I recently had a brief conversation with a friend who has a very keen interest in photography and a reasonable ability as a photographer.
We were at a picnic with a large circle of acquaintances. During the day another group of young individuals paraded up and down the nearby street, draped in the Australian flag and loudly and proudly extolling the virtues of being a good 'Aussie'.
It was easy to see that alcohol played a big part in their public bravado.
Before too long a couple of police vehicles arrived and the officers conducted a few breath tests on the youngsters. There was no trouble and after a while all parties went their separate ways.
I did take the chance however, to walk up to the group and make a couple of quick shots.
(one of them was a bit mouthy and suggested a little physical confrontation - easy to be a hero with mates around - he woulda lasted about five seconds had he tried anything).
After getting the shots, my young photographic acquaintance mentioned that he admired how I walked up and got the shots. I stressed to him that you either do - or you don't. You either get the shot or you don't. You either are a photographer - or you're not.
If in any situation there is a question on getting the shot or not - go for it.
You don't have to use it, sell it, display it or make it in anyway public if you have second thoughts. However - if you don't get the image - it's all a moot point. You can't do anything.
The same day another member of the picnic decided to take a dive into the water and ripped his head open on a submerged rock. When I got a couple of shots of him being bandaged prior to a trip to hospital - a couple of folk voiced displeasure that I would actually photograph it.
C'mon! You either do or you don't! Simple. Later that evening after his return and with the good news that there was no fracture, just a nasty gash requiring stitches, he asked for copies of the shots. He had no problem with it - why should others.
Last May I was visiting another friend who is a fairly good landscape photographer and who has a small gallery of work in Cheltenham, Victoria.
Also present were his son-in-law who runs a photo studio adjacent to the gallery, and another friend who is a keen photographer.
We noticed a train stopped across the level crossing. Someone said "trains broke".
I replied "Nah - it's a jumper. Someone's gone under it".
Sadly my comment was nearer the truth. A young lady (an actress from a popular Australian kid's TV show) had fallen onto the tracks and been hit by the train. Sadly for her, her family and friends, she did not survive.
Four of us there in the gallery/studio had cameras.
One of us walked over and made a few images. Sure that might stick in some folks throats. It might make some people as angry as all hell.
When I made the shots I got a lot of abuse from bystanders.
One nasty little fellow screamed at me saying I was obscene. I suggested he travel to Afghanistan if he really wanted to see something obscene. Those people couldn't see the hypocrisy of them rubber-necking for a better look and complaining about me getting the shot.
You either do - or you don't.
So - what's the point of all this?
We are surrounded everyday by beautiful things and things which are not so beautiful. Both are a fact of daily existence. You may choose to photograph whatever you desire. You may choose not to photograph something. Each is equally valid.
Whatever you choose, allow others to make the same choice. Non-judgmentally.
Some of the most memorable images ever made are actually of things we would prefer not to have happened. - Brady's images of the American Civil war. The execution of a Viet Cong member in Saigon. Countless other images from that war and a whole host of other conflicts.
Poverty - think the FSA images of the dust bowl era in the US. Famine - how many moving images have come out of Africa in the past 25 years?
The list goes on and on.
Did any of those images have an impact on any viewer so as to bring about any change? Of course they did. Countless millions have been raised in the almost futile fight against poverty. Public opinion in America helped finish the Vietnam war. Again the list goes on.
The few personal incidents I mentioned earlier won't bring about great change in anything. In fact the images are not in same league as the famous images mentioned. However, the attitude is the same.
You either do, or you don't.