Does Holding a Fuji Camera Give You a License to Be Obnoxious?

Does Holding a Fuji Camera Give You a License to Be Obnoxious?

A strong critical reaction has led to Fujifilm pulling an advertisement that highlighted the work of photographer Tatsuo Suzuki. It seems that holding an expensive camera is not a license for an obnoxious and provocative style of street photography.

Fuji Rumors reports that Fujifilm published the seven-minute video as part of a series of short films promoting the launch of the new X100V. Entitled “My Milestone,” the video documented the work and methods of Suzuki, a street photographer who shoots with an intrusive, almost aggressive style. In the video — deleted by Fuji but since re-uploaded elsewhere — Suzuki is shown blocking the path of pedestrians, prompting people to turn away or even cover their faces.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wy2YzUvHDq0

The original video was deleted by Fuji but since re-uploaded to YouTube. A copyright claim from Fuji may see this version removed at any time.

This style of shooting is reminiscent of photographer and self-confessed provocateur Bruce Gilden who established a reputation for in-your-face flash photography. “I have no ethics,” says Gilden, proud of his supposed bravery for the proximity of his images, essentially explaining that he is so arrogant that he doesn’t care.

Suzuki lacks the flash but not the antagonism. As he explains in the video, his intrusion of space creates tension by breaking into a person’s private space. He is fully aware that his behavior is offensive, but of course, the photographs make it justifiable.

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Shibuya,Tokyo

A post shared by Tatsuo Suzuki / 鈴木 達朗 (@tatsuo_suzuki_001) on

In a recent article, I asked how this behavior would be judged if the likes of Gilden and Dougie Wallace were not holding a camera, but instead simply confronting people at random in the street. Why does this revered, expensive, magical box vindicate this manner of acting in public? Why are the resulting images so revered by the art world, pouring praise on a photographer for “pushing boundaries” and “creating insights,” when every photograph says a lot more about the photographer’s ego than it does about the reality of life on the street?

Screengrab of Suzuki in action from My Milestone.

Screengrab of Suzuki in action from "My Milestone."

The concept — elevated by the likes of Magnum and the art world in general — of the photographer as a big game hunter, a heroic, often hyper-masculine figure who bravely sets out into the world to deploy his mastery over technology to create art is one that has become tired. The online reaction to Suzuki’s work is an indication that audiences are starting to see beyond the surface of the resulting images and into the arrogant, ego-driven unpleasantness that goes into their creation. Social media has helped to undermine their heroism, revealing the nastiness, vanity, and smugness that the galleries and books fail to convey.

The convenience for the obnoxious street photographer is that the image is a snapshot of a moment caught just before the unwitting subject reacts to this invasion. Photographs are typically that moment of confusion before realization, annoyance, and intimidation kick in and subjects are rendered helpless. The moment the photographer wanted is complete, ripped away from the consequences that the photograph so conveniently ignores and overlooks. The image is taken (in both senses), the photographer’s braggadocio is bolstered, the resulting image is more important than the process. The ends justify the means, and the photographer’s expression of power is complete.

Until now. What was once deemed heroic is now seen as pathetic. The photographer’s ego is revealed and found vile. An unpleasant taste sours every image, as though the overblown ego is a sepia tone that washes every single photograph.

Fuji’s blindness to this was surprising, and the reaction is entirely justified. Intrusive street photography is a power trip that belongs in the past.

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167 Comments

Jeff Walsh's picture

A person has the choice to be obnoxious to anyone or everyone. Some people chose to be overly respectful to others, while some pick and chose their moments of respectfulness, while still others chose to live in disrespect nearly all the time. It's all freewill and choice.

It's also the choice of people around us on how they will respond to our choices of behavior. What doesn't need to be done is personally attack someone who we personally believe is obnoxious to others. It's not our place to "defend" everyone everywhere all the time. He isn't hurting anyone. He isn't cause emotional distress. He is at worst, causing a very short moment of uncomfortability for an individual. That's the absolute worst case scenario.

