Hell’s Kitchen _9866


I read a lot of blog posts. Recently I read a blog on the virtues of photographing people from the back. How it is still street photography. Excuse me for saying this, but I always felt that photographing people from behind is not facing up to your fear of confronting your subject face to face. It pointed out how some of the great photographers have done this. Sure, it happens, but I think not for the reasons that they cited. While there are times I do photograph from behind, it is usually a response to something that photographing from the front wouldn’t add to the emotional or compositional context.

What is the worst that could happen? I’ve been hit on the leg once by an elderly woman with her cane. Usually I work fast enough that the person sometimes doesn’t know what happened. Sometimes my presence there in front of them forces them to gaze straight at me. I want to look people in the eyes and feel what they feel. This blog post said that this was wrong, that this is not the essence of street photography. Your presence should be not known. I feel sometimes yes, sometimes no. It depends upon the situation.

Robert Frank once said, ” …Above all, I know that life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.” Photographing people from behind because you have fear is ” a matter of indifference”. Take a stand.

Life is not about hiding or living in fear. Face the everyday. Don’t be forceful with confrontation, but don’t run from it. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Published by Keith Goldstein

Photographer, husband, dad, and passionate cyclist. Lives and works in New York City.

6 thoughts on “Hell’s Kitchen _9866

  1. I agree with you. There are all kinds of photography; there are all kinds of street photography. But as a general rule when I see pictures of people from behind they usually scream, “boring” or “frightened.”
    It’s people’s faces and eyes that make the connection. That’s not to say there aren’t great photographs where the people’s backs are to the photographer but they’re rarer and have been captured by a photographer with clear creative intent – not someone who was too timid to be seen taking the picture.

  2. I agree with you Keith, but for example in France, make a person face is the photographer take risks when you put the picture online. In France we have a law that protects every individual, even in a public place. This is called the right to the image, photographers have seen in France go to court and judged as it had no broadcasting license for a person photographed in the street, it was obviously a complaint.
    Me this not ask me shooter problem a person front but never aggressive with flash as certain, the goal is that the person does not apperçoive the shoot, it’s my way of seeing things, but it belongs to me!

  3. Ha! You talking to me, Keith?! I do enjoy taking pictures of people from the back, but sometimes I do get fearless and snap face-on. I think I spend too much time deciding if they look friendly or not. That is why I enjoy your photos (and you know I question you about them, too!)–you are fearless. Yes, I am working on that….

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