Thursday, October 20, 2005

Ethics of Photography

This is a great picture from someone's gallery at . Great picture, but look at the context in which it was taken: "Old Man - Picture taken with a Nikon 80-200... as he was walking towards me. As we passed, as total strangers, I said thank you. He said you're welcome. Such a strange encounter. I cranked off about 8 shoots as I approached. Just a grab shot of a great face."

It seems somehow demeaning in to snap a shot of a total stranger without asking them, but then, how else do you get a shot like that? Granted he did say thank you. But to see someone, not primarily as a person with hopes and fears and feelings, but as a 'kodak moment' seems rude. But I don't know, it's more complex then that.

Not that I havn't wanted to to it, a month ago I was taking some pictures of some pumpkins outside of a grocery store when I saw a ragged, dirty, old man sitting on the side walk. Of course I wanted to take his picture, but I couldn't just walk up and snap it, so I tried pretending to take pictures of things in the foreground, but it didn't really work out.

I get the same sort of feeling to a lesser degree when I'm drawing people in public. People on the bus or in a restaurant or something. You never want to catch their eye. If it's a guy he'll probably think I'm gay; if it's a girl she'll think I'm checking her out; if it's a foreigner, he'll think I'm racist. Or so the back of my mind tells me when I'm caught starring at a total stranger.

I know at least a few of you are photographers, what do yall think?


Blogger Carrie said...

I dunno. The closest I've come (tho' I've wanted to snap half a dozen stranger's picture!) is to take a picture of a kid doing something adorably cute and quickly turn around or take off quickly before questions come up!

10/20/2005 2:25 PM  
Blogger Varun said...

i feel exactly like you. There have been several times when i have been in public, and i have this sudden urge to take a photo, but i am too scared to get noticed by others. I try to the same way you did, trying my best to not let the subject now. But then fear overcomes me(always) and i dont click it.

10/21/2005 12:09 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

Since I don't think I have ever had the urge to take a photograph of somebody I didn't know, I don't have much to contribute here. Other than to say, that is an awesome photograph.

10/22/2005 11:55 AM  
Anonymous Mike Harper said...

I avoid publishing the likeness of anyone without their permission. It seems wrong somehow.

10/23/2005 12:28 PM  
Blogger David said...

Golden rule! Concern for other's rights as fellow image-bearers always trumps a shot, no matter how truly amazing it would be.

However, there are many, many contextual issues which may vary your decision making(e.g. news or travel photography; the end use of the photograph, especially if it is for commercial use).

I highly recommend reading Legal Handbook for Photographers which handles this issue quite capably. One suggestion the author makes is to ask yourself, when in the midst of a possibly controversial photo op, "Why do I want this photo?" and figuring out if you have a good reason to possibly make others uncomfortable.

I own this book if you'd like to borrow it. I'd like to make some kind of definitive statement here, but there are so many variables, and this book covers them well (and has been really central to my thoughts on the issue).


10/27/2005 7:00 PM  
Blogger Stejahen said...

Hey Varun and Mike, thanks for commenting, and welcome to my blog.

David, looks like a good book, thanks for the info

10/27/2005 10:22 PM  

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