The only reason this has become an issue is because Fuji Film abandoned Suzuki, the creator THEY chose to partner with, knowing full well his more aggressive style of shooting. The chose him, filmed this project with him, and published it while consciously knowing who he was, and how he worked. Then, they completely separated themselves from him when they received the backlash. Because of that retreat from Fuji, they have now left Suzuki alone to defend himself against personal attacks all due to Fuji putting him in front of a lot of people who didn't know who he was prior to this.

In my opinion, Fuji has behaved terribly, and I believe street photogs should at least consider this behavior from them when considering buying or using their products. They pulled Suzuki into the lime light, knowing who he was and how he operated, then provided him with ZERO support against the mass of people who pushed back against their video.

As for me, unless Fuji intervenes here, as an artist who chooses photography as my means of creativity, I won't use or buy Fuji products from this point. It is my belief that Fuji needs to stand with the artists they partner with, and choose artists they are willing to stand with instead of choosing a controversial artist and using him as a publicity move to generate advertising.

Deleted Account's picture

"He isn't hurting anyone. He isn't cause emotional distress. He is at worst, causing a very short moment of uncomfortability for an individual. That's the absolute worst case scenario."

You don't actually know what's going through the mind of any of the people he photographs so I'm not sure how you can state that he's not causing any emotional distress or that their discomfort is short-lived. Seems like one hell of an assumption to make.

Jeff Walsh's picture

It's not an assumption at all. It's nothing more than an understanding of people, and understanding what took place. It doesn't take 20 degrees of psychology and interviews post picture take to clearly see that having someone in a minimal amount of personal space for a split second isn't harming. Hell, based on his photos alone you can see confusion, surprise, annoyance, but then it's over. The human mind can process that this dude stepped closer than I would like to me, snapped a pic, and moved on, therefore I am not harmed or going to be harmed. The situation is over. Then they have the ability to further process whether they want to confront what happened, and then make a choice as to what to do. What they don't need are strangers on the internet "defending" them by personally attacking the person who took the photograph, but aren't actually doing anything other than saying mean words in the hopes of emotionally harming him, but also knowing there's no real commitment to ACTUALLY do anything.

This is all white knighting at its worst/best, and it's all very meaningless. But hey, next time someone gets closer than you're comfortable with for a hot second, post about it on social media and see how many people come running to your defense, then you'll see what is actually happening here, and the real "outrage" that takes place.

Deleted Account's picture

Ok. So despite the fact that no person with even 20 degrees in psychology would presume to know the mindset of a diverse group of complete strangers, you can know for a fact because you have "an understanding of people". You're pretty much a psychic, then. Cool.

As for me, if someone stuck a camera in my face like that, it would be in pieces on the floor within a second or two. No need to post about it on social media or anything like that. The solution to nonsense like this is pretty simple for me. I can't speak about anyone else because unlike you, I'm not a psychic and I don't know what's going through their heads. All I know is that I certainly wouldn't be cool with it.

It's not white knighting to point out that an assumption is an assumption.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I can see your reading comp is through the roof, so I'll help. His photos show how the people react. That proof of how they feel in that moment is captured and documented. So if he did this to you, he'd have a photo of you curling up on the ground, but we don't have that. So please tell me more how it's impossible to use reasoning to understand things.

Also, good job ignoring the point I made about how none of this is about his actions by dismissing how you wouldn't post about it on social. Are we done now?

Yin Ze's picture

the guy is like gilden light. he is trying to provoke a reaction by moving into their personal space. what a douche.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I actually agree with you. But he isn't my problem with this whole thing. My problem is that Fuji dumped all this anger on him and sits back reaping the rewards of a ton of free publicity, while the person they brought to the forefront takes all the heat.

