Site Specific Project- People and Documentary Photography

In recent lectures, they have made me consider myself as a photographer and the way we document people. The approach is always important, how you approach you subject and photograph them should always be considered; by asking to take a photograph of someone, you can change the image and the atmosphere and feeling to it. But is it right to take a photograph of someone without their permission? I personally feel that they type of photograph will change your approach; if you are wishing to take close up and portrait photographs, the photographer should talk to their subject and engage them and ask permission to take a photograph. However if you are looking for a natural photograph capturing people in their ‘natural’ habitat, I feel that by asking a person to take their photograph they will become aware of the camera and will probably act differently. In my photographs, documenting the people of Coventry, I want natural photographs showing people acting naturally around the city centre going about their daily lives; for this reason I will not be asking people for their permission.

In England we are used to photographs and so do not mind having them being taken as much whereas in a different culture they may not be used to the ‘photograph culture’. An example of this that came up when discussing documentary photography at a Photobook Club; in Moscow it is illegal to take photographs in the streets, whereas England has much more freedom when it comes to documentary and street photography. If like Moscow, if it was illegal to take photographs on the street in England, this would affect my project greatly; I would not be able to capture the people around the city centre going about their natural lives. I understand that there are limits to how many you can take, and abusing the public by continuously taking photographs of one person or a group, people would become uneasy about documentary photography.

people taking pictures on mobiles

Do we as photographers focus on the ‘interesting’ people? After our lecture on engendering spaces, this idea of focusing on ‘interesting’ people links well to the idea of how people have their own ways of expressing themselves, this shouldn’t be judged or thought of as ‘weird’. As a society we should accept everyone for who they are; books like Fifty Shades of Grey have started to change the way we see the BDSM subculture, like other subcultures that have been documented and addressed more, people have learnt to accept them and have even started to join them. In photography I believe it is good to highlight people and how there is nothing wrong with being ‘different’, however I believe that solely focusing on these groups could be seen as alienating them from society, a greater way to address the variety in society is to include them with the ‘normal’ people. For these reasons when I photograph the people of Coventry, I want to focus on the whole of society, photographing everyone going about their own lives no matter who they are.

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