I must confess I haven’t completely made my mind about a sensitive aspect of street photography: should people authorize being photographed or not? I think one decisive distinction is between a group of people or a particular one. If you are walking on a street and you’ll be photographed without knowing about it, it is completely different being only one more person in the crowd or being the very subject of a photo. But I know this discinction doen’t solve the whole puzzle. Many very beautiful street photography show only one or two people and make them the subject of the photo without becoming sort of an intrusion into their privacy. Another question, then, regards the generalization of the portrait. Is it about “someone running in the sidewalk” or is it about “loo what THIS person is doing!”? The way you show the person’s face in the picture makes all the difference here.
Above you have only one person in the picture. But who is this guy? Is he happy? Is he sad? It just doesn’t matter. It is a “non-young” man riding his bicycle in one of the main streets of Porto Ferreira, in the State of São Paulo, Brazil. I just wanted to capture the mood of the moment and clearly I am not violating the privacy of this man.
Then I kept walking around and met these two workers who I thought had nice faces for a portrait and, in this case, the only solution for a nice picture would be to ask them for a photo. The result would not anymore be some “flagrant of a moment in life” as the picture above. But I like doing this kind of photo too and the brief conversation it leads to.
Usually people seem to get both puzzled and and delighted when I approach them and ask “can I make a portrait of you?”. Puzzled by wondering why on Earth would some stranger get interested in them and delighted, nonetheless, by the very same fact: “Hey! Well… some stranger IS actually interested in me, for some reason!”.
Experiencing these reactions is one of the great pleasures I find in photographing people.