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When do you not push the shutter button?

Discussion in 'Philosophy of Photography' started by drd1135, Dec 23, 2013.

  1. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    I was reminded of something yesterday while talking to my (visiting) daughter. A few years ago Debbie and I were in Philadelphia and we came remarkably close to what appeared to be an accident, complete with a police car and ambulance. As we got closer, we saw a sheet covering a body, and it turns out it was jumper from the top of an adjacent 29 story building. I had my E-P1 in hand but just couldn't shoot. Not just he poor soul on the ground, but the looks of horror and sadness on the bystanders and responders. I just felt wrong indulging in my "hobby" in the presence of such a tragedy.

    Let me emphasize that I would certainly not condemn anyone who did take some shots. Such instants in the human human condition can be properly recorded and shared for the betterment of all. I just emotionally couldn't do it. I admit I struggle with doing street photography for similar reasons, yet I enjoy and see great value in the images of others. There is a definite disconnect between my rational understanding of the art and my sense of right/wrong/taboo, etc.

    It's kind of a heavy topic and we have to be really careful to be accepting of a variety of attitudes, but any thoughts on this?
     
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  2. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I'm not a journalist and shooting something like what you happened upon is something I wouldn't do either. Although a photo-journalist obviously would since it would be news in some sense. When I do street photography, I don't if I feel like my shot would be nothing more than exploitative. I do very few shots of homeless people any longer because most of those feel exploitative to me. Only occasionally do I feel like a shot of a homeless person tells any sort of story other than "this person is homeless", like if there's a strong juxtaposition with the person and some form of opulence nearby. Similarly if I have a shot of a really amazing looking woman and there's nothing else to recommend it than her looks, I often won't. Or if there are kids in a shot and I have ANY doubt about whether the shot could be used in any exploitative way...

    But more often I take the shot anyway and then edit out the shots I have any doubts about once they come up on my screen. But a situation like you describe is a rare situation where I'd just feel wrong even having a camera out and would probably put it back in my bag or otherwise make it very clear I wasn't going to use it. Doesn't happen often but it does occasionally.

    -Ray
     
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  3. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    Earlier this week a driver hit a kangaroo on the street where I live. It was during the early morning rush so there were many vehicles travelling on the road on their way to work.

    The poor kangaroo was in very bad shape, it was bleeding heavily from its nose and mouth so there was blood on the road. It also couldn't move its hind legs which means its back was broken. The driver and a couple of other cars stopped, we stood out there in the middle of the road to protect the kangaroo from being driven over by other cars.

    I called the police who arrived with a .22 rifle. They shot the kangaroo twice.

    After they put the kangaroo out of its misery, they checked whether it was male or female. Female kangaroos might sometimes have a little joey (baby kangaroo) in its pouch who sometimes survive accidents like these. It was a male kangaroo, so luckily no joey.

    The whole thing took about an hour or over an hour from when the kangaroo was hit, to when the police arrived and shot it.
     
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  4. Ripleysbaby

    Ripleysbaby supernatural anesthetist

    Sep 9, 2011
    Cumbria UK
    Garry
    I'm pretty much thinking the exact same way as you on this subject.
    I think the people who can snap away at this sort of scene are either very thick skinned to not worry what others think of their actions.
    Or. (Hopefully the minority) a complete lack of compassion.
    But thinking about it, there must also be thick skinned compassionate people out there too. Along with mercenaries thinking about the money .
    I believe there are too many variables regards who can or can't shoot this sort of image.
     
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  5. drd1135

    drd1135 SC Hall of Famer

    Jul 13, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Steve
    Blood and gore never tempt me. Emotional pain is another matter. Some of the most memorial photos capture an expression of extreme emotion. As a society, we treasure those shots and I genuinely think we are better for having seen them and thought about the human experience that underlies them. War photography is a powerful example. It does take a certain amount of emotional fortitude to point the camera, however.
     
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  6. Dewi Sant

    Dewi Sant SC Veteran

    364
    Dec 20, 2013
    Lancashire, England
    Guess?
    Interesting post and a subject that will evoke different responses from different people. My mind goes back to 2010 when I was over in Italy photographing the MotoGP (think formula one for motorbikes) at Misano. The young Moto 2 rider, Tomizawa,came off right in front of us and was hit by a few following bikes. He was obviously dead but the crowd surged forward to take photos, I walked the other way, wanting nothing of the "feeding frenzy" that began to emerge. Some things are better left unphotographed IMO

    D
     
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  7. Petach

    Petach SC All-Pro

    Oct 22, 2011
    UK, Essex
    Peter Tachauer
    I once photographed the body of a female being dragged from the bitterly cold and dangerous waters of the River Thames. I was out for the evening to shoot the bright lights. I didn't think of it as exploitative, and as mentioned earlier in this thread I must be thick skinned compassionate. What I recorded was street stuff, the sort of stuff cops, medics and fire crews deal with every day. I thought of this woman and how terrified she must have been in those dark cold waters.......even if she had thrown herself in.

    This photo wasn't just about her......it was also about those poor people who had to deal with pulling her out of the water, the one who had to inform next of kin, the inquest.....the witnesses. It all takes a toll. I questioned my motive for taking it. I decided It was a reaction to an event and I didn't see any difference between documenting that or the juxta of a homeless person with some jarring presence. I don't know who the lady was, but I feel I validated her existence by taking that shot

    As a rookie cop, I was called to a railway station where a 17yr old girl (drunk from an office Xmas party) had fallen under a train. She was dead. Nobody had seen her safely home from her first employment shortly after leaving high school. I was the one who had to knock on her parents door, wait for it to open.........then watch their faces crumple as I ruined their lives. I sat and cried with them as they made me describe how she had died, what she looked like. I have never forgotten it and it still brings tears to my eyes to recount something which happened in 1976.

