Peruse public pedestrian photos that portray private ponderings.
August 23, 2002 9:57 AM   Subscribe

Peruse public pedestrian photos that portray private ponderings. Phenomenal portraits, I might add.
posted by pedantic (55 comments total)

 
I'm pretty amazed if these are real and unstaged. The lighting is perfect, and the focus is magnificent. The display of side-by-side portraits is interesting and leads to funny or provoking pairings (which I'd link to, but it's all in flash so I can't).
posted by mathowie at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2002


Simon sure shot some sweet scenes.
posted by debralee at 10:04 AM on August 23, 2002


An interesting piece of work. But, why are none of these people smiling?
posted by TCMITS at 10:05 AM on August 23, 2002


phabulous. perhaps because they are so clear, they remind me of clip art. I like the one of the couple kissing, her eyes imply she is distracted.
posted by whatnot at 10:07 AM on August 23, 2002


Are laws different in the UK, or would the publication of such photography not usually require a release form in the United States?
posted by Danelope at 10:08 AM on August 23, 2002


very cool link, pedantic. thanks.
posted by moz at 10:09 AM on August 23, 2002


TCMITS - Brits have learned not to smile for the camera.
posted by debralee at 10:12 AM on August 23, 2002


I would guess that no one is smiling because these are people en route to work or school. Have you ever run into a friend in public, that you saw just walking down the street? Maybe it's different being in a major city, but whenever I ran into friends in San Francisco, they often had aggressively "get out of my way" or "don't fuck with me" looks on their faces. You yell "Hey, John!" and their faces light up, their posture changes, and you actually see a scowl turn into a smile. I think people generally look like this in public, especially on subways.

I'm sure the guy could have gotten releases from people after he snapped pics, no? Maybe there was compensation involved, to ensure more people consented to it.
posted by mathowie at 10:13 AM on August 23, 2002


They beg for captions, eh?
posted by Shane at 10:19 AM on August 23, 2002


mathowie: I'm sure the guy could have gotten releases from people after he snapped pics, no?

Ahh, I was under the impression that the photographs were being taken automatically ("who happened to walk into the frame of the camera") and without intervention by the artist. Doesn't explicity state this anywhere on the site, but it was an assumption I made based on the fact that so few of them were looking directly at the camera.
posted by Danelope at 10:22 AM on August 23, 2002


TCMITS: first thing I thought of as well. This is really close to my experience of living there: the same grey-white light all year round, and no one smiling in the street.

He chose a great spot as well, really busy, at the intersection of a shopping district, an Asian neighborhood, an upscale residential neighborhood, and Hyde Park. Great photography that reminds me of a feeling of London that I had managed to forget. Thanks!
posted by fuzz at 10:23 AM on August 23, 2002


Framed Emotions. Per the website. Very cool. Most of them seem confused, sad and angry. Is London like that?
posted by stbalbach at 10:26 AM on August 23, 2002


Wonderful find, pedantic, thanks. I found this weirdly fascinating website the other day which consists solely of daily passport-type photographs of the same guy since about two years ago.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:27 AM on August 23, 2002


It was mostly a rhetorical question. It's reasonable to expect a somewhat neutral facial expression on faces of people who are just walking down the street, and a smile is NOT neutral, but it seemed to me that most of the people featured here were actually scoweling, which is also not neutral. Curious.

Makes you wonder what you look like yourself when you go out for a stroll.
posted by TCMITS at 10:30 AM on August 23, 2002


I didn't think you needed a release or permission if the photograph was taken in a public place.
posted by zeoslap at 10:31 AM on August 23, 2002


mathowie, I'm floored by the clarity as well. It's a challenge to maintain that depth of field and yet keep the object in focus...especially moving people.

As far as taking photos of people, it seems that in many cases it falls under an individual's right to publicity. That is, when it is published, they should know the context of how it will be used. A good outline is available in the article Publication of Photographs: Is A Release Required? Non-people related laws are here. Of course, this is very U.S. centric.
posted by pedantic at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2002


What? Only ONE is using a cell phone? This can't possibly have been done RECENTLY!
posted by HTuttle at 10:36 AM on August 23, 2002


I found this weirdly fascinating website the other day which consists solely of daily passport-type photographs of the same guy since about two years ago.

