Ethics of photographing in public places - beaches example

Discussion in 'Philosophy' started by hanz_franzell, Aug 5, 2013.

  1. Every country deals with this question differently in terms of the law http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Commons:Country_specific_consent_requirements
    However - is it ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent? For example - you are a man taking pictures of women at the beach without their consent or knowledge?
    I see some pictures posted here and there everywhere on the web, and do wonder if the photographer that took those photographs has a moral compass. How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?
    How does a site like this deal with photos like this that could be viewed as unethical even if legal?
    What do you think?
     
  2. Photographing the public in public deserves an initial assumption of acceptable unless special circumstances, or unusual conditions can be applied. The idea of a public space places obligations on everyone. You have to assume for instance the right of others to look at you, even stare at you. And if they right to look, why not the right to photograph? Here, there is an obligation then on the subject to dress in a way that won't embarrass them when someone looks/photographs.
    For example, if you are embarrassed to show your legs to people, you ought not go in public with bare legs and then complain if you get looked at, or photographed. In other words, being in public is a mutual contract. It's unreasonable to expect privacy in public. Assume you will be looked at by everyone who is in public, and then dress accordingly. You can only respect someone's privacy when they are in fact in a private place.
    From the viewer/photographer's moral perspective, what are the moral considerations? There are various bad behaviors involving lust, exploitation, theft, cheating, and violence. Assume the photographer takes a photograph of someone's wife or daughter on the beach. It might be a documentary shot, a simple vernacular shot, or it might be a prurient shot used later on for lustful purposes. But that's only clear to the photographer. Like so many moral issues, intent is crucial. The husband or father can hardly make too many assumptions about this act of taking the picture. The husband or father can not ignore his responsibility here - which is to assure that the wife and daughter are sufficiently dressed to meet the public.
    We don't want people exploiting others for prurient reasons, but we also are not mind readers in that regard. What's common and ordinary to one, is very likely to be pornographic to another. Age old problem.
     
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The crux of the philosophical conversation is:
    People who are at the beach at a particular point in time, that is: when and where the legs were bared, may have the right to look upon those legs.
    But that does not presuppose those people also have the right to make a record of the legs, such that others who were not there at the time of the bearing of legs can ogle at the legs, at a later point in time, in a different place, perpetually.
    WW
     
  4. Let me ask this, how about a record of the face? Is the question here about modesty, or privacy? Can I draw the person on paper?
    From where would such a ban of record making arise morally? What's the basis?
     
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    As I mentioned: the crux of the philosophic conversation is neither about modesty nor about privacy, as both those aspects relate to the person who is being viewed.
    The essence of the philosophical debate is in the right or wrong of the recording with a view show at a later date in a different space to oneself and/or a different audience, perpetually.
    The aspect of the right (or not) to record and review, resides with the viewer.
    A ban (or not) of 'record making' by any instrument arises of itself and as a fundamental question.
    It is only recently we have questioned same, but our various instruments and laws seemingly have made ad hoc choices and decisions along the way of our development (aka civilization).
    There are several examples.
    For one: in many jurisdictions I may (by law) be allowed without your consent to take written notes of our conversation in a coffee shop or on the telephone. I may be skilled in Hansard and my notes accurate. But in the same jurisdiction I may also NOT be allowed to make an audio recording of our conversation, without your knowledge and also your consent.
    There doesn't ever seem to have been any primary logic addressing the question in the first inst. of my right (or not) to make ANY record of the conversation other than that which is intrinsic, by virtue of my brain.
    The same applies with this question of making a picture of a pair of legs - or face at the beach.
    That's why I stated that the crux of the philosophical debate is about the viewer's right to record, not about the viewee's right to any modesty or privacy, or anything else.
    Yes these two things are related: but the issues and the topic for the philosophical conversation are different.

    WW
     
  6. Would you agree that public space is rationally different than private space? If yes, what differences do you find important?
    Given that the law isn't necessarily any reflection of prevailing morality, I think we can dispense with ad hoc laws existing here or there. They may arise from nothing more than a crank ramrodding some pet legislation.
    And by your position also, modesty is not involved. So, we just mean here the taking of records in public space. Notes, recordings, photographs, paintings, and any other form of physical record-making.
    Since the record making doesn't necessarily injure the subject (suppose I never share the record), we are only left with the intentions of the record maker. We can recall that in one moral system, Jesus declared that adultery can be committed just by looking lustfully at the subject. He means sin is all in the intentions. Which makes a good amount of sense. If I am making a record for some bad purpose - blackmail, lust, exploitation and the like - I am likely to be challenging my ethical boundaries based on Jesus' admonition in Matthew. But if I make the record innocently, or better yet with good purpose, what sort of invention is invoked to bar this practice?
    I think to support a philosophical ban on record making, some injury has to be demonstrated by the subject. But injury simply by someone merely making a record can hardly be shown. If it is so shown that the injury is inherent in the act, then public space has no meaning distinct from private space.
     
  7. Saying the debate is "about the viewer's right to record" seems to be side stepping the issue. The OP's question was about the ethicality and legality of taking said pictures. IMO, for something to be unethical is needs to violate someones well being, whether it be their emotional, financial, or bodily state. And seeing images of their daughter in a bikini posted in a public forum may well cause some fathers emotional grief. But I think the issue at hand is whether or not they have a right to be protected from such a perceived violation. I would say no. In the case of the family members being offended, that is an issue they need to take up with their daughter. And the girl/woman herself needs to be aware that she is in public for all the world to see and present herself accordingly. To me these are very basic ideas of living in a community.
     
  8. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Saying the debate is "about the viewer's right to record" seems to be side stepping the issue. . . But I think the issue at hand is whether or not they (the persons photographed) have a right to be protected from such a perceived violation.​
    Maybe that's what you think is the issue is at hand - but that was not what the OP asked.
    The initial question the OP asked is:
    "is it ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent?"
    The Subject of the verb "to take" is clearly 'the photographer' (understood).
    So, it is not side-stepping the issue at all, but rather goes directly to the crux of it.
    It is a question of ethics pertaining to the talking of; the recording of; and the photographer or person doing the recording, and the ethical rights or not, thereof that doing.
    As previously mentioned: the matters are related and the base philosophical conversation must be predicated on and about the ethics of the right or not to record, by any means.
    WW
     
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Would you agree that public space is rationally different than private space?​
    In the context of this conversation: no.
    ***
    Given that the law isn't necessarily any reflection of prevailing morality, I think we can dispense with ad hoc laws existing here or there. They may arise from nothing more than a crank ramrodding some pet legislation.​
    That was an example of how there seems to have been be no thought given, to the fundamental question, in the first inst. .
    It was not stated nor implied that 'law' was a reflection of morality.
    Neither was it stated or implied that that, had anything to do with the point I was making
    ***
    And by your position also, modesty is not involved.​
    Correct.
    ***
    So, we just mean here the taking of records in public space. Notes, recordings, photographs, paintings, and any other form of physical record-making.​
    No we (I) mean: that the fundamental philosophical conversation is about the right to make a recording by any means at any time in any place of another person.
    ***
    Since the record making doesn't necessarily injure the subject (suppose I never share the record), we are only left with the intentions of the record maker.​
    That’s an assumption and also one which is not sustainable. You die suddenly (I trust not). The record remains and is used for another purpose.
    ***
    We can recall that in one moral system, Jesus declared that adultery can be committed just by looking lustfully at the subject. He means sin is all in the intentions. Which makes a good amount of sense. If I am making a record for some bad purpose - blackmail, lust, exploitation and the like - I am likely to be challenging my ethical boundaries based on Jesus' admonition in Matthew. But if I make the record innocently, or better yet with good purpose, what sort of invention is invoked to bar this practice?​
    I don’t instantly recall the passages which state those things, but, let’s say for the sake of this conversation we accept that "good intent" does have a value as a criterion for ethical recording.
    Then there’s still the ignorance factor and also other factors beyond the control of the "good intent" (as per above - dying - as one example) . . . so no I disagree: one cannot base any argument that is ethically right record premised on “good intensions”.
    ***
    I think to support a philosophical ban on record making, some injury has to be demonstrated by the subject. But injury simply by someone merely making a record can hardly be shown. If it is so shown that the injury is inherent in the act, then public space has no meaning distinct from private space.​
    As previously stated, IMO, the philosophical discussion cannot be based on “injury”, as per my above, so therefore I logically disagree with this on the basis of a non-sense.
    WW
     
  10. So I am a photojournalist. I have a get out of jail free card. Every shot I take is the news with all of the protections that affords me even if I choose to not use those shots in the future. The only person who can really question what I am doing is my boss. If I am freelance, then its me. Think about that.
    Then there is the potential for any shot to turn into "the news". Some guy is photographing girls at the beach, one of them goes missing, and the shot he took gets him notoriety and perhaps even wealth. all because that shot magically became "the news".
    I'm going to always default to freedom even when I think that freedom comes at the cost of accepting some creepy behavior. Where the lie is crossed is when the creep trades the photo for gain. In that case I have an issue. Though I have to put up with the creep shooting my daughter from hiding and using the pictures later for his own ugly purposes, I do not have to put up with his selling them.
     
  11. I don't think taking a photo has any ethical implications at all, unless in that act you have somehow harmed someone (e.g., interfered with their golf swing). It may or may not have legal implications, but the question is about ethics.
    USING a photo you have taken, on the other hand, has definite ethical implications, and they depend on the circumstances of the taking of the photo, who it is, how it is to be used, and so on. My rule of thumb would be that, because of our natural biases to justify our own behavior, if you think you're over the line, you probably are.
     
  12. There are also nude beaches, where I presume photography would be a no-no, as sometime signs posted could tell you that.
    Normal, dressed up beaches and pretty girls, are good places to take photos.
    Taking pictures on a beach with visibly long lenses frequently makes you a suspect even if you are a saint.
    I prefer to use long zooms that retract and fold-in to a smaller looking beast.
     
  13. "How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?"
    The OP's question is about intent.

    Presumably these will not offend the OP to the same extent:
    [Link]
     
  14. Where the lie is crossed is when the creep trades the photo for gain.
    USING a photo you have taken, on the other hand, has definite ethical implications​
    +1 for Rick and Mark's observations. It is not about taking the photo but about how it gets used. A century from now, everyone in a photo will most likely be dead or impervious to scandal and the photo on its own will gain value as a document (of course, technology may alter my deadlines (hopefully during my lifetime :)))))
    How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?​
    How about if they took photos of the husband or son without their consent? Why is that more easy to digest?
     
  15. However - is it ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent? For example - you are a man taking pictures of women at the beach without their consent or knowledge?
    Most people are normal and have common sense. Unfortunately sites like this attract the minority of people who lack common sense. I went to the beach with some friends who had children and I photographed the group and made wide angle pictures of the beach. Some of the shots just incidentally contained pictures of women I didn't know in bikinis. No one objected to my picture taking. Why? Well none of the women that I didn't know that were included in the shot were the main subject. I wasn't wandering around by myself with a big L telephoto lens stalking young girls. If someone could have legally confiscated my camera and looked at the images on it it would be very obvious I had no particular interest in scantily clad women.
    What may be the most important thing that makes society work may not be the written rules... on a certain level I think it is the unwritten rules. Girls are not necessarily at the beach in a bikini because they are exhibitionists. If given the choice of hanging out on a private beach on a secluded island with their boyfriend/husband most girls would choose that option. Just because they aren't rich doesn't mean we should just declare open season on them because they are forced to go to a crowded public beach. Because we have unwritten rules and lay off the ladies they can actually enjoy a day at the beach. What's the alternative? Letting the Taliban write our laws and having either all photography state censored or women walking around covered head to toe?
     
  16. I agree that intent is the primary keyword in this argument.
    To expand on the original question of ethics of "taking" pictures at the beach ....is it also ethical to post pictures like this http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=994057 which appear to be taken of the subjects without consent and without their knowledge?
    You will notice that the vast majority of comments on these photos are about the subjects and have very little to do with photography or technique. What is the intent of the photographer taking photos like this and should a site like photo.net welcome them? Or put more bluntly - Is it OK for creepy old men to take pictures like this and post online for comments - again without the subjects knowledge or consent?
    If their intent was pure as the driven snow, then why not politely approach the subjects and introduce themselves and explain that they'd like to photograph them?
     
  17. I'd agree that the morality lies not in the taking of the photograph but with the subsequent use of it.
    I am, however, troubled by the unthinkingly patriarchal tone of many contributions. The most blatant example is within a post with which I otherwise tended towards agreement: «The husband or father can not ignore his responsibility ... to assure that the wife and daughter are sufficiently dressed to meet the public».
    Laurentiu Cristofor is an honourable exception («How about ... husband or son ... Why is that more easy to digest?»).
     
  18. I am, however, troubled by the unthinkingly patriarchal tone of many contributions. The most blatant example is within a post with which I otherwise tended towards agreement: «The husband or father can not ignore his responsibility ... to assure that the wife and daughter are sufficiently dressed to meet the public».​
    There was no :patriarchal tone" intended. It was inserted as an answer to the OP who posed this question: "How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?"
    Had the OP referenced "son and father", I would have put the responsibility on wife.
     
  19. "As previously mentioned: the matters are related and the base philosophical conversation must be predicated on and about the ethics of the right or not to record, by any means."​
    Well? I am waiting for you to explain your position. Is it ethical or not?
     
  20. m stephens:
    There was no :patriarchal tone" intended. It was inserted as an answer to the OP who posed this question: "How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?"
    Had the OP referenced "son and father", I would have put the responsibility on wife.​
    Point taken, and accepted; in your case I retract the "patriarchal" label. There remains a more general philosophical consideration: the acceptance, regardless of gender, that adult X is responsible for assuring (or has any right to decide) that adult Y is sufficiently dressed to meet the public (I specify "adult" since I do accept that there may, depending on age of the offspring, be parental responsibility).
     
  21. So the question keeps being asked, "Is this ethical.." but no one is describing any particular ethical framework. Imagine the difference in asking it like this:
    -Is this ethical for a married white male Mormon church leader to do?
    -Is this ethical for a freedom loving humanist to?
    As I pointed out earlier, if you are a Christian, operating in that moral framework, just looking lustfully at a woman is the same as adultery (Matt: 5-28). But if you are not within that moral system, if you are say an atheist, it would not be immoral for you to look at a woman lustfully. So, speaking about ethics is incomplete without defining the ethical system.
    Since this was not designated as a religious question, I think the system of ethics has to be our "western civil society" - as loose as that may seem. In this system, the considerations coming into play for this question are freedom, public space, property, and maybe contracts.
    In general, photography is allowed in public places. So any prohibition has to have some specific need for special rules. The governments have set a major precedent by saying they don't need your permission to surveil you in public with cameras. No permission required. I think that's the existing standard. In public, no permission is needed. This is not a question of "good taste" - it is a question of the operating ethic.
    Most of this argument has centered around "men taking pictures of girls in bikinis. It is very obvious that people posting that concern are doing so from a moral framework that is more restrictive than western civil society. Something more like the religious framework previously mentioned. For that person, it might very well be unethical to take such pictures. For others, it may not be.
    Freedom generally implies that a behavior is acceptable if it doesn't lead to harm to others. A girl is free to wear a bikini in public because it doesn't hurt me. I am free to photograph it, because it doesn't hurt her. There is no need to discuss what might be done with the photo later, because that is a completely new and different act.
     
  22. To expand on the original question of ethics of "taking" pictures at the beach ....is it also ethical to post pictures like this http://www.photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=994057 which appear to be taken of the subjects without consent and without their knowledge?
    You will notice that the vast majority of comments on these photos are about the subjects and have very little to do with photography or technique. What is the intent of the photographer taking photos like this and should a site like photo.net welcome them? Or put more bluntly - Is it OK for creepy old men to take pictures like this and post online for comments - again without the subjects knowledge or consent?​
    What ethical system do you embrace for your own standard?
     
  23. "I am free to photograph it, because it doesn't hurt her."
    "because it doesn't hurt her" How would you know it doesn't hurt her unless you asked for permission?
    "There is no need to discuss what might be done with the photo later, because that is a completely new and different act." Of course there is because it reveals intent.
    Lets be real here - these photos are not "beach photos" - the subject matter is clearly women in bikinis that happen to be at the beach, AND the women have no idea they are the subject of the photographers shot, so I ask again - if the intent is pure as the driven snow, why not ask for permission?
    PS. I believe it is polite and ethical to ask for permission to take photos of people as subjects of the photo. Key here being these women are the subjects of the photo and have no idea they are being taken or what will be done with them. Its really that simple.
     
  24. "because it doesn't hurt her" How would you know it doesn't hurt her unless you asked for permission?​
    Because we have a thorough system of torts in all western society. If harm is done by photographing people, they pursue remedy under the law. People at the beach are not being entitled damages from photographs.
    If by "hurt" you mean some internal emotional pain, that is part and parcel of going out in public. Can I say I am hurt by hearing someone's music? Can I say I am hurt by seeing someone's tattoo? Yes, I can, but it's not a tort. I can't enforce claims of that kind of hurt.
    So, key to your question is understanding your ethical framework. Is there a reason you are not stating it in response to my question?
     
  25. so I ask again - if the intent is pure as the driven snow, why not ask for permission?​
    You're now asking a new question. I don't even know what pure intent means in this context. If a guy like looking a girls in bikinis, is that pure or impure intent?
    I think your new line of questioning here reveals that you are really asking a question related to good and bad taste as it relates to some specific ethical landscape that you subscribe to, but are not revealing. For instance, I've known lots of religious people who would not allow a teen daughter to wear a string bikini to the beach. I know other people who have no trouble with it. I think when you come down to this specific question of "girls in bikinis on the beach" you are honing in on a very NARROW system - a very specific one. So sure, if I was a priest, I would now declare, "It is UNETHICAL." But, I am not a priest, so it seems "ok" to me, even if it can easily cross into bad taste (upshots and so on).
    In short, you are asking a relative question.
     
  26. I really think the ethical question that was asked has been answered easily. To wit: depends on what ethical framework the photographer embraces.
    It does bring up lots of other interesting questions though.
    1. Are women being exploited by men by submitting to male dominated fashion ideas like string bikinis?
    2. Are men being exploited by women who use this overt sexuality as a controlling power over men?
    3. Are we making too big a deal out of human sexuality and its icons and symbols?
     
  27. Hanz, you have started a really interesting thread and a subject worthy of debate. I don't like the idea of censorship either--especially regarding street photography. I took a photograph a few years ago of a couple kissing on a street corner and it is one of my favorite pictures.
    Photojournalism is completely separate in my mind because we all generally accept that the intent of photojournalism is to report and document.
    I do think we all have to draw a line, though - especially in a setting like a beach. Someone earlier in the thread wrote: "if you think you're over the line, you probably are." That is a helpful way of setting boundaries, I think. This is so difficult because everyone's moral compass and comfort level is completely different, so we always have to act with respect because we don't know what the subject's comfort level would be. We also have to put ourselves in the shoes of others. Would that person feel violated by being photographed in a bathing suit without permission? Maybe yes, maybe no - but you wouldn't know if you didn't ask them.

    The one place I feel strongly about is regarding children, perhaps even more because I'm a parent of a toddler son. The law in the U.S. says that consent isn't needed to take a picture of him. As his mother, I would be furious, regardless of intent, if someone were to photograph him without my permission. If he was on a stage or in an event, that would be different. If he was playing on a beach, I don't think it is ethically right to photograph him. I don't care how public it is -- he isn't consenting to be photographed merely because he went to the beach. A photographer earnestly asking permission is a very different story than a photographer lurking with a zoom lens pointed at a child. I realize that there might be a wonderful picture that could be taken that is completely innocent, but because I don't know - I don't want you photographing my child.
    Just this past weekend, we were at the beach. Another little boy wanted to play with my son and the two of them were having a blast together. I picked up my camera to snap a picture and then paused. Because that other child would be in focus as the main subject, I didn't feel I had the right to take that picture without permission. I did ask his grandmother for permission, she granted it, and I got to capture that moment. That was the right thing to do - that is what I would have wanted if the shoe were on the other foot.
    I realize that we all have differing opinions and this is the opinion of one mom.
     
  28. I realize that there might be a wonderful picture that could be taken that is completely innocent, but because I don't know - I don't want you photographing my child.​
    You definitely have some chips in this game as a mom, which makes me very interested in your view. Can you explain in more detail what you think is the harm, hurt or injury that accrues to you or your child if someone photographs them at the beach?
    I was on vacation last year and saw two toddlers flying big balloons at the beach. I took two or three photographs from about 50 yards away. I didn't for a second consider walking 50 yards to find their parents and ask permission. Nor did I have any weird feeling or sensation while taking these photos, nor did I have a wrestling match with my conscience. Picturesque site, public beach, cute kids acting up = photograph. Even after reading your post, I can't comprehend any harm I caused for kids or parents. Can you give it a more detailed explanation? And can you describe your definition of public space?
     
