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Friday, March 10, 2006

Photographing Homeless Banned

Photo: Wirehead
Various photography organizations have today announced a serious effort to stamp out gratuitous picturetaking of the homeless.

Germany's OOF, the French BLIC, English PBOG and America's SMAALP have joined similar Japanese organizations and the Chinese government in supporting the ban. Major universities have decided to follow suit. No longer will pictures of homeless people be considered appropriate for MFA programs or in many major fine art programs. "It's gone far enough," said the President of the Association of Granters and Holders of Nearly Perfectly Useless Degrees, Bob (formerly Barbara) Cady-Stanton, in New York City. "People think it's 'concerned photography' or 'socially relevant.' Actually it's just faux photojournalism of something handy that can't fend for itself. It's harder to take pictures of squirrels."

Critics cite cliché
Major photography critics concur. "There are probably enough homeless pictures from Photo 101 classes in major cities everywhere to last the human race forever," said Jay Bill. Added B.C. Coleman, "It's gone so far beyond cliché that it's sunken into mannerism and from there transformed into invisibility." "The feckless simianity discordances the rotomontade hapness of beagle fever," agreed Anne D. Grundberg. The Critic Formerly Known As Clement Greenberg was asked to comment but indicated through an interpreter that he now only writes art criticism using symbols, bits of dried ketchup, and patterns he finds in dried mud. ("Clement thinks words are like, so 20th-century," said the interpreter.)

Homeless report relief
"I was quite relieved to hear about the ban," said Max Headroom, homeless since 1994 (pictured in better days, right). "I mean, it was bad enough when you had kids in army jackets stalking you with Pentaxes. But now, these days, with their laptops and batteries and everything, well, it's like they're setting up command posts. I have it hard enough. I was a celebrity. I was big." (Asked how he's doing these days, Headroom inscrutably replied, "I'm ahead.")

"I used to find it difficult to keep my good side facing the cameras," said The Angel of Mercy, a homeless woman in an extraordinarily dirty taffeta tu-tu. Several others nearby mumbled in agreement, or just mumbled. One man claimed all the photographers were government agents, then ran away.

"Oh, it's annoying, all right," said English Roger, who dresses entirely in cast-off plastic bags. "It's always been annoying. I mean, it makes you want to slap them. I'd give it a shot, but let's face it, I've been drinking Sterno and mouthwash for thirty years and the lobes of my brain aren't even touching anymore. If I tried to run I'd probably disintegrate. Still, does that give them a right to snap away at me without even asking for a by-your-leave?"

Advocates for the homeless call it a small but significant victory. "Most of these people haven't been homeless all their lives and they won't be homeless forever. So how kind is it to do forced journalism projects on them when they're at their worst?" said a man identified as Jim, from the 69th Street Shelter. "If a man lives in a cardboard box, that's his home. So how would like it if some 35-year-old divorcée who thinks her life is adrift and art classes might be just the thing wandered into your living room and started snapping pictures of you, saying, 'it's for my assignment'? You wouldn't like that, would you? Of course not. So leave them alone."

Officials in Washington D.C. have unveiled a new sign. Inside a red circle with a diagonal line through it is a simplified block figure of a downcast seated figure and a photographer standing over him, aiming a camera.

The consortium says it will continue to permit pictures of the homeless, but only if prospective photographers buy their subjects a hot meal first, and at least offer to pay for a haircut.

"I'd like a manicure, personally," chimed in English Roger.

So that's it then—no more pictures of the homeless. All are agreed.


* Satire Alert

I've been forwarded at least one thread from a far-off forum (not dpreview) that discusses this post (at considerable length) as if it were for real. Really, it's satire. Would I joke about it being satire? —MJ


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This article, while enlighting, is 22 days early

6:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Har! You need to string for The Onion... well done!

6:32 AM  
Blogger Eolake Stobblehouse said...

Darn, I had just decided to make homeless my next project.

8:26 AM  
Blogger carpeicthus said...

