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

Previous comments
Jordan McChesney's picture

I challenge you to show any evidence supporting I ever said that. Have a look at the work of Fan Ho for some truly world class images before trying to pull out a straw man argument.

His photos give us an inside in society, luckily photographers like him and Bruce Gilden still exist. Looking at your website and seeing photos of people jumping of rooftops, I think you are not in the position to criticise their work. I would suggest to study some history of photography and art history and learn about the function of art and artists.

Andy Day's picture

1. Whataboutism.
2. My position is irrelevant. The points that I make are.
3. I'm more than happy to defend my work, having written about it extensively.

ad 2: nah, they're just your opinions and as such, no more relevant than those of the next keyboard warrior.

Andy Day's picture

Absolutely, I agree. It's just my opinion. Your argument is a non sequitur, however.

Worth noting though: keyboard warriors typically don't have a position writing for the industry press. Keyboard warriors tend to post their thoughts anonymously using a nickname and no photo because it's easy to hide behind. As a result, their words are pretty much of no worth.

I'm just here to back what c0ld c0ne said.

If you want genuine photos of the time, of how real people are, this is how they need to be taken. People should not be prepared or aware of the camera at the time the photo is taken.
You call it obnoxious, I call it a necessary cost of documentary. It's not something I would do, but I am grateful there are people willing to do this and have nothing but respect for their work.

Stuart Carver's picture

But you are aware of the camera, mainly because the guy just stuffed it in your face.. capturing a real scene is about capturing someones emotions without you adding to it, their natural emotions.

Iain Stanley's picture

What’s “real” about some guy shoving a camera in your face as you walk to the train station? Every moment I breathe air is “real.” So if some dimwit doesn’t snap me buying some peanuts from the conbini on a Tuesday at 14:36, it’s not “real”? What a pretentious load of tripe.

Jordan McChesney's picture

But what “genuine” moment is he “documenting” by standing in someone’s way to snap a picture? How does this capture “the time” in any meaningful way? If he wants to capture genuine moments of how “real people are”, should he not avoid altering the subjects’ behavior by interacting with them? As soon as he alters their behavior does it not cease to be genuine, in anything other than a reactive way?

This is a genuine chance for a dialogue about a divisive issue but no one has adequately explained what his “art” says, only that it’s says something. These are genuine questions I’m asking. If I can be convinced that Duchamp’s “Fountain” is meaningful art, then clearly I’m open to anything.

timgallo's picture

First of all, the absolute lack of self-respect and any respect to anyone with fuji camera title. Andy Day, dont you have any common sense or decency? You are talking about dilemma of end and means, yet where is your common sense in title making? You dont care about means yourself... all you care is click-bait..

ok, now back to the subject. I live and work professionally in japan for more than 10 years, and I can tell you - its more about privacy and caring what the mass think. Its the culture. Japanese care more about their privacy than the amount of radiation in their water. We have what you call *claim* culture (its a messed up japanenglish), but what it means is its an complaint culture. Companies and many people in general are afraid of complaints and care about them a lot. You behave so that you dont get much.

And than we have a problem with older man stalking younger women... and you mix-it all up - and you got this reaction.

I dont like Suzuki pictures, nor his style, but its just my preference. What I really think the problem is - is that his philosophy seems very superficial and does not explain or give reason to his behavior in any way. He is not poetic, has no style, his words makes his behavior all so much more suspicios. And his pictures are not mainstream?
So immediately he is put in category of perverts here in Japan.

And if his pictures were any close to f.ex. Joel Meyerowitz than maybe we can talk... but damn Joel philosophy and relationship with photography is poetic. Makes kinda overlook that he gets in the peoples faces all the same... and it goes to other famous photographers. They have philosophy, they have a story and often they have cultural weight. Suzuki is just an wild dog roaming on the streets and sniffing everything that smells different for him. And it seems he is not trying to be anything else beyond that... why Fuji chose him makes no sense to me. But anyway...

it also has nothing to do with Fuji camera and people who hold em.

