This will be a controversial post. I’m a bit hesitant to publish it, because it will cause a stir, and I’m not looking for trouble. The Fuji X Weekly audience has been extraordinarily civil, which is something I’m extremely grateful for, as the internet can oftentimes be the exact opposite of civil. The internet has a way of bringing out the worst in people, perhaps because they can hide behind anonymity, or maybe there is a disconnect that makes interactions seem a bit less human; whatever the reason, people sometimes are rude or downright mean on the web. I’m asking right up front for civility and human kindness in regards to this article.
The video at the top, entitled My Milestone, was produced by Fujifilm to promote the X100V. It was promptly removed by Fujifilm because of public outcry. The featured photographer, Tatsuo Suzuki, is controversial, not for his images, but for how he captures those images. This video created quite a stir on the internet, and the worst in people showed up strongly in the comments of various articles regarding the video.
Here’s another video that shows Suzuki’s photographs and technique:
It seems as though the majority of people are against Suzuki’s style and agree that the video is controversial, and they believe that Fujifilm should never have associated themselves with him. Fujirumors and PetaPixel even conducted polls that confirm it. Now Suzuki is no longer a Fuji X Ambassador, either because Fujifilm dropped him or he dropped them. I’m going to go against popular opinion and defend Tatsuo Suzuki. The reaction to the Fujifilm video has been a huge overreaction.
As best as I can gather, what Suzuki did in the video that sparked all the outrage is demonstrate his “aggressive” style of shooting. He’s very much “in your face” as he walks the streets of Tokyo with his camera. It comes across as rude, as he invades people’s personal bubbles. My opinion is that he does this because, in Japan, people are extremely guarded, and the photographs that he captures, which are very good, would be impossible with any other technique. It’s the technique that he chooses to use in order to fulfill his photographic vision. It’s abrasive, yes, but also effective.
Suzuki is not the first to use this aggressive technique nor is he the most extreme with it. Bruce Gilden, Garry Winogrand and Eric Kim come to mind, and I’m sure there are many others. These are all successful and celebrated, albeit controversial, photographers, including Suzuki. They are far from the only controversial photographers out there. Even the legendary Steve McCurry has been called controversial at times. My point is this: just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it wrong.
Was Suzuki doing anything illegal? No. In Japan, and many parts of the world, this type of photography is legal. Was he acting different than you or most people might act in public? Yes. Just because you don’t go around taking unsolicited closeup pictures of strangers doesn’t mean that it’s wrong to do so. Is it strange? Yes. Wrong? Not necessarily.
There’s a trend right now to shut down debate when faced with a differing opinion. If there’s something that you disagree with, it’s become common to attack the person whom one disagrees with. It used to be that people could “agree to disagree” and still be kind and caring and remain friends. Nowadays, if someone says or does something that you disagree with, you might attack their character and call them all sorts of names, demanding that they be stripped of their dignity until they change their ways. That’s exactly what I’ve seen in this debate. It’s really nasty and harmful. Those who go to war with their words against someone who did or said something that they disagree with, those people are the ones that stop dialogue, who encourage hate, and stifle civility. It’s good to say, “I don’t appreciate the way he conducts himself.” It’s not alright to call him all sorts of mean names and tear apart his character bit by bit.
I don’t know Tatsuo Suzuki personally. For all I know he’s the nicest guy in the world. Perhaps he helps little old ladies cross the street and rescues cats from trees and does all sorts of good deeds. Maybe he’s the “jerk” that people have been calling him, but maybe that couldn’t be further from the truth. You don’t know. I don’t know. Why assume the worst in him when you don’t know him? We’d all be better off if we assumed the best in others.
When I do street photography, I like to be the guy that nobody notices who stealthily gets the shot without being seen. One of the big reasons why I do this is fear, but I tell myself that it’s also out of respect for those I might be photographing. Is that really the best approach? I noticed that a lot of people called Suzuki a “creep” because of how he conducts himself when he photographs. But what is creepier: the guy in the shadows hiding and lurking or the guy who makes it completely obvious to everyone around him exactly what he’s doing? While it’s much more shocking to see Suzuki at work, I wonder how shocked people would be to find out someone has been secretly photographing them without them noticing? While ignorance is bliss, I do think being open and honest is better than being secretive and sneaky. Most people don’t have the guts to be open and honest in candid street photography, so they hide.
You might be saying to all of this, “So what?” There’s something that happened to me a number of years ago. Somebody that I don’t know wrote a college paper on the evils of Photoshop. They argued that manipulating photographs of woman was causing a self-esteem crisis among young girls. I had written an article (for a different photography blog) defending Steve McCurry’s use of Photoshop. Remember when that was a big deal? Anyway, whoever this person was that wrote the paper quoted (really, misquoted) me in it, taking my words out of context, and made it seem as though I wanted young girls to have self-esteem problems. It was completely absurd! The university published this paper on their website. Someone that didn’t know me assumed the worst in me based on a quote that they didn’t understand, and unfairly attacked my character. That was completely wrong of them to do it! The lesson here is that we have to be very cautious not to do the same to others that this person did to me. Thankfully, I don’t think anybody cared what the paper said and nothing negative came out of it. In the case of Suzuki, someone did care what was said and something negative did come out of it.
