Interesting Case

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by jordan2240, Apr 10, 2015.

  1. Found this decision rather interesting. I personally would not feel comfortable photographing someone in their own home much less displaying the works, but I'm surprised this judge found it an acceptable practice. Seems to leave the door wide open to invasions of privacy. Drone snaps a few shots of you naked bathing in your hot tub, too bad for you!
    http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/us/fa...otog-who-took-their-pics/ar-AAaEQij?ocid=iehp
     
  2. Maybe I interpret things different, and I base myself only on the link provided (i.e. did not check other sources), but to me it seems the judge quite understood the complaint of the family, but found that within current legislation, the actions of the photographer were not against the law.
    Reading:
    "the judges noted however that their decision should not be taken as an indication that they have given “short shrift” to the family’s concerns but they said the families should take their objections to the legislature .“
    In these times of heightened threats to privacy posed by new and every more invasive technologies, we call upon the Legislature to revisit this important issue as we are constrained to apply the law at it exists."​
    leads me to think the judges found it unacceptable practise (on an ethical/moral level), but find themselves bound by the current legislation. Which isn't a bad thing in any way - a justice system isn't about the opinion of a judge, but about applying the law. That doesn't make it easier to feel compassionate about sentences, at times, but in those cases, if the law is that way, the problem is the law - not the judge (assuming they didn't misinterpret things massively of course).
    So, the way I read it, this case doesn't leave a door open that wasn't already open, it would just underline the fact that it was open all along (with a limitation put on the use of the images as well).
     
  3. I don't disagree Wouter, but our judges are often called upon to interpret the law, and one might interpret it differently than another. I think it's a bit disconcerting that the law would allow for an interpretation that permits someone to photograph people in their own home without permission then display those shots publicly.
     
  4. Not saying the judge did anything incorrectly, but the problem is that some morally indignant legislator will want to "fix" the problem by bludgeoning it with a sledge hammer, rather than simply tapping in a tiny nail. So instead of introducing a bill that says people can't be photographed in circumstances where they would have a reasonable expectation of privacy (which I thought was already the case), he/she will introduce a bill that people can't be photographed without their written permission (anywhere, anyhow, PERIOD). Brace for it.
     
  5. Sarah, indeed that's where I'd feel this would also head. In between the cry for more security, versus a protection of privacy, a lot of laws have been either changed to re-emphasised in ways that gives the right media sound-bite, without realising that this is an incredibly fine balance where we should all be ultra careful. Happens on both sides of the ocean, we all have our share of populists in the end.
    Bill, I did not mean to imply I agree that this behaviour is (or should be) deemed OK - art or no art - I think it's been an invasion of privacy where privacy was to be expected. Indeed interpretation of the law might be the problem here, rather than the law itself, I am not familiar enough with the laws to say anything useful about that. But as said in response to what Sarah wrote, it is a thin line, full of exceptions - I doubt it will ever become a whole lot better defined and strict than "reasonable expectation of privacy" or similar. So, rewriting the law might even not solve a single thing either, even if done with care.
     
  6. This was not the finding of one judge. The case had gone to trial, the plaintiffs (the family) lost and they took it up to the
    next stage, an appeals court (the article doesn't say whether this is a state or Federal case). An appeals court panel
    (multiple judges) ended up ruling against them, based on the merits of the case and the facts presented by both sides.

    Keep n mnd that what the appeals court differentiated between artistic and commercial use. If it had been commercial use
    the photographer would have lost. Also it might have helped that the individuals were not identifiable (no faces).

    I am not an attorney and do not know what their next step is. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can comment. I
    guess they can take it up to the Supreme Court if it's a Federal case.
     
  7. The trial court decision reported here: http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/photos-nyc-family-shot-window-art-judge-article-1.1421959 (linked to in article in Bill's post). Trial court said: "She said it was within Arne Svenson’s artistic rights to promote his show by sharing with the media some of his photos of Martha and Matthew Foster and their children — which were taken without their permission." Which apparently is the decision the appellate court affirmed. The trial court was a New York court: "Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Eilee [sic]Rakower"
    So it sounds like the plaintiffs had in whole or in part argued that promoting the show via photos shared with the media was commercial use and the trial court disagreed, that decision affirmed on appeal?
     