  29. In France, people have an absolute right to their image. It is against the law to photography anyone without their consent. There have been cases of people who appeared inadvertently in a news photo who have sued and won.
     
  30. As a father of three daughters and a beach loving wife, as well as being a former professional sports photographer i find this debate to be loosing the plot. Images such as those taken and displayed by John Nell on this site have no place in photography, its images and photographers like these that are giving the industry such a bad reputation. Regardless of wether these WOMEN are on a public beach or not, they have the inalienable human right to expect their image not to be captured for another human beings joillies, and then posted on the web for all to see. And to suggest that it is the parents prerogative to ensure that their daughters leave the home suitably dressed is victorian in its male chauvinistic prejudice. Lets not get embroiled in the ethical or philosophical debate here, the only real question is the legality of whats being done in the name of ART. I question the legality of posting an image of anyone in a public place on the internet without their express written consent, whilst it may be legal in certain countries to physically take the image in the first place, the ownership of the copyright and the intellectual property right remains with the model, unless a model release has been signed. In the UK you cannot photograph anyone under the age of 18 without the written prmission of their parents or guardians, even if they are in a public place, and can i suggest to all the US contributers to this thread, try doing any of this in France!!
    MAC
     
  31. Lets not get embroiled in the ethical or philosophical debate here, the only real question is the legality of whats being done in the name of ART.​
    The OP requested specifically to get involved in the ethical debate. That was his specific desire.
    OP:"However - is it ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent?"
    Are you suggesting that John Nell broke some laws?
     
  32. Colin, I would have no desire to try doing something illegal in France or any other country. I'm satisfied to adhere to the laws of each country I'm in at the time I'm in it. I'm glad France determines its laws and the US determines its laws. What's that saying? Viva la différence, though it has to be extrapolated from referring to the sexes to referring to nations.
    That being said, I agree with a lot of what you say except for the legality. In my opinion, they're silly, empty, juvenile, and irrelevant snap shots of no consequence. I've stated my opinion to the photographer on a couple of occasions. I'm glad his photos are allowed and, IMO, they reflect more on the photographer and certain critiquers of his shots than they do on the women who are the unwitting subjects of them.
    I'm afraid fundamentalist overtones often come to the fore when matters of sex, nudity, and scantily clad persons are the topic. I wish such fervor were spent over pictures glorifying war, exploiting the poor and elderly, and sentimentalizing homelessness, though the latter is taken up often in these forums. Ethics and morals pertains to more than prurience, but you wouldn't often know that given the emphasis placed on that as such a focus. Again, though, I think all these photos should be perfectly legal and allowed on PN, as they are. I am then free to comment on them and to approach the photographers with my own feelings on the photographic merit as well as the social, ethical, and political merits.
    Honest dialogue, even if controversial, can be a key to understanding.
    My ethics aren't pure, mainly because I'm only human and glad to be so. I have inconsistencies and have even photographed things I regretted later and even sometimes regret it as I'm doing it but do it nonetheless. That's an inconsistency and perhaps an irony I can live with.
    If I start casting stones, I might get a few tossed right back at me.
     
  33. With respect to full disclosure and to the photographer whose work has been linked to and is being discussed here, I just sent him a PN instant message letting him know about this thread. Since we're discussing the ethics of doing things without someone's knowledge or stated approval, I thought it only fair to let him know of this thread.
     
  34. Three cheers for Fred G ... a true philosopher. The world needs more like him.
     
  35. Well colleagues, for sure there are much more interesting and useful topics than this dumb discussion about "ethics" of photographs taken at the beach. However, I will collaborate with this thread.
    This case reminds me a certain young man that years ago suddenly become in the Moral Guardian of PN, posting a Red Dot to all those photographs considered indecent by him. Pathetic.
    My question is, do we need it? people with these kind of concern don't have another thing to do? For example, instead to write a silly comment about "ethics" I strongly recommend to take a camera showing us what can he do, for sure it is a more constructive activity.
     
  36. Most of this argument has centered around "men taking pictures of girls in bikinis. It is very obvious that people posting that concern are doing so from a moral framework that is more restrictive than western civil society.​
    Not sure which "western society" you are living in but if you asked the average 19 year old girl whether she minded overweight hairy 50+ year old guys slinking around the beach with telephoto lenses snapping pictures of them they would all say heck yeah they minded. And this isn't about morality. It's about being part of a community. You may have a legal right to hum to yourself on a bus and it certainly isn't morally wrong but you realize other people really don't want to hear it so you save it for the shower.
    Bottom line if it feels wrong don't do it unless there is some higher purpose like doing legitimate reporting on an event. Not just snapping pictures of every coed in a bikini because you think one of them might get kidnapped one day and then it will be news.... I can't believe someone said that in this thread.
    Then there is the potential for any shot to turn into "the news". Some guy is photographing girls at the beach, one of them goes missing, and the shot he took gets him notoriety and perhaps even wealth. all because that shot magically became "the news".​
    Ridiculous. I would have more respect for someone who just came out and said I like pictures of pretty girls in bikinis. Anyway if a teenage girl turned up missing I wouldn't show up at the police station as a complete stranger with pictures of her in a bikini. Talk about a great way to end up on the top ten suspects list.
     
  37. I think some of it might be the perception of the photographer - seeing it as no more than an extension of street photography - while a viewer of the resulting photos might see it quite differently.
    Since it may be a case of differences in ethical and moral definitions, to me, it become a case of whether we should be imposing our personal moral and ethical judgments onto others.
    History tells us that decades from now those beach photos will become vintage documentary photos of a time gone by when photographers used ancient DSLRs to photograph pretty girls of the time, and perhaps point to this thread and wonder what all the fuss was about.
     
  38. @ Carlos - "Well colleagues, for sure there are much more interesting and useful topics than this dumb discussion about "ethics" of photographs taken at the beach." if you don't like the thread and feel as though it is a waste of time then simply move on - why must you make such a negative post?
    The beach reference was posed as an example for ethics question which is about subjects of photos granting permission to be photographed. Its a question every photographer should think about if taking photos of people in public places regardless of the law.
    Photos of people where they are undoubtedly the subject of (regardless of gender, age, weight, etc) that have not granted permission or have knowledge they are being photographed never mind having their photos posted here (again without their knowledge or consent) has the potential to give all photographers a bad name - thus I believe this discussion is important....but thank you for granting us your infinite wisdom on the subject - we're all so much more enlightened now that you've weighed in.
     
  39. Mister Hanz Franzell, I am not the man who don't like "something", let me tell you that YOU are who is criticizing the images of John Nell with a pretentious statement about "ethics" in photography.
    John has more than 2400 images posted, most of them with an interesting photographic value, even very good, and you have no one single photo posted supporting your belonging to this site. Of course, this curious detail doesn't mean anything, even you can be Cartier Bresson, but we don't have any proof about that so far.
    Believe me if I say you that your case is interesting at all, because you've signed up here exclusively to post this comment about "ethics" on the work of John.
    You say: "if you don't like the thread and feel as though it is a waste of time then simply move on - why must you make such a negative post?" Well mister, if you don't like those photographs then don't come to this site to watch. This is your own principle, don't you?.
    On the other hand, this forum is destined to express our opinions. This is the mine. Good evening.
     
  40. In the UK you cannot photograph anyone under the age of 18 without the written prmission of their parents or guardians, even if they are in a public place, and can i suggest to all the US contributers to this thread, try doing any of this in France!!​
    It is not as clear cut as mentioned here. UK laws are based on an expectation of privacy. French law doesn't seem to prevent including people in photos as long as they are not the focus of the photo, but one can always crop a 40MP image to put the focus on whoever they want.
    People are much more protective of their children in developed countries that are generally safer for children. I've seen an interesting map in a book (was it The Science of Fear?) where the area where four generations roamed as children is depicted and is drastically shrinking from a large section of the city to the immediate streets around the home. And it is not like crime got higher than before, it just gets more publicity.
    Not sure which "western society" you are living in but if you asked the average 19 year old girl whether she minded overweight hairy 50+ year old guys slinking around the beach with telephoto lenses snapping pictures of them they would all say heck yeah they minded.​
    So you are going to prevent photography by 50+ year old guys with telephoto lenses but allow photography by 20 year olds with iPhones? There are so many things wrong with this line of thought! Besides, most 19 year old people probably make their beach photos public anyway.

    Whether taking a photograph is ethical cannot be a matter of gender, age, and equipment of the photographer.
    The beach reference was posed as an example for ethics question which is about subjects of photos granting permission to be photographed.​
    While it may have been provided as an example, it ended up becoming a theme and distracting from the point, which was photography in public places.
     
  41. "-the beach reference- While it may have been provided as an example, it ended up becoming a theme and distracting from the point, which was photography in public places."
    Laurentiu, I think you're mistaken. Please see:
    Hanz Franzell [​IMG], Aug 06, 2013; 10:08 a.m.
    " What is the intent of the photographer taking photos like this and should a site like photo.net welcome them? Or put more bluntly - Is it OK for creepy old men to take pictures like this and post online for comments - again without the subjects knowledge or consent? "
     
  42. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    So the question keeps being asked, "Is this ethical.." but no one is describing any particular ethical framework.
    That statement is totally incorrect.
    I described a framework for the basis of this philosophical discussion of this topic - in my first post.

    And when you asked, I specifically expanded and described that framework, again, in my second post and my subsequent posts where I articulated and addressed each specific query that you raised - and each of those responses stipulated and described an ethical framework, more precisely.

    WW
     
  43. I described a framework for the basis of this philosophical discussion of this topic - in my first post.​
    No, you didn't. This was your first post.
    QUOTE William W.
    The crux of the philosophical conversation is:
    People who are at the beach at a particular point in time, that is: when and where the legs were bared, may have the right to look upon those legs.
    But that does not presuppose those people also have the right to make a record of the legs, such that others who were not there at the time of the bearing of legs can ogle at the legs, at a later point in time, in a different place, perpetually.
    END QUOTE
    That's no framework, that's a declaration. You simply assert that people don't have a right to make a record, without presenting any foundation, reason, history, premise, logic, or any other framing details.
    Let me give an example of framework. If someone asked, "is it ethical to have sex with young children?" A person would describe the answer as "no" and then provide a framework might consist of injury and harm and the right to be free from same. It's a rationale for explaining the ethical prohibition.
    You are just making an assertion with no background. Anyone can fill papers with assertions about anything they want. You aren't describing the ethics of anything, you are just giving your opinion about it.
    Suppose I said this? "I tire of people playing rock music into my ears in public without my permission. I declare it is unethical to do so!" A reasonable person would ask for the basis of my ethical declaration. With no basis, it's just an opinion.
    So far, no one here who objects to these photos has presented anything remotely close to a ethical argument against doing it. They are just giving their opinion. We all have mere opinions. Now maybe, that's what the OP meant - - give me your opinions. But it's not what he asked for.
     
  44. Not sure which "western society" you are living in but if you asked the average 19 year old girl whether she minded overweight hairy 50+ year old guys slinking around the beach with telephoto lenses snapping pictures of them they would all say heck yeah they minded. And this isn't about morality. It's about being part of a community. You may have a legal right to hum to yourself on a bus and it certainly isn't morally wrong but you realize other people really don't want to hear it so you save it for the shower.​
    Jeff,
    You misunderstood the question. The question was not being asked "will girls object to overweight hairy 50+ year old guys slinking around the beach with telephoto lenses snapping pictures of them. " The question was very clearly asked about the ethics of making such photographs.
    I might object to many, many things people do in public. I object to loud music, I object to people cussing loudly, I object to people talking on phones at the cash register, I object to people spitting, grabbing their nutsack on TV, and picking their noses on the bus. But I would never suggest it is unethical, immoral or illegal to do so. I'll bet young 19 year old girls have a whole long list of things they object to. But, that's not the point here.
     
  45. The purpose of public space in a free society is to maximize everyone's expression and freedom, not restrict it. When you go out in public, you are agreeing to a social contract that is permissive enough to accommodate as many interests as possible without causing injury to others. People want to dance, sing, protest, pray, carry signs, preach, march, relax, look at what they want and yes - make drawings or photographs of what they enjoy. You as a public space goer undertake some responsibility to protect your own privacy. If you want to be covered in a Burqa, you have that right to do so. If you prefer a string bikini, you have that choice too. You generally however can not restrict the use of the public space by others just because their activity "bothers" you. That's the difference between private and public space.
    We have an elaborate tort system by any definition. We have harms and injuries of all sorts and types that can be a cause for legal remedy. A good example of how that system works is smoking. For many generations the rights of the smoker and the non-smoker were identical in public. Then, a harm was defined for second hand smoke, and the legal system stepped in to change the balance of rights. Now, the non-smoker has superior rights in public to the smoker.
    But so far, no harm has been established regarding the mere taking of a photograph in public. Yes, there are harms in law for how such photos are used, but not yet for merely the making of them.
     
  46. Quite apart from the limitations imposed by different jurisdictions (the freedoms of the photographer in China or the USA, contrasted to the greater restrictions of France and some other cultures) which one must be aware of and respect as a photographer, the primary ethical question for me is how you choose to interact with your subject on a human level.
    When the picture making leaves enough time and space to be controlled, the photographer has, I believe, the obligation to sense the potential effect of his singling out of specific subjects as subject matter and the desire to photograph them, and, in such cases I believe he or she should make an attempt, before or after the photograph, to request the acceptance of the person photographed.
    In an era of immediate playback of the recorded image, it is easy to interact with the subject, show the picture and either keep it or delete it based upon their response. In very spontaneous cases, where the action cannot be repeated and everything happens very quickly and sometimes the persons photographed are no longer available to consult with, the keeping or trashing of the image rests mainly on the photographers's moral evaluation of the content and whether it might be considered offensive or damaging by the subject. In the first case, the ability to interact with one's subject is a definite plus and can very often make the photography experience more valuable than if no contact had occurred.
     
  47. Laurentiu, I think you're mistaken.​
    You are correct, it looks like I was fooled by the initial post that masked an interest in a specific point under the guise of a general question - "Ethics of photographing in public places". Hanz seems to have been really irritated by those beach photos of John Nell - I've seen his second post, but I didn't realize it was the same person - long thread. I hate it when I fall for such troll bait.
     
  48. When the picture making leaves enough time and space to be controlled, the photographer has, I believe, the obligation to sense the potential effect of his singling out of specific subjects as subject matter and the desire to photograph them......​
    Can you explain what this effect is? Many people have alluded to this, but no one has explained it. To be clear, I don't mean the effect of secondary acts like publishing photos. I mean, what's the effect on a person by just making the photo in circumstances where they didn't supply approval?
    In very spontaneous cases, where the action cannot be repeated and everything happens very quickly and sometimes the persons photographed are no longer available to consult with, the keeping or trashing of the image rests mainly on the photographers's moral evaluation of the content and whether it might be considered offensive or damaging by the subject.
    I think that makes an excellent general case, not just an exceptional one. My moral system is a mix of humanism and communism. I have no desire to injure anyone with my actions, but I want to maximize my personal expression and freedom. I would never stick a camera through anyone's window, but I also don't accept "being annoyed" as a real injury, if I take a photograph in good taste without previous permission. People are annoyed by almost an endless array of behaviors. You can't live your life bound by every conceivable annoyance that someone comes up with. "Hey you! No talking on that cell phone here - - it's annoying me!"
     
  49. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    No, you didn't.​
    Well then, we two shall have to disagree as to what "a framework" for the basis of a philosophical discussion comprises.
    WW
     
  50. Well then, we two shall have to disagree as to what "a framework" for the basis of a philosophical discussion comprises.​
    I think you made some interesting points, but I would also not call them a "framework".

    The first point was about whether being able to see should give you the right to record ("But that does not presuppose those people also have the right to make a record..."). This initially appears to be a sensible point, but on closer observation - not as much. The problem is that it is too general and can be applied to anything - should you take a photo of a beautiful landscape just because you can see it? If yes, why not take a picture of a beautiful person? As soon as you start looking at this, you can realize that the problem has nothing to do with your right to record, but rather with how damaging your record can be to other things. Even a landscape can be damaged - your image may attract thousands of tourists that would eventually alter the landscape, so it's not really the case that there is a simple answer even for what initially would appear to be a subject that cannot be easily hurt.
    A second point you made was about law ("...in many jurisdictions I may (by law) be allowed..."). I have to say that that was irrelevant. The law and ethics may intersect from time to time, but they often diverge despite the best intentions of lawmakers. We all want to follow the law so we don't support its penalties, but the law has no value for an ethical discussion. The law is only what a majority of people have agreed to allow or disallow at some point in time - and that majority rarely contains the most enlightened individuals. We've been trying to get better laws ever since we got the concept of laws and this effort will never end. Current laws will always be imperfect for reasons that go beyond the scope of the current discussion.
    Finally, you have mentioned rights all over the place ("...the right to make a record...", "...addressing the question in the first inst. of my right (or not) to make ANY record of the conversation..."). Like laws, rights are no immutable things that have intrinsic meaning. There is no right to privacy or right to record images. Rights only have meaning in relation to laws - they are granted by them or recognized by them, but can be trampled without any second thought in the absence of such laws - history offers examples galore. And philosophy should only be concerned with immutable laws like the "law" of gravity, not with laws made by flawed people using flawed reasoning and approved using flawed processes.
    In the end, the only question that needs to be asked is if the benefit of taking a photograph will outweigh the damage of taking that photograph. And, unfortunately, there is no easy answer for this - most of the time, neither the benefit nor the damage will be noticeable, and in the rest of the situations every person will judge as best as they can (most people, not that much). Given that most people alive today will be dead in a century, I don't see how taking pictures of them is going to produce a lot of damage in itself. Which is what m stephens has pointed out already:
    But so far, no harm has been established regarding the mere taking of a photograph in public. Yes, there are harms in law for how such photos are used, but not yet for merely the making of them.​
     
  51. Jeff,
    You misunderstood the question. The question was not being asked "will girls object to overweight hairy 50+ year old guys slinking around the beach with telephoto lenses snapping pictures of them. " The question was very clearly asked about the ethics of making such photographs.​
    I understood the question. What I was saying is it shouldn't even rise to the level of an ethical dilemma. We all know what the proper course of action should be in that situation. Regardless of the law or someone's spin on "ethics" you and I and everyone on this forum know that type of behavior is not appreciated by the general public. So what else is there to think about?
     
  52. I understood the question. What I was saying is it shouldn't even rise to the level of an ethical dilemma. We all know what the proper course of action should be in that situation. Regardless of the law or someone's spin on "ethics" you and I and everyone on this forum know that type of behavior is not appreciated by the general public. So what else is there to think about?​
    I think the whole point was to explore the issue beyond mere public appreciation (aka opinion) to discover if there are underlying ethical principles that can be applied. Turns out there are.
    I think the thread shows that we "all" are not in agreement as you claim.
     
  53. Can you explain what this effect is?​
    Certainly. The potential effect (on the subject photographed) will vary according to the sensitivities of the subject. Someone purposely acting for your camera or acknowledging your intention will likely not be offended by you taking a photo of him or her, unless it shows them in a light they do not agree with (again, the advantage of an immediate perception of the result), therefore the likely reaction of him or her is likely to be complicit with the intention of the photographer.
    Some groups of people clearly do not wish to have their photo taken, and these are often known to an informed photographer before he shoots (certain religious or social groups, foreign cultures, etc.). Less easy to discern, however, and this may account for most photographs, are those made "sur le vif" (as in street (including beach) photography", an insertion into an activity of which the photographer may not be part, and so on, or without the prior knowledge of the subject or subjects.
    Gauging the potential effect on the subjects you photograph is therefore part and parcel of the activity of the aware and ethical photographer. It is I think quite independent of any legal structures that accepts or bans such photography. Your subject is lending her or his appearance and visual identity to you for the time of the photograph (and longer ofcourse, as the result can be seen and distributed widely without their knowledge) and that "gift" has to be respected. Establishing a link with that person or persons and their approval is part of the latter, although I acknowledge that it may be difficult to achieve in situations that exist only briefly and disallow contact. There you have to apply additional ethical choices on what you may do with the photo.
     
  54. Arthur,
    I don't think that helps me with the idea of what the effect is. You're primarily noting that they may have kinds of objections and reasons for objections, but no effect has been described.
    An effect on a person means "a way it changed their life." Are they injured in some way? The course of their life changed? Is being simply annoyed a harm? If there is an effect of any substance, can we extend it to other activities? As I have pointed out as an example, suppose I am annoyed by the music you play next to me on the beach? Am I injured? Do I therefore have some right to demand you not play the music? Is mere annoyance enough to draw an ethical line?
    As to the process of photography, I think too much is made of the word taking, as if we have removed something from the subject. I think this idea of taking then get's conflated with a theft, and that becomes the injury we think is being done to the subject. Light is reflecting off subjects and arriving at the photographer's location. It strikes eyes and sensors the same - which are collecting, not taking.
    I'm still searching for the principles by which we would advocate a ban on this practice. I haven't seen anything yet.
     
