Situational Ethics and the Methodological Concerns of Street Photography in South Korea OR, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and see Street Photography as Viable Sociological Practice

I'm aiming high by arrogating to go for the American Journal of Sociology or American Sociological Review with this article. I'm swinging for the fences on this one by taking it slow, using British spelling, crafting careful and tight prose, and ladling the meat with heavy theoretical discussion of issues of great methodological concern, as found in being a participant-observer who has had to navigate the ethical concerns of the enlightened social scientist as participant-observer (even as I interrogate what that means as a citizen of a New Metropole now living and working in a society that has gone from existence at the periphery to now functioning as part of the center),  street photographer who is constrained by more practical concerns as found in the technical constraints of the photographic medium, social norms, and the limits of Korean law, and as an artist who also considers himself a social scientist not despite the camera but precisely because of its presence. 

The flâneur writes back, and always fades into the crowd.. 

The flâneur writes back, and always fades into the crowd.. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson shooting amongst the crows in 1974. 

Henri Cartier-Bresson shooting amongst the crows in 1974. 

Inevitably, and perhaps narcissistically, this article is an attempt to unify my visual sensibilities as a street photographer and artist as well as my use of the visual as a social scientist, as a Visual Sociologist. The method by which I do so will be as a dual-pronged attempt to unify the more artistic endeavour of street photography with the more formal observational methodology of social science that is now called Visual Sociology. Before progressing any further, it is important to note that both endeavours, no matter how divergent they are in their respective modes of expression and mediums of engagement, both have common origins in the modern city, modes of civilised existence, and even institutionalised urbaneness itself.

Street Photography as both aesthetic pursuit, with compositional, exposure-related, and other technical concerns, as well as directed and effective social commentary that utilizes an interplay of semiotic elements evry bit as effectively as a commercial advertiser might, except that the "hunt" is dictated by a documentary realism that limits the photographer-practitioner to creating a bricolage capturing of found objects that Henri Cartier-Bresson called "the decisive moment" when all the key elements come together in a single image.  

Street Photography as both aesthetic pursuit, with compositional, exposure-related, and other technical concerns, as well as directed and effective social commentary that utilizes an interplay of semiotic elements evry bit as effectively as a commercial advertiser might, except that the "hunt" is dictated by a documentary realism that limits the photographer-practitioner to creating a bricolage capturing of found objects that Henri Cartier-Bresson called "the decisive moment" when all the key elements come together in a single image.  

Indeed, much as modern sociology has strong generative roots in the conflict of modernity and urbanization that sparked the social reform photojournalism of Jacob Riis or Louis Hine, the entire enterprise of sociology itself finds its origins in the socio-historical moment that produced the flâneur, who navigated, observed, and responded to the modern moment by participation in and dialectical engagement with the material conditions that created this a social character in 19th-century France in the first place. Indeed, it was flâneur extraordinaire Charles Baudelaire, who best exemplifies this description of professional social observer and artist-philosopher, who walked the streets of Paris as participant–observer and wrote poetry to express his thoughts, who coined the term "modernity" in the first place. (Frisby, PAGE)

 

Was on the poop chute at the movies when I had a sudden realization. This inspiration was such tha I had to write it on a paper bag I had in my pocket. But this will be the kernel of my paper and attempt to link the Parisian practice of flanerie to early

Since any serious attempt to look closely at the flâneur as an early form of sociologist must inevitably start with the scholar–philosopher Walter Benjamin, who wrote sagely on topics ranging from modernity, history, and totalitarianism, all the way to photography and the meaning of Art itself, I begin by not daring to go where no one has gone before, so I begin my analysis by inevitably depending on David Frisby, in his chapter "The City Observed: the Flâneur in Social Theory" from his book Cityscapes of Modernity

Aside from any single characterisation that might be made about him, Benjamin was certainly a thinker possessed of the ability to look at society in a structured way that was positively pregnant with theoretical possibility and immense critical acumen...