  8. This seems to be in direct opposition (180 deg) to a case that took place in NYC appx 35-40yrs (?) ago. A photog was taking shots of a model from many stories up, and inadvertently this person, who was in a small garden and several floors below...minding their privacy, was photographed. Can't point to how the case ended, but invasion of privacy is real....so in essence I don't agree with the verdict (no matter which law or banner you choose). But, that's just me.
    Les
     
  9. If you leave your curtains open to the public at street level, you pretty obviously don't have any expectation of privacy, and in fact caused yourself to be in that position.

    If someone uses a 400 mm lens, or a drone, or a hidden camera to look into windows at people who would not be visible with the naked eye, then that's pretty obviously an invasion of privacy.

    Commercial use always requires a release, but artistic and editorial use do not require a release.

    Case law, tort law, and common sense dictate those three statements.
    Not sure why anyone would think otherwise.
     
  10. Maybe I have not read enough about the case, but I believe the judge has taken the right decision and he should not hide behind the law proposing the law to be changed. The photos, that I have seen, all show images of unrecognizable individuals and interiors. Violation of privacy may indeed have occurred, but not by shooting the photos or by making an art show, but by publishing the news of the names and addresses of the people in question.
    To compare this case of "privacy intrusion" with the massive snooping of privacy data of hundreds of millions of people across the world which Snowden has made known ti us all, must be a joke.
    By the way I like the photographical works of guy.
     
  11. I don't see any problem with what the photographer did here. I like his work. I certainly hope this case does not compel legislatures, who are always looking for more laws to pass, to pass yet another "thou shalt not...". It seems to me the plaintiffs in this case had privacy, even during the photo exhibit that contained their photographs. Who knew anything about the subjects from the exhibit except for the building in which they lived? It seems to me it was the chance for a few bucks in the pocket that led them, the subjects who allegedly wanted their privacy, to willingly give up their privacy to press the case. Note the names are printed in the article.
    As one who admires the work of the great street photographers of the last century, I think the pendulum has already swung too far in the other direction of making most every photograph of a person (and now even a thing) some invasion of privacy or threat to security or whatever.
     
  12. The plaintifs did have privacy with a peeping tom taking pictures of them in their own home? Violation of privacy has occured at that very moment.<br>And there is no need for new legislation to decide that it has. There is a need of a changed legislation if you can get away with it anyway 'because it is (a promotion of) art'.
     
  13. Violation of common sense took place when the plaintiffs alleged they thought they had privacy in an apartment in NYC with floor to ceiling windows and no curtains. Later, they were shocked to discover that gambling was going on in Casablanca!
     
  14. So, Q.G., if you build a glass house and stop wearing cloths, you can probably make a living out of going to court when "peeping toms" (and ladies) shoot photos from the outside.
    Absurd and totally hypocritical ! - whatever "laws" of the place and the day happen to say.
    As the article says, if you want privacy, buy stores.
     
  15. Philosophically I can understand the appeal of voyeurism. Jimmy Stewart has nothing to look at during his convalescence but his neighbors. He uses his long lens to do what used to do, look for interesting things to see ( and maybe to shoot). If Hitchcock In the film Rear Window recognized the voyeuristic tendency in our nature then it is a matter of drawing lines by some standard. One which has loosened more since Rear Window. Hitch justifies the voyeur by uncovering a crime and for which he almost loses his life....good luck window watchers! And try those binoculars in any neighborhood and watch out for the 911 calls...