  55. I always considered Svenson's photos very intriguing. I am happy for this rational judicial decision which upholds the rights of artists. I think I am surprised considering the general right wing nature of our court system.
     
  56. m, I think you are quite aware of the effects an unwanted photograph of, say, yourself, might have on your well-being, especially if you have absolutely no control over how it is used in future and it is used in a manner that you don't agree with. It is for that reason that an evaluation by the photographer of such potential effects of his image is morally and ethically important and why contact with the subject photographed is important whenever that is possible.
    I am amazed that you and some others do not seem to grasp that simple fact.
    The personal reasons why someone may not appreciate having his or her photograph taken, that is, the effects of the photograph on them, are numerous, but that alone does not absolve the photographer from assessing the potential effect of his photograph.
    .
    Loud music may be bothersome to you, just as the idiot who insists on chatting loudly with his wife or friend or other over his portable phone next to you in a fine restaurant, where most would rather not listen to him, but have the normal pleasure of enjoying their perhaps pricey meal in company of their friends.
    Those examples may be annoying but are of relatively short duration and do not normally carry the consequences of a photograph the life of which can go on much longer than a temporary annoyance. You can choose to walk away from a loud person in some situations, or request their reduction of it, if that temporary annoyance is too much.
     
  57. m, I think you are quite aware of the effects an unwanted photograph of, say, yourself, might have on your well-being, especially if you have absolutely no control over how it is used in future and it is used in a manner that you don't agree with.​
    Two points in rebuttal. First, aside from annoyance, no I am not aware of these effects on myself. An effect so minor as annoyance really can't be the basis for a general prohibition. As referenced previously, our very comprehensive tort system doesn't recognize mere annoyance as a harm in law. Now ok, if this is all you meant by effect, so be it. In that case, I can hardly support the POV of those who insist permission is needed. That kind of minor effect just doesn't rise to importance on balance with the goals of free expression for all (e.g. the photographer). Anyone suffering annoyance can argue for prohibitions? Life is one gigantic annoyance.
    Secondly, you are once again referring to secondary processes of future use after the photograph was taken. My question pertained to the mere making of the photograph and not its subsequent use. These subsequent uses, like publishing, are an entirely new act. I'd like to first understand the issues surrounding the making of the photograph and how that effects (harms, changes) the subject.
    Those examples may be annoying but are of relatively short duration and do not normally carry the consequences of a photograph the life of which can go on much longer than a temporary annoyance.​
    I think you are reinforcing my point about annoyance. But, here again, you allude to an effect that hasn't been described. For example - Depression is an effect. Pain is an effect. Delusions are an effect. Fear is an effect. What effects are you attaching to the subject of these photographs?
     
  58. I think the whole point was to explore the issue beyond mere public appreciation (aka opinion) to discover if there are underlying ethical principles that can be applied. Turns out there are.​
    Young ladies not wanting old creeps with telephotos taking pictures of them in bikinis is not an "opinion." It is a fact. A fact you should respect. And they only thing that should be applied is common sense. Don't engage in this type of behavior... It gives all photographers a bad name.
    I think the thread shows that we "all" are not in agreement as you claim.​
    Whether you admit it or not you know how a grown man with self respect is supposed to behave and it does not involve stalking random coeds in bikinis with telephoto lenses.
     
  59. To M STephens
    What deluded planet are you living on? Its perverse to condone the kind of behaviour that is giving photographers world wide a bad reputation, if what you say is correct and this is all perfectly legal and above board, not to mention ethically and philosophical agreeable, why is this thread now 6 pages long, why are there only two of you in support of the right to capture the image of a private individual who just happens to be walking on a public beach and plaster their image, without their knowledge of consent all over the internet, without giving them the chance to either condone or condemn.
    Lets not kid ourselves here, the images are predominately of young scantily clad women captured by middle aged men, enough said!
    And like i stated previously, i am not averse to working with beautiful young models and capturing fine art or nude or glamour images, the difference is personal approval of the photographer from the model.
    In this instance i am glad i live in the heavily policed UK, where any attempt to capture these types of images would be dealt with swiftly and harshly and no doubt result in charge that would make it very difficult to work in the future.
    The industry and the internet policing itself just does not work!
    Last week alone 30 of my images stolen and posted on web sites all over the globe as other peoples work, if these trolls and hackers are happy to pass off copyrighted work as their own, then stalking CO-ED's on a beach holds no fears for them, as long as site like this allow their images to be hosted.
    MAC
     
  60. Depression is an effect. Pain is an effect. Delusions are an effect. Fear is an effect.​
    Voilà. You have answered in part your own question. These are some of the effects that an unwanted picture-making can cause, whether it is at the point of exposure or down the road.
    By insisting on ONLY the moment of exposure you are missing the point of boththe value and the potential harm to individuals of photography. The photo lives on long after the initial capture. It can be a source of pleasure, of information, of social commentary, of business, and of harm. By not admitting to those effects and results you are avoiding the real questions.
    And that is your choice, of course.
     
  61. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    In this instance i am glad i live in the heavily policed UK, where any attempt to capture these types of images would be dealt with swiftly and harshly and no doubt result in charge that would make it very difficult to work in the future.​

    Yes! We need a police state here! That's what we're missing. The NSA has all the data, you can round the perps up before they even do anything! Too bad the Soviet Union lost.
     
  62. MAC, thank's for your lucidity on this subject. The reaction of Jeff regarding a "police state" and "too bad that the Soviet Union lost" are what you can expect for that, as well as M. Stephen's apparent disregard of the rights of his subjects. My own feeling is this OP has probably run its course and that the important points have already been made, whichever side you are on.
     
  63. Young ladies not wanting old creeps with telephotos taking pictures of them in bikinis is not an "opinion." It is a fact. A fact you should respect. And they only thing that should be applied is common sense. Don't engage in this type of behavior... It gives all photographers a bad name.​
    Those are just opinions you hold, and examples of your preferences and personal bias. They are fine for you to hold, but they don't address the question of ethics that was raised. The relevance of some young ladies not wanting their photos taken is just anecdotal, here. Your assertion that some activity gives all photographers a bad name is unfounded and patently false. Many photographers today have a good name in spite of many bad actions by others.
    Whether you admit it or not you know how a grown man with self respect is supposed to behave and it does not involve stalking random coeds in bikinis with telephoto lenses.​
    "Stalking" and "coeds" are new terms you are now introducing as a straw argument to make it sound more sinister. I don't know that either of those terms apply to the more general nature of this discussion of the ethics of taken photographs without permission.
    And no, "common sense" is not the only method that ought be applied. If common sense were all anyone needed to understand the world, there'd be no need of religion, science or philosophy.
    I think I understand clearly that you have no interest in the discussion as proposed about ethics. That's fine, with me. I'll move on to more interesting posts by others.
     
  64. Voilà. You have answered in part your own question. These are some of the effects that an unwanted picture-making can cause, whether it is at the point of exposure or down the road.​
    Well, I am happy I could finally put some shape to all these claims of effects on the subject! So, you are suggesting that subjects are suffering pain, delusions, depression and fear by the act of someone making a photograph of them unapproved. And that having suffered these real effects is the underlying basis for creating an ethical standard in which permission must always be obtained ahead of time if at all possible.
    But now we have your exception: "In very spontaneous cases, where the action cannot be repeated and everything happens very quickly and sometimes the persons photographed are no longer available to consult with, the keeping or trashing of the image rests mainly on the photographers's moral evaluation of the content and whether it might be considered offensive or damaging by the subject." We have to assume the pain and depression is the same here as in the first case. But now, we're accepting certain harms out of nothing more than convenience and expediency. That's pretty wishy-washy for a moral standard. How about - "Adultery is a sin, unless the adulterating couple happened to be assigned to the same sleeping quarters in a camp?"
    I'm appreciative that you have committed to what you believe is the harm to these subjects. At least we now have one point of solid reference. I however think this claim holds no water. If your harms are true and valid for making a photograph, I see no reason my simulated claims of harms from having music played into my ear that I don't like is any different. Or the harm I suffer from having to view an ugly person walking down the street, or the harm I suffer by having to walk past a protest or demonstration with vulgar signs. After all, the cause of those harms is another person's action. If we allow such annoyances and perceived injuries based on nothing more than our preferences to exist, all freedom, all self-expression will be extinguished in short order. Everyone will find such harms in the actions of others. Why not then accept the harm claimed by someone for photographing their house?
    I think your preference as a photographer is perfectly valid. I will shoot this, not shoot that. I will do this procedure, not that. That sort of individual style and preference makes the world go 'round. But to establish those style markers and biases as moral standards for the public is a very bad idea if we care about freedom.
     
  65. To M STephens
    What deluded planet are you living on? Its perverse to condone the kind of behaviour that is giving photographers world wide a bad reputation, if what you say is correct and this is all perfectly legal and above board, not to mention ethically and philosophical agreeable, why is this thread now 6 pages long, why are there only two of you in support of the right to capture the image of a private individual who just happens to be walking on a public beach and plaster their image, without their knowledge of consent all over the internet, without giving them the chance to either condone or condemn.​
    Colin,
    I'm sorry to have to point out that you aren't stating my position correctly. First, this notion that all photographers have a bad name is simply untrue. It's a wild claim being made to attempt support for a certain position here. Secondly, if you had read anything I wrote at all here, "plastering their image all over the Internet" is NOT an act I have discussed at all. In fact, I have consistently said my interest was the making of the photograph, not the secondary use, which is another topic. Third, being a minority is no proof of being wrong about anything. Fourth, it is 6 pages long because many of the posts - like yours - are straw man posts filled with misunderstanding about the question that was asked, what that question means, and how to answer that question.
    I am not going to rephrase the question again just for you. I've done it already plenty of times. I will however say that if you go back and read through more carefully, you will have a better chance of understanding the issues.
    Lets not kid ourselves here, the images are predominately of young scantily clad women captured by middle aged men, enough said!​
    No, that's not enough said. Not by a long shot. Let me provide the reason. In your own words you said you had no problem making nude photographs with permission. Did you know that even when such girls (or women) give permission, some of them are unwittingly practicing self-destructive behavior? Did you know that debasing one's own self image is a common practice for many people? And that by people taking those nude photographs, they are therefore a contributor to said self-destructive behavior? So, if it is harm you are seeking to prevent, I suggest getting very deep into the psychology to understand whether or not the above is "enough said." I don't think it is by a long shot. That's why ethics is more involved than simply an application of common sense.
    then stalking CO-ED's on a beach holds​
    Please identify where anyone in this thread condoned "stalking Coeds on a beach."
     
  66. ...as well as M. Stephen's apparent disregard of the rights of his subjects.​
    Arthur,
    I don't believe people have every right they can dream of in their imagination - if that's what you mean by apparent disregard. I think imagining you have a right not to be photographed in public, or drawn, or immortalized in prose or poetry is dangerous. Where would you imagine such rights end? How far are you willing to extend this kind of right? I can't think of any precedent for this kind of a right.
    I think a better approach to this is the idea of choice. Photographers have choices about what they think is an appropriate subject, and appropriate technique and appropriate circumstance and purpose for what they are doing. And people in public have choices. Choices about their behavior, their clothing, the places they go. Each ought have the maximum amount of choice without causing harm. There's no doubt that some behaviors of some photographers will be in bad taste, just like some actions of some doctors are in bad taste. But so are some actions of beach goers in bad taste. We don't want to begin making bad taste a sin.
     
  67. J.D. Wood,
    Brilliant.
     
  68. m, I think simple courtesy, respect and understanding the subject is what is important in good photography, whatever the project happens to be in the mind of the photographer (most of us who are serious photographers do have approaches and projects under way), not some insistence on rights (your contribution to this thread, not mine). That has always been the relationship of most artists with their subjects or models.
     
  69. To be honest here, for me, it's sometimes no more than a matter of whether I think the photo is good or not. A good photo of a man scantily clad at the beach (yes, men are also sex objects) seems of more value to me than a bad photo of a man scantily clad at the beach. A good photo of a homeless person seems significant to me. A bad one often seems exploitive or just not worthwhile. There are always good and bad photos of all subjects. With certain subjects that are more charged than others (because of controversy, minority status, past or present oppression) feathers will get ruffled more easily and that makes sense to me. I know I'm exploiting the men I photograph (with permission) to a certain extent. I know I'm objectifying them at some level. I hope any parent who posts pics of their kids as art realizes they are exploiting their kids. That's not a bad thing. It's just how it is. The charged energy I feel when I use a person to make a photo goes into my work. I get confused, photographically and ethically, and I like it that way. I can be hypocritical, and I also like it that way . . . contradictions make for inspiration.
    As I said, I'm not pure and don't really want to be, especially since I believe I can't ever be, as a mere mortal human being. I go to the beach and see hot guys with ripped abs and nice biceps and I look, not for meaningful encounters but with prurient desires. I can live with that. I like living with that. I'm a physical and sexual being in addition to other things. I acknowledge that. I've chosen not to photograph these hunks for the most part because, tempting as their writhe bodies may be, they often make for generic-looking or boring photos which I can see in an Abercrombie and Fitch catalogue and don't need to make for myself. Occasionally, I am moved to make a photo of a scantily clad man in public and my own way of dealing with it is that if I think I came up with a good photo, I'll keep it. If I think it's just a typical, boring beefcake snap, I won't, or at least I won't share it with anyone.
    The best I can do is be honest with myself and others about who I am and what I'm doing. Masquerading simple horniness as art or as important photography would be, for me, disingenuous. But using sexual and even lustful drive as energy to create a complex or thoughtful photo or one that has some significance or texture or layering beyond being late-night masturbation material seems OK and even desirable to me.
    I like a challenge, whether ethical or photographic. I also think ethics are rarely black and white and I have yet to meet anyone who is absolutely consistent in their ethics. Maybe I don't get out enough.
    _____________________________________
    One example of harm being done in the shooting of a photograph without consent would have been prior to the lifting of the ban on gays in the military. An active duty soldier on vacation in the Castro might want to go to a bar. Were someone to take a picture of him or her on the way into or out of a gay bar, that could cause quite harmful fear and anxiety, because of the potential of losing one's job and pension if discovered. If a photographer knew the person was gay, it would be, IMO, unethical to take a picture of them in that situation. If a photographer didn't know the person was gay, which would most often be the case, it probably wouldn't be unethical but it would just be a damn shame. When I point my camera at a stranger, which I do at times, I'm well aware there could be facts I don't know that could cause people a whole lot of trauma and regret. I'm not obsessed with that possibility, but I am aware that every action I take has consequences, sometimes unknown to me at the time. I kid myself if I think some of those consequences can't be dire. Since I'm invested in others' well being, as I exist as a social being as well as an individual, there are times I am willing to consider that my own freedom means exercising restraint in order to ensure the well being of others. But I make those decisions for the most part and don't expect a government or forum thread to do that for me.
    Ethics can also be used as a smokescreen to hide behind in order not to take responsibility for one's own actions. It does not work for me to think that the community has decided this or that is ethical and that's all I need to know. For me, that's just a baseline or starting point. I'm the one who has to live with myself and my choices and decisions.
    _____________________________________
    J.D.'s photo is so good because it's textured, multi-layered and visually shows, at least as I see it, that the photographer is self aware, the photographer participating as the man portrayed in the photo is and not seeming to be in denial about it. Thinking about the photographer and his role here and all the people portrayed in the photo reminds of billiard balls scattering and bouncing off each other while some can remain stationary and unaffected on a green felt table top. Self awareness is attractive. Cluelessness is usually not.
     
  70. Arthur, rather than the more or less optional questions of "courtesy, respect and understanding," I see the OP as a question of fairness. If there were a trial where only one side got to present evidence, while the other (the person(s) in the photograph) was unable to speak or argue its case, or if there were a debate where only one side got to show its stuff and the other (the person(s) in the photograph) had to just be there, mute; or in any case where one side gets to show and tell and talk and talk and talk, where the other side is gagged and has no ability to respond ... that's not fair.
    Nevertheless, it's done, all the time, in all places and in all times because, obviously, it's a lot easier to prevail or be "right" if there is no option for rebuttal of or by that which is being dealt with or manipulated to whatever end is being pursued. Wanting to get your way is natural. Fairness is not.
     
  71. I see some pictures posted here and there everywhere on the web, and do wonder if the photographer that took those photographs has a moral compass. How would they like it if a photographer took photos of their daughter or wife without their consent?
    How does a site like this deal with photos like this that could be viewed as unethical even if legal?​
    As a recent member, this may be Hanz's only original post to date. While I would like to see him embark more in the discussion, I think his post is a good one. As for his last question I don't think that a site with this large number of members and its membership qualifications can do much more than to ban inappropriate communication (certain hate inspired texts,etc.). The question of Hanz about an unknown person photographing your children or partner (wife, etc.) is a good one. Young children is especially relevant as an example and a case where I attempt to obtain the permission of the parent or guardian before making an image.
    This suggests to me that a certain respect for the subject is always important (which Julie describes as fairness. Whatever term you wish to use, it comes down to the same thing, a concern, rather than a disregard, for the subject of your photographs). I also agree that freedom is important, as Fred mentions, but freedom in a society also has its responsibilities to others. One cannot mandate ethical behaviour. Perhaps all that we can do is to incite thoughtful action and a sense of responsibility as photographers. That doesn't often place a straightjacket on artistic freedom, although in some rare cases it might do so.
     
  72. m, I think simple courtesy, respect and understanding the subject is what is important in good photography, whatever the project happens to be in the mind of the photographer (most of us who are serious photographers do have approaches and projects under way), not some insistence on rights (your contribution to this thread, not mine). That has always been the relationship of most artists with their subjects or models.​
    There's no reason to assume that making a photograph w/o permission is discourteous and disrespectful any more than just observing with your eyes would be. Although you have claimed various harms, you haven't explained how they occur, or provided any precedence for recognition of this kind of harm. On the other side of the ledger, we have mountains of great photography by renown artists shot in this surreptitious style, and we have in the US even recent court rulings supporting it.
    Your preference then is the basis of a personal style and bias, not the basis of an ethical standard for prohibition, as the OP inquired about.
    Julie,
    Your trial analogy breaks down for lack of an established or recognized tort. We don't hold trials (yet) for negotiating personal preferences or mere annoyance mitigation. There's no there there.
    I have no problem recognizing that when asked, most people would say they don't want their picture taken by strangers. And maybe that statistic is that is driving the idea here for some people? Popularity alone, is no means of establishing or recognizing ethics. If it was, racial segregation as one example would be a virtue, and it is surely not.
    I think a very appropriate comparison here can be made by looking at two public phenomena: smoking and cell phone use. Ethics (and laws) about smoking changed when real harm was established and associated with the practice of smoking in public. With cell phones, the majority is annoyed by public cell phone (similar to surreptitious photography) but there has been no association of a recognized harm, and thus we maintain the status quo for fear of unnecessarily reducing freedom. Too bad for the smokers who suffered a loss of freedom - they were injuring people. Photographers? No.
     
  73. I think the most interesting philosophical/photographic consideration in this thread is about the difference between using a camera and using one's eyes. William W addressed this early in the thread. The reason I use a camera is because there is such a substantial difference between that and just using my eyes. Framing through a lens isolates, exaggerates, modifies, and distinguishes, among other things. Putting a camera in front of my face establishes a very different kind of relationship with those around me, not always but most of the time. I want it that way. The potential involved in using a camera is preserving something or memorializing something, stilling a fleeting moment, and taking something out of context. I am not in favor of restrictions on photographing in public or restrictions on photographing people without their consent. I think that would be draconian and too restrictive of my freedom. I want to be in charge of my behavior towards fellow human beings until and unless i do something that gets me sued or criminally charged. Again, thanks to William W, who clearly addressed some really important frameworks for establishing a difference between photos and the real-time events they depict and between looking at others with one's eyes and looking at others through the lens of a camera. While I wouldn't restrict the latter activity except in private spaces, I won't ignore the substantial differences in terms of others' different comfort levels with the two as well as the difference in perceived potentials of the two, which affects how we view people with cameras vs. how we view people with eyes.
    Where the OP fails, IMO, is not in the assertion that a camera in hand makes a substantial difference to public relationships. The OP fails on two counts. It buys into a paternalistic approach to women, which potentially harms women as much as any camera might. And it assumes that unwanted attention is automatically morally wrong, which it's not. It's part of living in a social community. I reject the photos in question on the basis of their relevance to me, my taste, and the interest they hold for me. I think they're cheap and exploitive and juvenile but I'd fall short of saying they are unethical or immoral. They should be legally permitted and PN should not restrict their being shown in one's portfolio. As I said, we are all free to comment honestly about our feelings about them. That's the ethically sound reaction. Restricting their being shown would be the unethical action here.
    Something else photographic and philosophical that comes into play here is body of work. When pretty much one's entire body of work or a substantial portion of it is built around such blatantly prurient grabs that have no other redeeming aesthetic or social value, that reflects differently than a few such photos in a body of work more broadly conceived and thoughtfully and artistically executed.
     
