Posed street photography is the antithesis of candid street photography and if you read my previous article lauding candid street photography, then you will realize that I am about to contradict myself on this page.
The photograph below is a posed shot, clearly, but although I prefer candid shots in general sometimes a posed shots can work. This shot shows two children who are clearly from an impoverished background but they are not used to posing in front of cameras.
Perhaps they are so poor that they have never seen a camera. But they still have dignity and that is important.
Actually there aren't too many upper-class folk out on the streets just waiting to have their photo taken. But the poor, the homeless, drug addicts, alcoholics, the blind, lame and other unfortunates are all too evident in inner cities. And for photographers, this is one area where moral questions raise their heads.
Above: The Railway Children
Some people believe that taking photos of destitute people is somehow taking advantage, and it can be. It is easy in a photo to make a homeless person or an alcoholic look utterly abject, an object of pity or derision, whether it's candid or posed street photography. And you may find that in your photos you have depicted them without dignity although you didn't mean to.
When I went to Egypt many years ago, I was shocked to find people lying on the street, under blankets, with one arm sticking out, palm up, expectantly awaiting it to have coins placed therein.
I had never been beyond Paris until then and it was an eye-opener. I didn't take pictures of any of those people as I didn't want to take photos that were exploitative.
But life on the streets is as it is, it is real life, and I believe there is nothing wrong with making a photo of a destitute person as long as you don't lose sight of the fact that this is another human being with their own unique story to tell. That's why you're out there, to find stories, the good, the bad and the ugly. You are there to witness, not to judge.
Whether it's candid or posed street photography that you prefer, try to let your impartiality be present in your shot and always, always treat your subject with respect. Most of all, look for the beauty within each person's soul - it may be hidden, but it is there, and if you can capture it you may have a winning shot.
If you are interested in exploring posed street photography further, you might find 'Street Portraits' by Richard Carr interesting.
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