    Guess we have to leave it to such cases to sort some of this out. I say good luck. We don't want to expose ourselves to shame and peeping "artists" documenting their urban environment.... but actually we constantly expose ourselves. And we look for the ironies and odd ball stuff we do in private. ( Who will be the first to catch Ted Cruz picking his nasal passages in his van. You know what I mean)

    So if a young aspiring model andactress took shots of her and her boyfriend that is private stuff,behind closed doors stuff....not for the press to press with. Although funny I got a video book that has a whole chapter on that subject with lighting and so on. I digress..but the right to not have someone climb the hedge, stalk the couple and then sell their romantic interlude to the Daily Mail or Telegraph. I see that as beyond the pale. If you have not seen the 2014 movie with Jake Guillenhall called Nightstalker I recommend it. It is both revolting and yet has a creepy fascination reflecting the culture of voyeurism. And bloody wrecks trumps the erotic by far it says. Why do folks slow down to watch a wreck. Oh sure, they may recognize the occupants one lady told me. Yes, the law when it gets its hands on this kind of thing is sure to have a hue and cry that will end up in some law. Which will try to do what venetian blinds were intended to do.....
     
  16. The plaintifs did have privacy with a peeping tom taking pictures of them in their own home?
    I've lived in high-rise apartments for several years now. So, if I'm in my apartment looking out my window, and I see a person standing in front of their uncovered window in another building, that makes me a peeping tom? Should it be illegal for me to look out my window and see stuff that is clearly visible?
     
  17. Yes, Anders, "if" you assume something that is absurd the conclusion must be that it is something that is absurd. Well done!<br><br>Mike, did you take your camera, go lie in wait hoping to record those people? If your neigbour across the street stands in front of his window all day, looking in at your appartment, trying to keep up with what you are doing, would you feel comfortable with that?
     
  18. I have taken photos out of my window, though I haven't been paying particular attention to what other people were doing in front of their windows at the time. If my neighbors spend all day looking at my apartment, they're going to be extremely bored. If I'm going to do something that I'm concerned about other people seeing, I close the blinds or move away from the window.

    Now, instead of evading my questions, can you actually answer them?
     
  19. Evading? If i would stand in front of my window looking in at yours all day, would that make me a peeping tom?<br>If my intention is apparent, being that i want to see and record what you are doing in your home, you may think i will get bored (You said something about "evading" questions? ;-) ), but would that make me a peeping tom (whether bored to death or extremely satisfied)?<br>Or put the other way round: what would you say would make the difference between a peeping tom and someone who happens to catch a glimpse?<br>And where across that divide would you say the "artist" in question is situated?
     
  20. So, no, you refuse to directly answer my questions. Putting in smiley faces doesn't make it cute or clever--it just shows your unwillingness to directly engage in a substantive discussion.
    what would you say would make the difference between a peeping tom and someone who happens to catch a glimpse
    What makes a "peeping tom" is fairly well established: making a special effort to circumvent someone's efforts to ensure privacy (for example, climbing up a ladder to closely peer through a small gap in someone's closed blinds or curtains). The artist in question photographed things that were in clear view from his own apartment.
     
  21. Mike, what i've given as answer twice now is that there is a difference between catching a glimpse and trying to get a good look. You brush what this photographer has done off as a case of accidentally catching a glimpse. What he actually did does indeed make him a peeping tom.<br><br>Not many people would be comfortable if their neigbour across the street would set up his equipment to record what they are doing in their homes. There is legislation in place that expresses that general feeling. And it would not be deemed o.k. anyway 'because' all you need to do to is board up your windows so your neighbour doesn't have an opportunity to do so. People will, i'm sure, think it better if that peeping neighbour's windows were boarded shut instead.
     
  22. You brush what this photographer has done off as a case of accidentally catching a glimpse.
    That is clearly not what I did. I pointed out that he was not a peeping tom because he was viewing (and photographing) things that were in plain view (rather than scaling the wall and trying to peer past curtains). In the future, if you don't understand what I'm saying, please ask me to clarify rather than making up your own version.
    There is legislation in place that expresses that general feeling.
    If that were true, his neighbors would have won their initial suit; instead, they lost that and an appeal.
    all you need to do to is board up your windows so your neighbour doesn't have an opportunity to do so
    Boarding up windows is hardly necessary. Drawing a curtain or closing a blind so that things are not in plain view is quite sufficient when you want privacy. Seriously, it works quite well. I have years of experience on this matter. Drawn curtain = privacy; open curtain = other people can see in through the window I can see out of.
    People will, i'm sure, think it better if that peeping neighbour's windows were boarded shut instead.
    Yes, of course. Why should I be responsible for maintaining my privacy? It's much more reasonable to expect others to be prevented from seeing what's in plain view.
     