  74. The bottom line is this: If one don't feel comfortable taking pictures of people in public places then don't do it. Now wasn't that simple? However, do not judge those people who do. One is not morally superior for choosing not shoot in public and furthermore to be judgmental to those who do shows a lack character. Not everyone who shoots in public is some kind of pervert but to immediately jump to that conclusion without knowing the photographer and the current circumstances just proves stupidity.
     
  75. It buys into a paternalistic approach to women, which potentially harms women more than any camera might. And it assumes that unwanted attention is automatically morally wrong, which it's not. It's part of living in a social community.​
    +1
    More important maybe than even the original question.
     
  76. Often I will shoot scenes in which the number of figurants are between a half dozen and perhaps twice that number. The dynamic of the image often relates to what is happening between the people, to what they are doing or to what brings them together. The emphasis on the person is less and effectively replaced by that of the activity they are involved in. I feel no need in theses cases to seek permission. An individual subject can be another matter. In those cases I don't feel bad about entering into their world and if they are in a public space it is then not entirely their world that I am photographing, at least in the physical sense. I do not always get a chance to ask the subject permission to use the image as part of a series, or as an individual work that might be shown to others and even sold. One case comes to mind. Although the young girl (about 8 to 10 of age) in one of my photos that was exhibited during a few years in my summer gallery was accompanied by her photographer mother and photographed during a picnic under blossoming apple trees, and although those present were aware of the activity of photography amongst ourselves, I would have liked to show the print to the subject and her mother before exhibiting it in public. I made an attempt to contact the mother before exhibiting the print (a 16x20 B&W infrared image of that type of tonal range) to make sure she had no objections to the print being shown. That proved very difficult as she had since moved 150 miles away and had left no address to the photo group I had invited to the outing. I chose to exhibit the print and while it was eventually acquired by only one viewer I would have preferred to have given a small copy to the subject and to explain my use of it. Sometimes we cannot cover all the bases we may choose to cover, but that shouldn't impede our communicating what we think is a worthwhile image to others. Some who have visited my small portfolio on PNet will know which print I refer to.
     
  77. I think the most interesting philosophical/photographic consideration in this thread is about the difference between using a camera and using one's eyes. William W addressed this early in the thread.​
    Yes and it has been discussed at length between William W and m stephens, although perhaps the transition was not made very clear.

    Both observing and taking a photo are about recording. The main difference between them is the media used for recording - the brain (memory) or a memory card (digital file).
    But the difference in media only becomes important with respect to publishing the record or portions of it for others to act on. I am using "publishing" in a very generic way here - you can think of sharing it with another person.
    So there are two aspects here: recording and publishing. What m stephens has been trying to point out for some time now is that harm can only come through publishing (what we do with the photo) and not from the recording (the mere taking of the photo).
    Let's try to see if that is the case by examining the differences between the media used for recording. I see the following important ones:
    • Before you can publish a memory you need to commit it to another media, which requires significant skill - you need to have a way with words or with a crayon or with a brush
    • Memory is lossy and will degrade in time (this impacts publishing because you will forget and others may not trust your ability to remember)
    • A memory is lost when the owner dies, while a digital image can survive the owner (this means that even if the photographer didn't mean to publish an image, someone else will (this could also happen due to theft))
    As we can see, however, all these differences only matter with respect to publishing the image in that they make it easier for a photograph to be published vs a memory.
    Just as another exercise, let me take the following statement and note that it can be applied to a memory just as well:
    Framing through a lens isolates, exaggerates, modifies, and distinguishes, among other things.​
    You can do all that with a narration or in a drawing or a painting. These are not possibilities that were just opened by photography.

    So where is the moral dilemma? In the recording or in the publishing? Like m stephens argued, it is hard to show harm coming from recording alone. The only issue I see is that the recording of a photograph is more likely to lead to publishing than the record of a memory, but that is not good enough to condemn the mere action of recording a photograph. So where we need to focus (and where we tried to focus) is not on whether it is ethical or not to take photos in a public place but on what are the ethical constraints around keeping and using those photos (the publishing implications).
    I did have a discussion a while ago on whether it is ethical to publish images of people that died in a disaster without clearing it out with their families. I was surprised that some people did not see anything wrong with it even though I thought I had some very good arguments against it - arguments that in the case of beach photography I feel are sorely lacking.
    BTW, the image uploaded by j d.wood really answers many of the questions that were asked in this thread. Why not ask for permission? Because you can no longer capture candid moments. Why photograph people candidly, even on a beach? Because if you get lucky, you can capture moments that are a great social commentary.
    Sure, some photographs might not have much value. But that in itself does not make them damaging to anyone. One still needs to look at where the harm is in an action, before they can determine if it is ethical or not. If I am repeating the points made by m stephens, it's because they were excellent points.
     
  78. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yes and it has been discussed at length between William W and m stephens, although perhaps the transition was not made very clear.​
    Others were free to address my commentary. m stephens, I believe, was the only member who did and so I responded to m stephens.
    ***
    Both observing and taking a photo are about recording. The main difference between them is the media used for recording - the brain (memory) or a memory card (digital file). But the difference in media only becomes important with respect to publishing.

    I previously addressed that point and gave my view on it.
    Perhaps I didn’t make it clearly enough and that too was lost in the: transition.
    Here, again, in other words:

    The act of taking the image with a camera, all but automatically “publishes it” - it is "published" (in terms of this discussion on the philosophy of the ethics of making a photograph of another person) - at the moment in time that the image is viewed . . .and re-viewed: even if that initial viewing and subsequent re-viewings are forever only by the Photographer.
    Hence my previous:
    “The essence of the philosophical debate is in the right or wrong of the recording with a view show at a later date in a different space to oneself and/or a different audience, perpetually.”

    WW
    Aside: Thanks Fred G – it seems you grasped exactly what I meant from the get go: and your most recent post has allowed a re-expression of my point, perhaps with this time with better transition.
     
  79. William, yes, glad to provide a further opportunity. I'll expand in my own way below.
    "harm can only come through publishing"
    Laurentiu, I don't agree. Worry and anticipation can cause great harm. A soldier seeing himself photographed going into a gay bar could very well have suffered great pain and personal harm, worrying about and anticipating what could happen because he'd been photographed. The film could stay forever in the camera. The photographer might never publish it. But the soldier doesn't know that. All he knows is the camera shot him, and he's harmed. Greatly. His career and honor are at stake. The harm is not his getting fired, because that may never happen. The harm is his worry and anxiety over being recorded. Of course, our silly government would have had a role in that anxiety and I'm not blaming the photographer in this case at all, who may be totally unaware of the circumstances and unaware of the career of who he's shooting. There are plenty of ways one can be harmed without having a harmer to blame. Harm can come in very unintentional ways. And it can certainly come as the result of the mere act of someone pointing a camera and pressing the shutter and does not require the publishing of a photo or the fulfillment of potential.
    I recently had blood tests done and some of my counts were off so I had to see a specialist and get some tests done for some very serious illnesses. Everything turned out OK. But until I knew for sure, I felt harmed. Couldn't blame anyone for it, just the circumstances. I didn't sleep well at night, was anxious during the day, etc. My work suffered and my nerves were shot. I know from experience that those who actually are sick are suffering much greater harm than I did, of course. But I suffered harm, even though the potential of illness was never realized (published).
    None of this means I think photography of strangers without consent is necessarily unethical or should be banned, as I've repeatedly said. But that there's no one to blame and that photos don't get published doesn't mean there can't be harm.
    "You can do all that with a narration or in a drawing or a painting. These are not possibilities that were just opened by photography."
    Good point. No one here ever said they were. Making a photo and even using a camera without it resulting in a photo, making a drawing, writing a story, painting a picture are all very different acts from observing.
     
  80. Interesting discussion !
    Just a few remark on the "right to one's image" in France.
    There is absolutely no restrictions on your right to shoot photographs of whatever and whoever you wish in streets in France. What the "right to one's image" tells, is that such photos cannot be published or distributed without the explicit acceptances of the persons shown, if they are easily recognisable and the main subject of the photo (or crop). These restrictions are based on the general protection of privacy, but limited by the freedom of expression of the photographer. Photos of bigger groups of people (in demonstrations for example) or general photos of people in the streets, or on beaches for that sake, are not covered by the restrictions.
    Personally I have no ethical restrictions on photographing people in public spaces. Somehow I feel however unease of shooting people that obviously believe to be in a private sphere although walking in the streets or sitting in coffe houses: people with very private smiles, speaking in phones for example.
     
  81. Fred's example (soldier/gay bar) has been mentioned twice and should be addressed. One can create an infinite number of similar examples, which are based on the idea of people being in places they don't want to be discovered. A married man going into a singles bar, or a man with non-smoker health insurance photographed while smoking, and so on. Fred clearly spelled out the harm as "worry and concern" over being discovered and then facing certain unpleasant consequences. Now examine the case.
    The first notable aspect is that the harm (worry, etc) can be caused without photography being involved. Anyone who simply sees the gay soldier going in the bar can be a threat causing worry and concern. Eyewitness claims are valid in courts of law, for example. It's not necessary for the witness to have a photograph.
    The second notable aspect of this is that we create this kind of internal worry and concern over the actions we take regardless of the presence of others. We do it because we feel guilty about an action.
    So finally, we have to look to see if this kind of harm is recognized in any ethical or moral system. Recognition would mean either that the harmed can claim compensation from the person committing the harm, or that there is an explicit prohibition of the actions causing this kind of harm. I don't find it anywhere. Which leads me to conclude that this scenario is simply a part of living, and a part of our psychological makeup to feel worry and concern over our actions.
     
  82. Anders, I think that Hanz gave a link that shows that a number of countries also have guidelines similar to those of France. With small differences (from province to province), what you describe is also true in Canada.
    The point of interest I believe is that if any harm to the subject is done by the photograph it is often not manifested at the point of capture of the image, but in how that image is diffused in future. I may not like having my picture taken in some instances, but the consequences of it are not necessarily very important to me if the image is not diffused beyond the photographer and perhaps his immediate relations or friends. The intentions of the photographer also come into play after he has made the image. Because some of my photographs are exhibited and sold the question of an acceptance or release is a concern. There are of course other situations where the agreement of the subject can also be important and some of those have already been mentioned by others in the preceding discussion.
    Recognition would mean either that the harmed can claim compensation from the person committing the harm.. (I don't see that anywhere..)​
    M, I don't have the details at hand, but a case against a photographer in Montreal in the late last century gave compensation to a girl who was photographed on the street (just sitting on a curb and in thought) was successfully resolved for the subject of the photograph who received a compensation from the photographer, as mandated by the legal system.
     
  83. "We do it because we feel guilty about an action."
    I wouldn't assume that a gay soldier had something to feel guilty about for going into a gay bar. I'm sure others do, which is at least part of the reason why the draconian ban on gays in the military existed in the first place. It could be that he felt fear, not guilt.
    The love between himself and his wife and any worry about her feelings or questioning of his own motives may have died years ago. The husband meeting his mistress may be way beyond feeling guilt. He may, in fact, feel justified if it were his wife who had caused the decline in the marriage through her own prior infidelity. The reason he wouldn't want to be photographed might have nothing to do with his conscience and everything to do with his pocketbook and that divorce settlement that awaits him.
    Ethics sometimes demand not projecting my own reactions and foibles onto others.
    _____________________________________
    Because harm can be caused in other ways besides photography doesn't mean harm can't be caused by photography. I can kill you with a hammer and I can kill you with a sword. One doesn't mean the other causes no harm. And there are valid reasons to single out photography . . .
    Immediacy often marks the difference between having one's picture taken and having a drawing made or a written or verbal account written about oneself. It's the reason we take snapshots at our kids' birthday parties instead of inviting the local novelist over. This is why picture-taking gets more attention than other means of recording, the potential for a photo to result that hits home and is a closer approximation and more immediate.
    Legality, with regard to photos, is usually around what gets published. But ethics can be about more, or less. We generally assume that a photo, especially these days, has the potential to be easily published and most people don't take photos to have them left unseen in their camera or their memory cards. They look at them and show them to their friends and often post them to the Internet. I'm not suggesting making that potential legally punishable. I am suggesting understanding why people get upset long before a photo is published, when the shutter is snapped. When that shutter snaps, in most minds, the sense of being published is already in the act. It's why so many photographers talk about pre-visualization, or visualization if you prefer. We consider the photo to be in many ways already in the act of taking it.
    This is just a perspective. There are others that obviously differ from mine and have been well expressed here. It doesn't have to be a matter of convincing everyone on the street one way or the other or even of convincing each other here. Ethics often have to do with understanding others and making accommodations. We also take stands for our own freedom. And I appreciate, M, your emphasizing that and wish more people would remember it in all kinds of situations we face as citizens with increasing abuse of our freedoms by governments and authorities. Ethics is balancing my well being with that of others, doesn't always mirror legality and tort law, and can be a matter of perceptions, which in the case of choosing when and how to accommodate others with my camera, is at least partially what's at play for me.
     
  84. M, to add something. You'd probably agree that whether the reason for being worried about being photographed is fear or guilt or financial is less the point than that, to at least some extent and in at least some cases, we have ourselves contributed something to the situation and can't blame the photographer for the situation we find ourselves in that would cause us to worry about being photographed. And it's best to take responsibility for the reasons we may not want to be photographed in public. But we're all human. We're not legalistic automatons. And, as a human, I know I've found myself in situations I'd prefer be kept private even when I'm in public. I don't expect any legal remedies. But because I've been in this position myself, I can empathize with others who are in a similar position. I know how a lot of people feel about having their pictures taken or pictures of their kids taken. Rather than trying to convince so many mothers that I'm within my legal rights and their fears about my taking unsolicited photos of their kids may be unwarranted (of course, with increased sensational exposure of stalking situations and child molestation accounts, certainly not all the fear is unwarranted) I choose to accommodate those fears, which have pretty much become a societal norm. There are some unwarranted fears I would not accommodate, but I'm willing to be fairly liberal in my accommodation of moms' fears about their kids or people's fears about their images in what can be considered a compromising situation out of context. You may well go to a public beach clad a certain way and not think twice about it. You would likely not go to work clad that same way, unless you were a lifeguard. So, it's reasonable to me that you wouldn't want your picture, scantily clad, showing up in your workplace or in someone's PN portfolio, even if you're perfectly happy to go out to a public beach that way. The snap of the shutter, in many minds and I think understandably so, is tied to that picture appearing in a different context. It's part of the soul of photography.
     
  85. Others were free to address my commentary. m stephens, I believe, was the only member who did and so I responded to m stephens.​
    Of course, there was no criticism in my remark, just a statement of fact.
    I previously addressed that point and gave my view on it.
    Perhaps I didn’t make it clearly enough and that too was lost in the: transition.​
    I think the disagreement stems from this:
    The act of taking the image with a camera, all but automatically "publishes it" - it is "published" (in terms of this discussion on the philosophy of the ethics of making a photograph of another person) - at the moment in time that the image is viewed . . .and re-viewed: even if that initial viewing and subsequent re-viewings are forever only by the Photographer.​
    You may note that when I defined publishing, I meant:
    with respect to publishing the record or portions of it for others to act on​
    If you object to the reviewing of an image by a photographer, you would probably want to object to the reviewing of a memory by an observer. Perhaps you want to elaborate on the reasons why you would object to this. I would be surprised if you don't end up with arguments that are related about sharing the information with others (through narration in the case of memories), because at a higher level, all we are discussing is about accumulating information and distributing that information. I cannot see why accumulating information is intrinsically bad, but that does not mean I think we should not prevent accumulation of information in cases where the risk of it being published outweighs any other concerns.
    Worry and anticipation can cause great harm.​
    Yes, but they are worry and anticipation of publishing and like m stephens pointed out, a simple narrative can cause the same. I realize that this is perhaps too fine a point, but I think it is an important point to grasp.
    I choose to accommodate those fears​
    Yes, but that is just a personal choice and doesn't settle any ethical question.
    Just a few remark on the "right to one's image" in France.​
    Thank you for the clarification. That makes more sense than what I've seen stated online.

    Gotta go now, but I'll be back to elaborate more, if needed.
     
  86. Fred,
    Yes, I agree. I generalize this to mean that living socially implies infinite numbers of cause and effect consequences. So we draw a line around the ones which we deem serious and create either criminal wrongs or civil wrongs or ethical prohibitions. The rest we chalk up as "life."
    There is a line of spiritual thinking which seeks to exist without cause. Meaning, live a life where you are never the cause of any ill-effect on another sentient being. This leads such oddities as a Yogi leaning against a tree on one leg, not moving for weeks or months at a time out of fear of causing something. An extreme interpretation of "do no harm."
    There is another extreme of prohibitions in history. In the novel SHOGUN, a peasant is beheaded instantly and immediately for simply raising his gaze to the eyes of the Lord Governor of the territory. In the feudal system there was no concept of public space. All was the sovereign property of the feudal Lord and all behavior subject to his whim or fancy.
    Modern civil society is seeking to create order and freedom - which obviously compete with each other. So we take small hurts or harms and say, "Buck up! You have to tolerate some of these harms in order to have enough freedom to make life worth living." My view is that the concept of public space is exactly that compromise where people must accept these small hurts and harms and buck up. If you like wearing a strong bikini but don't like being looked at or recorded, do it in private space, not public space. Your choice. In private you have the right to demand no recording. In public you give up that right, but you gain the right to express your self by showing off your arse. It's the trade off we have designed right now. It works pretty well, but not perfectly. I'd hate to live in a world where we had to adjudicate every small harm.
     
  87. Laurentiu, I haven't been trying to settle any ethical question. I thought the OP was poorly framed to begin with and have simply tried to talk about how I would generally act and why I might hope others would act similarly, even if it doesn't mold into a defined ethical system. As I said, we're human. We're not ethicists running around the beach with a lot of skin showing. Likewise, I don't think the photographer linked to in this thread is to be judged for his ethics. I said that early on. I said that in similar situations at the beach, my motivations were much more carnal than ethical.
    As far as a simple narrative causing the same worry, I addressed that in my last couple of posts and disagree with you and M on that score as well as on your separating the act of photographing from publishing to such an extent. They are not as separate as you are making them out to be, and you can find my reasons in my above posts as well as in the posts of William W.
    Please, Laurentiu, you don't have to agree with us and I don't necessarily expect you to. But the arguments have been made and there is rationale for our view just as there is rationale for yours. I don't think your view is without merit. And obviously, I feel the same about mine. My ethics tell me that no one has to be the only one who's right in all situations. Sometimes there are differences of opinion that can coexist. Black and white ethical rules rarely exist in any sort of functioning manner. We react to things on the fly and are sometimes inconsistent. That's human and should be accounted for in any understanding of ethics. Photography is all about perspective, rarely about absolutes. Philosophy and Philosophy of Photography often are as well.
     
  88. M, just saw your post after writing my last one. Appreciate your perspective. It's clearly stated and reasonable. My feelings about bucking up and the wearing of and recording of bikinis obviously differ, but I think we can still coexist in some sort of harmony, which implies discord as well. I don't expect you to follow my guidelines, just to understand them and I am happy to afford you the same understanding. In any case, I want to make it clear that defenses of freedom often have to manifest around the most offensive behavior and some of the most important defenses of freedom are the most difficult. It's easy to defend Martin Luther King's right to freedom of expression. The flip side of the coin is that I also have to defend the least common denominator, which would be the photographer linked to in this thread. But in defending his right to do it, I don't have to say I would also do it and I don't have to say the women in the photos are wrong to feel violated. And, as I said before, there's a point at which one starts to hide behind official legal or ethical declarations instead of just stepping up and doing something for someone else's sake. Not sure where the Zen Master or Jesus, for that matter, would fall on those cases. It's sometimes most difficult and most enlightening to do something in spite of my own ethics rather than because of them, just for the other guy.
     
  89. Laurentiu, I haven't been trying to settle any ethical question.​
    Well, it sounds like you have no interest in settling the ethical question, while I only have that interest. Hence we don't seem to share a common interest and have nothing to discuss.
    Please, Laurentiu, you don't have to agree with us and I don't necessarily expect you to.​
    This is an unnecessary remark - do you need to be reminded that you were the one to first express disagreement with me:
    Laurentiu, I don't agree.​
    Please Fred, can you not answer my posts or express disagreement about them if you are not interested in what I am saying? Really, what is your point when you reply to me but then declare you had no interest in what I was discussing? I have no problem skipping your posts, but stop mentioning me if you are not interested in what I say.