    For me, the two are inextricably linked in some way.
     
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  8. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Fortunately I've never been in a situation like that armed with a camera but I once hitchiked from Munich to Istanbul with a family. The Dad used to wake The Mom up at every traffic accident we passed & she leaned out of the window to shoot a movie of them. As I recall the camera was never aimed at any of their boys, or the local scenery, just the accidents.

    It takes all sorts.
     
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  9. Dewi Sant

    Dewi Sant SC Veteran

    364
    Dec 20, 2013
    Lancashire, England
    Guess?

    I think death is very personal thing - we all deal with it in our own ways, but I'm not sure it should ever be photographed. For me personally it seems like the ultimate invasion of privacy
     
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  10. HeatherTheVet

    HeatherTheVet SC All-Pro

    Apr 23, 2011
    Scotland
    Heather
    I struggle enough to push the shutter with any people in the frame, add in a complex emotional situation and I doubt I would take any sort of photo record. I also tend to find myself amidst the hi viz wearers at accidents and emergencies so there is little time for photos.

    No judgement upon them that do, every situation is different. I've seen photos where I've been horrified by the content but okay with the picture having been taken, but others where the fact that someone would take a picture in that situation is abhorrent to me. I'm very aware these days that my opinion is just that, and holds no weight, demands no action. Just because I think something doesn't mean it's relevant.
     
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  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs SC Legend

    Sep 21, 2010
    Not too far from Philly
    you should be able to figure it out...
    I think it depends on context. Wartime deaths and similar other deaths with a wider social context I think should be shown to bring home the horror and make it harder for us to think of war as some abstract act that happens "over there" somewhere. But, no, I agree that the usual private death that happens in a somewhat public location should be left alone.

    Pete, I was 18 in 1976 and your story hits pretty hard. Just a few years after that I had to tell a friend of mine that her boyfriend had just been killed in an automobile accident earlier that day - I just went over to be with her in a difficult time, thinking she already knew, but when I got there and saw how happy she was to see me, I knew she hadn't heard yet and it fell to me. One of the toughest moments of my life, but not close to how difficult it was for her.

    -Ray
     
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  12. Isoterica

    Isoterica SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 6, 2011
    If a photo "needed" to be taken I think I could do it. Not as personal street photography though, as journalism. I've passed up several situations that I felt did not need to record but the situation arises I have not ruled out necessity. Also that doesn't mean I could turn off my emotions, I would just use them to justify my actions and I am sure it would bother me, but not because I've exploited anyone, because of the tragedy itself-- and something of that nature, like watching the towers fall on 9/11, wouldn't be something I would forget anyway.
     
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  13. Archiver

    Archiver SC Top Veteran

    618
    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    I tend to shoot whatever arises, but all of the examples mentioned I would refrain from shooting out of respect for those involved. I did take photos at my grandfather's funeral some years ago, which involved some tact, but the photos were welcomed by the family in the weeks after.
     
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  14. TheRubySusan

    TheRubySusan SC Top Veteran

    646
    Sep 2, 2013
    Henry, IL
    Ruby
    On a personal level, I'm with HeatherTheVet. I hardly take pictures of people I know, let alone strangers, let alone when something awful is happening. But as a general rule, I think the only answer is, "go with your gut."
    Streetshooter and Oliver Duong have a podcast on Inspired Eye magazine's website that touches on this question, although with less dramatic examples - on the difference between "taking" a picture and "making" a picture. If you feel like you're "taking" a picture, as in appropriating something from someone, then of course you should put the camera away in an emotionally charged situation such as Steve describes. But if your impulse is to "make" a picture, to express something about the human condition, as Ray and Petach(sp?) have discussed, that's a different situation. http://www.theinspiredeye.net/photography-podcast-taking-vs-making-photos/
     
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  15. RT Panther

    RT Panther SC All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    After spending 24yrs of my life in the military,
    I will not shoot the myriad of burned/amputee veterans that I see on a daily basis for personal reasons. There are enough military photojournalists here (the USAF combat camera school is here) for that.
     
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  16. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    I never knew they had something like that.

    The military here advertised for a photographer a number of months ago. I wish I had the portfolio to be able to apply for that job. I don't think it's anything like the combat camera school but more in terms of promotional material and non-combat stuff. If I was ever in combat, give me a gun dammit,
     
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  17. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin SC Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Nic
    While I see photography primarily as a form of documentary, I pick and choose what I want to document. If it doesn't feel right, I don't press the shutter, or delete if I feel the image doesn't do anything positive.
     
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  18. ReD

    ReD SC Hall of Famer

    Mar 27, 2013
    Yes that's a strange issue to deal with & I thought about it at my Fatherinlaws funeral last year but didn't. On the other hand we have Thatcher & Mandela's which were heavily photographed & televised & we see nothing wrong with that - we would be disappointed if they weren't. When its close to home it doesn't feel right.
     
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  19. TraamisVOS

    TraamisVOS SC Hall of Famer

    Nov 29, 2010
    Melboune, Australia
    The fake sign language interpreter added a certain level of hilarity to what should've been a solemn event. That was worthy of a million photographs and instagrams.
     
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  20. RT Panther

    RT Panther SC All-Pro

    Dec 25, 2012
    Yep!
    We have 3 Combat Camera squadrons within the USAF....Here's one of them...
    -> http://www.afpaa.af.mil/units/3rdcombatcamerasquadron.asp
    -> https://www.facebook.com/pages/3rd-Combat-Camera-Squadron/144596442316226?ref=ts&fref=ts
     
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