A Tragic Story of Caution for Street Photographers

Street photographers are notorious for producing gritty, candid pictures of daily life in urban locales. Unfortunately, taking photos of strangers can sometimes incite unpredictable aggression and even violence.

Twenty-three-year-old Christine Calderon was fatally stabbed on June 18th after taking a cell phone picture of panhandlers holding up cardboard signs in Hollywood. The accused perpetrators are three transients, who apparently demanded payment for the photo. Alleged reports say that when Calderon refused to pay, she was attacked on the crowded sidewalk near the Walk of Fame. Learn the details of the story by watching the following report:

Below is the photo that led to this tragedy:


With some exceptions, United States law generally allows for photographers to take pictures freely in public spaces without consent from subjects. However, safety precautions should always be taken to avoid unnecessary conflict between you and the people you choose to photograph.

Safety Tips for Street Photographers

  1. Ask permission. It never hurts to approach a subject before taking a photograph. While some of the spontaneity may be lost, you are eliminating the chance of offending someone on the street.
  2. Go out in a group. There is often safety in numbers. Find a friend or two to join you on your photo walk.
  3. Share something with your subject. Bring photos of your work to reassure your subjects about how your photos will be used. Offer a small payment, if appropriate. Take down the person’s contact information so you can send them the photo.
  4. Be respectful. Honor a reasonable expectation of privacy. Refrain from taking photographs of people who communicate that they do not want a photo taken. While it may be within your legal rights to take the photo, decide whether or not a photo of someone who does not want to be photographed is worth the risk of a verbal or physical confrontation.

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7 responses to “A Tragic Story of Caution for Street Photographers”

  1. Jacques says:

    It is the reason I do not do street photography, I really get annoyed when people take photo’s of me without my permission. I bought the camera to be at the back of the camera, not in the photo. You hear of stories of people getting angry over small issues and unfortunately this is the outcome, but it is the way you chose to do it.

    Unfortunately there is no sympathy for the cause of death, just for the death, from my side.

  2. Nick says:

    That is why I carry military grade pepper spray. Which I had to use only twice since I have had it for two years now.

  3. ernaldo says:

    This is why I always carry a firearm, and I don’t choose to live in Cull-ifornia any more. She was pressing her luck, but the death penalty without a trial for taking a photo of losers? A shame…

  4. Rick says:

    There is no way to know if guys like those are really in need or are just muggers in disguise, watching people and keeping track of the regular transit. Whoever was going to earn a prize from photographing them, already did. Better stay away from them!

  5. MissD says:

    Street photographer? No, that’s just a person with a camera capable mobile phone.

  6. Deborah says:

    This is truly tragic. I’m sorry for this family’s loss. From the photos it appears she was a young Mom? So sad to lose a loved one’s life over BS.
    The culture in which we live today demands respect. While I know that real respect is earned not given by way of demand, when approaching strangers on the streets of Hollyweird, (or Anytown USA) one would do well to respect that their mental state(s) may range from slightly unstable to extremely unstable. And/or violent. I don’t do it for this very reason. I’m a big chicken, and I love life.
    I can’t help but wonder had she given payment, if a couple dollars would have sufficed? Probably not.
    I’d like to withhold judgement, but the guy in the photo looks like a thug, not homeless or transient.
    Also why is his hand blurred out? Is he giving her the finger?
    Again, my deepest regrets to the young woman’s family.

  7. Steven Sutterby says:

    It’s always important to choose your subject carefully. If I take a photo of a busker for example I ask them first and give them some money. If someone is holding a sign asking for money and you choose to exploit their situation by taking what you want away, the photo but not giving money don’t expect a good reaction. No one should die over such trivia which is a tragedy.

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