Fujifilm knew who Tatsuo Suzuki was when they invited him to be an ambassador. They knew who he was when they made the promotional video for their product. They should have stood by him and defended him. If they lost a few customers over it, that’s alright because they knew who he was and despite that (because of that?) decided to partner with him. It seems pretty crummy to toss him aside just because some people complained. It also seems crummy that people don’t care to understand Suzuki’s point of view, and prefer the easy route of character assassination instead. I think that the best advice moving forward is to take a deep breath and examine ourselves first before biting someone’s head off. We have two ears and one mouth, so we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. Or, in this case, slow to type.
Many comments come to mind. Ranging from “you reap what you sow” to “perhaps his style is more honest because he makes no effort to hide the fact he is photographing” to “if he tries that in NYC he’s better have really good medical insurance”.
But I think I’ll go with the curiousness that you should post this while I’m working on a piece about the types of photography I don’t do, which include urban/street and video.
So I guess I really have no opinion.
I don’t think I could ever bring myself to photograph the way that he does, and I don’t aspire to, but it works for him. If someone becomes aggressive back to him because of his aggressiveness, that’s something he’ll have to deal with, as a consequence of his own choice. I’m sure he’s well aware with that and probably has a few stories to tell if someone asked.
I personally think it’s a shame that Fuji cancelled his video and his participation as an ambassador for Fuji.
His working style might be controversial or offensive to some (with every shot he takes he says nice to meet you nonetheless) his work is amazing and for so politically correct behaving (mostly Americans) people I would like to point out YOUR so highly respected photographer William Klein worked in a similar way back in the 50s and 60s and HIS work shows icons of photography!
So be very careful who throws stones….
Just my 2c
One more point: thank you Richie for standing up for Tatsuo Suzuki!
I appreciate it. I felt like someone needed to.
I didn’t think of Klein, but he is certainly in the same category.
Very appreciated comment. Appreciated for the attempt to bring back the joy of discussion, the exchange of opinions, the possibility to share my own thoughts openly, as I may find interest in learning what others thing or reflect.
We lost most of it in many areas we call political, and we always tried to calm us by saying – in arts, there it is where these things are home.
They should, but not only there.
Civility is a valuable commodity, and worth some efforts to maintain.
Then again, photographer are by times artists too, and they might sacrifice political correctness more easily, for the sake of their attempt in arts – every company has to evaluate if this is what they expect their ambassadors to do, or not.
In my opinion they should, but that entirely up to the companies policies / politics.
I agree with you.
If Fujifilm disagreed with his approach, they shouldn’t have partnered with him in the first place. But since they did, they accepted what he brought with him. To pretend otherwise isn’t fair. But ultimately Fujifilm did what they felt was best for their company, even if I or anyone else disagreed with their decision. It is what it is, as they say. At least we’re talking about it in calm tones.
Fuji caved on an issue because of perceived outrage. Was it real, or was it just something else people want to be offended about? They of course have a right to choose who they want to represent their brand. Like you, I prefer to be discreet with my street photography. It seems less confrontational. But after reading this, now I’m feeling just a little more creepy about it! LOL
Lol! There’s definitely something to think about, but hopefully you won’t feel too creepy about it.
In my view Fujifilm was wrong.
On the criticisms made by people, I do not go into the merits otherwise it will never come out. This is not a real problem.
I don’t see anything strange in this approach to street.
And if you see a couple of people disturbed by Tatsuo’s approach, it can be for any reason, starting from the subject who woke up badly that morning having breakfast with bread and distrust, arriving at an extra step taken by the photographer. In the life of the street photographer it can happen to be sent to that country (swearword).
I would like to be Tatsuo Suzuki; criticized, talented, and hence even more famous.
He’s certainly successful, much more than I.
“Was Suzuki doing anything illegal?”
I’m far from an expert on Japanese law, but the research I’ve done contradicts Donny Kimball’s post, at least somewhat. As best as I can tell, the only pictures that aren’t allowed are those that are “derogatory” or “unjust”, and even then, if it’s “in the interest of the public” it’s exempt from that law. There are some anti-nuisance laws that are grey and differ, depending on where you’re at, that might apply to Tatsuo. I think Donny confuses etiquette with law, but, then again, I’m far from an expert.
There is nothing wrong with etiquette. You shouldn’t get in someone’s face to take a photo, unless you are intentionally looking to get slugged, no matter what part of the world you are in. I don’t have a problem with Fuji firing him. This “Street Photography” has gone too far.
I personally wouldn’t do it, but who decides what’s “too far”? If he gets slugged, what’s that to you? Why does your definition of street photography matter to anyone? I’m asking these questions to play “devil’s advocate” not because I necessarily disagree. I’m very big into good etiquette, but why should my opinion trump another’s? I don’t want to push my ideas onto others, just as I don’t want others to do that to me. But we can have good discussions about it. Is it better to be sneaky or in-your-face? I can see pros and cons either way.
