Confrontation in Street Photography 6

The photo I used to open this Blog is absolutely irrelevant except to tell you about the subject that I will discuss in this article. This is the confrontation that can happen when you practice Street Photography. In more than four years on the street, I have very rarely had problems with people who did not want to be photographed. From memory no more than 5 people in Aix-en-Provence. I only tried once to discuss in a constructive way to explain things, but as you can imagine, it does not work. People tend not to have an open mind that allows them to discuss this. Confrontation is part of the game when you do Street Photography.



It must be said that the practice of Street Photography is intimately linked to confrontation. We photograph perfect strangers without asking their consent. In any way, this is the case for me … I never ask people for permission. I know very well the rights that are mine on the street, but we have to deal with people like you and me. People who may have had a bad day, who are not in very good mood … In short, even if I am in my right by taking photos in public places, there is the human factor that changes everything.



In Aix-en-Provence, I avoided the problems because people mistook me for an Asian tourist and did not even bother to stop to argue with me. Here in Réunion things are different. In this situation that I had last week, I had seen this guy with a foot on the bench who seemed to be waiting for someone. I told myself that his attitude was photogenic and that I was going to try to compose to have something interesting. It was at this moment that this other man came through my frame and I took a photo (the opening photo) without being convinced that it was going to be of any interest. I was just starting to work on the scene trying to find an interesting composition as I often do.



It was at this point that the man challenged me, asking me aggressively if I had taken his photo. I answered in the affirmative because I do not hide and I am not ashamed of what I do. I subsequently received threats. Like what I did not have the right to photograph people, that his father was a former police officer and that he could create worries for me. You know immediately here that arguing is useless. The man was hot-blooded and I think he was waiting for me to come into his game to come to blows. It was the first time that I had to deal with this kind of confrontation on the street. What could I have done ? Defend my rights tooth and nail even if it involves the police ? No in the end it would have been a waste of time. I preferred to let him utter his insults and threats and let him go.



Some will say that I am not doing Street Photography a favor by doing so. But I am not Don Quixote who will fight against the windmills. I am willing to try to chat with people who are willing to listen and argue. But in this precise situation, it was obvious that if I had to argue with him, we would have finished in a fight, or in any case his fist would have ended on my face ! Even if I know that I expose myself to these kinds of situations while doing Street Photography, I think that I have not been exposed  to enough confrontations so that this kind of episode does not reach me. I know that I was not doing anything wrong and that I will continue to document the streets despite this kind of inconvenience. I never photograph people in degrading situations. Very often I photograph them because I find them beautiful.



This situation somewhat destabilized me and also made me wonder about what I do on the street. But I always come to the same conclusion. I do not brandish a weapon but a camera. I document the streets of my city and I love to capture scenes from life. Even if my approach is not understood or poorly understood, I will continue to walk the streets to capture scenes from the life of my city.

All photos were taken with the Ricoh GRD4.


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6 thoughts on “Confrontation in Street Photography

  • John Harper

    I had some guy waving at me “No photos…no photos”. I was crouched down on the pavement shooting his dogs. His wife was angry, “They’re only babies”. What the…I didn’t argue, just ignored them and walked on. You’re always going to have someone take offence, usually because they’ve had a bad day and want to take it out on someone. I doubt they’d understand if you explained…to be honest I don’t understand it myself sometimes 😉 Usually if someone protests I reply as I did to a woman in Bristol a few months ago…”Oh I wasn’t taking a photo of you, sorry, but I’m looking for something much more interesting”.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Ah ah. Nice one. I can see that your English humour is still here 😂😂.
      I have the feeling that people here on the island are more bloody tempered. I have to pay attention at that otherwise I will run into trouble. There is also the ethnic factor. Muslim, Indian people… I feel that it’s more difficult to photograph people here rather than in Aix en Provence.
      I had a discussion with a guy who saw me taking pictures in the street. It was friendly. He was keeping saying that I was a cop… I showed him my work, but I’m not sure that he understood it…
      It’s hard for people to understand why we’re taking photos of perfect strangers in the streets.

      • John Harper

        If it’s any consolation…two days after leaving that comment and watching Tim’s YouTube video I was called a “Scum bag” by some homeless guy in Bath. I hadn’t even taken a shot, just walked past. Then he started accusing me of taking “secret photos”. I told him that I didn’t take his photo, or secret photos and that I never take homeless peoples photos”. Then I was a “lying scum bag”. I just moved on. I couldn’t show him the images on the camera because he’d probably still not believe me and either damage the camera or spit on me. I blame the weather and lockdown. Too hot and no coins coming his way with no one on the streets, even though the shops have reopened.

        • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

          Most of the time, the people who complained are not the one taken in photos. I noticed that. He must have seen you quite a few times roaming here taking photos. Its difficult for people to understand what we are doing. Most of the time it’s easier to take a shortcut and pretend that we are sneakily taking creepy pics of people.

  • John Wilson

    I have been told it’s always easier, pretend you are looking behind or to the side of what you photo, it easier to show wide angle background, if you have to prove a point. I just glad to see looks like people taking virus serious still, based on the masks.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Post author

      Even if you use a wide angle, people can’t be fooled… For this situation, the camera was not directed to the guy who complained but I guess that he knew that I was photographying people and it bothered him…
      Well it happens sometimes and it’s never pleasant to experience that. I was moved for a while and I had the impression that everyone in the street was noticing me… Like I was having a giant arrow pointing at me saying “this guy is taking photos of you!”.