The other thing that bothers me is that Fuji did not stood up to complaints... it ran and apologised. When what they should did is suck it up, make more interviews with guys or other street photographers who has different opinion on the subject. Make a proper documentary and explanation from artists point of view. They basically throw him under the bus... and let the people eat him alive. And as it seems he has no words to explain himself...

With this one video - street photographers in Japan are in deep shit now. Wait till the make a new law and street photography will be prohibited here. its already almost is, kind of.

Also, no - none of the people in video signed any leases. Its all guerrilla style.

J. Chiu's picture

So if what Suzuki is doing is seen as an invasion of personal space, by jumping in front of people and shoving his camera into people's faces, how does this compare to, say, the Surveillance Art of Arne Svenson? Where does someone's personal space begin and end? Do you need to have the person's permission before taking their picture?

Rob Davis's picture

In most places in the world their is no right to privacy in public unless you should have a reasonable expectation of privacy like a dressing room or restroom. People just don’t know what the laws are or how much they’re on camera.

This guy comes across as a bit of a tool, but really, is he any worse that many other street photographers? Getting up in people's faces. Taking their photos without permission. It's a hugely selfish pursuit.

I have a lot of good articles here. Sadly enough, a bad one + the comments(not only here) ...was a provocation for a direct response.

Fast notes.
1. I blame Fuji just for two highly unprofessional points.
Firstly, they have created the most tasteless video on someone’s craft. Secondly, they took a lot of blame about deleting the mentioned video, but there is a question... If the photographer wasn’t Japanese (maybe American or French), they will take the same decision?

2. Mr Suzuki has his own craft and specific way to perform it. Not illegal, not a crime.

3. Not your taste, do not support the artworks of the person. BUT going to write countless sh**** about him as a person (hate speech) and countless words about how sh**** his craft is (the gray zone of hate speech)....what kind of person you are, for real?

4. This article gives a definition of Mr Suzuki’s craft as an intrusive Street photography. However, intrusive could be even a photograph of somebody’s house with no permission or his dog. What about zoom lens photography? Not in your face, but still taking pictures politely and cowardly from a safe distance, At least, you can ask Mr Suzuki to delete your picture, not the same chance with the zoom lens behind the dark corner.

5. About this specific article. Only the title is enough to call the writer’s approach on the topic an intrusive and questionable one. Mr Day clearly is practicing ALMOST the same approach he is preaching as bad example. Metaphorically speaking, he is taking an intrusive snapshot of Fuji with no permission and attacking the brand.
Being an online author, does it give you the right to mislead the readers, Mr Day?

Mr Suzuki takes his photographs with all sorts of cameras. Not only Fuji. If you are going to debate about Mr Suzuki’s approach, try to behave professionally and write about his approach only. You must do that as a form of respect to fstoppers’ readers and as a form of self respect as well.
Mr Suzuki is not hiding his “mistakes” behind Fuji’s back. Also, Fuji or any other company is not the one to blame for anybody’s choice how the pictures are going to be taken!

But call yourself a professional and behave in this case unprofessionally... Who must be blamed here? You? Or the website?

Final words.
Mr Suzuki comes to your personal zone and takes one picture. He gives you the right to react. He is well aware that your reaction could be strongly negative or just neutral (I am sure, a lot of positive cases out there too). But he is there, ready to take a responsibility. However, most of his attackers are shooting at him from a safe distance and “polite” moral points (a well covered hate speech). Most of these people attack his personality, which is even more intrusive than any of his pictures!

What a people!

He is ready to take the whole black lash and keep performing his craft. Because professional cares about the craft, not about the audience. What about you? Are you ready to cut a finger in the name of what you believe? Are you? Or it is more comfortable to stay behind the screen and intrusively talk about a person you have never met?

David Pavlich's picture

" He gives you the right to react." Who knew that a photographer was giving out 'rights'? If he is going to be in the public doing what he does and then producing it as art, anyone viewing it will have an opinion. If someone has a negative opinion, does that make his/her opinion invalid? It would be difficult for me to comment directly to the photographer since he's not here nor has he been. I don't consider what he does worth the time to find him and comment to him directly.

