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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Previous comments

> For me, that is the much larger problem, because if they had simply kept the video up, and stated that they understand people don't appreciate, or condone his methods, he is still a very well known street photographer and they chose to partner with him. That in the future they will be more mindful of how they present the creatives they work with, and also how the creatives affect the people around them. Then it's over and our outrage culture has very little meat on the bone to pick at.

No, you're an idiot. It wouldn't be over, those aren't the issues for most people - which you should be able to understand simply because they've told you - and Fuji as an entity is not obliged to commit hara kari for some ill-mannered narcissist simply because some peon in PR didn't realise the mess he was creating.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Your replies demonstrate very clearly you cant comprehend my point, so this is the only reply youre getting from me.

The photos they ended up showing as a result look like crap. ALL that stranger discomfort for nothing.

Heratch Ekmekjian's picture

The photos don't seem to deserve your eloquent words.

The question should have said: "Does holding any camera give you the right to be Obnoxious" which is what I encounter 90% of the time.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

Pissing random people off isn't a form of art. it's just being an attention seeking asshole. Who gets inspiration from this trash?

You don't decide what is and is not art, thank God.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

It's art in the same way a prank video on youtube is art.

so many fuji user i meet feel like they are superior to you with their puny sensors and fake color profiles. that ad was spot on and probably struck a nerve with fuji which is why it was taken down.

Little do they know how superior you are with your big sensor!

Stuart Carver's picture

Big sensors are like big cars.

Any of you ever been on nextdoor?

It's so crazy the amount of people filming you walk past their house on public sidewalk without you knowing.

Sure they only post "crime" and people peeing, but I must be on thousands of cameras everyday walking home from my bus stop.

At least in this case you know he's taking a picture of you.

As for the haters of his photos go out there and try and shoot some photos like him.
1. You're probably scared
2. You probably don't have the skillset to compose a composition and capture focus in the amount of time he does.

Don't knock it till you try it. It's very difficult and will probably make you a better photographer.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

3. Do it yourself and show us the results. Are you 1 or 2 or both?

I definitely don't have the guts nor the skill to create images like Tatsuo. Do you?

By the way cool watermark!

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I have absolutely no I interest in street photography. We had to do some in my photography classes decades ago and that's when I realized it had no meaning to me. My watermark is what it is, but mostly a necessity. Car enthusiasts like free stuff all day long and won't hesitate to complain they can't copy it free of watermarks. They go as far as writing a complaint. I place mine free of charges.

The problems with Suzuki has everything to do with street photography. Most people don't think very highly of street photography that are aggressive, but it seems that is a big part of the genera. In the end Fuji just found a really well respected street photographer it just turns out not cares about the art and just how he is being a dick in some peoples view

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

That dude is so lucky he's surrounded by polite people.

Rohan Gillett's picture

Not polite, but people who won't push back. Most Japanese will seek to avoid confrontation, which is a bit unfortunate, because people like him who cause fear or discomfort in a person even momentarily should be punished. And he is lucky because even in Japan there have been cases of people being knifed for looking at someone the wrong way. Having said that I think Fujifilm is also in the wrong here because they must have know his photographic style before hiring him for the video.

Mark Ferencz's picture

Similar to making funny noises in the back of class. Immature.

I love how this brings out all the internet tough guys saying things like, 'If he stuck that camera in my face, I'd break it.' 'He's just lucky he's around polite people.' It's so very impressive. The reality is that assaulting someone for inconveniencing you or intruding on your 'personal bubble' is just that- assault. You would end up paying for the camera or in jail. If you did it to me you can be sure I would be prepared to defend myself. Enough with the machismo. There sure are some sensitive people here.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

Allow me to summarize how this conversation would go down:

[Cops] So what happened here?

[PhotoG] I stuck my camera in this guys face to take a photo for my ART!

[Victim] Yeah I was walking down the street, minding my own business and this random wierdo jumped into my personal space and shoved some unknown black object into my face so I knocked it away and punched him because I was afraid he was mugging me.

[Cops to photoG] Is that true did you shove a camera in this guys face?

[PhotoG] Well, yes... BUT ITS MY ARTFORMMMMMMMM

[Cops] Clean up all these pieces of broken camera off my sidewalk before I charge you with littering asshole.

So where does your "personal space" begin and end? Got a legal definition you'd like to enlighten me with? He's not touching anybody. He's not even that close. You're so edgy. I'm really turned on

"So where does your "personal space" begin and end?"

Personal space is commonly defined as 18" to 4' but really anything closer than an outstretched arm is personal space. He got into people's way and pretty much in their faces with his camera.

"He's not touching anybody."

Yeah...let me get in your way and get my camera in your face. I'm sure you'll be totally cool with that as long as I won't touch you though, right?

Is there really a "common definition"? Seems like that could vary by culture, location, individual, etc. Would I be cool if someone did to me what Suzuki does? I can say in all honesty, yes I would ultimately be okay with it. I don't have a stick up my rear end, though. I think the most the tactic he uses would elicit from me is a raised eyebrow and maybe a bit of a chuckle. I might be curious what it was for. It certainly wouldn't ruin my day. I've spent plenty of time in big cities where everything you do happens in close proximity to others, much like the places he shoots. You just stop letting stupid little things like that bother you, or you'd never get anything done.

Not sure if we can put links in comments, but here you go

https://www.google.com/search?q=personal+space

All that does is bring you to results stating exactly what I just said: this concept of "personal space" is entirely subjective. It is not a legal concept. It's not a quantifiable distance that one could use as some sort of legal defense to attack someone for 'invading' with their presence. No reasonable person would interpret anything he did in his video as threatening. It might be annoying or awkward at most. All that aside, I'll reiterate what I said in my last response: if you would really let something like that get you worked up I feel sorry for you.

Iain Stanley's picture

I openly extend an invitation for you to come to Japan and act out your “summary.” Not too sure it will quite go down as you say but please, give it a go. I’ll even document it. In black and white.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

I dare you to come to japan and act like an asshole to the people here!

Iain Stanley's picture

Huh? I live in Japan....

Thank you Ryan! How many posts until the defenders of this guy get it? Can't you all see that there are plenty of us that find his way of shooting disturbing? I think the world will be just fine if this method of street photography was discouraged. Remember, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

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