Daniel Medley's picture

"I actually agree with you. But he isn't my problem with this whole thing. My problem is that Fuji dumped all this anger on him and sits back reaping the rewards of a ton of free publicity, while the person they brought to the forefront takes all the heat."

Boom. This right here.

Mark Wyatt's picture

How about the pollster that wants you to sign a poll to save the whales, or the kids that want to sell you candy to keep them off drugs, or the protester that blocks the road so you can't get to work? We live in a very sensitive society. Maybe more people should just stay in a "safe space".

Mark Wyatt's picture

Jail is not a nice place.

Deleted Account's picture

"What they don't need are strangers on the internet "defending" them by personally attacking the person who took the photograph, but aren't actually doing anything other than saying mean words in the hopes of emotionally harming him, but also knowing there's no real commitment to ACTUALLY do anything."

I'm with you up until the above statement. You don't get to draw the line in the sand for everyone else to follow. If Fujifilm decides to use this photographer to promote their brand, people viewing it have the discretion to accept or reject this and even further still, can voice that opinion.

It's just another larger part of a chain reaction that. Are some people being extreme with their reactions to this style of street photography? Maybe but they have the freedom to speak out about it and I agree that he's being an ass mainly because he's purposefully stepping into the way of pedestrians and then pointing a camera in their face. Is he free to do that? Yes! But it's not very polite.

Honestly, the outrage would have never happened had Fujifilm not put this type of behavior on full display. They should have been more aware that they're advertising/marketing speaks to a wide spectrum of beliefs and that it might not sit well with some of people who see it. It's their choice to show it and then it's individually, on everyone else to react or not.

Jeff Walsh's picture

You're correct and I agree that I don't decide the line for everyone to follow. My point was that voicing opinions on his style vs attacking him personally on everything other than his method is what doesn't need to be done by anyone. I love discourse, but hate toxic attacks that irrelevant to the conversation.

Deleted Account's picture

I agree that viscousness shouldn't be a rational response but mob mentality is almost always going to come with a storm of this type of reaction. It's usually predictable and Fujifilm could have easily avoided any overreaction but recognizing how OTT their photographer is with his method and that it's essentially encouraging people to do the same.

No one should be surprised by the reaction. It should have been expected.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I totally agree, and that's my in my opinion Fuji knew this would happen and planned for it.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

There's no way that Fuji planned for this.

Andrzej Witold's picture

I am wondering how often he faces physical reaction from his subjects. My guess is that he's lucky to work in Japan where people are rather polite.
In Eastern Europe, where I live, his 'art style' would result in broken nose in less than a week, especially if he would try to perform his 'art' after dark on a weekend.

&

David Mawson's picture

"White knighting" is a word assholes use to try to devalue other people's opinions. It's only meaning is "I, the person using the phrase, can't make a fact based argument and resent the fact. Take that, world!"

Laura Sheridan's picture

I actually want to weight in on this (while I did not read everything, it is in response to "the short discomfort and after we forget): I have dealt with a situation of being stalked. If someone would take my image like this, I would feel very uncomfortable for a very long time (which already is the case).

I think as photographers on a photography website, we are and should be the most aware of how this may impact an individual and it does raise the question that's as old as time about street photography overall. Does a camera allows us to act differentely and get away with it right.

David Mawson's picture

> I think as photographers on a photography website, we are and should be the most aware of how this may impact an individual

Unfortunately "photographer" more often means someone with a sense of entitlement than any thought for their responsibilities.

The point you've made is an excellent one: if you semi-assault a lot of people this way (and in fact the photographer seems to be committing a breach of the peace by UK standards) then only an idiot would expect every person to have the same reaction. In any random group of people you are going to have a certain number for who this is much more traumatising.

Laura Sheridan's picture

As a woman in the industry: the "entitlement" is definitely something I have encountered here a lot by either personal experience or witness. That is definitely another debat but overall having a camera does make people act ... well. Peopley as I like to call it. It's why I'm very cautious as photographer who primarely works with people (both professionals as non-professional).

