A guy in the park at Venice Beach juggling illuminated clubs at the "blue hour"

Morgan Bennett, 8:37pm Wednesday 13 June 2018.

I shot this photo of Morgan Bennett, and some others of his friends, at Venice Glow Flow on 13 June. I gave him a card, and the next day he emailed me for copies. When I sent them he replied,

And I just want to say that several people have taken pix of me doing that and NONE of them have sent anything. So kudos to you my friend for your follow through. A trait sorely lacking in the world today in my view.

Ethics / Asking Permission

I’ve talked about Ethics and the practicality of Asking Permission elsewhere, so here I’ll say a few words about our other responsibilities as Street Photographers.

Enjoying the smells of the cafe

In that ethics post, I also asked what we owe a cafe if we walk past and enjoy the smells of their fresh-baked breads and warm soups? As corporeal beings, we have long-established ways of negotiating the transfer of material goods. But even deep into the information age, we’re still grappling with the nature of intangible goods and ephemeral moments.

Different people have different ideas about what you “take” from someone when you take their picture. I believe it is different than taking their possessions. But I’ll agree that it is still taking something.

All Art is Identity Art

I believe that all art is identity art. When I create a painting, video, or installation, I am expressing something of my own identity. In Social Practice and Public Art, I hope to empower participants to express something of their own identity. With Street Photography, I’m sure that my authorial hand and my identity are ever present, still, these are images of other people living their lives and expressing their identity. I never end up speaking to many of the people I photograph. For those that I do speak to, if they’d like a copy of their collaboration with me, I definitely owe that to them.

Ask Permission / Delete Photos / Share Photos

  1. Let’s ask for permission when it’s feasible and appropriate. I do ask some people for permission to take their picture. Mostly, however, I don’t. The spontaneous moments of life on the street I try to capture often go by too quickly for asking permission. Also, I don’t want someone posing and smiling at me, I’d like to capture (relatively) authentic moments if I can.
  2. Street Photography is legal in the United States. But who cares about that – if someone asks you to delete their picture, just do it. There’s always another picture to take. In the last 10,000 frames I’ve shot, I’ve only been asked to delete 2 of them.
  3. If someone wants a copy of their picture, be sure to send it to them! I’m writing this piece because of how disappointing it was to hear Morgan say that no other photographer had ever sent him the photos they took of him. That sucks! There’s all kinds of reasons a photo might not get sent: lost information, embarrassment over a poor result, the busyness of life, etcetera, but really, none of those reasons are good enough. If someone wants a copy of your photo, you owe it to them. These days you don’t even need to make a paper print or use a postage stamp, you just email it. It’s ridiculously easy.
Photo of a young girl working in a mill. Lewis Hine, 1908-1912

The United States Congress debated child labor for years without ever doing anything about it. It wasn’t until Lewis Hine photographed children in factories and presented those photographs to the American public that child labor laws in this country changed. In my own photography I don’t aspire to anything near the level of importance of Hine’s work, still, I do strive to share something of this contemporary moment here in the city of my birth. Every time someone has a good experience with a photographer, it becomes a little bit easier for all street photographers to share something of the culture they swim in. Every time someone has a negative experience, it becomes a little bit harder for all street photographers.

Why? Because photography matters!

it’s important to share photos with people because they are our collaborators in these photographs and we owe it to them. It’s the right thing to do. But to be honest, I also think it’s important for a selfish reason:

Photography really matters! Photography is important! I want to help build a world where people appreciate the value and power of photography. I want to live in a world where people appreciate the value of photography and photographers, not a world where people feel preyed upon by anonymous, soulless hunters and snipers.

A guy in the park at Venice Beach juggling illuminated clubs at the "blue hour"

Morgan Bennett, Venice Beach, California, 8:37pm Wednesday 13 June 2018.

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