Small Camera, Big City: Is street photography too voyeur?

landscape photography of downtown Seattle skyline

Seattle, WA

There is something about street photography that seems too voyeuristic these days, as if photographers are afraid to get close to their subjects. I’m not immune from this tendency either. Photography is easier when shooting from a distance, with people unrecognizable, and avoiding conversations about model releases and such.

Maybe street photography has morphed into an obsession with geometry and architecture, composing with the edges of a structure and documenting what emerges from their shadows. Or are photographers simply on some type of human safari?

It does seem, however, that despite all of our modern communications and social media people have become more insular. Perhaps it is just me, and I see the work of others through that filter. Or, maybe, people have become more insular when actually in public and this trend of impersonal and distant street photography reflects that. We’re just as curious about people as ever, but we lack the courage to engage so the camera reaches out passively for us and we create our own narrative to go along with it.

When I have stopped to speak with a person I photographed the result has been rewarding. So what do you think is better for street photography, getting closer to the real person or a distant and impersonal mystery?