Taking pictures of people – stealing pictures

I was asked in regards to Latitude 34 show at the CDG whether I take any pictures of people along my way. I do, but not as often as I would like to. I also had to pick a coherent serie for the amount of wall space I had.

I come from a country where culturally , people in the street dont like their pictures taken. I remember countless times where I was told off, abused verbally for trying to take one. It did scar me when as a teen I came back to Morocco for a few weeks after having moved to France, and came with this youthful energy and will to snap the world around me. For fun. I was also attacked one day by a thug who wrapped me around the shoulders with a razor in his mouth ready to scar my cheek.I managed to escape somehow unharmed, I had a tiny frame, that may have helped. To this day, I feel very uneasy to take pictuers of people in the street – also probably because I dont line mine taken!

There are countries where I felt a lot more at ease on that front – like China or Thailand.

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One solution is to take people from behind too.

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There is always the question, when taking the picture of someone in the street, about whether they would feel upset or happy had they known. Against that lays the sense of duty inherent to documentary, street photography.

There is one experience that has shaken a little this uneasy stance I had for a while: Montevideo is  beautiful yet modest city, stopped in time, that reminded me of Rabat in the 80’s. I was warned a lot about safety, and had to have my wits with me, but I had a very sweet encounter, a very refreshing one, especially after spending a few days in Buenos Aires where I was constantly told to be careful and hide my camera.

I was walking around with my camera, and heard these two blokes talk to me in spanish. They look very rough, homeless, and salvaging what they could in bin bags. They asked me to take their picture. After a moment of hesitation, I decided to wear a big smile and point the camera at them. They grinned, their whole face changed, they looked a lot younger all of a sudden, and they posed. I shot a few shots and came closer. When I stopped , I thought of showing them, but instead they hugged each other and went thgeir way, galloping in a very happy fashion.

I stayed silent – I was surprised. They didnt even want to see the picture I took of them, and I woudl have loved to show them, but d all I manage to do is thank them before they run off. They only longed for a moment of recognition, someone acknowledging their presence, smiling at them and framing them. It wasn’t the picture that interested them, but the act of being photographed.

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I wonder if when people dislike their photo being taken, at what level it stands? whthere in the act of capturing them, without permission, or at a moment they thought they were invisible, doing their thing, about being seen, noticed, or the idea that someone has them framed in a photograph, captured. Similarly those who LOVE to be photographed, do they love the attention? and the time accorded to them? the action or the idea of being immortalised, sometimes even objectified depending on the kind of photography? Role play?

About Malika

Visual Artist - Story teller - Outdoor enthousiast - Lady Yellow
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