Wow! Has this guy had a lot of hairdo's, or what? It's almost a study of how different hairstyles suit a face.

Kind of like a narcissistic version of the passport photo collector in Amelie. "Weirdly fascinating" is right.
posted by Shane at 10:42 AM on August 23, 2002


Those famous lines from W.H.Auden's poem come to mind:

Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places.

posted by MiguelCardoso at 10:44 AM on August 23, 2002


These are great shots -- they remind me a bit of a series (and later book) that Philip Lorca-diCorcia did called "Heads." He took similar photos of pedestrians in New York, triggering lights at the precise moments they walked by. Many of them are gorgeous and surreal. I wonder how many of his subjects even knew they were caught?

Are laws different in the UK, or would the publication of such photography not usually require a release form in the United States?

I might be wrong, but I believe in the United States you don't need a release if you take photos of people in public, open places -- i.e., walking down a street -- and use the shots for artistic or editorial purposes. (Putting shots on a nonprofit website counts as "artistic.") Of course it's polite to get permission, but I don't think it's illegal unless the context of the photo could be construed as libelous (and even that's murky). It's only if you're going to use the photos for commercial purposes -- such as in advertising, or on the cover of a book or magazine or CD -- that a release is required. (In most cases, photos on the covers of books or magazines are considered commercial use, while photos on the insides of books or magazines are considered editorial.)

(On preview, pedantic's permissions link looks helpful too.)
posted by 88robots at 10:57 AM on August 23, 2002


Great photos. I felt the gap between reality and all the false faces you see in staged photos. The fact that the photos are so clear yet unstaged makes them seem.....surreal somehow. Really great.
posted by SpaceCadet at 11:05 AM on August 23, 2002


The part about "the subject just happened to walk by into the frame of the camera" is really peculiar to me.

I like taking pictures a lot and for the past year or so have taken about 20 rolls of film of people at my school with my SLR. As soon as people spotted anything that resembled a lens they were instantly alert to the camera's prescence (much to my disappointment...I was aiming for more candid photos).

I am curious as to how this guy managed to get such close up, focused photographs without attracting anyone's attention. Did he have a 500m zoom lens or was his camera just hidden behind a window or something?
posted by puffin at 11:11 AM on August 23, 2002


What a gorgeous little site and a neat thread. Thanks.

Miguel, those photos are a hoot. Try loading them all and scrolling down for a fun animation effect. And you gotta love those boxbots. From his homepage, it looks like he redesigned Andrew Sullivan's site last January; interesting guy. And have you seen those boxbots?!
posted by mediareport at 11:24 AM on August 23, 2002


But, why are none of these people smiling

Perhaps pedestrians posed per photographer.

Great link!
posted by WolfDaddy at 11:28 AM on August 23, 2002


Wonderful photographs. Inspires me to take my bulky SLR to school this semester and take pictures like these on campus.

I like the black guy ~ mustache guy who looks like he's pulling a gun pair in the Summer section.
posted by azazello at 11:46 AM on August 23, 2002


Legal or illegal, it's a phenomenal invasion of privacy.
posted by gordian knot at 11:48 AM on August 23, 2002


Legal or illegal, it's an interesting site and thread. The "boxbots link" made me smile. Thanks, Miguel and mediareport. I wish I had the creative talents that some people have. I like to think I do, but haven't found the right way to express it...yet..
posted by jaronson at 11:53 AM on August 23, 2002


These look really posed to me. Like they're character actors in a film. I'm sure some of them were in Traffic.
posted by Summer at 12:01 PM on August 23, 2002


Those were great; they reminded me of some of the work at the Hirschhorn's current Open Cities street photography exhibit, particularly Beat Streuli and (especially) Phillip-Lorca diCorcia's wonderfully cinematic street photography.
posted by snarkout at 12:08 PM on August 23, 2002


I'm honestly surprised some folks think Simon's lying about staging these photos. There's not one that doesn't look real to me; some of the folks are clearly caught in the moment of realizing they're being photographed, yes, but they all still seem utterly candid. Maybe it's the beautiful way he's paired the photos, or the way the pairs shift direction and zoom so cleverly that leads folks to think the whole thing is a staged lie?
posted by mediareport at 12:21 PM on August 23, 2002


Legal or illegal, it's a phenomenal invasion of privacy.

