When I travel, or go on holiday, I take a lot of pictures of people I don’t know.
I rarely publish them due to the ever increasing possibility of getting sued when no model release was signed by the characters shown in the photographs.
Let’s face it, who would sign a model release – which is a contract of sorts – for someone who has just photographed you without being asked, who you’ve never met in your life before, and who you are not likely to ever see again.
You’d have to be rather naive these days to sign any piece of paper a stranger waves in front of you.
That leaves photographers in a rather tricky situation in regards to the publishing of photographs.
My general solution is not to publish as I rarely manage to get a model release signed by people who I photograph in the spur of the moment.
The exception in publishing decisions is when people can’t be easily identified.
I sometime ago resolved that I would not try for model releases, but to photograph purely for my own pleasure.
What I try though is to get an email address on the promise that I will email one of the resulting images. That works for me, and I often get permission to publish after sending an image.
While doing my thing I often end up in very interesting conversations with the people I photograph.
Everyone has a story and, for whatever reason, people tend to be happy to tell a stranger all sorts of things.
Maybe it’s the knowledge that what is said will remain confidential between the photographer and themselves. Photography certainly seems to encourage people to open their souls.
Beyond that, one of the main pleasures in spontaneous people photography is the ability to give something lasting to a complete stranger.
The below image is one such example.
I went to Wharariki Beach with a bunch of friends during our annual, and by now traditional, summer holiday.
While enjoying the beach I observed this family having fun jumping of a rather high and steep sand dune.
When I started photographing, dad, the gentleman at the top, was obviously wondering what I was doing photographing his kids.
He approached me and during a brief conversation I explained that what I saw was a slice of quintessential New Zealand life.
We exchanged email addresses and I promised to send a copy of one of the images as soon as I could. When I did he and his family were delighted with the photograph and I followed up by sending a full resolution file for printing.
Even though we are complete strangers both of us gained something positive from each other. I was allowed to enjoy and capture a special New Zealand moment, the family received an unexpected and – very likely – timeless gift.
It is part of the pleasure that photography has to offer. To quickly share something with someone without any agenda or expectation, purely because it is a nice and fun thing to do.