Today I saw this video of a guy named Fabio Pires doing some very aggressive street photography in London via PetaPixel. Many people mentioned the link to me and asked me what my thoughts were, considering I received a negative response with the video I shot with flash in Hollywood. Here are some of my initial thoughts about the video:
First of all, I don’t like how this guy is deliberately trying to scare people to elicit a type of response. The fact that he hides behind a phonebooth and then jumps out doesn’t feel right to me. When you are shooting street photography you might scare/surprise people on accident, but that shouldn’t be your primary motive. Even with my street photography, I prefer when I capture images of people candidly without them noticing me. I found in many cases when I get really close to people with a wide-angle lens, they don’t even seem to notice me. And for those who say that I shoot flash to elicit a response– people don’t notice the flash until after you take the photo.
Secondly, his technique looks very sloppy. I am not sure if he shoots under his arms/sideways all-the-time, but it looks like he was doing that to be showy. Although I believe shooting from the hip without a viewfinder is a good way to get your feet wet in street photography, I believe that using the viewfinder is the best way to get solid compositions and framing. To say that he is “more of a perfectionist than Bruce Gilden” is absolute blasphemy as many of his images have poor composition.
In addition, his knowledge of street photography seems to very superficial. He mentions that he is out looking for characters, but simply defines “characters” as people who look different. He also mentions that there is no point in shooting “normal people” which I disagree with. Also, I think he should think more about the story he is trying to tell through the people that he captures.
Lastly, he doesn’t seem to have much respect for the people he shoots, especially the homeless. He has no problem scaring people to get his shot, and the aggressive motion he uses with his camera looks more like a punch than photo-taking. In addition, he mentions that he only deliberately shoots the homeless because they are “different”. To say something like that is unethical in my opinion, as the homeless shouldn’t be seen as easy subjects to capture because of their socio-economic differences from us. All-in-all, you must have the right reasons to shoot your subjects to showcase something beautiful about their character, dress, face, or attitude. You must look for unique and special people to shoot, rather than “different” people. Love the people you shoot.
Although the guy does come off as arrogant and cocky, what he is still doing is legal. Whether it is ethical is a completely different story. I don’t know many street photographers that try to elicit a response on purpose from their subjects, but if that is his cup of tea and artistic style I don’t feel right to judge him based on a video. Who knows, maybe the guy is just a bit confused or mislead. I feel that art always needs to push boundaries and although this guy is doing the extreme polar end of street photography, that is his style.
Let us know what your thoughts about the video are in the comments below. And please try to keep the conversation civil.
Update: One thing I want to emphasize is that let’s not all take out our pitchforks and crucify Fabio. Let’s disagree with his actions, rather than himself as a person. I’m sure he has been reading all the negative comments on the web and feels pretty crappy right now. I know how it feels to be criticized on a large-scale and trust me: it feels horrible. After all the negative press I received after my video, I was actually quite depressed and down-in-the-dumps for several weeks.