So I, like most people here, comment on line. Some comments are harsh because those that make the comments see his ways as harsh and boorish. I would call it 'hit and run' photography, not art. And since art is subjective, my opinion is just as correct as your opinion or anyone else's here.

Mr Pavlich, you are giving good points and I support them. However, my simple point is. Everyone is free to like/love/dislike someone’s craft or the way he/she performs that craft. This is the core. But going after the photographer on a personal level? Or misleading the readers with incorrect title?

Negative opinion about someone’s craft or positive one, we all need this diversity and saturation. We need that! But attacking the person, because he takes different and not likable decisions (legal ones)...? Attacking the brand and the brand’s customers?

Talking about rights, there are laws on that topic. Very strict laws in some countries (Germany is a good example) and not so strict in others. The right to react is automatically given to you by the photographer at the moment of that simple click of the camera. Any photographer. And here is the difference. Mr Suzuki is there, you have the opportunity to say that you want your picture deleted. Try to ask that someone who is taking a picture of you with 300mm or even 56mm.
So, this disrespectful Japanese gives you an option vis-a-vis the one who is so polite and out of your reach.

Generally speaking, I do not like Mr Suzuki style, but I respect each person who is there for his craft. Cooking. Driving. Running. Breathing for the sake of living fully with no regrets.

Last words. Mr Pavlich, if the people were mostly like you and when they see a problem, just go and talk to the person openly, without mixing things, the world could be a nice place to live.

David Pavlich's picture

Thanks for the kind ending. It looks like we have a different definition of 'rights', however. My take is that the photographer is hoping for a reaction, not giving the subject the right to react. He doesn't have that authority be it real or imagined. His hope is for a reaction to photograph. If a person doesn't notice or has zero reaction, my guess is that photo isn't added to his portfolio.

As far as what happens in other countries, I'll have to beg ignorance because I only know the laws of the US and Canada.

Ryan Ringstad's picture

you don't have a clue what hate speech is.

Link: https://www.coe.int/en/web/european-commission-against-racism-and-intole...

“ Hate speech covers many forms of expressions which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred, violence and discrimination against a person or group of persons for a variety of reasons.”
* ECRI: European Commission against Racism and Intolerance

A common definition of intolerance:

“ intolerance
/ɪnˈtɒl(ə)r(ə)ns,ɪnˈtɒl(ə)rəns/
noun
unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behaviour that differ from one's own.”

Each country has specific regulations.

We are all free to be negative/positive about something. But there are lines. There are always lines.

And an old saying...do not do something to someone which you do not want to experience yourself. It is a simple rule.

Last lines. Mr Ringstad, people are free to do whatever their ethics and values dictate (if it is not illegal). Ironically, the case of Mr Suzuki is completely the same.
If someone does not like this kind of photography, the best possible way to go against it...is through his/her own photography or doing his/her own form of craft and putting all these time and efforts there.

And the following is the one I am going to do.

Garry Winogrand and others are labeled as post, ‘decisive moment’ photographers, and were grouped into a new form and practice labeled ‘Urban Landscape’ photography. The difference is the snapshot aesthetic of the latter, or allowing the camera to ‘frame’ rather than a calculated framing that is patient and a hallmark of the work of Cartier-Bresson, Kertez and other early luminaries of the street genre.

Winogrand was known to shoot 10 rolls a day, often seen standing in the centre of a NYC sidewalk, snapping away. Part of this genre was the use of film. For Winogrand, it was important to wait a long time, even up to three years, to process his film, so that his mind’s eye and memory would not predetermine the best shots. When he died, he left a few thousand rolls unprocessed.

For unprocessed film in memory ages like a fine wine, as time has been artificially held back. When it is processed, it releases its formal nuance to a clean, visual palette.

Shooting in this manner with a digital camera that may shoot 10 frames a second, especially when pushing the camera towards the subject as this Fuji photographer does, is a bastardization of this process. For it produces the exact opposite result in every way.

