Photography with a conscience

I like street photography. I like instantaneous shots and finding great images from the ordinary.

I love to bring everyday scenes to life and see what attracts other people and draws them in.

Such a shot was this snap I took of a father and son (I assume) who were walking around the lanes off Carnaby Street.

I liked the honest nature of the two characters against this traditional scene of London.

Day out with dad

Turns out lots of other people liked it too as it received a decent amount of attention online.

I’ve seen many other photographers take greater shots and shots of tougher subjects which I’ve not done this far.

Whilst at an event off Brick Lane in London on Wednesday I took my camera and snapped away during the breaks.

Whilst waiting for my colleagues I saw a homeless man asleep in the street. He was being passed and ignored by affluent Millennials and City workers.

So I composed, took a shot of him (from a distance) and thought nothing of it.

I transferred and backed up the photos when I returned home and started to apply my usual edits.

I saw the photo of this homeless man and paused. Immediately I felt uncomfortable. This man has nothing and taking his photo (without his knowledge) feels inappropriate and demeaning.

The photo has power to it and made me think, I am sure it would be the same for others.

I don’t have a problem with shooting affluent people but this image upset me.

Taking this shot made me no better than the affluent Millennials or City workers.

I’ve not edited it. I’ve not deleted it either. I’ve kept the photo to remind me of this feeling. Of the power and responsibility I have for taking the photo. Taking a photo has responsibility, the final image captured a moment in time. Capturing people rushing around is novel, light hearted and in some cases, humourous. This shot of a man, down on his luck, sleeping in the street, is none of these.

I am certain that if I posted the image it would prove very popular. People like to see all walks of life and street photography of down and out/gritty subjects appear to have an appeal.

I cannot post this image and will not. I’ve made a creative and moral decision not to.

This is the first time one of my own photographs has made me feel uncomfortable.

I’m glad it has as it’s made me think and consider my subjects and my responsibility as a photographer.

I wonder how many others think as such or as disturbed by their work?

This makes me wonder how photo journalists do their work. Obviously their job is to report and capture all factors of life but I am sure this isn’t something I could do.

Enjoy this lighter image of a father and son enjoying their time together in London. But please take time to consider those less fortunate.

Just like the image I’ve not posted, you don’t see these people. We pass them by. This has to stop. We all have to wake up, look and take notice.

As for the homeless man, if I see him again I’ll leave him something to help him out.

I’ll choose my subjects with more respect in the future.

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