  23. Mike, someone disagreeing with you is not the same as someone not understanding what you say.<br>Discussing an issue is not the same as saying people don't understand unless they agree with your version.<br>No point, is there?
     
  24. Mike, someone disagreeing with you is not the same as someone not understanding what you say.
    So you understood, and you consciously chose to completely misrepresent what I said. And, just to be clear, intentionally misrepresenting what I said is not the same as disagreeing with me.
    Discussing an issue is not the same as saying people don't understand unless they agree with your version.
    Discussing an issue is also not the same as evading direct questions, ignoring the points I've raised, lying about what I said, making up facts (re legislation), and presuming to know what others will believe (re boarding up windows).
    No point, is there?
    Obviously not.
     
  25. If you leave your curtains open to the public at street level, you pretty obviously don't have any expectation of privacy, and in fact caused yourself to be in that position.

    If someone uses a 400 mm lens, or a drone, or a hidden camera to look into windows at people who would not be visible with the naked eye, then that's pretty obviously an invasion of privacy.​
    I agree with those who indicated there is the danger here of over-regulating privacy, and perhaps 'visible with the naked eye' would be the deciding measure, though I still wonder why we should be expected to block all visibility to the inside of our homes to maintain privacy. Should opening my windows and blinds also open myself to being photographed. What if I'm only vaguely visible to the naked eye, but a 400 mm lens resolves that? What if my wife is sitting in a corner of the room breastfeeding my child, and can only be seen from the outside at a very specific angle that one has to make a concerted effort to achieve? Where exactly should the line be drawn?
    I understand where this particular judge drew it, and that he did so based on his interpretation of law rather than his sense of decency, and that's ok because that's what judges are supposed to do (someone should tell that to Judge Judy), and while I don't think this necessarily goes to 'peeping tom' levels, I can't help but feel there was an invasion of privacy here. I mean honestly, what woman wants her rear-end photographed and put up for public display - well, other than the Kardashians?
     
  26. he did so based on his interpretation of law rather than his sense of decency​
    I'm content not to be dictated to by others' sense of decency. If I were to be ruled by what others deemed decent (including a fair amount of legislators and judges), I wouldn't even be allowed to do behind closed doors what I want. Honestly, "sense of decency" sounds like just another mainstream standard whereby American society's ever-growing sense of Puritanism can be kept alive and encouraged.
    Can't we even consider that the photographer in question had intentions that were not prurient or sexually deviant? Where's the empathy for a fellow photographer's curiosity and interest in capturing everyday gestures? Why do we refuse to take his own words at face value? Are they not born out by his photos, if we bother to actually consider the photos?
    Take another look at the pictures, the full body of work. Don't reduce it to the rear-end of one woman, which is the photo that seems to have caught YOUR eye out of all of these! Then come back and tell me these photos are sexual or suggest the photographer was a "peeping tom" more than a curious guy with an unobstructed view of his neighbors. I'm not saying you have to like these pictures, but the charges leveled at the photographer go beyond what's there. Living in an apt. in NYC can be a fascinating thing because of proximity to so many neighbors at once. In many settings, you can easily hear the fights of others, neighbors having sex, neighbors talking in the shower, even neighbors going to the bathroom and passing gas. You see all kinds of things in windows directly opposite to you. That some photographer or artist might choose to express that does not make him a deviant or, if he is a deviant, then I applaud that kind of deviation from what normally appears, say, in the PN top photos: more boring saturated landscapes and pics of old people with wrinkles and sweet water lilies. IMO, anyone seeing overt sexuality or the expressions of a "peeping tom" in Arne Svenson's work here is telling us more about themselves than about the photos. Any peeping tom worth the appellation would have had a whole different approach to these photos and the photos would be a lot more charged sexually than they are. And, if the curtains were open to him, they'd be just as legal and just as worthwhile a photographic expression, even with a whole lot more sexuality to them.
    The righteous indignation and fear of fabricated sexual predatorship in this thread is a lot more regrettable to me than a guy with a camera taking somewhat benign pics of his neighbors through clearly visible and wide open windows.
     
