Street photography versus portrait right

In my previous post I linked to an article that is about a Dutch law suit. A woman was photographed in the street. She did not know about it and is now suing because her photo was published (as stock photo) with an editorial. Professional photographers in the Netherlands are watching this case closely.

There are many similar frictions, questions and cases about the rights of the portraited individual and the rights of the photographer/artist. Here’s an article on the topic :

Herald Tribune | Street photography: A right or invasion? / (The Theater of the Street, the Subject of the Photograph)

“The practice of street photography has a long tradition in the United States, with documentary and artistic strains, in big cities and small towns. Photographers usually must obtain permission to photograph on private property – including restaurants and hotel lobbies – but the freedom to photograph in public has long been taken for granted. And it has had a profound impact on the history of the medium. Without it, Lee Friedlander would not have roamed the streets of New York photographing strangers, and Walker Evans would never have produced his series of subway portraits in the 1940s”.

“In an affidavit submitted to the court on diCorcia’s behalf, Peter Galassi, chief curator of photography at the Museum of Modern Art, said diCorcia’s “Heads” fit into a tradition of street photography well defined by artists ranging from Alfred Stieglitz and Henri Cartier-Bresson to Robert Frank and Garry Winogrand. “If the law were to forbid artists to exhibit and sell photographs made in public places without the consent of all who might appear in those photographs,” Galassi wrote, “then artistic expression in the field of photography would suffer drastically. If such a ban were projected retroactively, it would rob the public of one of the most valuable traditions of our cultural inheritance.”

The Getty | About Walker Evans’ subway portraits

This subject is difficult, as there are two sides to the coin. I would not like it if my portrait was published or displayed in an exhibition without my knowledge and consent. But on the other hand, if I were the photographer, I would like/need my right to artistic expression…

I know two things though, if somebody would object to me making photos in a public place or the street, I would respect the NO. Also I would never publish a photo that would be disrespectful.

Last year I was very upset when a disrespectful photograph of my grandmother was published in a newspaper. The paper admitted the mistake and published my complaint, but the harm was done of course. It was extra bitter because the photo was taken at a happy family gathering and it turned out to be our last happy occasion together. It’s difficult to think back to our special event and not see that ugly picture.

Ethics are necessary.


Street – part 3

I’ve selected some weekend reading, listening and viewing. From fine art and rock to street photography.

The Getty | August Sander : People of the Twentieth Century

The New York Times | Sony Taps Into Photo Archive as a Resource During Hard Times

“Last year the company started Icon Collectibles, a boutique business that sells art-quality reproductions of these photos online, for prices from $300 to $1,700, and through various partners (including the News Services Division of The New York Times). Now it is expected to announce Thursday that it has made a deal to sell its photos through the Morrison Hotel Gallery, which specializes in rock imagery.

Rock imagery ?

hmm, I thought that my photos from rock carvings and the granit(e) coastline were called rock images…

Reuters | News | Pictures : strange and unusual

En voor de nederlandstaligen heb ik deze : 29 mei | de Journalist : Hollandse Hoogte gedaagd om ‘hardloopfoto’

The latter an interesting article about a law suit in NL concerning portrait right and street photography, with many reactions. One of the comments included this :

Joel Meyerowitz | On Street Photography


Have a look… I can admit that this is not how I made my photographs in the street. See my street photos on my Flickr account.

Blog on street photography

Street photography : inspiration

updated 25 May 2008

I took the opportunity to visit the Hasselblad center in Gothenburg. To my surprise and delight the exhibition was one of a Swedish photographer, presenting black and white work only : fine art baryte prints. Yes, nostalgia and poetry at the same time.

Here’s the link to the current exhibition ‘En bild i taget’ by Gunnar Smoliansky and here’s a link to Mr Smoliansky’s website.

“Hans bilder visar vardagliga händelser och de små detaljerna vi andra oftast missar. Även om bilderna är geografiskt lokala har de ett allmängiltigt budskap med en igenkänning som gör dem universella”.

Some work on the website is showing at the Hasselblad center, but at the museum one can also see fine portraits and self portraits. The exhibition is about street photography too.

And street photography happens to have my interest at the moment. My first try outs took place in Gothenburg (before I saw the exhibition ;-)) and in the streets of Liège, last Saturday… But more about that in a following post…

A “street photographer” (personally I would say documentary photographer…) that you might know is Garry Winogrand. Interesting reading and inspiration for me.


Garry Winogrand with Bill Moyers, Creativity, WNET, 1982
When I’m photographing, I see life. That’s what I deal with. I don’t have pictures in my head. I frame in terms of what I want to include, and naturally, when I want to snap the shutter. And I don’t worry about how the picture’s gonna look – I let that take care of itself. We know too much about how pictures look and should look, and how do you get around making those pictures again and again. It’s one modus operandi. To frame in terms of what you want to have in the picture, not about how – making a nice picture. That, anybody can do”.


“Volume, Volume, Volume. Garry Winogrand is famous for having exposed three rolls of Kodak TRI-X black and white film on the streets of New York City every day for his entire adult life. That’s 100 pictures a day, 36,500 a year, a million every 30 years. Winogrand died in 1984 leaving more than 2500 rolls of film exposed but undeveloped, 6500 rolls developed but not proofed, and 3000 rolls proofed but not examined (a total of a third of a million unedited exposures).

This is the kind of dedication that you need to bring to a street photography project if you hope to achieve greatness”.

Garry Winogrand/street photographer

WNYC Street Shots: Bruce Gilden

—————————————————————————————” | Streets of Gothenburg : 30 April 2008 | Chalmers Cortège Committé (CCC)