I think in this time and age, street photography is also something that should be of concern considering the rise of privacy questions and breaches, AI and facial recognition, various (EU) laws and indeed. I would never want my image to be taken for someone's work, as awesome as it may be, if I'm out in the public. Even without my stalking-incident (which made it only worse and made me question a lot on how much we share, willignly or unwillingly).

I do think that there is also a huge question to be raised by how Fuji has blasted this photographer and now has taken it down without any message. As much as I may dislike his style or attitude of way-of-work, I think we still need to understand he is as much a human as we are and this is a huge double edged sword at this point.

Timothy Linn's picture

First, as a user of Fuji cameras myself, I'm dismayed to read you won't be buying any more Fuji products. I hope the company can overcome this loss of revenue.

Second—and more important—I'm grateful that your dismissive attitude toward the abuse this photog directs at others who are just minding their own business is the minority opinion. The world needs more people who are capable of empathy and fewer champions of a-holish behavior.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I'm fully capable of empathy, which is why I don't behave the way Suzuki does. But I'll keep this real simple, next time someone invades your personal space and makes you uncomfortable for a second, post about on social media and let's see just how many people defend you against that person. I'm sure we'll see dozens of blogs and articles about how someone's personal space was invaded for a second by someone doing something. Then everyone will go find that person and begin to personally attack them in order to shame them into stopping. Right? That'll happen? Because if it doesn't, then all of this outrage isn't about his actions.

Also, all anyone can do as an individual is choose to spend their money with companies they want to support. Does my money affect Fuji, nope, doesn't even blip on their radar. But that's all I can do. If more people choose to do that individually, eventually, it blips. My choice here isn't about causing a disruption to Fuji, it's about choosing action for or against the companies I support.

David Mawson's picture

> I'm fully capable of empathy,

Actually, no, your posts show this isn't true. You constantly tell other people what "the" problem is and that if it was addressed the bad PR would be over. But everyone else's reaction is to something very different that your solution wouldn't address. You're chronically deficient in empathy but, because you lack empathy, don't realise this.

Michael Penn's picture

Are you sure they were well aware of his method ? Are you sure this is going to actually hurt Suzuki ? Are you sure that this controversy was brought on by Fuji or all these photography sites looking for a clickbait story.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Nope. But your point is eluding me totally

Michael Penn's picture

Your exaggeration that Fuji left him high and dry

David Pavlich's picture

Fuji is first a business. They realized that they made a mistake and corrected it just like any other business would. As an unrepentant capitalist, Fuji made the correct decision.

David Mawson's picture

> The only reason this has become an issue is because Fuji Film abandoned Suzuki,

This is stupid.

No, you're confusing "An issue to you" with "An issue to people who aren't asses." Trust me: this would have still have been a big issue to me if Fuji stuck by him.

> the creator THEY chose to partner with, knowing full well his more aggressive style of shooting.

This stupid too. Fuji as an entity didn't choose this idiot, someone who works for them at probably quite a low level in PR did. Someone who may well be looking for a new job.

As for the rest of your post: it's simply pure manbabyism/

David Blacker's picture

I'm not sure what everyone's upset about. What this guy is doing is the equivalent of saying "boo!" to passers by. There is a reaction (which is why he's doing it), and they all move on (unlike the commentators here). By the time they reach the end of the block they've probably forgotten him completely. There are two broad ways of doing street photography: (a) to record unobtrusively, and capture people in their natural state (I've heard some people call this creepy ffs) or (b) to have subjects interact with the camera. This dude's going for option b, and perhaps in Japan that's the only way to get strangers to interact with one's camera. I don't know. His work is interesting, so he knows what he's doing.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I"m not upset with the photog, I'm deeply bothered by Fuji partnering with a controversial photog then when controversy hit they abandoned him, but are reaping publicity from him like crazy. Seems like a terrible way for a company to treat someone they chose to work with.

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