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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166 Comments

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Black Z Eddie .'s picture

--"Enough with the machismo. There sure are some sensitive people here."

LOL, do you not smell the stank of hypocrisy in your post.

Dan Howell's picture

His behavior wouldn't be tolerated if he was holding an iPhone. No reason that the extra megapixel should give him more license. And we've all see much better photos from iPhones.

Francisco Hernandez's picture

Tried street photography last March in Japan and did my best to be a fly on the wall. Not a fan of this photographer's approach at all.

Yea because you were scared. You naughty little voyeur you!

He's definitely been a very naughty, dirty little boy!

For the sake of photography, we are blessed with different approaches and points of view.
Using the green light is a beautiful touch, Mr Hernandez!

Nice! And, you didn't have to be an arsehole to get that shot! Imagine that!

Stuart Carver's picture

Yes, you bunch of infidels!

Stuart Carver's picture

In seriousness it’s up to him what he does but it’s defo not my style.. and he just looks like some random weirdo the way he is moving around the crowds.

Not sure what the brand has to do with it. Leica, Nikon and others have been shoved in peoples faces for decades by a variety of shock-street photographers. What's different this time? Social media. That's all.

Stuart Carver's picture

Perhaps there is a bit of ‘let’s bash Fujifilm cos they are making better cameras than my brand at the moment’ in play ;)

Seriously though you are right, obnoxious people are not brand specific, it’s the same fallacy as people saying Audi or BMW drivers are horrible when in fact drivers of most brands have their fair share of dickheads.

I like his work. You could also question if taking pictures of roof jumping is a responsible way of working. Or taking pictures of good looking woman who post there pictures on Instagram to be admired. I don’t know the details how he behaves, but surly it’s not a crime or a huge moral issue to stick a camera up someone’s face in public :)
I actually think photographers face rather larger issues.

vik .'s picture

Fuji camera owners suck! :)

He's a pseudo Moriyama/Gilden copycat. I can't believe that Steidl published a book of his work. Fuji like many other camera companies believed that they could leach off his social media popularity as well as other limelight photographers like Nick Turpin. Putting all your eggs in the fake social media basket is a recipe for disaster.

It is interesting about Moriyama as an example. I also have found some similarities there, but Moriyama is reacher, innovative and provoking in completely different manner.

Chad Andreo's picture

Next Article
“This is why the Sony system is the best thing since slice bread”

How very judgemental. There is a lot more to Bruce Gilden than you make out here. You have cherry picked up a few choice quotes to support your argument (and I do not believe Gilden uses a Fujifilm camera).

Not my style, but it's really none of my business as to how Suzuki shoots. He's taking a picture so I'm not concerned for anyone's safety.

Blake Aghili's picture

No, only a Leica M3 does that :D
M7 not pure enough haha

Dylan Bishop's picture

Would the photos stand on their own without the context of being shot aggressively? I’m not seeing anything special about his shots that requires this method. Isn’t bad street photography when the subject obviously knows you’re taking the shot? I’ve seen work like this from clueless street photogs with subjects clearly looking disturbed by the photog. If the end result was something magical it may be validated but I’m not seeing it.

This guy is as offensive and as stoopid as that hidden rear screen on the xpro-pee.

Dan Tchon's picture

I have actual shot with Tatsuo in Tokyo and yes his style is a bit different than most, he respects the people he shoots. We hung out for about 4 hours and it was a lot of fun watching him shoot. The streets of Tokyo are crowded and all he does is walk around with the camera at eye level and shoot. Yes he may get in the path of a person but he never invades their personal space. And if a person asks for him to delete a picture, no questions asked he does, but rarely ever happens. As far as Fuji maybe they did not see the full impact of showcasing Tatsuo, but to ban Fuji is kind of the extreme. People have become so sensitive, life is to short to give way the little things.

"People have become so sensitive, life is to short to give way the little things." 100% agree. If Tatsuo stepped in front of my path with a camera I'd be momentarily put out and then I'd go back to wondering what I feel like for dinner.

100% Agree. It certainly wouldn't ruin my day. How does someone get through life if they let every little thing like that bother them?

He was that way prior to using fuji

Konrad Sarnowski's picture

1. Fuji brought shame on itself by this act of cowardry and mindless censorship.
2. As of commenters here: I can see digital photography brought a lot of mentally unequipped people to the world of art - that's sad.

Jordan McChesney's picture

I’m sure some will disagree, but both his and Gilden’s style of photography take absolutely no skill. Anyone with a camera can intrude someone’s personal space and take a picture. I’ve actually heard people critique street photos by saying “you didn’t even get close to them, this took no guts to shoot”, which perpetuates this toxic behavior. I know only a Sith speaks in absolutes, but in my opinion the photography world gains absolutely nothing from this kind of photographer or their “work”

That’s why I consider Fan Ho to be the best street photographer who has ever lived. He managed to tell stories and capture fleeting moments all while seeming to respect the personal space of his subjects.

"“you didn’t even get close to them, this took no guts to shoot”, which perpetuates this toxic behavior"

Getting close to people is toxic behavior. Got it.

Jordan McChesney's picture

Getting in someone’s face without their permission because you want a picture of them is toxic. Yes.

Rob Davis's picture

You want a world where the only photographs to see are posed?

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