To Ask or Not To Ask


To Ask or Not To Ask

I am writing this story in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The purpose of our visit here was not a vacation; but rather, to participate in a workshop organized by the Santa Fe Photographic workshops. It is my fourth workshop with this incredible organization. We went with them to Cuba in 2013. This time, the title was “The Poetry of Perception” and was taught by renowned photographer, Keith Carter. Next week I will share with you more information about my experience and share some of the images I took during this trip.

I call my style “encounters photography”. Many of my images include portraits of the people I encountered during my everyday activities. This is how I was able to produce three photo-story books. On the first day here, after dinner, I noticed a young man in a coffee shop. What stood out for me was he wore a red tie. With the temperature close to 90°F, wearing a tie didn’t make much sense. So for me, he was a good candidate to photograph. While I checked for the right angle, I asked if he was required to wear a tie at his work. This brief encounter allowed us to establish a relationship. Therefore, when I pulled out my portable camera, he just smiled. There were four young women sitting at another table. Suddenly one of them told me that I have to ask for permission to take a photograph (mind you, I was not photographing them). Then another informed me that in her photography class her instructor told the students that they have to ask for permission before photographing someone. My first reaction was to ignore them, and then I snapped back, “In my photo-class I tell my students that they can do anything”. But this encounter made me think.

Many photographers, including those in our group, are not comfortable to photograph strangers, and their reason is that they think it is an invasion in other people’s privacy. For some of my photo-subjects it is, and when they see me taking their photo, they ask me to delete their images, which I gladly do. In some of the instances I offer for them to see the result first, and if they do not like it, then I gladly get rid of their likeness (with the digital camera it is very easy). Often after seeing the results they allow me to keep it, and even pose for a “better” image. This brings me to my recommendation – If you are not comfortable with photographing strangers, don’t (there are many other things in life to photograph). But if you’re still tempted, especially during foreign travels, definitely ask their permission, or even better, take one of the street photography classes offered by the Santa Fe Photographic workshops to do it right. But you can also learn from books, like both of my “42 Encounters” photo-books. The third one is on the way. You can buy my books on

P.S. The four portraits are my encounters in Santa Fe on this trip. I got consent from each of them.

Enjoy and Share with a Friend.

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