Winogrand did not live in today’s surveillance society, with cameras scanning the world above our heads. The last thing an anonymous pedestrian may want is that spectre of surveillance suddenly stuck into their face. One reason to practice Urban landscape photography is to capture views of the world that are unaffected by a calculated framing. Allow the camera more of a say in how it frames.

I employed a snapshot aesthetic for many years. I learned it from Joan Lifton and Charles Harbutt at Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester. Wide angle, pre-focus, shooting in the same direction and light for an entire roll. A modified zone system for 35mm which amounts to a simple formula: Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights. In the age of film, even with a free style of shooting, exposing 10 rolls of film in a candid way was really hard. 5 rolls was a good day. An always exiting chance of making some good work in that 24 period, (for I did not wait 3 years like Mr Winogrand.)
Introducing this ‘snapshot aesthetic’ modified my street sense. More frames were made. More bad frames were made, but bulk film was cheap. I am describing a practice.

Today, like in a fairy tale, with credit card card in hand, someone can walk into a Tokyo camera shop, buy a HQ digital camera, walk outside into a busy street, and according to Fuji, suddenly become a photographer. NO. It is not a practice of any a human, but of technology being used by a human in a wayward way. Why is it wayward? Because it is uninformed by the history I just related. An instant form of consumption of technology which in this case, has completely removed the ‘Subject’ from the practice. Is there a difference between someone who labels themselves a photographer, and all the amateurs using smartphones that are also pointed toward the same subject? That is a complex question. As an analogy, just because one can ‘drip paint’, does make an abstract artist.
Digital photography in some respects, is the digital equivalent of dripping paint. -RTS

I’ll take Suzuki’s photos that show the eyes and souls of humanity any day over photos of Japanese girls school dresses from behind that dominate Fuji shooters’ blogs and Instagram. It’s risky and brash, I get it, but I wish I had that drive to take that risk. It’s weird, but I appreciate what he does and have no problem with it. Stopping and asking permission or even interfering at all would ruin the shot.

I agree with Jeff, if Fuji is going to use you to promote themselves, then stick by your artist.. However Jeff, sorry but I still need to buy one more Fuji to replace my old broken rear screen X100s.

I say we should all just do what we do the way we do, and let Karma decide.

Jonathan Brady's picture

I say pull a flaming limb off of Trump's burning body and use it to ignite these assholes.

I'll bet that in some countries this behavior is out and out illegal. Spain and Germany come to mind. In other countries he'd get the @#$%^ beat out of him. Personal space is a psychological safety barrier.

There's a whole video on youtube of him shooting in Germany and not getting beat up. In fact he comments about how friendly people are there.

Psychological safety barrier - isn't that precious. Who knew so many posters here had this secret lust for violence? Some people almost seem to relish the thought. Love that mob mentality!

David Blacker's picture

You mean you don't have to have a Leica to be obnoxious anymore? What is the world coming to if Fuji users think they can now be obnoxious too.

I think that this also depends on where you live. When I started street photography in India many years back, I used to be i-your-face

I am less so these days.

One reason is safety. In the last several years, Indians have become polarised and prone to violence. So, safety is a factor.

Second, India is full of homeless people. Over 50,000 nameless people die on the streets of Delhi every year. Nameless people are a subset of homeless people.

They eat, sleep, bathe, work, and shit on the streets - or, in the public loo wherever available. They have no private space. When we photograph them, we enter their private space, and therefore I have come to the belief that - in India, at least, and similar places - there is no need to add obnoxious behaviour to the mix.

Big deal. He gets in front of the people in a fraction of a secont to take a picture in a public street. Big drama...

John Carlson-Zizic's picture

Personal opinion, I find that this whole 'Street Photography' excuse of being in other persons personal space and being outright rude to others annoying. Should some random YouTuber/Photographer decide to enter my space, take covert photographs of my wife and children well they will likely be confronted and very possibly injured (attitude depending). After almost 30 years of law enforcement I know I have a Right to move freely and unhindered through society and I also have the Right to protect myself and those in my trust. Simple as that!
Ask for permission - EASY
I have taken a lot of covert photographs during my career, easy, buy a zoom and let people be. Documenting life isn't about inciting emotion, it's about recording it.

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