First I feel I should consider why one may wish to photograph subjects whilst they are unaware of the fact. Is there an assumption that subjects will appear different in some way compared to how they would look if they were aware of being photographed? But this may not be true – it’s perfectly possible for a subject to pretend they are unaware of being photographed. Indeed, what may appear to the photographer to be an interesting ‘candid’ picture may in fact feature a subject who is just pretending not to notice the camera.
Speaking for myself, I tend to avoid acknowledging a camera if it’s pointing anywhere near me. I don’t want to engage with the operator. It feels a little confrontational to stare back. Perhaps I appear in numerous pictures as an ‘unaware’ when actually I was all too painfully aware, but simply polite. Did I look different as an ‘aware unaware’ to how I would as an ‘unaware unaware’? Who could possibly know?
Perhaps the photographer is taking something from the subject which would not or could not otherwise be easily or freely given. Often this ‘something’ casts the subject in a less than flattering light – it catches the subject ‘off-guard’.
I did this exact same exercise in Identity and Place Exercise 2.2 so I don’t really feel like doing it again. I wrote my observations on the ‘covert’ approach in that piece and I don’t have anything to add at the moment.