Bit of an odd question...

JJP

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Hi all :)

I'm currently on an documentary assignment where I have chosen to do it on the different aspects of street life, I will be taking photographs of street performers/entertainers, stall workers in markets, and the homeless, which is why I'm asking this question.

I don't know if I should just walk up to them (the homeless) and take a photograph, or ask them, or offer them a bit of money in exchange for a photo. I will be mainly doing these photographs in London. I ask this as I know that the homeless can vary in friendlyness if you get what I mean.

Any suggestions/help is greatly appreciated. Thanks :)

Edit: Also, sorry if this is in the wrong section, couldn't think of where to put this.
 

Big Mike

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I don't think that anyone can answer for what you should do. That's up to you.

As far as I know...it should be OK for to to take photos without asking them, as long as you are on public property and are not invading their 'expectation of privacy'. This would also be subject to your use of the images. A documentary assignment, is probably OK...but using them in an advertising campaign without permission (model release) is probaly not OK.

And of course, this all depends on the rules and laws of where you live.
 

KevinDks

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Why don't you try talking to them?

Homeless people are sometimes drunk, sometimes have mental health problems or drug addiction, but in my experience they are often quite normal and keen to chat - it can be pretty lonely and frightening out there and mostly they get ignored or abused, so you may be surprised at the reaction you get from just taking an interest, from asking how they are today. In other words, don't buy their photo with a bit of money, pay with your time. If that thought scares you, make a start with some Big Issue vendors, who have at least got their act together enough to sell the magazine.
 

shootLib

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I agree with talking to them. They may be delighted for you to take their picture, and some may not. But as a photographer, i guess we should be willing to take the risk to even just ask. If they decline....well, usually they would want something in return anyways, so you can pay them or buy them a burger or something.

One time when I was in Atlanta, which is a good size city with LOTS of homeless people, i asked to take a photo of this hobo man selling roses and he told me "taking my picture, is like taking an xray of my soul, your taking my soul", so i respected that and didn't take it. but ....you never know. Just go...and try!
 

JerryPH

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I think it courteous and proper to talk to them and ask them, however from the point of a documentary, it takes away from the sponteneity and originality of the shot.

It depends on what you want to sacrifice... your morals, or your ethics. Both are equally important, IMHO.

I personally would not be afraid to talk to them, but be cautious, becuase as mentioned, many have issues.
 

Alex_B

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might be a good idea to first take some shots from a distance without causing too much attention, then walk up to them, talk to them, and take a few more shots if they allow.

offer them to delete the first shots, most of them will tell you it is ok if you keep them!
 

~Stella~

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might be a good idea to first take some shots from a distance without causing too much attention, then walk up to them, talk to them, and take a few more shots if they allow.

offer them to delete the first shots, most of them will tell you it is ok if you keep them!

I think this would be what I would do - it's respectful, but you'd still get your candid shots. And depending on where you will be, I might carry around small amount gift cards to the McD's or whatever fast food establishment is within walking distance as a token of appreciation.
 

crystal_lynn

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I think this would be what I would do - it's respectful, but you'd still get your candid shots. And depending on where you will be, I might carry around small amount gift cards to the McD's or whatever fast food establishment is within walking distance as a token of appreciation.

That is an excellent suggestion. No extra cash, but you still have a way to "pay" them.
 

Alpha

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I routinely trade cigarettes for photographs. Works like a charm.

Otherwise buy a Leica and don't ask permission.
 

skieur

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I don't think that anyone can answer for what you should do. That's up to you.

As far as I know...it should be OK for to to take photos without asking them, as long as you are on public property and are not invading their 'expectation of privacy'. This would also be subject to your use of the images. A documentary assignment, is probably OK...but using them in an advertising campaign without permission (model release) is probaly not OK.

And of course, this all depends on the rules and laws of where you live.

One correction: That should be public place not public property. There is a difference in law. You can take photos in a public place that is NOT on public property.

skieur
 

dipstick

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Ask yourself this: If you were homeless on the street and spotted a photographer. Would you rather have the photographer walk up to you and ask you how you would feel about him taking pictures, or just have him shooting from a distance without asking?

To me the answer is pretty obvious, and goes for all people, not only for the homeless.
 

skieur

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Ask yourself this: If you were homeless on the street and spotted a photographer. Would you rather have the photographer walk up to you and ask you how you would feel about him taking pictures, or just have him shooting from a distance without asking?

To me the answer is pretty obvious, and goes for all people, not only for the homeless.

You are making a totally unwarranted assumption that all homeless people are normal. Many of them are mentally ill, who have fallen through the cracks in the system. I had one pull a knife on me, simply because without a camera, I was in her space while I was walking on the street.

Approaching a homeless person to ask to take their photo could get you killed.

skieur
 

dipstick

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You are making a totally unwarranted assumption that all homeless people are normal. Many of them are mentally ill, who have fallen through the cracks in the system. I had one pull a knife on me, simply because without a camera, I was in her space while I was walking on the street.

Approaching a homeless person to ask to take their photo could get you killed.

skieur

Taking the risk is part of the job. If you want to be a war photographer you have to go to a war zone. And if you want to do pictures of homeless you have to approach them.

If you don't want to live with these risks, then you should simply choose a different field of photography.

Also, how would you go about getting a release from the person without talking to them?
 

skieur

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Taking the risk is part of the job. If you want to be a war photographer you have to go to a war zone. And if you want to do pictures of homeless you have to approach them.

If you don't want to live with these risks, then you should simply choose a different field of photography.

Also, how would you go about getting a release from the person without talking to them?

In a public place a release is not necessary, unless the photo is being used for advertising. Therefore I would not concern myself with a release.

As to taking photos of homeless people, it is not necessary to stick a camera in their face. It can be done discretely from a distance.

skieur
 

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