Paranoid Android: Street photography in 2017
「おい！何やってんだよォ!」translates as “Hey, what are you doing?” but tone trumps words in Japanese, so it was more like a “what the f**k do you think you’re doing!?” This was lovingly shouted into my left ear by a bystander after snapping a photo of a boy in a school uniform walking down the street.
A few weeks prior, another woman was confrontational after I shot her crossing the street awkwardly in too-high heels. Yet another man was angered at me shooting him a couple months ago looking at a store window in Ginza with his wife (which in hindsight I surmise wasn’t as she seemed quite younger, hence getting vitriolic).
Japan has generally been a photo-friendly country but the paranoia culture we’ve seen escalate in recent years in the West seems to have creeped over to the land of the rising sun as well. And the recent explosion of pedo allegations storming the news can’t help the situation, making it even more difficult to innocently shoot children at play in public. Before anyone starts, yes, I ask for permission as well and I find the rejection rate increasing as time marches on.
Without getting too deep into the legality vs. ethics and relevance of street photography, I wanted to hear everyone’s thoughts on the matter. Have others witnessed an increased difficulty in candid snaps?
A photographer friend of mine has suggested switching to digital; you can instantly show your non-malicious intent and delete the image upon request. The question begs though, “Why should I change because of a few bad apples and the hyper-sensitivity induced by the social media revolution?” The line between curiosity and creepiness is blurred upon recognition to me.
It is my hope that this question is not somehow misconstrued as condoning children stalking or making light of the importance of protecting one’s identity. There are without a single shred of doubt deplorable predators of innocent children, perverted upskirting losers, etc. out there but something is amuck with the way things are.
The Japanese have a saying, “Don’t be KY”. Not to be confused with hanky panky lube, “KY” stands for Kuuki Yomenai or “can’t read the air”. You can’t ram your camera in someone’s face ala Mr. Gilden a good majority of the time these days but it’s perfectly possible to keep a respectful distance, not make subjects feel uncomfortable and still obtain some very intimate candid images of normal every day life.
But when bystanders automatically assume you’re accumulating pre-pubescent kid pics for your own nefarious means and you can’t prove your innocence until your film is developed…unfortunately these are the times we live in.
As always, your thoughts and comments are encouraged. But remember, please keep it civil. We are all human beings.