What’s street photography (for you)?
February 25, 2015 - just words
The case of photographer Espen Eichhoefer, whose image of a woman walking the street had to be removed from an exhibition in Berlin after the woman pictured sued him and the gallery for violating her personal rights, and the change of the German criminal code with respect to photographing minors and people in defenseless situations re-started a heated discussion about street photography in Germany. Espen Eichhoefer lost his case while the court didn’t grand the monetary demands by the accusing party. Now he plans to fight the case of street photography if needed to the highest legal instance in Germany. Espen started a crowd funding campaign on startnext.com and as of now (2015/2/24 @ 9pm) the score is larger than 16,000€ of the originally planned 14,000€. The media as well as several blogs picked up the story with a “safe the art, safe street photography” tenor.
Some sources I found online (mostly in German): ttt – respected art and culture TV magazine, Berliner Morgenpost – newspaper, fluxFM – radio, a blog post by Mario Sixtus with a very polarized discussion. A critical opinion defending the personal rights was written by Elias Schwerdtfeger and the Spuersinn blog even wrote about some artistic alternatives.
Only little is said about the woman who sued and won. I hear a loud outcry that the art of street photography, mastered so well by the likes of Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Elliott Erwitt and Walker Evans, is in its final stage diseased by the cancer of personal rights. And while we are presented a lot of ugly grimaces and average as well as thoughtless photography under the mantle of “art”, only a few voices talk about a person’s legal right to its public image. I take pictures and know that it is difficult and often not even wanted to exclude people in my photos. However, it’s possible to include people by showing respect following some common sense. Photographers can’t do what they want justified in the name of art. On the other hand, legal actions and damage payment demands by people unwillingly photographed need to be reasonable. The task of the law is to keep both sides in balance. Yet, I do see complications in the days of the internet, social media and the easiness of taking/posting pictures to find the “right amount” of law which is not just talking about egocentric and self proclaimed street photographers like Gilden and Leuthard but the making and distribution of child pornography and all kinds of sick stuff having found a nutritious ground in social media. Maybe a little bit “more” law is better than not enough.
The crusaders of street photography often argue that art should be free and that everything is allowed for the sake of documentary. To a certain extend I agree but who defines what is art or documentary and how to include the object in the process? Is a photograph of an isolated woman rushing with her shopping back from one place to the next really art/documentary or is it just the repetition of something that flew by many times before in our social media streams? Does a line up of inspiration- and emotionless images suddenly become art/documentation? Or could it be that these self proclaimed street photographers just hide an endless stream of boredom behind the “liberty of art”?
What we do here on 100strangers.info is just one way to find a balance and commit photographer as well as its object into a dialogue. We try to tell the stories and show the portraits of people in their every day life by means of communication. We not only show a portrait and tell a story but show the inside of the photographer. Every of our posts is a debate with ourselves and the things around us with the difference that our subjects are an active part of the communication.