Street Photography: Meaningful Or Mockery?

We've all seen it, the lady in the street hitching up her knickers, or the drunk guy  vomiting in the street after a good night out.  Do we press the shutter?  Or are we crossing the line of street photography?

It's a good question.  But here's the thing:

Street Photography, by it's very nature, should be about capturing all the quirks that life has to offer.  If that involves a few risqué shots, then so be it.  Yes?  Oh, if only it was that easy...

You see, most, if not all of us, have this thing called a conscience.  It's that moral understanding of common decency that stops us from taking the shot, and if we do take it, do we really want anyone else to see it?  Should we really upload it to the vast array of social networks for our own gratification?  Are we mocking, or are we documenting the true grit of city life?  There's no easy answer, and  I guess it's down to the individual as to how far is too far...

Stephen Wright - Street Photography 1.jpg

Personally, I draw the line at homeless people.  For me, shooting homeless people and calling yourself a street photographer is akin to shooting ducks in your local park and calling yourself a wildlife photographer.  Leave them alone, or give them change.  Don't get me wrong, I have shot them myself, but only if I truly believe there's a 'street' shot behind it.  Same goes for buskers.  I can honestly say that in my archive of over 75,000 street pictures, I have approximately 20 shots of homeless and buskers.  It's not 'street',  so don't do it.

Here's a shot I took a few years ago that could be viewed as 'easy pickings', but to me it was street.  I had no idea if the guy was homeless or not, and I wasn't interested whether or not he was just a plain drunk collapsed in the street.  What I saw was the scaffolding around him, and my immediate thought was 'support'... I saw the irony...

Stephen Wright - Street Photography 2.jpg

So, are we really mocking people when we shoot street photography?  Personally, I don’t believe we are when it comes down to the great scheme of things.  What I do believe is that we’re documenting the very fabric of life, warts and all.

Stephen Wright