While I agree with most of your points, I do not agree with you assessment here:
“When I do street photography, I like to be the guy that nobody notices who stealthily gets the shot without being seen. One of the big reasons why I do this is fear, but I tell myself that it’s also out of respect for those I might be photographing. Is that really the best approach? I noticed that a lot of people called Suzuki a “creep” because of how he conducts himself when he photographs. But what is creepier: the guy in the shadows hiding and lurking or the guy who makes it completely obvious to everyone around him exactly what he’s doing? While it’s much more shocking to see Suzuki at work, I wonder how shocked people would be to find out someone has been secretly photographing them without them noticing? While ignorance is bliss, I do think being open and honest is better than being secretive and sneaky. Most people don’t have the guts to be open and honest in candid street photography, so they hide.”
I’m the type of street photographer looking for an honest expression. In this day and age, when people see cameras in my neck of the woods, they tend to “ham it up” and give you “deuces and duck lips” or strike a pose.
That is not what I’m going after. I’m not being a “creep”, sneaky or lack the “guts” to be open and honest. I walk around with everyone else, in plain sight and have my cameras out so there are no surprises.
I think that most people would be more shocked at the amount of hidden cameras the city, count, state and federal government have up and are recording public areas 24/7.
Most people do not understand the rights that they do and don’t have and I find that lack of understanding to be a larger detriment to society and freedom as a whole.
To finish, I’d like to applaud you for taking on the subject and voicing your opinions about it in a forthright manner. Much respect to you and all you do. Keep it up!
I had an encounter several months back on the local light rail train with a creep who turned out to be a pedophile and sex offender. He was trying to get my kids’ attention. I called the police. What was eye-opening is that there are so many hidden cameras that every angle is covered, and people can be tracked, not just on the train but throughout downtown, and conversations are recorded. There is literally no privacy. You are completely right about that.
I don’t think Suzuki is getting shots with duck lips with his approach. That doesn’t make it better, just a different technique. I do wonder what is most honest, and I don’t have an answer. I do know that I won’t be openly shoving a camera into stranger’s faces like he does, but perhaps I should be more obvious with my intentions, even if it risks putting people off, or worse. Just so you know, when I typed “the guy in the shadows” and “don’t have the guts” I was thinking of myself and my own photography. I have much to learn and grow.
Rejection is also part of the game. It happens and we must be prepared for it. I do, sometimes, depending on the person ask for a portrait shot with them fully aware. It’s all about what you intend to get out of it.
We all have much to learn and areas to grow, that is for certain.
I took no offense, for if I did then that would mean that I have some sort of guilt about how I shoot street. 🙂 I do not in any way. I always stay within my legal rights. I’m not sure if you are familiar with Jay Maisel, but if not I highly recommend checking out how he shoots street. That is basically the same model as I go out with.
I will check him out. Thank you for sharing!
As an American in China, and after many years observing life under the CCP’s extreme censorship and ever-present eye, I’ve become quite mindful of various freedoms I previously took for granted… especially when it comes to art, since anything worth discussing will invariably lead to some form of controversy! Thank you for taking the time to share your views on Tatsuo Suzuki versus Fujifilm. Discussions like these are critical. Also I agree with you about the WordPress community being noticeably more mature and civil than many of the usual social media outlets!
I appreciate the insight! Those are interesting points, especially “anything worth discussing will invariably lead to some form of controversy.” That’s incredibly true.
So there’s that whole surveillance thing. People getting upset over people taking their photographs in public but sticking their heads in the sand about the millions of street cameras, ATM cameras, store cameras, etc. recording them.
The difference is a matter of free will. When we walk into a store, we do so of our own free will, knowing there are probably surveillance cameras. Quickly jumping in front of someone and taking their photo takes away that free will. We can talk about capturing a candid moment, but in this case it’s intrusive because of the removal of free will. Some people will get upset if this type of photography happens to them because it may reveal something about them that they do not wish to reveal, and that is their right. It’s always about free will.
I guess you have the freewill to move to Pennsylvania and become Amish. And you have the freewill to not walk the streets of Tokyo. I get your point, but, at least here in America, there’s no expectation of privacy when in a public space (from a legal perspective), so if somebody has the expectation of privacy, they’re naive or ignorant. Other countries are different, and I’m not 100% sure what it is in Japan, but I think it is similar. Everyone has the freewill to act and react as the wish. That is perhaps the only thing that people can control. If they didn’t want to reveal themselves in a certain way, they should not have acted or reacted in that way. And I would ask this: is it better that they’re picture is captured in private (without their awareness) or openly (where they’re fully aware)? And what makes one way “better” than another? While I have my opinions, I don’t have an answer. What do you think?
Quan, with all due respect, I think you are misisng the point. When you are in public you have to expected or privacy. The two concepts are in oppositition to each other.