  27. Fred,
    I'm not sure where in my comment you inferred I was referring to anything sexual. The woman with here rear in the air stood out because it was featured in the article and a shot I think most women would be embarrassed by. My point with regard to a 'sense of decency' was based on the appellate court's statement that the behavior was somewhat disturbing (i.e. secretly photographing people inside their homes), not with regard to the behavior being photographed. The content of the shots doesn't matter, nor, to me, does the right of the public to be treated to what some might consider 'art.'
    What if the shots were never taken? Is society missing out? Who's rights are more important - those of the individual(s) being photographed or the photographer? Where do we give up our right to privacy - only when we are completely closed off to the rest of the world, or elsewhere?
    Those are the questions I believe the issue raises, and while I couldn't care less who photographs me and where I am when they do it, I can surely understand why others would, and believe it is reasonable to expect privacy inside our own homes (assuming we aren't breaking any laws).
    I do have a related question - if he sells any of the photos, do the rules change?
     
  28. I'm not sure where in my comment you inferred I was referring to anything sexual.​
    My comments were initially directed to your "sense of decency" phrase and much of the rest of my post was directed to people participating in this thread in general. The term "peeping tom" has been used often and repeatedly in this thread and "peeping tom-ism" is usually used to refer to someone getting sexual gratification at looking at others surreptitiously. Yes, I know the article singled out the photo of the woman's rear-end. That's what articles do, especially when they want their headlines to garner attention. But looking at the more full body of work should help put a context to that one photo and should put that photo and the photographer's series into perspective. It's not a series about women's body parts, though that one photo taken in isolation and used as the article uses it can be very misleading.

    As has been stated, if privacy is a concern, then reasonable actions, like having and closing curtains or blinds, should be taken, especially in a city like NYC, to make sure one gets it at home when it's wanted. I live on a San Francisco street that has a bus running down it, at half hour intervals. I'm aware that people from that bus, which slows down near my house because the bus stop is on the corner, can see into my windows at night. There are times I care about having privacy and times I don't. When I do, I close my blinds. In a million years, I wouldn't expect that in this day and age, people might not look through my windows and even take pictures if they saw something they deemed interesting. If I still lived in NY, opposite other people's windows, I would think it eminently reasonable (perhaps necessary) to have curtains on my windows if I expected privacy in my home.
    _________________________________________
    Not everything has to boil down to a matter of "rights", the rights of the individual photographer, for example, vs. the right of others to privacy. If we just used common sense, a lot would go smoothly. Most people know to have curtains on their windows if they want privacy in their homes. Closing them doesn't amount to boarding themselves up. It just requires a quick swing of the arm. Curtains can also add color and softness to a room!
     
  29. The problem with common sense is it's subjective. To me, common sense would dictate you don't take pictures of people inside their homes. But then, I'm also rather sheepish about taking shots of strangers in public as well (unless it's a crowd or I'm documenting an event), feeling that I'm in some way violating their personal space by doing so. Obviously wouldn't make much of a street photographer.
     
  30. >>> The problem with common sense is it's subjective. To me, common sense would dictate you don't take
    pictures of people inside their homes.

    Agree. Also, for me, having an empathic view with respect to fellow humans, thinking about how people in their home might feel about being photographed surreptitiously, would carry a lot of weight.

    As a photographer I know I have many rights, and as a street photographer I employ them regularly on the street. But that doesn't mean I'm required to use them in all situations.
     