    To be clear, I am interested in discussing the ethics of photographing in public places, not in what were private reasons for deciding whether to engage or not in such activity. I don't expect anyone to share my interest, but I expect people to act as if they understand it.
     
  90. I share your interest Laurentiu. I think it is a question that comes up often in many ways here, and I find it a fascinating question. The explosion of public photography with cell phones and such make it all the more timely.
     
  91. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Laurentiu, There was no criticism in my response to you: it too was merely a statement of fact.

    ***
    You go on to mention . . .
    “I think the disagreement stems from this:
    (and then quote my words) and then:
    “You may note that when I defined publishing, I meant: with respect to publishing the record or portions of it for others to act on
    If you object to the reviewing of an image by a photographer, you would probably want to object to the reviewing of a memory by an observer. Perhaps you want to elaborate on the reasons why you would object to this. . .”​
    This “disagreement” that you perceive and question - does NOT exist in my mind.
    The progression of the conversation along lines as per your comments and questions above, has not very much to do with the points which I have chosen to contribute to this thread.
    Let me attempt to explain, what I have chosen to contribute to this thread and in so doing hopefully I will address your questions to me.
    ***
    1.
    The Original Post’s title was all about: ethics of taking photographs in public places (implied photographs of people).
    [Bolded words are the key words which I chose to address in my comments]

    2.
    The first question the OP asked was specific:
    “is it ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent?”
    [Bolded words are the key words which I chose to address in my comments]
    3.
    My first post (and intended at the time to be my only post on the matter) was my opinion of a necessary cornerstone for the philosophical discussion addressing those key words.
    4.
    In simple terms, I believe that: to have a philosophical discussion about the ethics of taking photographs of people, without their consent –
    We must first build a framework for that the discussion set upon firstly dealing with the ethics of making any record of a person or their action or any part of their being, without their consent.
    5.
    My subsequent posts, IMO, only put more flesh on that point of view of what the first question is that should be addressed.
    6.
    Certainly, as a consequence of my putting flesh on my opinion as to what framework this discussion should be bound by, I brought other (IMO important) observations.
    These observations form part of the reasons why I suggested that any discussion be predicted upon discussion of the ethics of making any record, without consent.
    For example here are some but not limited to only these:
    • that the making of an image of a person in a situation is different to witnessing the person in that situation;
    • the record of the brain is different to the record of the film or digital sensor;
    • it is implicit in taking a Photograph that it will be viewed (or ‘published’) – even if it is only ever viewed by the Photographer and even if it is only viewed once, because that one viewing has the potential to add a layer to the brain’s fleeting capture of the moment and reinforce or dilute aspects of that moment.
    ***
    So you have asked me:
    “You may note that when I defined publishing, I meant: with respect to publishing the record or portions of it for others to act on
    If you object to the reviewing of an image by a photographer, you would probably want to object to the reviewing of a memory by an observer. Perhaps you want to elaborate on the reasons why you would object to this. . .”​
    And my answer is:
    I have not anywhere suggested that I object to the Photographer reviewing the images he has taken.
    More importantly your question and my answer to it have nothing to do with what I have chosen to contribute on this thread.
    What I simply have stated, repetitively and in as many ways as possible, is:
    • Very few comments on this thread actually address the Philosophy of the Ethics of taking Photographs of People without their consent.
    • This is because most of the comments are without a defined framework for that discussion.
    • I gave a framework, very early on, and that framework for the conversation was rejected by two members of this conversation; accepted by one and drew no comment from the remainder.
    • That’s fine. I have zero problems with this position and that’s why I chose to be silent. There is no sense in just repeating a premise for a discussion, if the discussion is already elsewhere.
    • this specific matter was raised by Fred G., then I commented again, expressing a similar contribution, but in a different way.
    I contributed to this thread mainly with the intention of realizing a conversation in a particular direction and with particular content. I believe such addresses an exceptionally fundamental Philosophical and Ethical matter of valuable import Introspectively to each as Human: and to Society in general.
    I did think that this fundamental question was what the OP was asking. I could have been incorrect: at least the OP has chosen not to steer the conversation in any manner, anywhere near the goal I thought the thread was initially aiming. In fact the OP has steered it away from that goal. That's fine by me: but I choose not to contribute my opinions to the general path the thread has taken nor comment on the individual matters the thread contains as examples.
    Although I have chosen not make comments about whether or not I believe it is OK for Photographers to snap bikini clad women at the beach; or men going into bars; or kids playing in the park and any of the other permutations of candid shooting: I have read each and every comment and I have been very interested in all the views and all the various the topics commented upon in this thread.
    I thank all those who have provided me with their many points of view and the multiple insights.
    WW
     
  92. posting a verbal photograph of two who are on the public beach of this thread in this forum:
    [Laurentiu, m] <<<<<<<<<<< (snicker, eye-roll)
    *******************
    Was that ethical?
     
  93. In simple terms, I believe that: to have a philosophical discussion about the ethics of taking photographs of people,without their consent –
    We must first build a framework for that the discussion set upon firstly dealing with the ethics of making any record of a person or their action or any part of their being, without their consent.​
    OK. Let's have that discussion. Seems easy enough. You are asking a straightforward question, and I think it has a straightforward answer.
    Given:
    Ethics is the study of right and wrong behavior and conduct;
    Record making includes taking notes, photographs, electronic recordings, drawings and anything else that commits descriptions of people's actions to a medium;
    Permission means explicit approval by subject to the recording person on a case by case basis;
    Public space means the indoor and outdoor spaces which are not governed by the subject in question. Ex: malls, streets, parks, beaches;
    We ask then, is it right or wrong behavior to make recordings of people in these public places?
    Discussion:
    The first chore is to select an ethical system to examine. Are we going to select the Law of the land? Or, a local religion? Or, popular culture? Or something else? Anyone could create a religion or club with a host of specific ethics that are very different from the law of the land or popular culture. Sharia law is a different ethical system than civil law in the US, for example.
    I live in US civil society, and live as a humanist. So my ethical system is a meld of the law of the land, mainstream culture, humanism and communism. That system, for example, advocates personal freedom while admonishing harm to others, harm to self. Therefore, I take it as a given that a behavior is right, unless I can demonstrate how or why it is wrong. Theft is wrong because it harms another. Murder is wrong because it harms another. Writing a poem is right because it enhances my freedom and doesn't harm anyone.
    Record making without permission sounds ominous because we generally value permission as an idea. A doctor needs permission to perform surgery. Permission is our control mechanism over what can or can't be done to us, or our property. If record making without permission is ethically wrong we need to find harm done that is unique to the act of record making.
    What is record making? Persons in public reflect light, and they give off energy in the form of heat, acoustics and magnetism. They generate all this energy as a part of simply being alive. They have some control over it such as choosing to talk or not, choosing to show or cover parts of their body. When an observer enters the subject space, the observer is acted upon by the subject. Which means, the subject is outputting energy waves onto the observer (and vice versa). Most of these back and forth energy waves are not subject to permissions because they are an automatic feature of living. Record making occurs when the observer commits representations of these arriving energy waves to some form of media. A sketch, a photograph, a poem. No consideration is made here of what the recorder does in the future with the recording.
    Has something been stolen? Has someone been harmed? What are the effects on freedom? How is permission possible for uncontrollable effects? How is the recording different than the real time experiencing?
    The harm identified so far is this: The subject will suffer embarrassment, worry and fret over the future use of the record. And, the subject owns their image, so any unauthorized recording is a theft. So, how is recording different than seeing, which we accept without question?
    From the POV of the subject in real time, there is no difference. The subject can't nominally detect any difference between an observer seeing and an observer recording. e.g. the recording doesn't impinge on the subject. It happens without their knowledge for the most part. The remaining difference then is potential. The recording presumably has more potential than merely seeing. Can a subject be harmed by a process they are unaware of? I make a recording of them and they don't know. I laugh at them in a mocking way and they don't know. Are those any different to the subject at that moment?
    As to the freedom of the observer, is there any argument we are free to observe? No. The record making is special case of observing. In both seeing and recording the subject is radiating energy into the space by their own presence and choices. Recording is nothing more than accepting-processing or collecting the energy hitting the observer - just like seeing. If the observer has no obligation to seek permission for seeing, then he/she has no obligation to seek permission for recording.
    Most of the time the subject is unaware of all the observers - most of whom are seeing, some of whom are recording. Both seeing and recording are a "collecting" mechanism based on the "output" of the subject's energy fields. Since the harm to the subject is all potential harm, based on some future use of the seeing or recording, it is a phantom harm, and not real. If we allow ethical prohibitions on unreal phantom effects, we have chaos.
    The subject controls the release and distribution of their own energy. Choosing bathing suits, uniforms, places to go, things to say, poses to take, is all subject controlled. Observers are acted upon by the energy falling on them from the subject behaviors and choices. Seeing or recording this energy can't be subject to permissions for both practical reasons and logical reasons. All the harms possible in the subject observer realm are potential harms that would occur by secondary actions of the observer, such as publishing, which are not part of this question. Therefore, the recording itself of any subject in public is a right and acceptable behavior by observers. The future use of that recording may separately involve a host of other ethical considerations.
     
  94. Since the harm to the subject is all potential harm, based on some future use of the seeing or recording, it is a phantom harm, and not real.​
    That is the time zero case, only. Only. And the only thing that is not real or phantomic is the assumption that the future use of the recorded image carries no possible harm for the subject.
    Which is confirmed as false by those cases in which the unwanted, unauthorized use of a photograph is challenged in the courts and the photographer is penalized. The society, via its legal system, judges that the photographer has invaded the rights of the subject. A breech of ethics occurred. If the photographer had instead chosen to request permission of the subject to publish his or her recorded image ethics would not enter into the question. I cited one example of this. There are no doubt others.
     
  95. I certainly agree that it is wrong to assume there is no possible harm in future use. And that was never argued by me. That is also true of photographs taken with permission. That's why the two acts - photographing and publishing - are being treated separately.
    It's also true that a simple observation with eyes can be misused in future ways. And once again, that tends to negate any fundamental difference between a recording and an observation. Their potential for harm lying in future actions.
    If you do the "algebra" and factor this out, you see that all that matters in any of this is the publishing aspect of it, not the recording or observation - which are by their essence neutral and without harm.
     
  96. m, I understand your points.
    However, in regard to your last sentence ("not the recording or observation - which are by their essence neutral and without harm."), is it all that easy for you to ignore an obviously signaled displeasure of someone you are pointing a camera at, or, equally important, the cultural choices of some foreign populations and/or the not foreign but religious or social groups in your country to not be photographic subjects even in public places (Quakers, others)? Is it right to impose your ethics on theirs?
     
  97. Arthur,
    I would hope I don't ignore it. But I would give consideration based on my style and sensitivity, not my ethics. So, I can see a situation where I might be saying internally that there's no ethical prohibition against me taking the photo, but out of consideration, politeness, empathy, sympathy or other emotions of the moment, I will pass on the opportunity. This means I am using a more casual and informal filter of my actions than ethics. Does that make any sense to you?
    I suppose I am saying that our actions are moderating by a pyramid of constraints. At the top I could say is the Law. I don't want to break the law. Next is morality and ethics. I don't want to violate my ethics or commit immoral acts. And finally, there is my style (personality), in which I seek to "do good works," as an example, or treat people with compassion, or contribute to society, and so on. This final filter on my actions serves me pretty well. I've been taking photographs for 40 years and have only a few instances where I know I violated someone's interests in favor of my own. Like Fred says, we aren't perfect in this regard.
    Although I take a lot of my photographs in the street, and in public, and of people without their permission, I wouldn't want you to go away with the impression that I am jamming my lens in people's lives against their will like a renegade paparazzi, or with their displeasure. My style prevents me from doing that - with the exceptional mistake as described. What allows me to do this kind of photography is my clear understanding of the ethics involved. I don't fret, I don't have self doubt, and I don't hesitate to pursue my art in a way that I think is a positive contribution to my existence.
    We never have perfect information about anything. If we did, we might discover that many of our actions have some obscure harm to others. We'd be frozen like a centipede trying to decide which leg to move next. Life is a continuous stream of unintended consequences.
     
  98. Well said.
    Some night call your sensitivity (style is another thing) a real part of your ethics, but whatever, or however you think of it, or choose to classify it, I think we agree with that opening towards your subjects.
     
  99. @m:
    The explosion of public photography with cell phones and such make it all the more timely.​
    Other developments where this discussion would be relevant are security cameras and Google Glass.

    @William:
    These observations form part of the reasons why I suggested that any discussion be predicted upon discussion of the ethics of making any record, without consent.
    I agree. Now let's see if we can settle this question.
    More importantly your question and my answer to it have nothing to do with what I have chosen to contribute on this thread.
    OK, there was a misunderstanding, but we can reset the discussion to the point that you mentioned and that I quoted earlier - the ethics of making a recording without consent. We are trying to decide if simply taking a record can be determined to be good or bad. My position (and I believe that is m's as well, unless I misunderstood his statements) is that you cannot make an ethical judgement about mere recording - you need to consider use or the possibility of use (what I called publishing).
    I gave a framework​
    You just made a claim that recording is something that we can pass an ethical judgement on. That claim has not been validated yet.
    I did think that this fundamental question was what the OP was asking.​
    I don't think we should be concerned at this point with the intent of the OP. The person that wrote it joined this forum just to express disapproval with the work of a forum member and to get some other members incensed against him. They had no interest in a discussion of ethics.

    @Arthur:
    That is the time zero case, only. Only. And the only thing that is not real or phantomic is the assumption that the future use of the recorded image carries no possible harm for the subject.​
    Yes, but you see, now you are talking about use. The recording only happens at that time zero. If you want to restrict recording because of use, you are not making an ethical judgement, but simply a practical one of protecting the subject from potential future harm incurred from that recording - you are discussing a matter of security, not of ethics.
    The society, via its legal system, judges that the photographer has invaded the rights of the subject. A breech of ethics occurred.​
    That does not follow - law and ethics are two distinct fields. Here is a relevant quote from wikipedia:
    According to Dr. Richard Paul and Dr. Linda Elder of the Foundation for Critical Thinking, "most people confuse ethics with behaving in accordance with social conventions, religious beliefs and the law", and don't treat ethics as a stand-alone concept.​
    PS: If we ever manage to get beyond this step about the ethics of recording, perhaps we can get to the more complex and interesting part of discussing the ethics of publishing.
     
  100. Ethics relate not just to the moment of capture but to the behaviour of the photographer as a consequence of that capture.
    Ethics is generally defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.
    Ethics applies absolutely to what the photographer does in regard to his human subject. This is true whether you accept one or the other schools of ethics. They each pretty much relate to the same moral responsibility a person has in his actions as I have been trying to indicate. From the Oxford dictionary:
    "Schools of ethics in Western philosophy can be divided, very roughly, into three sorts. The first, drawing on the work of Aristotle, holds that the virtues (such as justice, charity, and generosity) are dispositions to act in ways that benefit both the person possessing them and that person’s society. The second, defended particularly by Kant, makes the concept of duty central to morality: humans are bound, from a knowledge of their duty as rational beings, to obey the categorical imperative to respect other rational beings. Thirdly, utilitarianism asserts that the guiding principle of conduct should be the greatest happiness or benefit of the greatest number."
    You may be speaking of the question of law, but I prefer to relate this subject to one of ethics, of one of moral principles, as the OP addressed.
     
  101. The thing is, it's bad etiquette to not get permission of the women photographed at the beach in their bathing suits and I would feel like a perv where I to make a hobby out of that. How someone else deals with that etiquette issue isn't my concern, whether they are a professional, get releases, don't, I don't know, I don't particularly care or care about ethics used to excuse bad etiquette. Except:
    When I walk through a local park on my way to a nature area, I pass soccer games, softball games, and a few times parents have introduced themselves to ask me if I'm taking pictures of their kids. I'm not, I don't, but the long lens isn't casual, I understand their concerns, and I explain that I'm passing through and not there to take such pictures. Walking along a busy public street to the entrance to the nature area, at times someone driving by yells something like "perv", probably because of the long lens and the behavior of some with their long lenses on at the beach.
     
  102. Ethics is generally defined as moral principles that govern a person’s behaviour or the conducting of an activity.​
    Ethics is the philosophy of morality. It is not just a collection of moral principles. What you stated is somewhat similar to saying that thinking is defined as ideas that govern one's conversation. As for the other observations, it appears that you are getting confused - for example, you brought up the law, not me.
     
  103. Hello Laurentiu,
    I mentioned the law in a particular case where a photographer was found guilty in court for using an image of a person that had not consented to being photographed or to having the image used without her approval. But I had no intention of mixing law and ethics, the dichotomy of which you mentioned in your next to last post.
    As for the definition, it is one of two given in the Oxford dictionary, which is normally fairly reliable. That ethics is also more than simply moral principles is not denied.
     
  104. As for the definition, it is one of two given in the Oxford dictionary, which is normally fairly reliable.​
    I am going by the second Oxford definition:
    [usually treated as singular] the branch of knowledge that deals with moral principles:​
    It is this meaning that is used on Wikipedia as well, which I had just quoted earlier:
    Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that involves systematizing, defending and recommending concepts of right and wrong conduct.​
    I guess what confuses me about these threads is that this part of the forum is called "philosophy of photography". However, on closer look, a better description of the content is: "photography related opinions and anecdotes".
    I guess this is because many posters work with the second definition of philosophy from Oxford:
    a theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour​
    This actually sounds more formal than it is. The Oxford example provides a much better context:
    don’t expect anything and you won’t be disappointed, that’s my philosophy
    A fitting advice too.
     
  105. colin mclatchie: Lets not get embroiled in the ethical or philosophical debate here, the only real question is the legality of whats being done in the name of ART. I question the legality of posting an image of anyone in a public place on the internet without their express written consent, whilst it may be legal in certain countries to physically take the image in the first place, the ownership of the copyright and the intellectual property right remains with the model, unless a model release has been signed.​
    Having read through pages of ethical and philosophical viewpoints on this topic, I heartily agree with the notion of not getting embroiled in it (although I would like to briefly address the ethical aspect).
    A number of people have already corrected some of the initial (and inaccurate) summaries of certain European laws regarding candid public photography. Here in the US, Nussenzweig v DiCorcia affirmed what had already been common practice for decades, namely that “a photographer could display, publish, and sell street photography without the consent of the subjects of those photographs.” As for the copyright and “intellectual property” rights of candid public photographs, they belong to the photographer (and such rights do not extend solely to candid public photographs, but that is another discussion).
    The displaying or publishing of a candid public photograph only runs afoul of the law in the US when it involves a commercial purpose (“this person LOVES Crest toothpaste!), defamation (“a heroin addict walking down the street”), misrepresentation (“an Obama supporter on Main St.”), etc.
    We can “question” the legality of this to our heart’s content, but it does not alter the law, nor the rights which accrue to photographers in the United States.
    But, for argument’s sake, let’s say that candid public photography had always been illegal without written consent. The ramification is that a vast body of highly respected work would have never come into existence. From Brassai, Bresson and Evans, through Brandt, Lange, Lee, Callahan, Levitt, Frank, Klein, Faurer, Maier, to Winogrand, Erwitt, Parr, Davidson, et al. Arguably one of the most dynamic and engaging photographic genres would be *poof!* …gone. A vast record of humanity, good, bad, or embarrassing, would be excised.
    Let me be clear on one thing. I do not mention the art of the previously listed photographers (and, yes, it is “art”) as a means of justifying candid photography. Personally, I do not think it needs justification. I mention it by way of pointing out the consequence of taking prohibitive wishful thinking to an extreme.
    If you want the William Kleins and the Vivian Maiers, then you must be willing to accept those hypothetical “creepy old guys” on the beach with their telephoto lenses. The First Amendment does not apply only to the talented, the famous, the popular, or the pure of intent.
    The “ethics” of candid photography is something altogether different. (Although a commonly agreed upon societal shunning of candid photography on ethical, rather than legal, grounds would result in the same scenario as mentioned above.) As we probably all know, what is legal may not always seem ethical. To be honest (and as one who frequently engages in candid public photography), I do not spend a whole lot of time wondering or philosophizing about the ethics of what I do. Why? Because I find it to be a waste of my time and my energy, precious commodities best spent elsewhere. I don’t care if someone thinks it is unethical, nor do I care if someone sneers at me for daring to think of it as art. The nature of my work does not cause me to lose sleep at night.
    Lastly, I’m glad to see Fred G back in here! Bravo to pointing out that we are all sexual beings, subject to occasional prurient interests (if I’m paraphrasing poorly, please forgive me). And bravo also for this:
    Something else photographic and philosophical that comes into play here is body of work. When pretty much one's entire body of work or a substantial portion of it is built around such blatantly prurient grabs that have no other redeeming aesthetic or social value, that reflects differently than a few such photos in a body of work more broadly conceived and thoughtfully and artistically executed.​
     
  106. Steve Gubin wrote: " I do not spend a whole lot of time wondering or philosophizing about the ethics of what I do."
    *sigh*
    Yes you do. I have reason to believe that you're a decent person. That all of us fail to one degree or another to always follow the Golden Rule ("do unto others ...") doesn't mean we don't think about it and regret it when we fail.
    Let's see if I can split this hair ...
    I love the work of Winogrand and Paul Graham even though both fail my own feelings about "ethical" street shooting. I love the poetry of Wallace Stevens even though he was a total racist. I am in awe of Newton even though he as an a**hole and an alchemist. And on and on ... This doesn't mean that I think it's okay to be a racist or an a**hole.
    In addition, I don't think anybody has said that street photography is bad per se. Martin Parr's book, The Last Resort, is pure beach photography, but I don't find anything unethical about it. He was shooting "his" people, he was shooting the beach culture, not doing drive-by trophy hunting. Likewise, Helen Levitt, Roy DeCarava -- shooting their own neighborhoods -- or shooters in this forum who shoot their own "peeps"; where the people they shoot know they won't be exploited.
     