Regarding the no expectation of privacy in a public space in America, I actually don’t agree with it. Once again, it’s about free will. It would be ridiculous to say, “it’s your choice to go out” when we live in a society where it’s impossible to function without going out. We have to go to work, buy groceries, go to the doctor, go to the pharmacy, etc. We really have no choice. Besides, even in America, the idea of giving up privacy in public is not an absolute. Does that mean someone can aim a camera up a woman’s skirt? There have to be limits, and it’s a matter of where those lines are drawn. For me personally, I believe that everyone should have the right to not be photographed. Surveillance cameras are different. They are recording everyone, and let’s face it, there isn’t a limitless army of people watching all of that footage; it’s for security, to be reviewed later if necessary. But when this photographer jumps in front of someone, the subject is being targeted. A totally different situation. When I am photographing outside, of course it can be impossible to photograph a building or tree or whatever, without having someone in the background. But Strangers are NEVER the target of my photography. I feel uncomfortable doing that, and I realized that the reason I’m uncomfortable, and maybe the reason you’re afraid, is that I think the person wouldn’t like me doing it. Surely that has to be true for some of them, and I won’t do that against their will. This is where Suzuki is *radically* different. He KNOWS he is making some people uncomfortable, and he doesn’t care! I am also reminded of something a poster on dpreview said. Some of Suzuki’s subjects are homeless people. If they don’t have a home, they”re never entitled to privacy?! And is he monetizing their plight? Does he compensate them? I don’t know, but it seems like exploitation.
About this point: “If they didn’t want to reveal themselves in a certain way, they should not have acted or reacted in that way.” Is it reasonable then to expect to live in a society where we have to behave as if we”re being recorded at all times? That sounds like an Orwell book. Even in the law, there’s a concept of reasonableness. For example, someone just leaving the house to go to work should have a reasonable expectation that they won’t be randomly photographed, monetized, and plastered on a web site. I don’t know what the laws are in Japan, but I think in the U.S. you can’t sell a likeness of someone without their permission. Maybe I’m wrong. And actually I believe there really was an “upskirt” court case where the “photographer” defendant lost because the court found that someone should have a reasonable expectation of privacy against that. But where is the reasonableness line? It’s decided on a case by case basis.
And finally, you asked which is better, photographing someone overtly or covertly. Given my philosophies as stated above, you can probably guess the answer: neither. Strangers shouldn’t be the photographic subject without their permission. In one of Suzuki’s interviews, I think it was regarding work he was doing in a bathroom photographing someone’s private parts, he said he was afraid that someone would think he’s a pervert. Well, yeah! If you’re performing an activity that others might see as perversion, maybe it is. Isn’t that reason enough to stop?
Now more than ever, we live in a surveillance state. I recently learned of a company raking in social media photos for a facial recognition database. They currently sell to law enforcement, but I think they’ll sell to anyone eventually. The AI software does facial recognition. Just show it a photo of someone, and it will search the database, and if it thinks it has a match, the info will be correlated and you’ll have their name, address, etc. The problem is sometimes it gets it wrong, and an innocent person has police banging on their door. Is it any wonder that more and more, people don’t want to be photographed? We’d like to think that The Matrix is nothing more than a futuristic sci-fi movie, but it is in a sense, a reality today. Except we’re being tapped for money, not electricity We are constantly monitored and monetized wherever we go online, and apparently when we walk out our front door.
Whether or not you agree with it, there’s no expectation of privacy in public in America and many other countries. That’s the way it is, for better or worse (probably worse). You point out some of the issues with it, but it is what it is.
I’m not against photographing strangers. I think both art and history lose out significantly if we stop it. That’s my opinion. You might disagree with that, and that’s ok.
What I come back to is this: what makes your opinion more valid than mine or Suzuki’s? Nothing. That’s not to say your opinion is invalid, but only to say it’s not more valid than another’s. Yet what I’ve seen a lot of is people asserting their opinions as more valid, and doing so by tearing down another. That’s much worse than anything Suzuki has done, in my opinion.
Quan, it doesn’t matter if you think it’s correct or now. It’s the law in the USA. The USA is a multi-ethnic multi-religious nation of laws. I LOVE IT! I’d hate to live in a place where people decide how I live based on their personal religious rules. Garbage.
Khurt, Ritchie, good points all! I’m glad we have a forum for discussing these differing points of view in a civil manner. This is how we learn. If you review my posts, you will see that I have never unfairly treated Suzuki. I don’t agree with his methods, and I’ve stated my reasoning, but that’s it. Other forums have turned into a melee simply over differing points of view. So I think it’s great that some forums are much more civil. Constant attack only serves to drive people away, and has a chilling effect on opinion.
Something that I especially appreciate about the Fuji X Weekly audience is that it is civil and peaceful. We can have discussions and disagreements, and still be kind and reasonable and learn and grow from each other’s input and points of view. This is seemingly rare on the internet, and I cannot say enough how much I appreciate it.
One should just imagine how some guy jumps to their face in the street, to their children and old parents. If it is ok with them, then ok, defend him.
