In most countries, it is legal to take images of people in public spaces when they are unaware of you. Candid photography has been done extensively throughout history and there is nothing morally or ethically wrong with it when it is non–commmercial. It is a good idea to ask the parent or guardian if taking images of children. The candid photograph avoids the fake smile or the unwanted gestures such as the peace symbol! If you do still feel uncomfortable, take the image when they are unaware, then approach them showing the portrait. You can always email them a copy of it!

Here are our Top 5 photographers who take images of people unaware

1. Weegee At the Movies 

Weegee at the Movies is a super piece of photography that was taken in the 40 ’s. This is such a strong example of how a photographer was able to take images of filmgoers in the cinema with a flash and go unnoticed.  He liked being invisible. The pictures he took were of couples kissing, laughing children, and men sleeping. He was able to get only feet away and used an infrared red film that was used during WWI. As quoted by Weegee: “I guess all photographers want to be invisible. We want to photograph people as they are, and people are never quite themselves when they know there’s a camera around.”

2. Gail Albert Halaban

Gail Albert Halaban is a slightly different photographer to the other top 5 in that she takes the images from afar.  She was inspired by her son’s heart condition when she realized how the Drs were monitoring his heart remotely. They were on another floor. She felt she could incorporate this into her photography.

She would photograph through the window of domestic houses. As she photographs in many countries in the world- going global! Albert Halaban has taken an extra approach and connects, via Skype, with two households, they both live opposite each other.  They set up the camera in the window-space of one apartment, and Albert Halaban directs both families in creating the staged image in her style adjusting and composing until a perfect image is found. A contemporary  Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

3. Lisette Model

Model’s best-known work is a series of photographs she made of people on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice and on the streets of New York’s Lower East Side. She used a 35 mm camera for this. Interestingly she taught photography and her most famous student was Diane Arbus!  Model was interested in the modern life and the honest portrayal. She was interested in the quirky side of people. Her images are stunning taken and printed with a strong contrast of black and white.

4. Mike Brodie

Mike Brodie is a photographer who has no formal training but starting taking images with a polaroid amassing an archive of images that would make a collection of American travel photography.  He has won awards and his book is in its third lot of printing. After five intense years, he has stopped making images. His composition has strong diagonal crops, rich sharp colours emphasizing the chaos. He was only 18 when he started to hop trains! Check his work out.

5. Mark Cohen

Mark Cohen’s images are up close and personal and are shot with a wide-angle lens. They are strong, intense images and full of emotion. Interesting crops that you might only see a detail but that tells a story. His images are taken from waist height, always secretly and he is known as a hit and run street photographer. He is not interested in explaining himself. There is no conversation. it his reaction to the street. he is in the subject’s space. It is over as quick as you can say Mark!