I met Yvette three times before I finally took her photo. And even then, something didn’t feel right about it.
On the first encounter...
I’d just finished my Adams Morgan Photo Tour and was looking for a spot to sit and rest for a moment.
“Can you spare any change? I am....”
“Not today, I’m sorry,” I said and didn’t really engage beyond that. I did look back and something about her touched me. I couldn’t tell what it was. She looked very sad...and a little different than most of the people who’d asked me for change that day.
I shook it off and kept moving.
On the second encounter...
A little while later, I stepped into McDonalds for a smoothie, and I saw Yvette at the counter. She was scraping together change for a sandwich, and it looked like she was a little short.
I was moved again and handed her a few dollars to get her meal. She thanked me and left. I moved on, not thinking much about it.
On the third encounter...
I was back outside and walking by a bus stop. I passed Yvette again, and she stopped me to thank me for helping her in McDonalds.
Now I had to ask.
“What’s your name?”
“Yvette.” (not her real name)
“Where are you heading?”
“I’m going back to this room where I’m staying.”
We struck up a conversation, and I learned that she was engaging, educated, and interesting. Yvette was a writer and a serious thinker.
Mid way through our talk, when it seemed like we were connecting, I asked.
“May I photograph you for my 100 Strangers project?”
“Oh noooo, she said. I don’t want to be seen like this. I’m in a rough place right now. I’ll be back soon, but this is not me.”
“Well, when I share your photo, I’m just going to talk about the great conversation we had. I’ll identify you as a writer with a great personality. That’s all I’m interested in.”
She paused and thought for a moment. Then agreed.
I took a few photos of her, and we finished our conversation.
Now what can I share about Yvette?
When I got home and thought about what she said, I wasn’t sure I wanted to post her photo or tell her story.
On one hand -- Here is a smart and capable woman, who just seems to be down on her luck. Why would I show her in that place? She was clearly sensitive about it.
On the other hand -- She agreed to be photographed. She posed for crying out loud.
But then -- If anyone sees this photo and remembers her from that location, it will be like I shared her story with the very people she didn’t want to remember her like that.
What do I do? What should I do?
About the webinar
If you practice street photography for very long, you will undoubtedly find yourself pondering some ethical issues. Our webinar will focus on many of the potential questions you might encounter:
- To shoot or not to shoot? When is it okay to take a controversial photo? What are the laws and the ethics?
- To delete or not to delete? When someone asks you to delete a photo you’ve taken, what do you do? When do you comply? When do you stand your ground?
- To post or not to post? What if you take your money shot -- the shot of a lifetime -- but the photo could have negative implications for someone in the image?
- To sell or not to sell? - When is it okay to make money from a photograph of another person? When isn’t it? What’s the deal with model releases, and do I need them for street photography?
We’re going to look at a number of controversial street photography cases and stories. We’ll discuss the law. And of course, we’ll discuss the gray areas.
Many of these situations don’t have clear answers, but we will talk about a framework that should help us navigate our next street photography dilemma.
Join our webinar
Tuesday, April 8, 2014
7 pm edt
I'll tell you how I resolved the Yvette dilemma during the webinar.