I was doing some street photography a couple of years ago. I was shooting from the hip and didn’t make eye contact, but as I walked by someone I clicked the shutter and he heard it. He raised his voice and said, “Hey, did you take my picture?!” I kept walking and pretended nothing happened, and he kept walking, too. I think that people don’t like people taking their picture in public by a stranger no matter if you are close or not. Just the idea of it turns people off. The irony is that there are cameras everywhere recording everything. But if you don’t see it, out of sight out of mind. I find Suzuki’s approach to be rude, but I encounter rude people every day. And, who knows, maybe he’s actually a really nice guy. I have no idea.
Nice guys try not to do rude things.
I would say that is generally true, but everyone is rude sometimes. It’s a great ideal to aspire to not be rude. I would also say that he might not think that he’s being as rude as others think he is, as he smiles and tells them to have a good day. Definitely, though, it’s better to not be rude than to be rude.
I think there are two ways of doing street photography: either you show yourself as a photographer like Tatsao Suzuki, William Klein and many more.
Or you hide, use longe lens, shoot from the hips, sneaky like a paparazzi.
Descide for yourself what’s more honest, real, authentic and for holy ones “polically correct and accepted”
It’s for each to decide. I don’t know if one way is right and the other wrong. It’s ultimately not up to me to decide, except for my own photography.
Totally agreed Ritchie!
I guess I couldn’t shoot the way he does, but again I consider his work impressive, authentic and extremely real…
The saddest part of this story is that the camera maker brand such as Fujifilm by letting him go telling the community of photographers what is the right to use their camera. They should encourage all kind of photography as sometimes is not just about pretty pictures and there are times that you have to get your hands dirty. Do not demonise him, he’s polite and fast, I don’t think his style deserved such backlash.
He definitely did not deserve the backlash in my opinion. I wonder what the reaction might be to a video of a war photographer. Or someone documenting gangs or drug abuse.
You really compare his work to a war photographer?? Come on….he is no Robert Capa.
It’s my understanding that Robert Capa was no Robert Capa….
Your comment “It’s my understanding that Robert Capa was no Robert Capa….” is rather weak and mean spirited. Yes, Capa probably took some liberties, but he was in danger and under fire for much of his life and the photos that he took. He lost his life in French Indochina covering that war in 1954. I was there eight years later in 1962 and took lots of photos of the Vietnam Conflict. So this guy got fired from Fuji….big deal….he will probably move on to bigger and better photography now since he is famous. But don’t compare him to a war correspondent….no comparison. I admit, I’m old at 78, maybe I’m just out touch with the new generation of photographers. BTW….no need to reply back….just getting my feelings off my chest. You did stir up a hornet’s nest with this post though, at least from my point of view 🙂
What I said was not mean spirited. Time has a way of bringing the truth to light. Saying that he “took liberties” is a gross understatement that ignores quite a bit. But that’s nothing against Capa. He created his own legend, and was very good at selling it. It worked for him and he created many iconic images along the way. Nothing wrong with that, but it certainly was not without controversy.
My original point was not to compare Suzuki to war photographers, but to wonder how the modern viewer would receive a video featuring war photography, since the video of Suzuki was so “shocking” to cause such outrage. Compared to other subjects, it wasn’t all that shocking, really. Capa saw and captured much more shocking than anything found in the Fujifilm video. How would today’s people respond to that? With outrage and verbal vomit towards Capa? I don’t know the answer, I can only wonder. That was my point.
Lieber Ritchie, vielen Dank für diese Stellungnahme und Deine differenzierte Betrachtung. Aus meiner Sicht (in Deutschland gelten bezüglich des Persönlichkeitsrecht strengere gesetzliche Regeln) ist diese Art und Weise der streetphotography frech und übergriffig.
Wer will schon selbst ein “Opfer” dieser Kunst sein?
Nichts desto trotz gefallen die Resultate. Da aber wohl keine ungesetzliche Handlung vorliegt, halte ich eine wie auch immer erfolgte Trennung für zumindest verfrüht.
Ich verfolge daher diese Auseinandersetzung mit Spannung und Interesse.
In jedem Fall ist es eine weitere Bereicherung Deiner Seite! Bravo!
talking of Germany: Tatsuo Suzuki was invited by a photographer friend to Hamburg…
here’s the interesting video https://youtu.be/707nMSGq_R8
Es ist völlig in Ordnung, Dinge zu diskutieren und in Frage zu stellen. Es ist in Ordnung zu sagen, “Er sieht nervig aus” oder “Ich würde das niemals tun.” Ich denke, wo Menschen die Grenze überschreiten, gibt es bösartige Angriffe mit ihren Worten. Es gibt keinen Grund, jemanden niederzureißen, nur weil er anders denkt oder handelt. Das habe ich bei dieser Debatte gesehen. Nicht so sehr auf diesem Blog, sondern anderswo.
I do not know Tatsuo Suzuki, and I don’t know the details of this “scandal”. This is the first time I am reading about this. But based on the video, I will give my two cents.
I live in the USA. We have a different idea of privacy than the rest of the world. I don’t a damn about what European law, especially German law, says about public photography.
In the USA, I can photograph any PUBLIC act; whatever my eyes can see. It seems absurd to argue that “Yes, everyone can see this act but they can’t record it”. I look forward to the day when everyone has ocular implants that record continuously. What will the Germans do then?
