Commentary # 3 ~ April 2007
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About the "Beautitudes" gallery and Street Photography of the Less Fortunate - Is It Exploitive?

April 2007

- by Craig Wassel

Visitors of this site's 24 galleries may find photographs of landscapes, nightscapes, city scapes, flora, fauna, or homeless people.

Homeless people? How do those fit in? I suppose it is not so much that they fit in, but that they fit me. They are a reminder that despite the fact there are many people who have far more than I do, I have many blessings in my life compared to the less fortunate in my "Beatitudes" gallery. There will always be debate over the ethics of this type of street photography, and everyone is certainly entitled to an opinion.

The debate usually buzzes most agressively around photographs like this being taken without a person's knowledge or permission, and without compensating them. The reason I do not ask for these subjects' permission before or after is that I do not want them reacting to me or a camera. My goal is to capture true expressions and postures on the faces of these people.

They are not intended to be artistic, but merely to be studies of the human condition. If you closely compare the images in my "Beatitudes" gallery with those in all the other galleries, you will notice something is conspicuously absent. There are no copyright watermarks on them. This is not to hide the fact that I took them, but to reflect that I do not feel I have any ownership over them. Unlike all other work on this site, these photographs are not for sale under any circumstances.

As for giving the subjects something, suffice it to say I would rather have viewers believe I gave nothing than to bellow to the masses about charitable acts. There are also way to be charitable and help these people without giving directly to them, such as the organization named Streetwise (link)..

Some viewers also ask if these were shot with a telephoto lens, and the answer to that is "no". The focal length on these ranges from about 35mm to 75mm, and were shot completely uncomposed without raising the camera to eye. If I see a subject who moves me, I preset shutter speed, aperture, then let autofocus take care of the rest.

At some point in the hopefully not too distant future, I would like to photograph some of these individuals with the opposite approach to see how the expressions differ. For now, though, these faces serve as important reminders to me. As I have watched the expressions on these subjects faces, so have I watched other react to these photographs.

Photographer Robert Frank said, "It is always the instantaneous reaction to oneself that produces a photograph". So, I show these here with no apologies.

If you remain in the camp tha feels these people these people should not be photographed without consent, I understand. The best thing you can do is to do a little something to make up for the wrong you feel I have done and perform a charitable act in their interest.

If you - on the other hand - understand my goal and reason for making these types of photographs and at least one of their faces moves you to feel or do something, then they have served their purpose.

Either way, the purpose of the images will be well served.

If you merely stop to criticize then continue to walk on by . . . well . . . you finish the sentance for yourself . . . . .

"I am trying here to say something about the despised, the defeated, the alienated. About death and disaster, about the wounded, the crippled, the helpless, the rootless, the dislocated. About finality. About the last ditch . . . "

~ Dorothea Lange ~

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The Less Fortunate

". . . Unlike all other work on this site, though, these photographs are not for sale under any circumstances. They are not even intended to be artistic, but merely to be studies of the
human condition
. . ."

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