  31. Bill, if common sense were subjective, it wouldn't be called common. I'm not talking about subjectivity, I'm talking about what most people do. Common sense is shared. Subjectivity is individual. Common sense and subjectivity, actually, are sort of opposites! Most people in NY who care about not being seen doing private things through their windows draw their curtains. That's fairly common behavior and seems to serve most people quite well. People who do this don't generally run the risk of having photographers across the way taking pictures of them. Not everyone does it, of course, but it's a COMMON practice. It's not subjective and it's not a matter of opinion. It's what a lot of people do. We can argue whether the plaintiffs were truly outraged or were ironically willing to call more attention to themselves as the subjects of the faceless photos in order to file a lawsuit and get some money. And we can argue whether the photographer overstepped his moral bounds by photographing people in their own home. Or we can draw a curtain and leave the courts and everyone else out of it. This photographer did push some boundaries and thought out of the box, something paid lip service to here on PN but often not embraced in any real sort of way. I remember the old WEEKLY DISCUSSIONS, when that famous photo of the woman jumping out of the hotel window was posted. Lots of people felt that photo should never have been taken. Photography, as much as being about pleasantries and beautiful landscapes, is also about realities we don't always want to face or think about. It can be a good thing when it makes us uncomfortable or challenges our notions of privacy and even decorum. Arbus, Serrano, Jock Sturges, Larry Clark, Nan Goldin, and many others have all had to face accusations by the behavior and aesthetic regulation and acceptance crowd. I'm glad some photographers are willing to act outside of the prevailing norms and run the risk of being called all sorts of names by all sorts of normative-seeking folks.
    ”He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither.” --Ben Franklin
     
  32. Bill Jordan: "...I can't help but feel there was an invasion of privacy here."
    The appellate judges in their written opinion agree with you, agree that there was an invasion of privacy
    "...the invasion of privacy of one’s home that took place here is not actionable...because the defendant’s use of the images in question constituted art work" [the author of the article goes on to say]..."as opposed to used for advertising or trade."​
    So as to where the judges drew the line in deciding there was an invasion of privacy: would have to look for that determination in their written opinion.
    Bill Jordan "I do have a related question - if he sells any of the photos, do the rules change?"
    Would seem to depend on the facts in and surrounding the contract for the sale of any of the photos. For example, if the contract of sale had The National Enquirer as the buyer, that use may be actionable use as far as the subjects of the photographs are concerned. If the contract of sale had as the buyer the Annenberg Space for Photography, that use may not be actionable.
     
  33. In my experience, Fred, one man's 'common sense' can be another man's 'nonsense.' Raise any of the issues with emotional hotspots like 'gun control,' 'abortion,' 'the death penalty,' 'gay marriage,' and even 'privacy,' and you'll find various opinions on what constitutes 'common sense.'
    I don't disagree that the photos are interesting. Whether the photographer was thinking 'outside' the box, I don't know. Perhaps he was merely spying on people, and was audacious enough to make the shots part of an exhibit.
    I also don't disagree that pulling the shades provides a greater guarantee you won't be photographed inside your home, but is that where we've come as a society - where anything and everything is open for public display unless you make a concerted effort to keep it from being so? One lesson I always tried to teach my kids is that treating people with respect should be their default mode. I feel similarly about privacy in this instance, particularly when someone is in the confines of her own home.. The photo of the jumping woman is a bit different because she made her act public. I suppose you can argue the subjects of these photos did the same by not concealing themselves behind shades (though you can't really expect children to anticipate being photographed in their home), and perhaps you'd be right, but for me, it goes back to the issue of, not normalcy, but respect.
    To paraphrase what Brad stated, just because you have the right doesn't mean you're doing right.
     
  34. Bill Jordan " To me, common sense would dictate you don't take pictures of people inside their homes."
    What if the photographer is inside some people's home taking candid pictures? In a sense, not drawing the blinds isn't much different than inviting someone inside, IMHO.
     
  35. Charles,
    To me there's a difference between being invited inside a home to take pictures and taking pictures of the inside of a home through the windows uninvited.
    What if I'm on the 12th floor of a hotel, and I toss off my clothes in the bedroom to go hit the shower, not thinking to close the shades, and someone in a room in an adjacent hotel who has visibility of my room and just happened to be scoping the area with a camera and telephoto lens snaps a shot of me? Am I fair game for becoming part of a photo exhibit?
    Several years ago I was visiting Hollywood California. I was on the balcony of a building, and snapped a shot of some very nice cleavage as a young (but legal as far as I could tell) girl passed below me. I immediately felt a bit guilty about it, but given I had no intention of doing anything with the shot other than filing it in the photo album documenting my trip, I kept it (and, after all, it was rather representative of that area.) It would not have occurred to me to make a public exhibition of it, though perhaps the gal would have liked that, and perhaps I even had a right to do it within the realm of 'street photography.' Now, just because I wouldn't feel comfortable doing something doesn't make it wrong, but what IS the 'common sense' approach here? I realize it's a moot point because the decision has already been made from a legal standpoint, but it makes for an interesting discussion nonetheless, for me at least.
     