I am personally uncomfortable doing street photography. I am worried about the ignorant person attacking me for doing something perfectly legal. But I am also worried that if we continue this war on public photography, the authorities will use that as an excuse for abuse of power. How many police shootings of unarmed dark-skinned people would we not witness were it not for laws allowing public recording and photography?
How many tourists walk around snapping photographs with their smartphones?
I don’t think that the encounter was about the photograph. I am sure you can find pictures of him in all sorts of Instagram shots. I think it’s the size of the lens and the camera (Fujifilm X-T2) that made him uncomfortable. I think it’s all in his mind.
A 100 years from now, when the historians in the “no public photography” counties start looking for what city life looked like in the past, they will find nothing.
I don’t care what someone’s PERSONAL morals are regarding public photography. I only care about the LAW. See you on the streets. I’m the one with the camera pointed straight at you.
That’s a very insightful comment. I, too, worry about how others who don’t know what rights I do have react to my street photography. If I stop out of fear, both art and history lose. And, as you said, cameras sometimes lead to justice in the face of injustice by recording the truth. It would be a shame to miss those opportunities simply because it made someone momentarily uncomfortable.
Die “Streetphotograph” in all seinen Facetten scheint eine durchaus geeignete Grundlage für eine kontroverse Diskussion bezüglich Respekt, Rücksichtnahme und Empathie zu sein…
Vielen Dank Ritchie für Deinen hierfür geschaffenen Rahmen!
Bitte schön! Und vielen Dank für Ihren Beitrag!
First off, Fuji knew who he was and should have never cut ties with him. That’s not fair to him. He didn’t change.
That being said, my philosophy is that you can wave your arm around in the air all you want, but once you hit me with your arm we have a problem. Essentially, do whatever you want, but if it causes an externality on me then it’s an issue. Suzuki is getting very very very close to that line. You could argue it’s causing an externality on people because you can’t walk down the road properly when he’s around because he might shove his camera in your face and you just have to deal with it because he has a “photographic vision.”
And when it comes to assuming the best in others I agree. But we need to assume the best in others unless they immediately show us something that would prove otherwise. In Suzuki’s case, he’s walking down the streets shoving a camera inches from peoples’ faces with no regard for personal space. Some people have to juke and run around him because he isn’t done taking a photo of them. It’s super hard to assume he’s a nice guy when he has no regard for personal space.
Is it legal, yeah probably. Is it the best way to get photos, probably not. I think it’s at least a little telling that the larger social polling shows that people widely disapprove. I think that should at least cause us some pause and think to ourselves, “Is this really a good thing or not?”
He is certainly riding a fine line that seems like it would be easy to accidentally cross. I think it’s good to question it. I think it’s good to say, “I would never do that,” and, “That seems obnoxious and rude.” But, there’s no cause to verbally abuse the guy as I have seen elsewhere. We can have civil discussions (like this one), and talk about how it is abrasive and rude. But in the end he’s not violating any laws, and if he does or is perceived to then he’ll have to deal with those consequences. Heck, he’s already dealing with consequences in some way. But those who verbally bash him aren’t any better than the worst that Suzuki has done, so there’s certainly some hypocrisy there. Thankfully on this blog the discussion has remained civil.
I’m glad to see somebody stand up for this photographer who did nothing but take pictures of people HIS WAY. War photographers are celebrated, but their work is not any different except that they encounter the vulnerable, the hurt, and we gasp at the blood of political conflict victims, which places Suzuki’s mindless, unfocused, shoppers and workers in context as those wars are fought for and people die for faraway. If it’s about morality, that’s an adopted mindset and has always clashed with artistic freedom. No persons were hurt in the shooting with Suzuki’s camera, but he sure woke up some conflicted minds. Go Suzuki!
There’s value in bringing to light things that go unnoticed that shouldn’t. Photographers like Suzuki do it in their own way, giving us their insight and commentary. He goes about it differently than I or most would, but that doesn’t necessarily make it bad or wrong as many on the internet have said. The verbal attacks that I have seen (not on this blog) have been completely uncalled for, in my opinion.
Tatsuo Suzuki’s photographs reveal an aspect of nature, intimate, but very intimate, very personal of the human being, so much so as to want / have to keep hidden. Which he emphasizes with the frame, the closeness and the speed of the shot; it gives you time to reason, but not to re-reason, thus capturing the essence of man.
A unique aspect, despite many other photographers being able to reveal many other unique aspects.
I think there is no other way to get into it and get that aspect, albeit risky in moral terms, but not legal.
If you believe in what you do, if you believe in the great power of visual communication, it is a risk you can take, but I would dare to say, in the name of the document, of history, which is a risk that you must take, you who are able to do .
Tatsuo Suzuki knows what he does, and he does it in perfect faith.
That’s great insight! Obviously he realizes the risk and takes it anyway, with great results. Should he or shouldn’t he? He already decided that for himself.
