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.