God, I wish this were true.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I kinda got a similar theme. :)

8:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree this should be true... I am disgusted by the amount of people who plaster photos of people, taken without their permission, over forums and are praised for their confronting, provocative images.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Hey Anonymous with the similar theme, could I use your photo to illustrate this entry?


9:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MJ: Go ahead and use it. :)

11:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The way it's presented, it's a silly ban IMO. Let's also ban photos of war atrocities, traffic accidents and all other nasty things that happen in life, and pretend they don't exist. Maybe they will then go away on their own.

BTW, what the heck is "The feckless simianity discordances the rotomontade hapness of beagle fever"? I am not a native speaker, all my searches in dictionaries to identify a verb in this sentence failed. I couldn't find the word "simianity" either.

12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike, I think you may have been a little too subtle...

12:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

He included a Satire Alert. It's not his fault if readers do not understand satire.

2:15 PM  
Blogger Gnomeself Be True said...

This nips my street photography aspirations rather neatly in the bud. Of course, I really don’t think I had anything to contribute anyway.
Wait! What about the homeless photographing the homeless? We could strap a camera and tracking device on one or two of them…you know…like in that penguin movie.

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All homeless should be given cameras to photograph those with homes. A homefull series if you will.

4:16 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Wirehead, Flickr pictures are protected...want to just send me a jpeg? My email is mcjohnston(at)mac(dot)com.



P.S. Is it supposed to be so blue?

P.P.S. Anonymous #4, I assume "discordances" is a noun that's been "verbed," like "impacted" used as a transitive verb.

4:45 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

P.P.S. ""The feckless simianity discordances the rotomontade hapness of beagle fever" means approximately the same thing as "Colorless green ideas sleep furiously," or so I would presume.

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Photographing Homeless Banned"

About time! Nothing worse than the homeless going about photographing us!

5:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

MJ #1 through #3:

Ok, ok your gotcha got me. I noticed the satire alert right after I clicked the Publish button...

It was fun :-)

5:36 PM  
Blogger Mike Johnston said...

Anonymous #4,
That's the problem with these comments--you can't edit them after they're posted. (I can, but I'd have to reset the templates.)

I apologize that my gotcha gotcha--it wasn't actually intended to "get" anybody!

I know many readers speak English as their second or third language, and it is not my intention to make fun of anyone or "fool" anybody. I admire those who are multilingual, especially because I'm not one of you. All I can speak is Ammurrcun.

On the good side, though, you're anonymous!

Best regards,

Yr. Hmbl. Moderator

7:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Thanks, but no need to apologize. I am myself to blame because I was not reading carefully (which is always bad), and as I said it was fun.

Igor I. :-)

8:20 PM  
Blogger mike said...

To all those at the DP Review forum who took this seriously: get a life.

And start reading the Onion.

2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps like the making of santorum, we can make this come true?

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is great news. However I'm afraid they've overlooked a much more serious and insidious threat, one that threatens not just the integrity of photography as an art form, but the very fabric of civilization itself: the cat photo.

6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

LOL! Very good article, extremely well written. The part about buying them a meal first should be taken seriously though.

9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

p.s. in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, the poorest neighborhood in Vancouver (Canada?), cameras were given to the residents and they photographed each other. A calender was published and the photographs are interesting...we see their life from the inside...

9:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you spelt rotomontade wrong? is it not rodomontade? Correct me if I'm wrong....

Quality word and article, and the deepee forum ranting was equally amusing!

8:06 AM  
Blogger Dave Wicks said...

An inspiring article, one that had me saying "you are kidding, how can they ban....". It had me read all the way to the end. It was Max Headroom that made me stop and realise the "Satire".

I love it, one of the most interesting blogs I've read for a while, very entertaining.

Dave:: photoblog at

7:03 PM  
Blogger Louis Dallara Photography said...

Orwellian idea !~The ban might be some day come true if the Republican spin doctors find this post.

8:15 AM  

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