  107. Julie, good points and interesting thoughts about shooting one's own "peeps." Wish I was more fluent, but can you or anyone here think of some photographers who successfully did the opposite, who shot a community as an "outsider" and got a compelling outside perspective? I imagine there are some and it would be interesting to consider their work as well. I think you are right, Julie, about distinguishing various kinds of street shooting from drive-by trophy hunting, and I imagine there could be a case where someone could figure out a way of doing even that successfully and creatively as well.
     
  108. Julie H:
    "Yes you do. I have reason to believe that you're a decent person. That all of us fail to one degree or another to always follow the Golden Rule ("do unto others ...") doesn't mean we don't think about it and regret it when we fail.
    Let's see if I can split this hair ...
    I love the work of Winogrand and Paul Graham even though both fail my own feelings about "ethical" street shooting. I love the poetry of Wallace Stevens even though he was a total racist. I am in awe of Newton even though he as an a**hole and an alchemist. And on and on ... This doesn't mean that I think it's okay to be a racist or an a**hole."​
    Thank you, Julie, for saying that you think me to be a decent person. Seriously, I appreciate it. I probably did make my statement in a way that sounds a bit callous. I should have explained that the reason I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the ethics of taking candid photographs is because I do not feel that I am doing anything unethical. So what is there to think about? In addition to what I might call "anonymous street work", I also do some documentary work, particularly with various nationalities of Chicago's Balkan community. I will sometimes start out with a few intentional portraits, but the bulk of the photographs I take in a documentary session remain candids. But whether on a street, or in a documentary setting, I do this (candids) because, corny as it sounds, I have a passion for it. And it started with the viewing of such photographs, long before I ever picked up a camera with the intent of making my own photographs. The more I looked, the more I felt as if I were witnessing frozen moments from strange but compelling novels or short stories. But they were more than that to me. They were the visual distillation of moods and atmosphere and surreal moments that were woven in between the words of the best novels and short stories. And sometimes, just sometimes, I feel as if I approach that in some of my own work.
    It's not about trophy hunting, or being cool, or being afraid, or capturing someone in an embarassing moment, or hunting, or aggression, or seeing people as prey, or any of the other ridiculous psycho-babble predatory-like stereotypes that some people seem hell bent on ascribing to street photographers.
    Maybe some of this explains why ethics do not really enter my mind in regard to the taking of candid photographs. Not justify, rationalize, or excuse. The hell with that. Explain. And maybe that just makes me that much more truly selfish and callous. Because if someone is hurt or offended by a photo I have taken, they don't give a rat's ass about novels, atmosphere, surreal moments, or passion. So, in the end, maybe I really am unethical and, worse than that, too self-absorbed and insensitive to even really look at it. Or not. Who knows?

    [OT: I have only read Wallace Stevens poetry, nothing biographical. He was a racist? How sad and disappointing to find that out. I only recall one biographical nugget told to us by a professor in college. Stevens was in his study, and his daughter, perhaps about 5 at the time, came up to talk to him, or hug him. He turned on her and, quite sternly, said something to the effect of "don't ever disturb me when I'm composing!" Apocryphal? I wonder if you like Delmore Schwartz as well. Something in his approach or style reminds me a bit of Stevens. I love the work of both.]
    Fred G: "...who shot a community as an "outsider" and got a compelling outside perspective?"​
    Yasuhiro Ishimoto's photographs of late 50's Chicago come to mind. Russell Lee's work for the FSA. William Klein's take on Rome. That's all I can come up with off the top of my head.
     
  109. Steve, many thanks. I will look into those guys.
     
  110. Oh, by the way, I'm also aware that exploitation and questions of ethics are not limited to street or candid work. I've thought about exploitation relative to my own subjects, whose permission I have (or the permission of their guardians). Like Steve, I try not to let it hamper or stifle my work. It can actually add some texture to my work, at times by visually/conceptually trying to recognize and address the exploitive aspects of photographing people. It may, in part, be why I lean toward explorations of artificiality.
    There's a sense in which "exploit" means to use to maximum benefit. Then there's the sense in which it means to use selfishly. There's a lot of overlap there and a fine line. I try not to kid myself into thinking my motives are always as pure as the driven snow, so while exploiting in the former sense, I'm likely exploiting at least a little in the latter sense. I've been living with these sorts of tensions and imperfections for close to 60 years. I'm kinda used to it. Photographing, for me, can put it all to good use, and is a good way for me not to dwell on figuring it all out in the abstract.
     
  111. Steve wrote: "... the visual distillation of moods and atmosphere and surreal moments ... " Oh, oh, oh, I am totally seduced ...
    .. but first, we must take our spoonful of cod liver oil on the OT. I give a longish quote from James Agee who is describing, in Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, the day that he and Walker Evans arrived in Georgia to document in pictures and print, the families of poor white sharecroppers. What Agee describes is what I often feel about "unethical" shooting. First, they are at the train station, addressing one of the (male) sharecroppers who came to pick them up:
    .
    "you did the talking, and the loudest laughing at your own hyperboles, stripping to the roots of the lips your shattered teeth, and your vermilion gums; and watching me with fear from behind the glittering of laughter in your eyes, a fear that was saying, ‘o lord god please for once, just for once, don’t let this man laugh at me up his sleeve, or do me any meanness or harm’ (I think you never got over this) ... "​
    Next, when they arrive at the shack in which the sharecroppers live:
    .
    "... the Woods and the Gudgers, all … stand there on the porch as you were in the average sorrow of your working dirt, and get your pictures made; and to you [here Agee is addressing Mrs. Ricketts] it was as if you and your children and your husband and these others were stood there naked in front of the cold absorption of the camera in all your shame and pitiableness to be pried into and laughed at; and your eyes were wild with fury and shame and fear, and the tendons of your little neck were tight the whole time, and one hand continually twitched and tore in the rotted folds of your skirt …"
    " ... and your two daughters, standing there in the crowding porch, yielding and leaning their heads profound against the pulling and entanglements, each let down their black hair in haste and combed and rearranged it (but Walker made a picture of this; you didn’t know; you thought he was still testing around; there you all are … )"
    "... all this while it was you I was particularly watching, Mrs. Ricketts; you can have no idea with what care for you, what need to let you know, oh, not to fear us, not to fear; not to hate us, that we are your friends, that however it must seem it is all right, it is truly and all the way all right: so, continually, I was watching for your eyes, and whenever they turned upon me, trying through my own and through a friendly and tender smiling (which sickens me to disgust to think of) to store into your eyes some knowledge of this, some warmth, some reassurance, that might at least a little relax you, that might conceivably bring you to warmth, to any ease or hope of smiling; but your eyes upon me, time after time, held nothing but the same terror …"​
    Abigail Solomon-Godeau writes, in her book Photography at the Dock:
    .
    "This structural congruence of point of view (the eye of the photographer, the eye of the camera, and the spectator's eye) confers on the photograph a quality of pure, but delusory presentness. A photograph, as Victor Burgin once remarked, is an offer that cannot be refused."
    "Such analyses of the apparatus bring us a good deal closer to understanding why the use of the camera has historically engendered a vocabulary of mastery, possession, appropriation, and aggression; to shoot a picture, to take a picture, to aim the camera, and so forth.
    "If we accept the formulation that there are ideological effects inherent in the apparatus, and that these effects devolve on relations of mastery, scopic command, and the confirmation of subject positions, the notion of a political documentary practice premised on subject matter alone is rendered even further problematic."​
    But, but, but ... now to the good stuff. Steve's "distillations" ...
    I just happened to have been looking at a book of early (1976) color explorations by Syl Labrot (called Pleasure Beach, believe it or not. LOL), in which, after abandoning commercial photography for his artistic photography, he notes the following:
    .
    "The documentary appearance of the photograph was really a bland mask for its own, separate reality. Anything is possible within the seeming objectivity of photography. ... Photography had become a game for my imagination. Images accumulated at a great rate: places and times came to be the pictures of them. ... I began moving in an image drama that I was providing for myself -- a duel realism to the ordinary, daily one, travelling in the same direction, parallel at times, but not the same. Realism, in my film world came to mean realized."​
    From that, I have been thinking about how much I have made a nest, hive, (cloud palace?) for myself out of the weave, the layers of my own accumulated work -- and projecting my imaginings onto Steve's words, I wonder if it therefore can seem almost nutty to ask about the "ethics" of such an imaginary place.
    [Steve, we better not get into poetry -- this post could go on for pages ... (I love poetry, I love poetry, I love poetry ... )]
     
  112. Good stuff, Julie. Thanks. Now, given all that you wrote and quoted, and made me think about, a simple "good stuff" seems inadequate.
    I must add "Let Us Now Praise Famous Men" to my reading. For all the times I have seen it mentioned and read about it, I have not looked at it firsthand. Very, very powerful quotes by Agee. And, to me, much more eye-opening and thought provoking than some of the simplistic moralizing I have come across.
    "...a bland mask for its own, separate reality. Anything is possible....within the seeming objectivity. ...moving in an image drama that I was providing for myself..."
    Yes! Yes! Oh yes! Exactly. It hits upon why both a book I am working on, and one of my portfolio folders her one PN, is entitled "Chicago: Illusions of the Literal". Nothing original in the notion that a photograph is its own reality, or that a particular photograph (and which does not just have to be a candid street photograph, of course) may give the appearance of a certain reality, or resonate with a certain tone or atmosphere, that did not, in fact, exist in the time and place when the photograph was taken. Not a willful false presentation or misrepresentation, but a capturing, in that nano-second, of a separate reality, an alternate universe. "Illusions of the literal" does borrow and take off from something Winogrand once said (Winogrand, by the way, is actually not one of my favorite photographers...just for the record). And now I cannot find the damn quote! Well, regardless, I don't claim any brilliant insight, and don't want anyone thinking that I do. We have discussed the reality of a photograph in these pages before. And, if I recall from one discussion, I even posited that a photograph CAN be an objective representation of the thing photographed. A position significantly different from what I am saying here.
    One last thing for anyone who might be interested and then I will stop talking about ME, ME, ME .... I swear. Ironically, almost one year ago, a PN discussion inspired me to write about exploitation and street photography on my blog: http://stevegubin.com/blog/2012/8/candid-photography-violation-and-selfishness
    Back to ethics. As I said earlier, all of these high falutin' notions of alternate realities, and novels, and imaginary places -- they are true and real for me, but they are NOT for the subject being photographed. To me, that's where the selfishness and the unethical behavior comes in. I can see a subject as a noble participant, a mutual participant, in some surrealistic drama, but they don't know that, see that, or feel that. Or probably would not if they saw the photograph taken of them. I have no answer, response, or justification for that. But I am aware of it. I don't think that my feelings about photographs as their own reality trump any feelings that a subject might have in regard to violation or exploitation. I am not more noble or lofty than they are.
    I also want to look up Syl Labrot. You have given me some reading and viewing material, Julie! And this is not the place for it, but I would be interested in hearing about which poets and poetry you enjoy. In my early twenties I "discovered" poetry was totally lost and immersed in the world of the English Romantics for a while, before I moved on to more recent poets.
    [Hmmm...did you recently edit and add the Solomon-Godeau quote? I don't recall seeing it initially. No, never mind, I did see it. It has some echoes of what Sontag wrote.]
     
  113. Steve wrote: " ... I would be interested in hearing about which poets and poetry you enjoy." No. [firmly] No. Noooooooooooo ..... ! [already looking longingly at shelves of books that could be delved into; poets that could be re-read, considered again ... other work that could be ignored, procrastination that could be even more magnificently embodied ... ] Do. Not. Tempt. Me. Please?
    I would definitely recommend Agee. Less so Labrot -- he's of historical interest as a color pioneer, but with the quote given, you've pretty much got the best he had to say ...
    Having read your linked blog post, I am now annoyed with you, Steve. If you already *knew* that, then what are we arguing about? Oh, wait. In this forum, we like to argue. Carry on ...
    I would say, though, that I (too) get tired of Sontag and of all the other writers out there who are not photographers who write as if they are. This includes Barthes (whose writings on everything other than photography, I almost always love and agree with).
    If I'm on the street and someone is shooting, (and we're of about equal social status, race, ethnicity, age and gender ... ) what I want is just a minimum of consent. A sort-of analogy is when I'm in the grocery store checkout line and I have a full cart and someone shows up behind me with two items, I will always let them go in front IF, IF, IF they at least wait for me to give some kind of consent, either with body movement (making space), with eye contact and a smile or (obviously) if I say, "Go ahead." What pisses me off is the jerk who just butts in front of me. I don't need a five page legal contract, just a teeny-tiny bit of body language.
    On Winogrand, whom Steve doesn't really like ... he's an interesting case. A guilty pleasure for me. See if this makes sense. To me, he's like reading Joyce's Leopold Bloom but visually. As if the movie Being John Malkovich had been Being Garry Winogrand as Leopold Bloom. Winogrand seems to me, in his disorganized flood of pictures and in what's been written about him, to have been 1) a thoroughly unpretentious, un-camouflaged, "raw", straight-ahead kind of guy. He either can't or won't contrive, or decorate or elaborate. Even though somebody else curated all of his pre-mortem books, they're still kind of ... a mess, even as the individual photos are fascinating. I like the real-ness of the incoherence, if that makes sense.
    [In my previous post, I typed "duel" instead of "dual" (SIC from Labrot's text, as my excuse). Which reminds me of a book title I've seen: A Freudian Slip is When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother]
     
  114. Way, way OT, but one last comment on "dual" (and "duel" ...) and Steve's " a separate reality, an alternate universe."
    Movement is reality
    ergo
    still photographs aren't reality
    but
    trains speeding in the same direction on parallel tracks are immobile (still) to each other
    ergo
    still is not necessarily "still"
    ergo ...
    [I once had a Dalmation named "Ergo."]
     
  115. Hmmm...interesting thoughts Julie. (Your posts are always a nice mixture of humor, thought provoking items, and, to me, sometimes an introductiong to writers/thinkers/concepts with which I am not familiar...)
    All matter has movement. Some discernible to the human eye (macro and microscopic level), some not (atomic and sub-atomic level). Not that I necessarily buy into the notion that "reality" (whatever that is) requires movement.
    "Being Garry Winogrand as Leopold Bloom" - Wow. I'm still trying to wrap my head around that one. How does Molly or Stephen Dedalus fit into that? Does Catherine Keener or John Cusack figure into it? More importantly, what is James Joyce's role in such a movie/concept? Don't answer, I'm confused enough as it is. Perhaps it was his zoo photographs, but I also see Winogrand connected in some way to Albee's "The Zoo Story". Being Garry Winogrand as Jerry maybe? (I can see someone saying..."what the hell are they talking about and what does this have to do with creepy beach photographs?". I love chaos. Which segues into Garry Winogrand as Heath Ledger's Joker in "Dark Knight"? Somebody stop me...please.)
    Yes, I think I do grasp your appreciation of the un-realness of the incoherence of Winogrand.
    I would like to get back to the OP for a moment. "Ethics of photographing in public places". Let's turn it around a bit. I walk into a gallery, or thumb through a photography book, and I see a photo of myself, or perhaps my daughter, on a street corner, or at the beach. How would that make me feel? A lot would depend on the nature of the photograph and what I was seen doing. If it was an artistic photograph in a book or gallery, I would have no legal recourse. If it showed myself or my daughter and it was billed as a photo documentary of "Heroin Addicts of Chicago"...that would be a different story.
    But, for argument's sake, let's just say that it was an artistic presentation, with no issues of defamation or misrepresentation, but the photo was unflattering and made me, or my daughter, look stupid, or confused, or whatever. Let's say that it gave me discomfort. Does my discomfort make the photographer's action unethical? If my daughter (who is a minor) received unwanted attention from classmates (or if someone posted a copy of the image on their FB page saying, "check out this cutie..."), does that make the photographer's action of taking and publishing a photograph without my prior consent unethical?
    I think it comes down to how one defines ethical behavior. Using Julie's Golden Rule (I suspect it did not originate with her...), a photographer's behavior is unethical if they cause discomfort for someone when they would not like it if that person caused discomfort for them. Simple. But then we get into the maddening territory of more complex hypotheticals. A man is photographed beating a dog with a switch. The photo is published and he ends up being prosecuted for cruelty to animals. Most people would not care if he feels discomfort over being photographed without consent because he was engaged in objectionable, unethical, behavior. Do we write down the rules and the exceptions to when a candid public photograph is, and is not, ethical? Of course not.
    And there can be instances where someone can potentially be defamed simply by interpretation. Some weeks ago, during a celebratory parade for the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, I took a large number of photographs. I photographed players as well as people in the crowd. Some were consensual street portraits (permission requested in advance), some were candid street shots. One of the latter candids was of a man walking down the sidewalk wearing a porkpie hat. My eye was drawn to him because he wore the hat at a jaunty angle and he looked like he had just stepped out of the 1950's. He also happened to be black.
    In the photo, there are a number of other pedestrians. On either side of the man are 20-something white men. Each of them appears to be glancing sideways at the man in the hat. I don't presume to know why. It was not like he was that unusual looking. He just happened to be wearing a cool hat (I have a couple of my own porkpie hats from my blues harmonica playing days and still wear them on occasion. I like the style, sue me.). In viewing the photo, more than one person told me (all of them white) that the photo showed that racism still exists. They interpreted the glances of the young men as being wary or concerned over the presence of this black man walking down the street. (!?) So, in their eyes, I made a photograph that "exposed" those two young white men as racists. Someone else (white) asked me why I "singled out a black man?" Other people have told me that they think the man in the hat looks cool and that the two guys glancing at him may have simply done that for the same reason that I took the picture. He looked like a cool character, as if he had just stepped out of the Checkerboard Lounge after having played a set with Muddy Waters.
    So. The photo has alternate realities (interpretations) and it may be unethical because it potentially casts some of the subjects as racists, or is unethical because one of the subjects was singled out for fashion reasons (or racial reasons according to one person's interpretation), or is just flat out unethical because I didn't ask permission from a single person who appears in the photograph. Or it's not unethical at all because I "exposed" the existence of latent racism. Am I unethical, racist, or a social crusader? I choose "none of the above".
     
  116. "Am I unethical, racist, or a social crusader?"
    I want to mainly address "social crusader." I say, to some extent, we all are. Photographers take pictures and post them. They are clearly sharing them socially, so that answers the first part of the phrase. "Crusader"? In a sense, yes. In taking pictures, we are framing something we find significant, unless it's a completely random shot. In deliberately framing something, we are, in fact, taking a stand and making a commitment. It may not be the one each viewer supposes it to be, as in the case of your photo. But still, we do take a stand and that's a little bit of a crusade. I learn as much from hearing comments on my photos as viewers suppose they learn about me, my subjects, or the reality of what was taking place when the photo was shot.
    Photographers aren't the only ones. I'm a firm believer in all our actions being social crusades of sorts. We act in public and we affect the public when we do, whether with a small ripple or giant tidal wave. Keeping that in mind probably affects ethics in many ways. Achieving a balance, sometimes this way and sometimes that, between our individuality and our many undeniable social components is a tricky matter and it's often where the toughest ethical questions arise.
    As to the rest of your question, when I wonder if I'm unethical or a racist, I remind myself that I've been gay for as long as I can remember and still harbor, for some known and some unknown reasons, some degree of homophobia that I'd be a fool to deny. Most gay people I know say the same. Internalized homophobia is an interesting study. If I'm homophobic, then chances are there's some racism in me as well. It's my awareness of it and what I do with all that that's important. I like to think of myself as a basically ethical person who has made some missteps and, so, has been unethical at times. Show me someone who hasn't.
     
