
Hi Ryan. Thanks for posting this - it's an important theme in our work in the streets, and is ignored by too many photographers.

Much of the post is actually a historical review of Street Photography and probably deserves an even wider audience.

Four things struck me that you didn't seem to mention. If you are tempted to do a second edition, maybe they are worth considering including?

(1) Privacy - In the UK we benefit from quite unrestrictive privacy laws, but this isn't the case in other countries. France, for instance, is far less liberal. Incidentally, France is the only place that I have experienced even a mildly aggressive objection, but I haven't done much work in the Gulf Region, for example. In some places, a person's outward expression is very much a part of their inner identity - the photographer taking an image is literally stealing that person's soul. While this might not affect us in societies that have a different attachment to the soul, perhaps it could explain why some people find having their picture taken so offensive? Have you seen this list: ?

(2) Voyeurism - As a species, human beings use their bodies as an instrument of secondary sexual attraction, and culturally have used the adornment of this to accentuate the sexual message. So others who are attracted to that particular expression are likely to be aroused by their appearance. A photographer whose images are of people who have attracted their attention probably needs to review what it is about those people that has attracted them. I accompanied a small group of students from Central St Martins into the Camden Market area. When we reviewed their shots, one of the women had taken predominantly taken pictures of young men who were clearly 'fit' as she put it. Similarly, one of the male students, had taken more pictures of young teenage girls than anything else.

Whatever the drive, it makes sense that we explore regularly why we are attracted to certain subjects. This is the essence of critical analysis.

(3) Assault. You suggest that some women are averse to having their picture taken effectively because of their vanity. Bear in mind the Police advice to men walking on streets who find themselves closing the gap between them and a lone female; that they should consider crossing the road to avoid appearing to be threatening to them. When you look at the work of Bruce Gilden with his off-camera flash, which depends on the element of surprise, and slightly less immediate that of Martin Parr with his camera mounted ring flash, then you must see that some people can feel assaulted by the street photographer.

(4) Projection - Regardless of any sexual attraction, when people examine a photograph they construct a story - that's why documentary photographers often speak of story-telling as they try to direct the imagination of the viewer. As the image is usually not associated with any words this is open, to a large extent, to psychological projection. We recognise that this is wrong, in law, if we capture an image that appears to show the subject endorsing a commercial product, but is it not equally immoral to project a story onto them? While it happens, if the photographer is doing so - perhaps through their use of the caption, then is that not a matter of ethics? For example, the image that you used to begin this article was captioned "Morning Commute Feeling". How do you know that this is what the gentleman was experiencing? He could have been bereaved, have had bad news that day, be clinically depressed, or a host of other things. Initially it probably doesn't matter, but what if his children were to discover this image with this caption a few years after his death and know a different truth?

(5) Hegemony - One particularly dangerous dimension of this projection is when it is accompanied by a power dynamic in which the photographer is implying that their subjects are somehow inferior and so are holding themselves (and their peers) as above them. A lot of Martin Parr's work falls into this trap. He is well educated, and from a middle class background, yet much of his work satirizes the working class, those with less wealth, and many who are educationally or mentally challenged. His recent work documenting the inner workings of Oxford University was noticeably less acute - some have even described it as disappointing - largely because his subjects simply weren't that unusual.

The ethics of photography, is certainly a fascinating area!

Good luck with the rest of your course.
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