Permission granted?

What gives us the need to get out our phone and start recording? If something catches an individual’s attention it’s extremely likely that their first reaction is to get out their phone. It seems you can’t get away with anything anymore because someone is always watching. But is this ethical? Is it right to capture or film someone without their permission? Should there be a code of conduct for people taking pictures of strangers? Social media, including Facebook and YouTube, are filled with viral videos of unknowing, oblivious people filmed without consent and then posted online. It’s not hard to see why it’s consider a violation. One might think its alright to do so if gone by unnoticed, but what if you weren’t? Would you continue recording when a person has confronted you and asked you to stop and delete the footage? Not long ago I endeavoured a similar situation, as a bystander. I was catching the train home when a passenger started harassing a fellow passenger. One man decided to film the scene. However, not long after, the harasser caught the man videoing and confronted him asking him to stop. Repeatedly he kept shouting “stop recording me, I didn’t give you permission.” After the man refused to do so, he also got out his phone and filmed back. While the man was just trying to help the passenger being harassed, would it have been better to say something instead hiding behind a device? Nonetheless, it’s an example of one of the ways in which we perceive our phones as a defensive system.


As part of this week’s topic we were asked to go out and take a photo of someone without their knowledge. I found this activity quite challenging. I am not a subtle person and the fact that someone could catch me out made me hesitant. If it were the other way round I would feel extremely uncomfortable knowing that someone had taken a photo of me without my consent. Issues that can arise in a situation like this is not knowing where the picture/ video could end up, who it could be shared with or what it could be used for. I understand there are certain situations in which asking every involved person for their consent would be difficult or even unnecessary. If I were to create my own code of conduct I believe asking for approval should rely on distance. A close up photo of an individual would definitely require it but a shot of a group from far away would not. Taking the picture below, I found it would be too difficult to ask for everyone’s consent and because it’s not singling anyone out specifically, asking doesn’t seem necessary anyway. I believe the distance between myself and the individuals determine this.


Another question I want to bring up is if the code of conduct should apply to professional street photographers. Do their motives and intentions influence how they respect others?
“The most common response from photographers appears to be that provided you’re in a public space you can take any picture you want. That’s true, at least in a legal sense. But it does not really address the issue at hand at all: If someone does not want their photograph taken do you, as a photographer, just go ahead and do so anyway, because you can? I actually do not think that’s such a good idea.” (Joerg Cloberg, 2013) This article, ‘The ethics of street photography,’ explores the challenges photographers face when taking pictures in public spaces without permission. The article considers a similar code of conduct to my own. Although they may have a different motive than others what rules one must go by, all should.

Although these code of conducts may not be enforced by law, the next time you take a photo of someone without their consent just consider it.



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