  36. Right, you can be invited into a home to take some pictures and in doing so take some candid shots, candid shots for which you weren't specifically given permission to take. Someone sitting on the pot with the bathroom door wide open, for example: use is fair game depending on the type of use apparently. If the bathroom door was open just an inch as opposed to being wide open? What circumstances make something actionable as opposed to just being offensive to our sense of decorum? I don't know really.
     
  37. What if I'm on the 12th floor of a hotel, and I toss off my clothes in the bedroom to go hit the shower, not thinking to close the shades, and someone in a room in an adjacent hotel who has visibility of my room and just happened to be scoping the area with a camera and telephoto lens snaps a shot of me? Am I fair game for becoming part of a photo exhibit?​
    In my mind, yes. (I've never seen a picture of you so I'm not sure I'd personally want to see the exhibit!) It was asked above how we would feel if a neighbor in a window opposite to us was staring at us all day long. My first thought was to half jokingly but half seriously say that if he were cute, I'd invite him over. And I honestly would. I don't take people's sexualizing me as a necessarily negative thing. Those kinds of furtive looks and stolen glances can be quite fun, erotic, and significant. They can, of course, also be nefarious. Caveat emptor. If I didn't like the way he was looking at me, I'd . . . here it comes again . . . close the curtains and be done with him. If he did something illegal or threatening, I'd call the cops.

    Is there a point where we start taking ourselves and these questions too seriously? I think so. TV shows from Sex and the City to others and quite a few movies have had episodes or scenes where people see each other through their facing apartment windows and wind up having sex with each other or even wind up becoming romantically involved. This does go on in real life. And these people are treating each other with respect, believe it or not. Not everything is my Grandmother's storybook and clean-cut engagement. People have prurient interests (and, as I say, whether Svenson did is not clear) and they act on them. It's reality. We're allowed to look at other people naked when they're in view and we're allowed to be turned on by that. Many are, whether they would admit it to others or not. If you take a picture of it and can make it artistically relevant, more power to you.

    As far as empathy and respectability, many people judged Arbus to be disrespectful at first and lacking in empathy for her subjects. As far as I'm concerned, they couldn't have been further from the truth. Once what Arbus was doing caught on, she became famous and her work became acceptable and the accusations, for the most part, stopped. That's a typical pattern when it comes to people who TRULY think outside the box. They are derided until the context changes enough that they become safe enough to be respected. Respectability is often just a matter of a herd mentality and an acceptance of the already-existing rules.
     
  38. >>> Is there a point where we start taking ourselves and these questions too seriously?

    Is there a point where we fail to think about, consider, and try to feel how other persons might feel about
    being photographed surreptitiously in their home? Yes, when one so easily lets *their* rights trump
    empathic consideration of others.
     
  39. Fred, I don't think I'd want to see an exhibit of me in the buff, though I doubt I'd give anyone nightmares anyway.
    I think 'respect' is a cultural matter, but is generally universally understood within the culture. I certainly don't see it as a heard mentality issue. If 'common sense' is standard, then I think 'respect' is even more so, though what is considered respectful and disrespectful can change over time. I just can't imagine taking uninvited photos through someone's window would ever be respectful and certainly not necessary, and hopefully not a social norm. Intent, on the other hand, can be misinterpreted, thereby making something perhaps seem disrespectful that was not. No one but this photographer knows what his was - though I still think seeking permission to exhibit the photos would have been the proper action.
     