Privacy ends the day you choose to interact with the world. Whether on film or not, our behaviors are observed by others. How we choose to respond to those people observing us is entirely our discretion.
posted by pedantic at 12:22 PM on August 23, 2002


Having had another look at them I don't think he's lying, mediareport, it's just that some look like film stills to me. One woman's just had her kid taken away because of her alcoholism in a TV movie, a couple of them are powerlessly watching an alien invasion and one of them is clearly Vincent Price.
posted by Summer at 12:29 PM on August 23, 2002


Privacy ends the day you choose to interact with the world. Whether on film or not, our behaviors are observed by others. How we choose to respond to those people observing us is entirely our discretion.

I tell you what's really bad is when they film fat people to put in documentaries about fat people. Imagine if you were one of those.
posted by Summer at 12:32 PM on August 23, 2002


The Vincent Price looking guy is in there twice. He's the second to last shot in Summer and on the homepage under Spring.
posted by onhazier at 12:33 PM on August 23, 2002


The Vincent Price looking guy is in there twice.

The same person showing up in the same park in two different seasons? Outrageous! ;)

I'll bet there are thousands and thousands of photos from this thing, onhazier. We're seeing only a handful; that the photographer chose to show us two of the same guy doesn't indicate anything except maybe a bit about what the photog was thinking as he organized the online exhibit.
posted by mediareport at 12:42 PM on August 23, 2002


What mediareport says about these being selected from thousands of photos might also explain why some of it looks staged. Hoegsberg probably tossed the ones of people who looked overly conscious of the camera.

By the way, this link reminded me of another post from MiguelCardoso to an exhibit of sketches of people in the subway by Jorge Antonio Gonçalves.

Put the different sites mentioned in this thread together, and we have an intriguing collection of urban images of people in public spaces.
posted by smrtsch at 12:46 PM on August 23, 2002


Wonderful find, pedantic, thanks. I found this weirdly fascinating website the other day which consists solely of daily passport-type photographs of the same guy since about two years ago.

Have you all read Gunter Grass's "The Tin Drum"? After reading that I wanted to do the above, but don't have the cash. Looks like someone beat me to it.
posted by neustile at 1:44 PM on August 23, 2002


Summer: I am one of "those". Fat people, I mean. I am neither proud nor ashamed of my appearance. I am what I am and I feel no need to apologise to anyone for the way I look and I don't care who takes my picture when I'm in public.
However, one thing that does fry my biscuits is the way most TV stations roll out the film clip of headless fat people walking down the street every time they do a piece on dieting or the evils of french fries.
posted by TCMITS at 1:48 PM on August 23, 2002


I wasn't having a go at fat people (if there is such a category) TCMITS. The example you mention is exactly what I mean.
posted by Summer at 1:57 PM on August 23, 2002


Summer: The printed word can be so misleading sometimes. I thought I detected a bit of "Pity the poor fat people" in your post. My mistake.

Anyway, I do understand and appreciate the sympathy for someone who suddenly sees film of their headless body walking down the street or getting on a bus, while watching the evening news...
posted by TCMITS at 2:19 PM on August 23, 2002


Summer, I'm not discounting how anyone feels in any circumstance. I'm addressing the fact that privacy is an illusion in society; the more privacy we think we have the more it seems to slip away—when in fact it never really existed anyway. How we respond to the illusion is what makes up our interpersonal relationships. To have privacy is choosing not to engage with humanity. People are interested in other people and always will be. Our family has a vested interest in us just as marketers have a vested interest in us; albeit for very different reasons.
posted by pedantic at 2:55 PM on August 23, 2002


Great site. Enjoyed it alot.