I enjoy his work immensely. And I’m guilty of shooting that way on occasion so so have no beef with the man. Extraordinary to see the aggression online (more so than in the street) to his style of shooting.
Personally, I was happy to see the X100Vs AF works well in such a challe gong environment.
To me, the aggression online has been more shocking than Suzuki’s shooting style.
Anyway, I got my start in photography as a picture editor and was privileged to work on material shot by members of The Bang Bang Club (search 4 the movie)
So inadvertently, my mentors were hard core combat photographers and when I’m covering an event I’m not adverse to pushing to get the angle I need for the shot. I’ll be polite and mindful, but I will also get my shot. That’s why I have no problem with Suzuki-san.
Thanks Russel for the hint to search for The Bang Bang Club movie…
Will have to try to get it. Sounds quite revealing!
Wow, sounds like a great experience to learn from!
@Russel: yesterday I watched “The Bang Bang Club” thanks again for the recommendation! What an impressive movie and fantastic actors!
It actually shows exactly what we are discussing here. How much can/should/must a photographer be involved in his/her subject and how little he/she can actually withdraw themselves after they realise what they actually did… again very controversal…
Let him come to Utah and get all up in your daughters face doing this.
Half the video is him walking around talking about looking for trouble and WANTING to deal with the cops. His style is whatever, his attitude is childish.
I am fine distinguishing the art from the artist, the photos are fine, his attitude about being a photographer should embarrass us all.
I don’t appreciate being told how I should feel about things, nor do I appreciate your effort to make it personal by bringing up my kids. However, as a dad of daughters, I will say that I’d much rather someone openly take their picture in public than secretly do so, which is much more creepy. Someone doing it like Suzuki is clearly not a child predator, but someone hiding behind a cloak might be. Your opinion is that he is “looking for trouble” and “wanting to deal with cops” with a “childish attitude.” Those are your opinions, but they are nothing more than that. You don’t know him, you are just making judgments. I could make all sorts of judgments about you, but that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just one person’s opinion, and nobody crowned you are me king of opinions. In other words, your two cents are worth just that and nothing more, as are mine. What I find frustrating is that we are so quick to tear each other down, using harsh words and harsh judgments, when we really don’t know anything. It’s better to give everyone the benefit of the doubt. It’s better to think the best of people and not the worst.
Thanks Ritchie for THIS statement!
Hi Ritchie, this is certainly a hot topic, seeing the number of responses. I didn’t read them all, but I read your article in full, and some of the responses, and I would have to respectfully disagree with your position. From what I read, the defence falls into a few categories that are almost universally invalid as defences. I’ll show each defence, and quote some specific uses.
Defence: The Ends Justify the Means
This is the notion that so long as the results are good, the methods don’t matter. Here is where you used it:
“My opinion is that he does this because, in Japan, people are extremely guarded, and the photographs that he captures, which are very good, would be impossible with any other technique.”
“It’s abrasive, yes, but also effective.”
“[responding to Marc] I don’t think I could ever bring myself to photograph the way that he does, and I don’t aspire to, but it works for him.”
And Nicolas says:
“His working style might be controversial or offensive to some [but] his work is amazing…”
Defence: Other People Do It
This is the fallacy that if more than one person does something it must be ok. As an extreme example, the Italians should not have complained about Mussolini because Hitler behaved similarly. The lack of validity here is that if we are discussing a specific person’s actions, it has nothing to do with someone else.
You used it here:
“Suzuki is not the first to use this aggressive technique nor is he the most extreme with it.”
And Nicolas: “I would like to point out YOUR so highly respected photographer William Klein worked in a similar way…”
Defence: It’s not Illegal
This came up in comments over at dpreview. One poster said that just because something is legal doesn’t make it moral. The position was that although laws are based on a collective morality, they do not address everything, only those things that have been considered in the courts. Thus, just because there isn’t a law saying “No,” doesn’t make an action ok. It was used here:
“Was Suzuki doing anything illegal? No.”
And something to consider. You mentioned that you don’t want to be noticed out of fear. Why are you afraid? Is it possible that your subconscious is telling you that you shouldn’t be doing it? Just something to think about.
One final quote without attribution:
“It seems pretty crummy to toss him aside just because some people complained.”
A company’s image is formed by the customers, not the company. The company may try to project a certain image, but ultimately the only mirror they have is the voice of the customer. They didn’t like what they saw in the mirror, and want to change it. So I don’t judge them for that.
Thanks for reading, and I want to say that I wasn’t trying to pick on anyone, I just didn’t have time to read all of the comments.
My biggest point is this: just because someone disagrees with what someone says or does, it doesn’t make it wrong. Who decides what is “right” or “moral”? You? Me? Who? And who gives them that authority? People are too quick to judge. People are too quick to verbally destroy someone because they have a differing opinion. People think too highly of themselves and too lowly of others. When someone points a finger, three others are pointing back at them. So why should we be so eager to play judge and jury? Why should we give such harsh sentences when we have our own issues?
