Street photography or voyeurism?

Photographing the Drawing of the Chicken Bus

Once again Manolo, in his effort to become the pebble in my shoe, points out that I am such a voyeur… Can you believe that! Manolo made such comment about the capture of a group of women tourists taking a sunbath in a public place, La Fuente Restaurant to be precise, while having lunch or a snack break.

I do not think I am crossing the line since I am capturing everyday life scene as I come across them; sometimes influenced by your comments and suggestions. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to check that I am not crossing the line of capturing private moments, so I found this great discussion about Street photography or voyeurism at photo.net, one my original favorite site (boy, we are talking all the way back to the mid 1990s). Anyway, I leave a teaser quote by Barry Fisher who said this:

…Often the object is moving anyways. I have no simple answer as to when or not to. If I really think someone is going to object or they’ve actually indicated they don’t want to be photographed, I will usually honor that but then, for me, its a balancing test of many factors. I suppose it has more to do of how you identify with personal space. If you believe or are in a frame of mind that “we are all here in public sharing space and time, and I’m going to capture the wonder of it all” then I suppose you won’t think of it as being voyeuristic. But if you feel like you are capturing people’s private moments even stealing them, like we all must at sometimes, then you are a voyeur at that moment. Do you have a problem accepting that you may be a voyeur? —Barry Fisher at Photo.net

We are talking about voyeurism as in the act of observing people without the sexual gratification which is normally associated with the word; just to clarify it. I believe that I do tend to be a voyeur or obsessive observer when it comes to capture the most natural street life scenes. My goal is to capture the intriguing split-second scene. I do not like posed photographs, especially posed street photos because once the subject is aware of the lens the natural feel is lost; the window that I open for you into the daily life of La Antigua Guatemala is broken.

Yet, sometimes I ask permission before actually clicking the shutter and once the permit is granted I wait until the subject goes back to the natural state; less defensive mood. Such was the case for this shot of Jacque (Jack in English he said) drawing this colorful chicken bus in front of Hotel Aurora.

Is this voyeuristic enough for you (Manolo)? Or is it just an honest shot of what you may encounter yourself while strolling around the streets of La Antigua Guatemala? What is it?

© 2008 – 2013, Rudy Girón. All rights reserved.

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  • Oh, Rudy… I feel so honoured to have you “replying” to my humble, yet insidious, comments. I have considered myself a voyeur (in the sense you are presenting here) myself in a number of occasions. Taking pictures in public is one. But visiting your blog and other people’s blogs is also another flavour of voyeurism, because one is able to read so much into the other person’s life, thoughts, feelings, etc. On the other hand, by creating a blog myself I am probably responding to my sense of exhibitionism. Don’t you feel that way sometimes too? Or is it only a sequel of the devastating viruses that affect my operating system (originally developed for Mac AND Commodore 64 for your information 😉 ).
    Originally my comment was going to consist of the following quote from the quote you present:

    Do you have a problem accepting that you may be a voyeur?

  • Andrea Barrios

    I don’t think you are crossing the line, I strongly think we are lucky to see what you see in such a great land and small city as Antigua! you can see what we miss, for all of us who once lived there 🙂

    Here in Canada cold temperatures makes us freeze even the sprirts specially in days like today… temperature is 35 below (centigrados) and see a little piece of HOME is amazing!
    THANK YOU!

  • My personal opinion is that if you try to take sneaky shots or try to make it look like you’re not shooting, then that’s bad. But if you are quite open about the fact you are taking pictures and everyone can see your camera etc, then I think that’s OK. If someone complained I would always show them the shot and offer to delete the images if they were offended.
    I also think their is a big difference between shooting as a hobby (ie for a blog like this) and shooting for commercial profit/gain. If that was the case I would ask permission. And I would never take shots of children without asking permission from parents/guradians first. If that’s not possible I would never take or publish a shot where a child is identifiable.

  • Instead of a looong comment, I decided to make it a post in my blog:
    Privacy, anarchy and the law abiding citizen

  • Manolo, I don’t think your comments are insidious; rather their thought-provoking and I appreciate them very much.

    Andrea, I am glad you came out of the closet and voiced your opinion. 😉 You are welcome to come and say your mind as often as you like; in fact I encourage you to do it as much as your time allows. Beside, you get to exercise your fingers and your mind in the numbing cold of Canada.

    One Way, I think the photographing tolerance in La Antigua Guatemala and Guatemala in general is much higher than in the U.S., Canada and Europe. As Manolo put it: “In Guate… issues of privacy and respect for the subjects of pictures are more a kind of “respect” or “manners” more than following laws.” in his entry Privacy, anarchy, and the law-abiding citizen.

    Manolo, thanks for the awesome follow-up article.

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