  117. Arthur - Ethics relate not just to the moment of capture but to the behaviour of the photographer as a consequence of that capture.
    Steve - Am I unethical, racist, or a social crusader? I choose "none of the above".​
    In the capture - none of the above. In the use - I don't see that any of your use of your photograph is unethical, racist, or crusading, so none of the above.
    As to legalities - would this famous photograph be illegal today? http://www.onthisdeity.com/31st-january-1968-–-the-tet-offensive/
    The point I'm attempting to make is that legality, ethics, may not matter and there must be better examples of unethical captures [for argument's sake let's just say there were ethical and legal issues involved in that Tet offensive photograph] that had impact for the good anyway. Partly the photographer must be thinking of self, that he/she wants to be the one to get that particular picture and getting it by pushing limits or blowing out limits altogether though at the same time in pursuit of significance in the shot.
    I looked for and can't find the photograph of Judy Garland I saw at the Annenberg space for photography. The photographer elicited tears from Judy Garland, got her vulnerability to show by asking her a question, something that hit her it seemed to me by the photographer's description. He got to her pain not with permission, but with prodding, and then displayed her pain which contrasted with most shots of her which generally I would just call staged iconic image shots. Maybe his trying taught the viewer something, but perhaps it wasn't all that great for Judy Garland. I think at the time his picture taught the public something about Judy that they suspected and knew all along, sadly.
    On Discovery, videographers were repeating an experiment with a baboon: the alpha male baboon will enforce rules about sharing food. He enforces it by giving an un-sharing baboon a good thrashing. So the stage was set, the zookeepers participating in baiting a poor female baboon with a choice serendipitous morsel, placed where she at least had the chance of getting it unobserved by any other baboon. Or so she hoped. Had she been spotted by the alpha male eating that delicacy all by herself without telling any other baboon about it, she would have been soundly beaten by the alpha male. The zookeepers, the videographers were disappointed that in fact no other baboon saw the female keep the treat to herself, disappointed that they couldn't film her getting punished. (They probably didn't know how to tattle tale in baboonese.) I was relieved. The female baboon broke the ethics of the baboon community and got to scarf down something rare and fine, took her chances, knew the rules. What she didn't know was that some humans were setting her up. The humans were breaking an ethical rule, do no harm, looking for some video that would be rare and fine, for no good purpose other than ratings.
    So maybe the more interesting question would be, what would you do to get that rare and fine shot, and what would justify your taking that morsel despite ethics or legality?
    I don't take all that many pictures so, ah, I guess I don't have to answer my own question?
     
  118. "He got to her pain not with permission, but with prodding, and then displayed her pain which contrasted with most shots of her which generally I would just call staged iconic image shots. Maybe his trying taught the viewer something, but perhaps it wasn't all that great for Judy Garland. I think at the time his picture taught the public something about Judy that they suspected and knew all along, sadly."
    Charles, what you're saying is important, especially when you ask what we might do to get a shot, despite our ethics and the legality of it.
    First, my take on Judy.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ss49euDqwHA
    She was doing it, getting to her pain, herself, all along. No photographer could do more than she was to reveal herself and put all she had out there. Could there be any doubt this woman knew from pain and a lot of other things, just by listening to her sing a song (rather, perform a song), even if there were never a picture made of her? The voice, the ability to emote. It is there. The good and present and willing photographer, IMO, could only try to match her with his own medium, using her as muse or subject. Any good photographer would consider him or herself fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph her, because of what she was already able to show herself.
    An approach I adopt with many of my portrait subjects is to try to and hope to match in photographic expressiveness the best of their own unique expressiveness as people. If I want to draw something emotionally strong out of them, I consider it only fair to accompany them by drawing something emotionally strong (photographically speaking) out of myself. It's not to do something TO them, but to do something WITH them. When I can do that genuinely, no question of ethics is likely to get in my way.
    A few people I've worked with have agreed with me that we don't necessarily feel good or better during or after a shoot. I sense that's not as much an ethical issue as an artistic one.
     
  119. On Judy, "...because of what she was already able to show herself". The photograph of her, it was presented by the photographer's narrative as Judy not interpreting or performing, but through the photographer's sensitivity/(manipulativeness??) to all that performing of hers: he got her to spontaneously show something she didn't necessarily know she was going to show and, well, Okay, she showed it, she gave it to him. Point taken. "No photographer could do more than she was to reveal herself and put all she had out there." Good point, and a broader context from which I can better understand that creative event between the photographer and his/her subject.
    Actually, to get some of my coyote photographs I trespass, subject to fine or imprisonment or both! And I've at times pushed them into a performance. Also, I unleash my dog (illegal) to chase a rabbit (unethical) to get a photograph of the chase. I have to think though that boundaries do get pushed in all our photography at one time or another.
     
  120. Good stuff, Charles.
    The irony of great performances (no matter how staged and how rehearsed) is that they are so amazing because they are also so much NOT performances. They have to come from somewhere in the actor's or singer's soul. The reality and the artificiality work hand in hand toward something beyond either.
    On ethics, there might be more to uncover if we look for unethical behavior in husbands, bosses, doctors, directors, and producers rather than in photographers, whether they flattered her or got to her.
     
  121. Perception (>> assignment) of causation leads to moral judgment (see Charles Wood's examples, above). But, as cognitive science has shown, it also works in reverse: moral assessments lead to assignment of causation (see Steve Gubin's example: "Am I a racist?" will determine assignment of causation).
    Ethics is, to nobody's surprise, a complicated furball. Using simple "absence of malice" as one's guiding rule both sets the bar way too low and further, doesn't even solve many of the issues. Here are some examples for you to ponder, all from Leo Katz's book, Bad Acts and Guilty Minds (1987):
    .
    "Henri plans a trek through the desert. Alphonse, intending to kill Henri, puts poison into his canteen. Gaston also intends to kill Henri but has no idea what Alponse has been up to. He punctures Henri's canteen, and Henri dies of thirst. Who has caused Henri's death? Was it Alphonse? How could that be, since Henri never swallowed the poison. Was it Gaston? How could it be, since he only deprived Henri of some poisoned water that would have killed him more swiftly even than thirst. Was it neither then? But if neither had done anything, Henri would still be alive. So who killed Henri?"
    "The inhabitants of an African village called on a witch doctor to help them find out why so many children born in recent months had died soon after birth. The witch doctor decided to organize a trial by ordeal to discover whether there were any witches in the village who might be responsible. Sixteen people voluntarily submitted to the test. The trial was a mild one as ordeals went. All that the participants were required to do was to drink a certain magic potion called muabvi. Muabvi, it was believed, would kill any witch who drank it but would not harm the innocent. The witch doctor prepared the muabvi and handed it out to the sixteen participants. Four of the sixteen died, several others became violently ill. A government analyst later examined the substance and found it was not poisonous; the substance was given to guinea pigs and none showed any harmful effects. The pathologist who examined the deceased found no cause of death and no trace of poison in the bodies. The closest that anyone came to an explanation was to conjecture that while muabvi normally was not harmful to human beings, it might prove fatal if associated with large amounts of adrenalin: a person frightened by the ordeal, and excreting a large dose of adrenalin, might thus end up "poisoning himself." Had the witch doctor murdered anyone?"​
    .
    [Photographs are visual muabvi >>> we are witch doctors? LOL ] Here's an attempt at a legal definition for assignment of causal responsibility:
    .
    "If one attempts wholly to eliminate in thought the alleged author [of the act] ... from the sum of the events in question and it then appears that nevertheless the sequence of intermediate causes remains the same, it is clear that the act and its consequence cannot be referred to him ... but if it appears that, once the person in question is eliminated in thought from the scene, the consequences cannot come about, or that they can come about only in a completely different way, then one is fully justified in attributing the consequences to him and explaining it as the effect of his activity."​
    .
    But that doesn't work as we'll see, below. (and no, the kingdom is not lost for want of a nail, in spite of what George Herbert wrote).
    .
    "The owner of a sporting goods store negligently sells a gun to a boy of thirteen. On his way home the boy drops the gun on his foot and injures his toe. His parents bring suit against the seller. Did the seller's negligence cause the injury?"​
    .
    Even more applicable to photography is this case (substitute "negligent photographer" for "negligent driver") Steve is going to like this one. Still from Kotz's book:
    .
    "If the theories are defective, it is because they are striving to attain an unattainable goal. The goal has never been expressly articulated; if it had been, its impossibility would have been recognized earlier.
    "Let me articulate that goal through an example. A certain town experiences 90 highway deaths every year, all of them involving a negligent driver. The statistics of comparable towns with few negligent drivers allow us to deduce that without negligent drivers there would only have been 70 accidents. The goal of a legal theory of causation is to hold negligent drivers liable for only 20 of the 90 deaths, since that is the number of deaths negligent driving added to the accident toll. How do we distinguish the 70 accidents for which we won't hold anyone liable from the 20 for which we will hold negligent drivers liable? Doesn't the "but for" test accomplish that? Isn't it enough to ask of every accident whether it would have happened if the driver had been careful? No, it isn't. Almost every one of the accidents wouldn't have happened if the driver hadn't been at the precise spot at which he was at the moment the accident occurred. In almost every one of the accidents, the driver wouldn't have been at that spot at that moment if he hadn't been negligent. The "but for" test would have us hold nearly all 90 drivers liable; so it won't do. What will?
    "Why would 70 accidents happen in a town of careful drivers? Because accidents are a fact of life."​
    .
    Nevertheless, I maintain, and will always maintain, that *trying* to drive carefully is a good idea. [Gee, I really went out on a limb with that one ... ]
     
  122. Gaston got to Henri first.
    A negligent sale of a gun: wouldn't that act have its own punishment, unaffected by whether or not negligence, or what particular negligence, of the purchaser?
    Tony Robbins responsible for the burned feet of his coal walkers?
    Regarding the driving example, 90 deaths were all caused by negligent drivers as stated by Kotz. Therefore, all the 'accidents' were caused by driver negligence. All 90 drivers were responsible for deaths because they were negligent drivers and as expected, a study of another town shows that with fewer negligent drivers there are fewer deaths caused by negligent driving. The 'but for' test holds. (70 accidents happened in another town for reasons Kotz doesn't give.)
    It would be easier to get a hawk with prey picture if the hawk was baited, throw a rock to get a 'bird on takeoff' picture, tempt a baboon with a morsel to get a picture of a baboon fight, etc. I'm not the only one who thinks about these things in regards to their photography. It is easier to get a hawk picture at a zoo. As an aside, the only time I've been threatened is when I was close to a hummingbird nest taking a picture. I told the guy to go ahead and hit me, I needed the money.
    Burning Monk photo: http://www.travelblog.org/Photos/3306829
    There was some talk about journalists being invited to the photo session by an intended suicider and whether they should or shouldn't have gone.
     
  123. "There was some talk about journalists being invited to the photo session by an intended suicider and whether they should or shouldn't have gone."
    It's likely the Judeo-Christian sin/guilt paradigm that invades our culture's sensibilities and would cause those journalists and others judging them to think in terms of shoulds rather than in terms of wants. Shoulds make it so much easier, because they usually come from someone else or some other place, like a set of stone tablets. Wants tend to force us to take responsibility.
     
  124. The 'Should' may compare to the alpha male baboon in my earlier example, but internalized. For the journalist, it may be a matter of asking herself "Do I want to participate or not." I normally assume that 'should' refers to a want, the female baboon wanted the treat and knew about 'Should' and about consequences, her want and its legitimacy in conflict with the group and the group enforcer. Not to say that I'm a "You Should, but I want" kind of person, well, hmmmm.
     
  125. Interesting, Charles, just the opposite for me. I normally see shoulds as the avoidance of wants and turning over the responsibility for a choice to a higher power, or at least another power. We might reach some sort of happy medium, though, since a should may often be an attempt to shirk responsibility but choosing something as a should may suggest one wants to do it anyway but wants to give it the supposed force of an outside authority. It may just be a matter of where one wants the credit or blame to get laid, with oneself or the moral authoritarian.
    If the journalist decides to shoot the suicide because he thinks he should, he might feel differently about some eventual consequences to his actions than if he keeps it simple and does it because he wants to.
    The photographer shooting people going into gay bars because he feels no moral imperative not to might just feel differently about a soldier suffering anxiety when that soldier becomes aware of the photographer shooting him. He might relate to the situation differently if he doesn't use the lack of a moral imperative against doing so as a rationale superseding his desire to take such pictures. "I wasn't doing anything wrong" is easy. "Look what happened partially as a result of my own desires and actions" may be a little more difficult to face.
     
  126. Fred I think we see it the same way, though you are expressing it better. Huck Finn may be a good example, Huck accepting damnation for wanting to and continuing to help Jim where the societal dictate to re-enslave Jim was immoral for going against an inner authority grounded in our cooperative, compassionate, and sharing natures.
     
  127. Yes. Got it. We were approaching it differently but saying pretty much the same thing. Thanks.
     
  128. From John Nell to babboons, punctured canteens, and accident prone localities. What a long strange trip it's been.
    I got nothin'.
     
  129. can you or anyone here think of some photographers who successfully did the opposite, who shot a community as an "outsider" and got a compelling outside perspective?​
    Fred, have you considered August Sanders? His subjects were German as he was, but their social positions or interests were apparently not his and he shows them often in an original manner. As the type of photography he was practicing was a form of portrait photography it might not meet the more spontaneous candid street photography type of example that many have been discussing here. I think of Sanders somewhat as I do of Atget - intelligent and curious observers of their subjects, whether animate or inanimate. I can be impressed by Karsh's technical prowess but I don't see him as being divorced or an outsider to his talented (and famous) subjects. But I cannot think of other outsiders except Sanders. Not even the farm administration photographers, but why I'm not sure, and I am open to being corrected about Sanders as I have little knowledge about his personal life or connections or his knowledge of or familiarity with those he was portraying.
    I have been reading (for the first time) some of the comments in recent weeks and many are certainly interesting and palatable or worthwhile; and thanks to Julie for taking the opposing view to the mainstream of opinions (and the latter is not meant as a derisory classification).
     
  130. August Sander is problematic. From The Theatre of the Face: Portrait Photography Since 1900, by Max Kozloff (2007):
    .
    "… as an example of the direst misfortune, The Foster Mother– Sander’s photograph of a group of children from the Düren Home for the Blind — is unrivalled. [ LINK ] … As they cannot imagine how they are construed, or even the meaning of the occasion, the subjects are knowingly defenseless. They fidget or squint in an uncomfortable ripple of petulance that belies their static grouping. The gulf between them and the viewer opens up far more widely than any division marked by class, income or ethnicity, for it is established by disparity of condition — the fact that we can see and they do not. Nature has taken these children into darkness, over which the sighted nun presides, and their irritable obedience shows the power she has over them."​
    .
    ************
    " ... [Sander] had rejigged images from his stock in trade, combining them with others taken specifically for the book, to produce a kind of reading of the German world through a typology of its faces.
    "Since it was meant to elucidate representative beings in a contemporary environment, this reading no longer had anything to do with individuals. Forget the fact that someone would have known the sitters intimately as Uncle Otto or Cousin Erika; they now appeared at large, as personified citizens whose import only the public could decide. Instead of being referred to by their names, they were identified by their professions or trades. Instead of being regarded as specific characters, they were treated as demonstrative components — of a system vast and amorphous. In the process, Sander denatured local, commercial portraiture, his own genre, with a vengeance"​
    .
    On the other hand, Kozloff takes the following as a negative. I don't necessarily agree. While I think it's the locus of the issue we're talking about, it is *because* it has the powers that Kozloff circles, that it may be (is!) used to make either wonderful or awful street pictures:

    .
    "These photographs are simultaneously robust on a pictorial level and yet, thanks to his conceptual schematism, psychologically detached. Rather than being engaged with the sitters’ performance, the photographs are about the performance — a thing that Sander studies as if it existed by itself.
    "The studiousness, as we see, was affected by a wishful scientific methodology. Where commercial studios would have tried to play down the subject’s jitters, piggishness or humility with little decencies or white lies, Sander welcomed such guileless reactions to his presence as signs intrinsic to class identification. An objective purveyor of signs does not care about the sensibility of others. It flourished or wilted, regardless of templates he thought incontrovertible. … Sander’s rejection of conventionally benign address marks a decisive break in the history of portraiture, one that cannot be emphasized enough."
    "… To his sitters of moderate or unassuming status or no rank at all, Sander’s presence, and his interest in theirs, might have been baffling. But it is an interesting issue because, in comparison with the self-presentation of those higher up the social scale, their comportment often looks improvised or ill-defined. In other words, they reflect their knowledge that they were taking a chance with this camera-wielding stranger, be it in a field or on the road. For his opportunistic eye, the tremor of this knowledge would still have been a social discovery, richer than most because of its anomalous content."​
    .
    Compare Sander to Arbus (from an essay, The Question of Belief by Sandra S. Phillips in the book, Diane Arbus: Revelations (2003)):
    .
    "… What distinguished Arbus’s work from Sander's and that of her contemporaries was her intense interest in the way her subjects saw themselves and the mutability of their personae. As she noted, Everybody has this thing where they need to look one way but they come out looking another way and that’s what people observe. You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw … Our whole guise is like giving a sign to the world to think of us in a certain way, but there’s a point between what you want people to know about you and what you can’t help people knowing about you. And that has to do with what I’ve always called the gap between intention and effect."​
    .
    There's the risk, the question of fairness (exposing that "gap") that Arbus is sensitive to (she knows the power is there); that Sander, according to Kozloff, uses, extracts from his subjects without regard or interest in what it does or means to those subjects.
     
  131. Kozloff - "… as an example of the direst misfortune ..... As they cannot imagine how they are construed, or even the meaning of the occasion, the subjects are knowingly defenseless.
    I think Kozloff is wrong: blind children aren't an example of direst misfortune and blind children can well imagine how they are construed because they judge the gap between their intention and effect like everyone else does. Blind isn't stupid. Kozloff's intention is to say something valid about Sander and ends up saying something essential about his own false impressions of blind children, finding special meaning in blind kids being fidgety and petulant when there isn't special meaning there because all kids are fidgety and petulant. What Sanders was trying to do with fidgety was emphasize the performance aspect of sitting for a photograph, nothing more. So much for Kozloff: "The gulf between them and the viewer opens up far more widely than any division marked by class, income or ethnicity, for it is established by disparity of condition..." Maybe for you Max, maybe for you.
     
  132. Anyway, I don't see, and perhaps Julie can explain how Sanders is problematic as it sounds like he took photographs of subjects who gave their permission.
    Kozloff - "Sander’s rejection of conventionally benign address marks a decisive break in the history of portraiture, one that cannot be emphasized enough."
    Why, because he was the first to intentionally take portraits of people when they weren't all posed and looking their best?
    Kozloff - "But it is an interesting issue because, in comparison with the self-presentation of those higher up the social scale, their comportment often looks improvised or ill-defined." Right, people who self-present for a portrait look different in their pictures than subjects who don't self-present and aren't prepared to have their picture taken. "My hair isn't done, I'm wearing my old shirt, etc."
    Kozloff makes much of that "baffling" difference, being baffled soooo indicative of class and social standing, the unprepared subject of no rank, mind racing as he/she attempst to understand why they should be a subject at all: "What, me? You want to take my picture? Me? Huh? Well, yes, yes your highness, go ahead and take my picture then. I'll chance it, I'll just chance it even though I be a trembling at just the thought of it."
    Kozloff: "...richer than most because of its anomalous content." Remembering how my aged great aunt posed rigidly for even a movie camera, she no doubt would have seen Sander's portraits as the work of an inconsiderate photographer, capturing "making ready" the way the 8mm movie camera caught hers. I prefer to think that Sander just liked to mess with people for the fun of it, rather than that in his mind there were such lofty perceptions (choke) as Kozloff's.
    Isn't it in painting, not photography, that commoners who couldn't pay for a sitting appeared?
     
