Can you not take a picture of me?



But did you really?

Now I’m all one for people watching but when it comes to taking sly picture, I’m really no good at it, even if it’s just a picture of myself or of my friends I just find it very difficult to do. I don’t if this is because I’m afraid I’ll get caught in the act, but I know unlike many of my friends who can take a decent picture of the hot guy walking pass, I do not possess that skill.


The extent of my sly public photography.

So trying to capture a picture for this week’s blog task proved rather difficult, as the question of ethics pondered over me. If I was….wait, if I could take a picture of someone in public I wouldn’t put it on any public forum just keep it for myself and then delete it off my phone in a couple of weeks when I forget why I have it. Which changes the whole situation as for this topic it would mean placing it on my blog for the whole world to see. Which unless it was a really embarrassing picture maybe wouldn’t too much of an issue but the umbrella of ethics stretches further than that.

So lets take a step back and take a look at what ethics mean in public photography and public posting of said content. There is a break down of legal and ethical concerns when it comes to taking photos of someone without their consent. In a private setting you need this permission however, the rules change when you enter the public space. In a public space you do not need the permission of an individual that you capture in your photography, this is from a legal standpoint however, from an ethical standpoint things can change as not everyone has your views or beliefs and wish not to be publicly broadcasted on a public forum.

Garry Winogrand was famously known for this photographic approach of not asking for consent of those who appeared in his pictures. His approach leads me on to another group of photographers that often use this method to get what they need, they are known as the paparazzi. The paparazzi, and how time and time again they breach the code of ethics when they photograph celebrities and passers by. The paparazzi violate the code of ethics by taking their need for their next pay check too far by placing not only themselves or their subjects but also everyone around them lives at risk. However, pushing aside passers by who often know when to back up and stand their ground, lets focus on the celebrities. Now one may argue that if you step into the limelight you should brace yourself for this sort of personal and private invasion. Putting your public life on television (especially for those on reality TV) have no room for complaints. However, this is just a form of opinion and the fact of the matter is, they have every right to wish they are left alone especially by those with cameras following their every move.

Paparazzi, often like animals herding around in packs of around 10-15 men at a time, creating horrible situations for their subjects and to make matters worse for women especially shouting out profanities to get a look of distress and sadness to sell to the tabloids. The case of Sienna Miller, gives clear account to how the paparazzi take their public photographing to the next level.


“For a number of years I was relentlessly pursued by 10 to 15 men, almost daily… Spat at, verbally abused… I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me. And the fact they had cameras in their hands made that legal.”

Sienna Miller, 2011

It horrible to think tat in our culture these are the types of images we want to witness all to get a great angle on a piece of gossip that usually isn’t even true.

Going back to my dilemma of public photography and keeping this example in mind, how can you truly know what breaches codes of ethics when it comes down to public photography, and most of all how to overcome the issue of ethics especially for projects where those images will appear on a public forum. With a big group shot it is hard to give everyone the heads up that they may appear in a photograph and therefore get consent from every passer by. Unless you are apart of a big production or news corporation chances are you will not do this.

My approach would be to snap the picture and run like hell, but something tells me this wouldn’t be the best of methods. Though there are not real laws against people and public photography, in Australia there are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image. However a person’s image can constitute ‘personal information’ under the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) with the consequence that there are circumstances in which businesses and agencies subject to that Act may breach the law by publishing a person’s image.” (Street Photographer’s Rights, 2016)

But the only loophole I can think of is just taking pictures of people you know and with their permission post those if needed or don’t capture any faces or unfortunate acts. But if you’re really unsure your best bet is to consult the Street Photographer’s Rights manual for all the ethical and legal breaches you may come across.

What do you think of ethics and public photography?

Leave your thoughts and comments below.


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