Anyone else notice the high number of subjects who were slack-jawed?
posted by Windigo at 3:03 PM on August 23, 2002


Legal or illegal, it's a phenomenal invasion of privacy.

I have to agree and amnot interested in looking. Pedantic, your argument is slick, very slick. But it lacks a certain substance.

As for the lack of smiles to which everyone refers--this reminds me of what I've read of dream research. Happy dreams are by far the exception. I suspect the same is true of thoughts.
posted by y2karl at 3:58 PM on August 23, 2002


I love the way they're paired. The couple kissing kissing juxtaposed with the wistfully staring guy is hilarious.
posted by gsteff at 6:58 PM on August 23, 2002


y2karl, what substance is lacking? I'm curious...if you pose a valid argument against my stance, I reserve the right to be totally wrong. ;)
posted by pedantic at 9:01 PM on August 23, 2002


(warning: self-link!) A few days ago I put up some photos I took of people on busses. Taking photos of people in public can be addicting.
posted by gluechunk at 11:42 PM on August 23, 2002


Pedantic - I don't really have a well-thought-out response to the privacy argument, but I know that if I'd seen myself among those photographs I wouldn't be happy - especially if it was a really bad one. People watching you in the street is one thing. When you're in a photograph you're one step removed and it becomes voyeuristic. But I think I'd get over it.

Evesdropping conversations is more interesting and illuminating than looking at photos anyway. That's when the real personality comes out. In cities most people's default expression is a distracted scowl, which is intended to discourage interaction from possible insane people.
posted by Summer at 5:21 AM on August 24, 2002


a distracted scowl, which is intended to discourage interaction

I'll have to try that. On evesdropping conversations.
posted by stbalbach at 5:59 AM on August 24, 2002


Re. duplicating the "Vincent Price" man. He's wearing the same sweatshirt, too! I fail to see the resemblance to VP, though. See for yourself. (Flash doesn't protect images on the Web, BTW. Use Alt + Shift + PrtScr to capture the top window or Shift + PrtScr to capture the entire screen. Then paste into your favorite image editor. Before someone cries copyright infringement, I assert that I created the linked image in line with U.S. fair use principles.)
posted by tbc at 11:08 AM on August 24, 2002


I didn't mean him, tbc. I meant the man who is five frames in, on the right hand side, in Autumn. (I can't do what you suggested - I have nowhere to put the picture).
posted by Summer at 11:30 AM on August 24, 2002


Ah, I think I see now. Thanks for the correction. This man, right?
posted by tbc at 11:01 PM on August 24, 2002


Yes. You just know that man's called something like Dr Terror.
posted by Summer at 1:52 AM on August 25, 2002


Great site. I don't see any problem with photographs of expressions on a public street. Maybe it will provide them with a proof of an alibi if they're framed for murder...
posted by Pretty_Generic at 11:05 AM on August 25, 2002


Privacy ends the day you choose to interact with the world.

Hm. Well, tell that to the people who are arguing that taking those red-light running photographs aren't an invasion.

Seems the best defense when you get one of them is to claim that someone else was driving your car. So some cities are thinking that they'll set up more cameras to also snap a picture of the person driving the red-light running car... oh, and by the way, we'll take your picture, too, when you drive in the HOV lanes, and if there are too few people in your car, you'll get a ticket then, too.

So now the people opposed to such things are saying that taking your picture while you're driving is an invasion of privacy.

And, alas, the Brits gave up their rights about being photographed (videoed) in public years ago. No more bobbies on the corner, but vid cameras are abundant, eh?
posted by crunchland at 1:54 PM on August 25, 2002


I don't seem to have enough mojo yet to post a link on the front page, but here's a photo collection I also like: Individual Colors.
posted by tbc at 7:48 AM on August 26, 2002


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