Inner-City PhotoOp Questions...

Discussion in 'Beyond the Basics' started by Viajero, Mar 5, 2006.

  1. Viajero

    Viajero TPF Noob!

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    I do not know if this is the right place to post this, I already put it in Photo Locations, but this seemed like a reasonable place as well. A dream of mine has always been to enter the inner-city of Chicago, into the beat down neighborhoods. Many people who I have brought this up to have said exactly what I assumed, in which, it is very dangerous. I was just wondering if anyone here has any information on inner city photography, or some expierience that they can share with me. If possible, is there any way that I can make my way into there to take pictures un harmed?

    Also, if anyone knows of any photographers that do inner city photography, I would love to see some, so a link would be great.

    Thanks a lot.
     
  2. Azuth

    Azuth TPF Noob!

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    Crap looking camera. Make friends with some residents.
     
  3. Viajero

    Viajero TPF Noob!

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    So for starters, you think I should bring an old, thrased, beat up looking camera? And make friends with some locals?
     
  4. selmerdave

    selmerdave TPF Noob!

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    All I can say is I've tried that, and it didn't work out too well. I was given a strong impression that I was putting my life at stake by taking photos. I would say the only hope would be to have a REALLY inconspicuous camera.

    Dave
     
  5. Viajero

    Viajero TPF Noob!

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    If you could share, what happened when you tried taking your pictures?
     
  6. darich

    darich TPF Noob!

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    Do you have a looooong zoom lens???
    :lol:
     
  7. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    I've done this quite a bit, but Aubrey who's on my site is an absolute expert at it. You have to make it about the people, not about the camera. If you walk around, looking scared, you'll get into bother. The trick is to either blend in to the community, or to avoid aggravating it.

    Making friends with people who live there is usually vital. If you're hanging around with someone who's known there or fits in, it helps you fit it.

    Also, take a look at what you're trying to achieve - taking pictures of the poor unfortunates, as a concept, will NOT go down well. However, being sympathetic and empathic to residents and involving them in your purpose is likely to achieve great results. But, why do you want to do this? If it's just a quaint notion to go and take some gritty pictures you're going to come unstuck immediately someone challenges your behaviour. If you can explain yourself, it just might turn things around.

    Good luck,

    Rob
     
  8. markc

    markc TPF Noob!

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    A while back I was shooting for an assignment that involved flags. I saw one hanging from a balcony of a small housing unit and so began to compose a shot. A woman came out of the front door, looking nervously around as she came out. She saw me with the camera and immediately made a bee-line for where I was standing. As she crossed the street, I realized that she was indeed most likely a "street walker".

    "What the hell are you taking a picture of?!"

    I pointed to the flag.

    "The flag?" she asked in a voice that clearly said that I was a crazy person.

    She paused and then gave me a look that said she would pitty my short stupid life, and the messy end of it, but only a little bit, before walking off shaking her head. I then realized the place was probably a crack house and I really hoped that no one was looking out the window.

    I wasn't even in a "bad" area, just a bad spot on a street of shops, so I decided to go back down the street.

    Not sure if that helps with anything, but I wouldn't start shooting until you know what you are shooting. Get used to the area first. With things like this, what you don't know can kill you. Taking a shot of the wrong house or wrong person could get you into a world of trouble. It doesn't take much with some people.

    And as Rob said, don't treat the residents as some kind of subject. I'm thinking that the more you distance yourself from them, the more you become a stranger and an intruder. This isn't a cocktail party where people don't know each other and you can blur into the background. You are effectively going into their backyard barbecues.

    Rephrasing Rob again: What's your goal? What do you want to shoot, and more importantly, what do you want to show? What's the message or intent? With something like this, there is one, even if it's not right there in conscious thought. I think it's important to uncover it, because even if you aren't completely aware of it, the people you are shooting are likely to pick up on it, even if it's just subconscious to them also.
     
  9. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    You really have to be able to feel out the environment. Granted, North Carolina's crime rates don't really compare to Chicago's, but the environment is the same. One of the things i find really interesting about the ghetto is that there are always people hanging around. Some people are just hanging out, talking to friends, some are dealing, some are are looking out for cops, and some are ho'ing. Don't ever randomly approach someone to talk to them. You don't have an "in" in the ghetto, as you're obviously out of place. The only "in" you have is with people who want to talk to you. Sometimes you'll get approached by people who are legitimately curious about your cameras. No need to be scared of them. If somebody wants to stick you for your equipment then they'll just do it. They won't ask you questions before-hand.

    You have to really get a feel for when and where it's okay to shoot photos. There are specific blocks designated for drug deals, and for hookers. Stay away from the dealing blocks. Hooker blocks are touchy because you don't wanna **** off anybody's pimp.
     
  10. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    In one of my ballsier moments, a pimp-less hooker came up to me, and instead of obliging her "services," I bought her lunch in exchange for letting me take her photo.
     
  11. bantor

    bantor TPF Noob!

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    I have not done alot of street photography, but when i did, it was actually rather enjoyable.

    I never put much thought into it, but i supose it would helo a bit if you didn't where your best cloths, just some jeans and a sweater or whatever, it might help. What i ended up doing was walking around for a long time and running into a whole bunch of groups of homeless people. After doing this i remembered which ones seemed like they would be least lily to slit my neck. After that i just went up to them and said "hey guys, here is a bunch of muffins and 5 bucks, would you mind if i took a few shots of you guys?" and they said, "well thanks for the food and dough, what ya takin pictures for" and i said (a half truth) "I am actually writting a small aticel on how homelesness in calgary is a growing issue". Then they agrees. I ended up sitting with them for a good 2 hours just talking and hearing stories. It was great, plus i got some great shot.

    What i am getting at is the same thing that the others ahve been saying. Don't go down there looking to show the world that there are people worse off then them, go down looking get to know the other guys story, figure out why it is happening, and just have fun.

    Not sure if that helped, but good luck.
     
  12. Alpha

    Alpha Troll Extraordinaire

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    Photographing homeless people is very different from taking photos in the hood.

    I actually went down to the hood in Raleigh today. About 5 exposures and 20 bucks later, here's the advice I can give.

    1) Try to avoid wearing red or blue. Gangs will know that you're not a blood or a crypt, but it's still not a good idea.

    2) Cash is your key in and out of the ghetto. Do not carry a wallet or cell phone with you. Carry your camera in a camera bag, a small amount of cash, and a pack of cigarettes and lighter, even if you don't smoke. 20 or 30 bucks is sufficient. When you walk into the ghetto on foot, people will assume that you're either a) A cop, or b) Trying to score.

    3) Know how to deal with people in the ghetto. Almost all hookers have pimps, and you don't want to make them angry. Dope feinds will approach you, and will usually leave you alone if you give them a cigarette and a couple bucks to buy a beer.

    4) There's a lot you can purchase. Drugs, information, and protection. You should probably know the drug lingo. Hardly anyone sells weed. Most people sell crack, some sell heroin or meth. In Raleigh, they refer to drugs by gender. If someone offers you "girl," that means they're selling crack. If they offer you "boy," that means heroin. People wearing red are, indeed, bloods, and people wearing blue are, indeed, crypts. Stay away from them. I hooked up with one of the nicer guys trying to make some money to score. For 15 bucks, he told me where and where not to go, and what and what not to do. He also let everyone know that I wasn't a cop, and that they shouldn't rob me. His biggest piece of advice: "Stay off the block." That means I can take photos of whatever I like, so long as I don't try to photograph anyone hustling (dealing) or pimping, and I don't try to photograph any gang members. His other piece of advice: "Don't talk with your hands."
     

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