One thing that Suzuki has made me rethink is my own approach to street photography. His approach is brash but honest in that he’s not hiding what he’s doing. I don’t think I will ever go to his extreme with it, but I can be much more honest with it, at the possible expense of causing someone to be offended. They might be offended, but only because they are aware. It’s better that they are aware than unaware because I’m being secretive and sneaky.
Ritchie, this is interesting because the morality question also came up at dpreview, and I think it points to the heart of the matter. Our laws are based on a collective morality of what is considered wrong. I say it is a collective morality because it is based on a preponderance of society’s view of what is immoral. Unfortunately it is always incomplete because the law only addresses what comes up in the courts. As a result, while a set of laws defines what is wrong, that does not make everything else automatically right. It appears that in the view of many people, what Suzuki is doing is morally wrong, at a minimum violating social mores. I cannot speak to the vicious attacks on his character because I don’t know the person, and yes, some people are quick to judge, drawing conclusions from assumptions rather than facts.
Fujifilm may have felt that a sufficient number of people were upset to warrant their action. The court of public opinion is not a court of law and a “Verdict” does not require a majority vote. What is required is a sufficient percentage of the populace finding something objectionable. I would also say this about any notion of a consensus opinion: I do not believe that topic-specific forums such as these would be representative of the general population. I’ve never heard of Suzuki until an article on this incident in a photography-specific web site. My point is that unless one is specifically interested in photography and frequents photography web sites, one doesn’t know Suzuki exists. So I see the polarization in two specific camps: serious photographers who disagree with his methods, and serious street photographers who see an attack on Suzuki as an attack on their activity or even their livelihood. This would certainly explain the attacks, and counter attacks. Either way, there’s an obvious bias. I stress that this is just my opinion. My gut tells me that this issue brought to the general population would decide against Suzuki. One cannot go to a topic-specific forum for a general opinion.
And finally, about changing your tactics to be upfront, I commend the change. At least it gives a subject the chance to voice their opinion. You strike me as someone who would delete an image if asked. But about your last statement, “They might be offended, but only because they are aware.” This is the “What they don’t know won’t hurt them” defence. It could be an extremely tiny portion of the population, but some people might have a legitimate reason to not be photographed. It could be someone in the witness protection program. It could be someone who relocated to get away from an abusive ex-spouse/boyfriend. Any posting of information that might indicate their location could prove dangerous. This is just the way I think. Every day when I drive to work, I encounter other people drive rudely and dangerously. A co-worker complained to me about how stressed she feels just getting to work. I told her that it doesn’t bother me because of one simple thought. At least one of these people might have an urgent situation. I don’t know which one, so I’m not going to pass judgment on any of them. Similarly I don’t know who has a legitimate reason to not be photographed, but I’m not going to go around doing it just because it won’t affect many people. One is enough.
Interesting exchange. I agree with you about the age of “civilized discussion” and trading ideas, and I miss that. I really like street photography as a viewer, I’m not sure I’m comfortable yet doing it, especially the way Suzuki does it. I watched the video of him and the other guy and I felt he was a bit cocky and inappropriate. He even mentions once he was surprised he didn’t get slugged. I’m glad I read through the comments and commend you for posting this. We need more dialogue and less attacking. I recently watched a Sean Tucker video about his approach (prior to hearing about Fuji and Suzuki) and he talks about deciding in advance what your philosophy is and what your values are. I got me thinking and is a good place to start. Thanks again.
I think it’s good to consider in advance what you are trying to accomplish and what you are comfortable and not comfortable doing to accomplish it. We each have different ideas and approaches, and that’s a good thing.
That incident made me discover and appreciate the work of Tatsuo Suzuki, work I am already following. I am sorry he was taken aside by Fujifilm, under my point of view he was doing nothing wrong but instead brave, freedom to own the public space and of expression should be respected.
My problem is instead with the persons that reacted wrongly, there are two communities in my opinion:
* People that culturally are not part of Japan. They are mostly Europeans or, I think, from U.S. or Canada but with socialist ideas (collectivism overpowers individualism so freedom of speech and public space is not desirable) I think they are wrong because their moral is not universal but particular. In my country, Peru, politicians wanted to restrict our right to take pictures in the street and to our culture we understand it as an aggression to our use of public space. I cannot force my point of view in, let’s say Germany (where a person insisted that I should not take photos in street because it was forbidden in Germany). I do not know well how is in Japan, but I know this is a discussion for Japanese people, not foreigns.
* People that are commentators online. This is a tricky part, I think Fujifilm put aside this, in my opinion, excellent artist because the online attacks were taken as bad public image to their brand and possible harm to their projected number of sold cameras. But… I suspect this backlash was from non consumers. Fujifilm cameras are loved and designed precisely for street photography, my X100S is perfect for it; I am loath to believe the commentators see street photography as an immoral activity. In my opinion most of the critics are just people that react to news and doesn’t consume the products they criticize for perceived social injustices according to their, sometimes, extreme ideologies.
There’s a lot of complexities to this discussion. There’s certainly a lot to consider. Thank you for the thoughtful input!
I don’t mind for his style, BUT his photowork is overrated. Period.
Ps. Did mentioned Eric “blogger” Kim style (sic)? Jesus…