  133. Briefly, in the context of Fred's question regarding photographers who may have been considered outsiders in a particular area they photographed, I have a hard time seeing Sander's catalogue of various German social "types" as being the work of an outsider.
    Unrelated to Sanders or Kozloff, but related to the notion of "ethics" in photography, I was looking over a book of Louis Faurer's photography this afternoon and came across an excerpt of a letter he had written to Allan Porter, editor of Camera magazine at the time. Rather than have to type it all out from the book, I found it mentioned on the blog linked below.
    http://webbnorriswebb.wordpress.com/tag/louis-faurer/
    The MFA Houston book of Faurer’s work by the insightful and thoughtful Anne Wilkes Tucker, includes a wonderful passage from a letter written by the photographer to the then editor of Camera Magazine, Allan Porter, in December 1974. Faurer, who was known, among other things, for his sympathetic photographs of people on the fringes of society, reflects on an incident in which he missed a photograph of a destitute man in the New York subway. Interesting how sometimes the photo not taken gives us a different kind of picture of a particular photographer’s process, body of work, and even, sometimes, as with the passage below, his humanity.—Rebecca Norris Webb
    Slowly I walked down the slope leading to the second lower level platform. Was it because I was not courageous that resulted in a miss? Because I could not further humiliate him? Was this cadaver-like man with no direction beyond the need for food, thought, and love? Again, the thought came to my mind, was I cowardly? Had I become a counterpart to this man? Hadn’t I been pacing, darting aimlessly, without direction, like the man? Later I related the incident to several people. I said, perhaps I thought I was he, maybe I was afraid of myself, but I wanted to think that he had experienced so much pain and anguish that additional injury to his once felt dignity was not possible and that I could not risk accepting the guilt. Or maybe from way back I heard Walker Evans once say to me, “You wouldn’t photograph a fat woman, would you?” and he might have added “and hurt them?—Louis Faurer
     
  134. Thanks Steve. The Faurer quote is beautiful.
    I've been cranking out so many negative vignettes of street shooting, I thought it might be nice to give a really nice one -- specifically about beach photography -- from Ray Metzker (ca. 1978). But I have to point out, and ask that you note, how wonderfully aware, sensitive, and familiar Metzker is with his subjects:
    .
    "Beachgoing is a public ritual directed by the rhythm of the sun. At first, the territories staked out are little more than random claims, and people occupy them with a tentativeness and display a propriety born of knowing that strangers are only an arm's length away. They may have gone to the beach in the spirit of looking and being looked at, but they cannot hide the vulnerability of bodies unaccustomed to exposure. Slowly, as the combined forces of sun, sand, and sea begin to penetrate these restraints, the daytime homesteaders begin to domesticate their spaces, making them extensions of their personalities. Bags open and the contents emerge. In time, the blanket becomes a private room. And even in the absence of walls, these denizens become as comfortable and revealing as they would be on their own sofas or beds.
    "Surrendering in the heat, some doze, others abandon themselves in deep slumber. Arms embrace, legs entangle, hands move with or without purpose in endless variation. The ones who make periodic forays to cool themselves in the surf, return falling on their blankets. Long before the day is out, they become inhabitants of the beach -- creatures of the sand.
    "To take a walk along the beach, gathering unguarded moments, became a consuming fascination for several summers. Each season I would return thinking the last photograph had been made, only to discover another treasure. The many experiences became a unity although each image is a fragment, a scene glimpsed en route and quickly sketched with a half-frame camera that passes for a tourist's toy. What appears in the pictures was the subject's decision, not mine. I took what they presented -- delicate moments -- unadorned and unglamorous, yet tender and exquisite.

    "If you take the walk, you'll know what it's about."​
    .
    When he says "What appears in the pictures was the subject's decision, not mine. I took what they presented -- delicate moments -- unadorned and unglamorous, yet tender and exquisite," he gives the subject the decision. He does not take what they don't offer. It seems to me that he is specifically outlawing what Arbus called "the flaw" ("You see someone on the street and essentially what you notice about them is the flaw." -- Diane Arbus.)
    Further Metzger to back up my supposition:
    .
    "It is not a question of what one chooses to do, but how one does it; not whether it is intellectual or emotional but whether it is inventive, enriching, or caring."
    "Familiarity breeds nuance."​
    .
    "If you take the walk, you [should, ethically] know what it's about."
    " ... there seems to be much about modern cities which of itself arouses in artists a sensitiveness, in particular, to the tensions and desolations of creatures in naked space." -- James Agee writing about Helen Levitt
    Again, I think it should "arouse .. a sensitiveness" ...
     
  135. "What appears in the pictures was the subject's decision, not mine."
    Not my decision: there's an ethics for you.
    I will try not to make unwitting street subjects responsible for my decisions and not look for my own sense of ethics in the words of Metzger.
     
  136. "It is not a question of what one chooses to do, but how one does it; not whether it is intellectual or emotional but whether it is inventive, enriching, or caring."
    So it is not a question of whether one puts a camera on one's shoe to capture underwear, not a question, have you, as to whether or not intellectual or emotional that act of putting of a camera on one's shoe to capture underwear: for the artist's question is whether or not in the final analysis that act of putting a camera on one's shoe to capture underwear is in and of itself an inventive, enriching, or caring act. If inventive. If enriching. If caring. Then it matters not your honor, where one's inventing, enriching or caring may lead you and especially it is not a question of what you as an artist then do.
    Seems to me that for Ray, Arbus' flaw would be fair game.
     
  137. G-P

    G-P Administrator Staff Member

  138. >>> Interesting tips that touch on this subject from a PN article back in 2009.

    Some good tips. Some characterizations that are not particularly true. And some tips that are really bad.
    Perhaps he doesn't shoot candidly on the street a lot?
     
  139. Vignettes far from the beach:
    .
    "With Some Afrikaners Photographed it was a case of tough love. I believe I looked with real affection, even with love, but at the same time critically, and this was very uncomfortable for a lot of Afrikaners.
    "I experience a hunger for recognition in almost everyone. With the exception perhaps of people who are often in the public eye and are now blasé about it -- we all like to be noticed.
    "I've learnt with photographs that if I've done my job properly I haven't made judgments for the viewer. They've got to find their way into the picture and often, what they find is not what I saw.
    "Generally speaking I haven't had any serious problems that I can recall of people I've photographed who've then become aware of the publication and felt that I've betrayed them. I learnt pretty early on that one of the things I had to be very careful to do was to honor my declared intentions."
    [ ... ]
    "At the beginning of the Particulars book, there's a picture of a young woman in a very short mini skirt. She was a prostitute and I saw her in Fordsburg sitting on bench ... I came up to her and said, 'I think you've got beautiful hands. I'd like to photograph them." And she did have hands that I liked, but it was the combination of her hands, the miniskirt and that little roll of fat that women have at the top of the thigh that I find very sexy, and is very womanly. But I didn't want to go into all of that detail. She said, 'Well, 20 cents.' And I said, 'No, I don't want to pay, I think you're beautiful. I just want to photograph your hands.' And she said, '20 cents.' So I said, 'Well, look, I'm sorry then. Don't worry I'll leave it,' and I started walking away and she said, 'Alright.' And then she said to me, 'Come, let's go to Swaziland.' [To escape the apartheid law prohibiting sexual intimacy between whites and blacks, some would slip across the border to neighboring countries such as Swaziland.] And I said, 'Thank you very much, but I just want to photograph your hands.' And then finally she said, 'Ag, such a nice man.' So yes there was an element there of concealment, I suppose."
    David Goldblatt
    .
    "Grand Wizard Tom Robb told me where and when they would have one of their rare cross burnings, or rather 'cross lightings', as the cross is a shining beacon for a world astray."
    [ ... ]
    "A quarter of an hour later the cross had almost gone. Then they all turned towards me and I feared the worst, as I had flashed a lot during the ceremony. But instead of knocking my camera away, they gave me their own pocket-size cameras and posed before the cross. All the Klansmen's left arms were raised -- not the right arm like the Nazis, the left one is closer to the heart -- and they remained upright until all the pictures were taken. I took about twenty for them, and my own camera was the last I used."
    Carl De Keyzer
    .
    "At the very moment that I took this photograph, one of the white policemen in it was firing at me with birdshot. I collapsed, while he shot me a second time with lead bullets. I got about thirty in my legs, arms and chest."
    " ... As I was lying on the ground, covered in blood and with my left arm swelling hugely, I hoped somebody would take care of me and take me away (the police were still shooting).
    "When the incident happened, there were three of us photographers present. None of us knew each other. The Gamma photographer disappeared, but the Reuters one came over. I am very grateful to him, but his first reflex was to 'shoot' me! He took several pictures of me down, then he and a black guy took me to a nearby square ... I have often thought about that photographer's reflex and asked myself what I would have done."
    Patrick Zachmann
    .
    [Correction to my post of yesterday: where I wrote 'street photography' I should have said something like 'shooting strangers in public.' Street is a subset of that.]
     
  140. I think it is very important that photographers can record the world as it is...a bastion of freedom to my mind.
    Restrictions on photography are never healthy and are usually used by repressive regimes with a lot to hide. The lot to hide is usually about hurting folk and filling their own pockets with gold.
    The moral question of "please don't take my photo in a public place" speaks to me of vanity of the individual. Perhaps they should forget the personnel vanity and direct their emotions to the many oppressed and poor in the world.
    Helping them would be a lot more deeply satisfying than the obsessed vanity of constantly looking up ones arse.
     
  141. Allen, it's not about "restrictions on photography"; nobody is talking about limiting public photography per se. Ethics is about how/why it's done. If you don't know anything about the person or people you're photographing, maybe you should take the time to learn something about those people, first, and then use what you've learned to make meaningful imagery. Photographing "the poor" and "the oppressed" without knowing anything about the particular persons shown is based on the vanity of your personal assessment.
    Furthermore, if you abuse the "vanity" of the average man/woman-on-the-street (presumably not poor or oppressed), eventually all that they will show you will be a reinforced and hardened face of pure vanity; vanity will be all you'll get. The public learns. Absent ethics you get an arms race.
     
  142. . "If you don't know anything about the person or people you're photographing, maybe you should take the time to learn something about those people, first, and then use what you've learned to make meaningful imagery"
    Thank you for offering me advice on how to achieve meaniful imagery and be a better person. Do I have join something and wear special clothes? Not very good at the chanting stuff but I will try;)
     
    "Photographing "the poor" and "the oppressed" without knowing anything about the particular persons shown is based on the vanity of your personal assessment"
     
    Really. So I need to understand everything about the individual before they are photographed.
     
    "Furthermore, if you abuse the "vanity" of the average man/woman-on-the-street (presumably not poor or oppressed), eventually all that they will show you will be a reinforced and hardened face of pure vanity; vanity will be all you'll get"
    Sad thought but I always ignore vanity. Sorry if that makes me a bad person.
     
  143. Neither do I buy into the argument that because I'm gay or black /white I have to hide what I am because I might get abused by morons.
     
  144. I was able to come out at an early age and have never looked back. I have compassion for those gay people who haven't had and still don't have that luxury, sometimes as a matter of their livelihood or military service, sometimes as a matter of life and death. To those in small towns throughout the US who haven't had it as easy as me, to those in Russia being persecuted for who (not what) they are, for those in Uganda where the death penalty has been proposed if you're gay, I understand your having to hide who you are and stand by you in the struggle to be treated as a human being.
    It's not an "argument." It's a reality. And no amount of idealism will protect you in certain situations as well as being discreet. The latter, every gay person knows.
    Lest I be misunderstood to be "arguing" for staying in the closet, I'm not. I'm advocating compassion and understanding for a variety of reactions to oppression. Some will break down the barriers and come screaming out of the closet. Others cannot and will not do that. Gay people are not a monolith. They live in a variety of cultures and situations, including a variety right here in the U.S., face different enemies and dangers, and will and should react in all sorts of ways. More often than we would like to think, it is a matter of survival, not merely photography.
     
  145. Laurentiu, I don't agree. Worry and anticipation can cause great harm. A soldier seeing himself photographed going into a gay bar could very well have suffered great pain and personal harm, worrying about and anticipating what could happen because he'd been photographed. The film could stay forever in the camera
    If I drive a car I might run a child over.
    Best never drive.
    If you are mostly a naked women on a beach men will look and take photos. That is a simple reality unless you live on another dimension of your own fantasy. Forget cameras and think cell phones.

    "It's not an "argument." It's a reality. And no amount of idealism will protect you in certain situations as well as being discreet. The latter, every gay person knows"
    Yes, I understand. Persecution of the minority the stain of humanity.
    But you are playing to their ignorant beliefs giving them power over you...forcing you to hide in corners.
    In life , despite the costs, you had to stand up and be counted otherwise the ignorant will control the many.
    Look at black folk and their courage.
     
  146. Cannot hide if you are black.
     
  147. The more you except oppression the worst it gets. There is no mercy.
    Eventually you will end up in a gas chamber and come out as a bar of soap. Reality of history.
    That simply to to understand.
    Sorry if I have upset anyone.
     
  148. Anyway all a bit heavy.
    I'm going to do a bit of chanting with my internet mate, Julie Cool.
     
  149. You have a black President.
    I am proud of your nation that you put your prejudices aside.
     
  150. "Cannot hide if you are black."
    Here are some LINKS.
    There is ignorance and misunderstanding -- sometimes deliberate, sometimes innocent -- when it comes to oppressed minorities. Because of my own misunderstandings and ignorance in some cases, when someone from an oppressed minority speaks, I tend to listen and try to learn rather than offering unsought-after advice. Good advice, of course, can be of great value. But I have found there's nothing like listening and learning. Since I'm not a woman at the beach or a gay soldier, I'd try to walk a mile in their shoes before judging their reactions to things. Since I can't necessarily walk that walk, I listen compassionately and at least try to empathize.
     
  151. This discussion is on the verge of becoming ancient history, but I'll chip in two cents. I looked at some of the linked photos. The women look very comfortable. They probably chose their own beach attire and felt that these outfits flattered them. They don't appear to have been coerced into wearing outfits that made them feel degraded or self-conscious.
    So, who is the "creepy old man" - the person who snapped photos of women expressing their beauty freely and openly in public, or the person who views such photographs as degrading, tawdry, or "unethical"? If beach attire make you uncomfortable, don't photograph it. If being seen in a bathing suit makes you uncomfortable, don't wear one in public.
    There are cultures where women are forced to hide their bodies, even their faces. I prefer to live in a culture where people are permitted to make their own decisions.
     
  152. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    One might now take pause to ponder the "Philosophy" of the Opening Post.
    The author became a subscription member of the photo.net community on August 05, 2013 and immediately made a total of four posts, all being within this thread; and the author also made one comment on an image - all within twenty-four hours.
    Considering the seemingly passionate opening: one pondering would be why the author has not seen fit to revisit.
    WW
     
  153. "So, who is the 'creepy old man' - the person who snapped photos of women expressing their beauty freely and openly in public, or the person who views such photographs as degrading, tawdry, or 'unethical'?"
    Dan, if challenging the ethics of something turns you into the guy you're challenging because that's how you see it, we're all in big trouble and might all have to become amoral. It would be like a racist accusing those looking upon him negatively to be racists because they saw racism in his actions.* It's kind of a get out of jail free card. [*Obviously, I'm not accusing anyone here of being racist. It's an example.]
    Where I think your argument may fail is in the assumption that because women look comfortable and freely chose what to wear, they are OK being photographed unknowingly. Again, this seems to ignore the difference between a photo of something and that something, which is where the Philosophy of Photography might come in. A woman choosing to wear a bikini is very different from hundreds of pics of women wearing bikinis in a given portfolio. And that's without even considering the ethics of it. That can be just a photographic consideration.
    I don't understand the relevance of pointing out cultures where women are forced to hide their bodies. No one here is suggesting women shouldn't wear what they want. To the contrary!
    I, too, prefer to live in a culture where people make their own decisions. But I know that one person's freedom to make a decision often collides or comes into contact with another's. So our free decisions often have to, legally and ethically, take into account the other person's freedom as well. My "freedom to" very often ends at your "freedom from."
     
  154. I might decide to walk through a public place in the "all together...naked". Really folks should respect my privacy and not, and I repeat not, take photos or look.
    Do they not have any respect for my privacy or have any moral duties!
    Fantasy thoughts.
    Another thought.... rights and freedoms have to be fought for... they not given freely. Somehow, someway, a stand has to be made.
     
  155. "I might decide to walk through a public place in the "all together...naked". Really folks should respect my privacy and not, and I repeat not, take photos or look."
    Ahem. What makes you think anyone would? :)
    "rights and freedoms have to be fought for... they not given freely. Somehow, someway, a stand has to be made."
    That's a good thought, but hasn't much to do with this thread, which I don't see as being about rights. There seems little question about the photographer in question here having the right to take the photos he takes. Speaking for myself, it's about ethics and questioning a fellow photographer's actions involving women he photographs without permission. No laws, no rights, just a question of common decency. If decency is too strong, neighborliness might work.
     
  156. Ahem. What makes you think anyone would? :)
    Ahem, but I have actually seen someone walk through the city naked for a bet I presume. A money bet thing about who could turn the most coins to their pockets... a serious bet for some folks.
    "Speaking for myself, it's about ethics and questioning a fellow photographer's actions involving women he photographs without permission"
    Yes, I understand you Fred, we should all stick to taking photos of our mates and flowers and things.
    Street photography is for the wicked without any morals or ethics...how very wicked to take photographs of women.
    Will their wickedness every end...I just don't know Fred. We can only live in hope.
     
  157. Jeez, Fred, we all should be hiding under beds in case we offend someone's ethics and best pander to their vanity whilst they are scoffing their steak... watching on telly the odd few 100,000 thousand dying of starvation.
    Anyway, Fred, have the last word... for me I think this post has been flogged to death.
    God bless and goodnight.
     
  158. "Anyway, Fred, have the last word"
    Thanks, though others might have things to say.
    "pander to their vanity"
    I don't see vanity here, but if I did it would more likely be in us as photographers than in the subjects we shoot. I recognize my own vanity as a photographer. I try to be honest about it and I'm cool with it.
    "they are scoffing their steak... watching on telly the odd few 100,000 thousand dying of starvation."
    All that is happening while we take pictures and while we post to forums. This really has nothing to do with anyone starving. That's not a standard against which I care to measure all my actions. If it was, I'd never dance, never go to a movie, never take a picture. I'd be out helping starving people every waking moment. I am not such a saint. Yet, I've tried to do my part.
    "Street photography is for the wicked without any morals or ethics"
    I don't think this is fair to street photographers. Many are not wicked and have lots of ethics. Many snaps of scantily-clad women on the beach and elsewhere don't strike me as being street photography just as many pics of people don't seem to be portraits. IMO, street photography has a rich history of being something other than a portfolio full of random shots of women on the beach.
    "we should all stick to taking photos of our mates and flowers and things"
    Well, speaking as someone who takes pictures of my mates, I like asking them if they want their picture taken and like engaging with them when I do so. I will say that if one of them told me they didn't want their picture taken, I wouldn't take it. And if one of my mates agreed to have their picture taken and then changed their mind and asked me to get rid of them, I would.
    When doing candid street photography, it's often not appropriate to ask, so it's best to use one's judgment.
    The great thing about flowers, though I don't shoot them much, is that they can't talk back . . . well, not since my college days at least! :)
     
  159. "Street photography is for the wicked without any morals or ethics"
    Fred, I copied that from your post. Obviously it was not you who wrote it. I must have missed it because I don't recall reading it in this thread. I would have remembered such a remark.
    To anyone who comes across such an opinion, regardless of what type of photography they are doing:
    Never apologize. Never justify. Be who you are, and do what you do. If you falter or hesitate, then maybe that's not who you are.
    I am wicked and I have no morals or ethics. I am the bad guy.
    Jesse Pinkman: You either run from things, or you face them, Mr. White.
    Walter White: And what exactly does that mean?
    Jesse Pinkman: It's all about accepting who you really are. I accept who I am.
    Walter White: And who are you?
    Jesse Pinkman: I'm the bad guy.
     
  160. Steve, so there's no misunderstanding, you can read it as it was originally written by Allen in the two posts above mine. I took it to be sarcastic or ironic.
    As for my own feelings, it would be a mistake to take a negative critique of a particular portfolio and suggest it's an indictment of street photography or street photographers as a whole.
    Just like it would be a mistake to look down upon photographers who take photos of flowers or photos of their mates.
     
  161. Steve, for me, at a certain point an ethical critique becomes a matter of discernment rather than generalization. It's hard to imagine that I would indict an entire genre because of a particular portfolio. But likewise, I wouldn't accept every portfolio just because they belong to a certain genre. For example, I do my share of nudes. Yet, I have questioned the ethics of certain photographers of the nude. That would not lead me to indict nude photography as a whole. But my appreciation of nude photography would not lead me to give every photographer of the nude an ethical pass.
    I hope it's been clear that, in this thread, I've been discussing my reaction to a specific portfolio, not to a genre.
    While I would defend the right of every photographer to do as they please (as long as they're not breaking the law), I wouldn't defend the ethics of every photographer.
     
  162. While I would defend the right of every photographer to do as they please (as long as they're not breaking the law), I wouldn't defend the ethics of every photographer.​
    Absolutely. A very important distinction. A pity, in some instances, that the rights of individuals, corporations, and government entities, do not align well with ethics. The original portfolio that inspired this thread is a good example of this. At least in terms of photos taken in the USA, Mr. Nell has the right to photograph women in short skirts and bathing suits in public spaces to his heart's content. But not all people are comfortable with the ethics of this practice. (I am stating the obvious here.)
    Oops. Yes, Alan was being sarcastic. I missed his post, only saw your quote, and completely mistook the context of the remark.
     
  163. I don't think it's ethical to take photos of people in public places without their consent but this seems confusing. There always is a grey area as far as this is concerned.
     

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