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The dilemma of photographing kids in the street

Everyone, it seems, has their dos and don’ts of street photography. While there’s always the folks who say, “there are no rules,” some street photographers try to abide by some sort of code, which often involves not shooting the homeless or never shooting photos of children without their parents’ permission. Chase Jarvis calls it not being “creepy.”

The parental permission rule makes sense, at least in theory. A few years ago, I was taking some photos in Paris of some kids playing in the street and one of the mothers came up to me and waved a finger in my face. After that, I’ve always been conscious of photographing kids. Or, so I thought.

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But going through my images from my recent trip to the Philippines and Japan, I realized that I took a lot of pictures of kids without giving it a second thought. Really, almost every one of my “keepers” has a kid in it.

It wasn’t intentional. And I certainly didn’t feel creepy when I was taking the photos. Yet, if you asked me right now whether you should shoot pictures of random children in the street without their parents’ permission, I’d probably tell you to avoid it.

So is there a double standard at play here? I’ve put some thought into it, wondering if because I was in a non-western culture, I sub-consciously felt less restricted by the “rules.” And if that’s the case, is it right or wrong to do so?

I don’t have the answers but I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

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Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

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