Would this morally ok?

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by JDP, Sep 27, 2006.

  1. JDP

    JDP TPF Noob!

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    In Minneapolis, there are a lot of homeless people, and I'm sure some fauxhomeless people. Always with the signs and such - especially at busy intersections.
    I always wanted to take some pictures of them, but I'm in a quandry.

    Would it be morally acceptable if I were to give the guy $10 or so, have him sign a waiver, then shoot away taking pics of him doing his thing?
    I have in my mind a shot of something like a well dressed gentleman in a very pricey car holding out a $1 or whatever to the guy. Think that would be cool?

    I have several homesless 'friends', like this guy Steve, who I talk to all the time (And he almost always tears up when I call him my friend) and buy lunch for, give money & smokes too, etc. So I know they are pretty decent people. They have such character, especially for some of the situations I see - like a grubby homeless friend names John who looks 104, acts 30, and has been on the streets for some 30 years. A site of him in front of high class areas really intrigues me. I care not what the general public would thing, but I'm wondering if it would be morally ok. I mean, half of them are friends I've talked to, so I think it'd be ok with me and them.

    Any thoughts>?
     
  2. chris82

    chris82 TPF Noob!

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    I think it would be ok because for starters you have already pointed out that they are your friends so it is ok to take pictures of your friends.but I dont think you should offer them money because they might think your trying to buy them,offer them lunch and then once you have finished the shoot buy them dinner and maybe a gift,a small token of your appreatiation.
     
  3. abraxas

    abraxas No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Just be fair. You need a model- You pay models. Lay it out and negotiate. $10 for two, three shots would be fair. $30-40 for 3-4 hours is fair.
     
  4. Rob

    Rob TPF Noob!

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    My first thought is that sensitivity is going to be your primary concern. I wouldn't outright offer someone a figure for their co-operation. However, spending some time with them chatting, maybe buying them some food, then asking about pictures would probably be the best way to go. After all, as you know, most homeless people aren't stupid, just very unlucky/unfortunate.

    A project like that just requires empathy, intelligence and self-awareness. By asking this question, I think you're probably on the right track. Do question your end desired result - what's your message? Maybe discuss this message with the people affected, and possibly work with local charities or organisations so that your work benefits the community as a whole.

    I think it's a good idea, as long as you approach it cautiously and sensitively.

    EDIT: I really wouldn't suggest treating homeless people like a purchasable commodity or a model - I suspect that may endanger you personally and be a tad insensitive.

    Rob
     
  5. Lol999

    Lol999 TPF Noob!

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    This is the approach I use: go up close, make eye contact and smile. Keep the camera in a bag at this stage. if they seem unlikely to be aggressive for whatever reason get physically on their level, i.e. sit down next to them or whatever and initiate a chat. "Hi, how you doing" is a good starter and take it from there. You may soon find out what they need, be it food, money, or usually a strong drink. Dependant upon th eperson you can either be straight up and business like i.e "okay, I'll get you a drink in exchange for some pictures", others you have to slip in more carefully. Only your people skills and experience can help you on this one, and there are no guarantees. What I have found is that homeless people don't want pity, they want your respect and to be treated as an equal and individual. I used the straight up approach on a couple of guys and got invited back to their camp site where they were living in the woods. Off I go with hundreds of pounds worth of Nikon gear in my bag into woods with guys I met 10 minutes ago! I got invited back to take photographs any time as they sensed my intentions were honourable, but to be honest unless you are a big guy and can handle yourself be very careful if you encounter this situation. In hindsight I realise I was taking a risk, and even though I was confident I could take the two guys I was walking with if it hadn't been in my hometown I wouldn't have gone.
    Sorry for the length of post, but street photography,particularly homeless folks is a passion of mine, much to my wife's bemusement!

    Cheers, Lol
     
  6. terri

    terri Administrator Staff Member Supporting Member

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    If you're already in the habit of buying them a lunch or giving them a pack of smokes, I would stick with those relationships. There is no substitute for showing respect. Suggest it to your friends Steve and John, for starters, and take as many shots as you can. Giving them the usual lunch or smokes with maybe an extra couple of bucks should suffice.

    If you were bugging other friends for some candids, think how you would say "thanks for your time" to them, and keep it low key and friendly.
     
  7. rmh159

    rmh159 TPF Noob!

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    Haha Lol999 I couldn't tell if you were joking or serious... good post.

    I don't think this is that big of an issue. They're normal people they just don't have shelter. Some will be nice and cool with it... others not but that's no different than anyone else.

    Morally... I don't think I'd sweat it. You're not exploiting them, you're not cheating them and if you take the homeless part out of the equation it's no different than anyone else you might want to take a shot of.

    My only advice would be when you ask say that you'd normally feel better if you could offer the subject something in return, money, food, smokes... whatever and leave it up to them to decide. I don't know if I'd assume they want one over the other.
     
  8. Lol999

    Lol999 TPF Noob!

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    To be honest I was deadly serious. Like all sections of society you get good and bad, but when you factor in bottles of cheap sherry and prescription drugs then things can get hairy. Not only that, whilst the people themselves were decent, a camp in the woods can attract all sorts and a bag of camera gear is a few fixes for a smackhead. It was because of this that my wife pretty much forbade me to go back, plus I spend time in the town with my daughter and I didn't want any association to be made between the two of us by camp residents and hangers on. The sad thing is one of the guys on my website was found dead on the camp on 8th June this year. Overdose of alcohol and dyhydrocodeine.

    Cheers, Lol
     
  9. JDP

    JDP TPF Noob!

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    True true. These 2 guys though are pretty nice. I've been homeless myself, so that part of society really hits home. Thanks for your input gang :)
     

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