What are you trying to accomplish when you shoot the homeless?


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Lots of discussion recently online trying to dissuade photographers from shooting the homeless. One person asks “What are you trying to accomplish?”

I’d have to turn the question posed to me around and ask…”What are you trying to accomplish by being a control freak?”


Infrared flash photograph – Times Square, New York

Anytime someone tells you NOT to shoot something cause they do not like it and it is legal to shoot – that smacks of pretention on their part. As an artist you are under no obligation to explain your art or give reasons for doing anything.

I don’t specialize in homeless pix one way or another. I make no distinction of how much of my portfolio is composed of tramps, homeless and vagabonds. Maybe it is 2-3% or less? If it is on the street or not on the street and I like it and it is legal to shoot…I shoot it.

I do have a couple books on the homeless: On the Street and On the street: The Mix. But they are only 2 out of 250 books I’ve done or am working on.


In the Shadow of City Hall V25 2015 Daniel D. Teoli Jr. mr

In the Shadow of City Hall  Los Angeles

There is a long history in art, from the Renaissance and beyond of painters and draftsman documenting the human condition.


As a social documentary photographer what I’m trying to achieve?

I am looking to document life and hopefully to produce an iconic photo, just as I do with all my subjects.

Cartier-Bresson summed it up…

“I prowled the streets all day, feeling very sprung-up and ready to pounce, determined to ‘trap’ life – to preserve life in the act of living.”

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Cornered Copyright 1973 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

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Waiting for the Restaurant to Take Out the trash so She Could Eat – Los Angeles

Now, as a documentary photographer shooting for my own archives…why on earth would I want to listen to anyone tell me what to shoot?

Did the critics hire and pay me to shoot for them? Is it their pix or mine?

Furthermore, my photos are in over 130 museums and curated collections around the world…where are the critics pix located…Flickr??

A street /documentary photographers job is to document.  If your a documentary photographer, just do your job best you can and let the critics flap their jaws or in the case of the internet, work their fingers to the bone trying to tear you down with their keyboards.

The black lady in the beginning of this post died a short time after I shot her. (Candid) No better honor I can give than to put her in a few museums’ collections. Many of you photographers quit before you even start. By the time you run all your ‘rules’ for taking pix through your head the opportunity is gone…just press the button and sort it out later.

This is a big reason so many of you produce nothing memorable when it comes to street work….you overthink your shots.

One of the finest social documentaries ever produced about the homeless was:


It is part scripted / part documentary and is a docudrama. I am very grateful Rogosin marched to the beat of a different drummer.

Now someone mentioned ‘ethics’ in the mix over at Rangefinder Forum. Like it is OK if you have good ethical reasons to shoot homeless and it is not OK to shoot if you don’t have good ethics. Ethics, exploitation or any other excuse you can come up with does not matter in the least when it comes to documentary photography.

The photograph does not require a pure heart for the button to be pushed. All it requires is for the button to be pushed to freeze time and be a witness to history.

These were taken by NAZI’s. How important are they as a witness to history? The camera did not require an investigation into ethics or motive of the photographer for them to be priceless.


The last Jew in Vinnitsa


German soldier shooting a woman with a child in her arms, Ivanograd, 1942

In summation…If it is legal, shoot what you like. Forget the critics that will try to tear you down…march to your OWN beat or you will have to work for the critics and shoot what the critics browbeat you to shoot.


'Take it Like a Man' Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection

Selection from Take it Like a Man artist’s book  by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.

Homosexual erotica from the Daniel D. Teoli Jr. Archival Collection.

A complete listing of artist’s books by Daniel D. Teoli Jr.



De Wallen Graffiti copyright 2014 Daniel D. Teoli Jr.