  40. I don't know. The closer people live, the more we have to use caution about how we photograph them inside their homes. It may not be unlawful, but it is unseemly even when done with sensitivity and some benign motive. Well, anyway, I would not do it even for artistic or documentary measures. There have been shows, with subject consent, where we got to look into the private lives of people and frankly private lives are pretty dull. Reality TV is not Reality....it is fantasy choreographed... Photographers who want to document this sort of thing without consent do not win my respect, that is me and I am old fashioned on such things.

    Shooting may not go so far as documenting with a hidden video of ladies in a ritual bath, a real extreme that one with dark motives, but even this case istarts to make one squirm...from the subjects point of view, uninformed and exposed to a public. I would suggest that Japan, a small country with tight quarters has precise norms for so much behavior just because of tight proximity. Expectation of privacy trumps photographic "freedom" in my view.

    But on the other hand we have mixed thoughts. (To stray quite aways from the subject , If a women wears a plunging neckline dress, we are considered ill bred if our eyes stay fixed on her bosom, when we are close, does it not. In a photo it is acceptable and expectable to coin a word. )

    I am glad there is disagreement, such an unsettled topic. Always going to be tension. As the topic says, an Interesting Case.
     
  41. If you view a purpose, perhaps even a definition of 'art', as stuff that makes people think and question, the w/o a doubt the responses on this thread indicate that Arne's work qualifies as 'art'. As I stated in an early post, I see no problem with what the photographer has done, even if some of the subject's of his work take offense. Regarding the offense taken by some of the subjects, here are some question for those who think that trumps the works display.
    Photography is instantaneous and thus much more vulnerable to such offense by the subject depicted, but suppose Arne Svenson were instead a painter with a reasonably good memory and saw some particular scene in an apartment window - to include people - and painted it, say in a very precise style. Would this painting raise the same sorts of privacy concerns and objections? Should it?
    I greatly admire the street photography and the documentary photography of the 20th century. I think we've probably all seen photographs of NYC (and other city) tenement scenes with dozens of faces in windows, in yards, etc, and surely permission was not given by all, probably even any, of the faces (not just rear ends) in the image. Since these are now historic, most likely all the people shown are dead, are these OK? Were they OK one year after the photographs were shot, when many of the subject still lived in the same tenements? Suppose Arne had waited and these photographs appeared in an exhibit 50 years from how, depicting life in NYC in 201X, just like the tenement photos depict life in NYC in 19XX, will they be OK then? If not, do you find those photographs from the 20th century to be likewise an invasion of privacy and objectionable and perhaps they too should be censored?
     
  42. Good points, John. I was also thinking about the many important documentaries about homeless people (as well as the many unimportant snaps of homeless people). We consider the insightful ones of social significance, whether or not the homeless people gave their permission to be photographed. And many amateur photographers feel perfectly comfortable photographing homeless people as a personal observation and expression. Well, the fact is homeless people, for the most part, can't afford to have the privacy a home affords. So their vulnerability and inability to afford the privacy of a home seems to make it OK for anyone who wants to photograph them and they have no defense against that such as a curtain or a window blind. The rich folks who live in this new luxury high rise with floor to ceiling windows, on the other hand, can afford homes and curtains and yet complain about being photographed when on view in front of their uncovered windows. Something's off about that picture, to me. How many of the folks living in the highrise have looked at photos of homeless people and experienced the requisite pathos for the plight of homeless people without ever thinking of the homeless person's lack of ability to afford themselves not just window treatments but homes themselves? As they look at and feel compassion for the homeless people in those photos, are they considering that they are doing exactly what they're suggesting has been done to them?
     
  43. >>> Well, the fact is homeless people, for the most part, can't afford to have the privacy a home affords. So their
    vulnerability and inability to afford the privacy of a home seems to make it OK for anyone who wants to photograph them
    and they have no defense against that such as a curtain or a window blind. The rich folks who live in this new luxury high
    rise with floor to ceiling windows, on the other hand, can afford homes and curtains and yet complain about being
    photographed when on view in front of their uncovered windows. Something's off about that picture, to me.

    It's not about windows or blinds. You've crafted an odd scenario to fit your position, where there's a lack of empathy in the
    first situation, and, in the second situation, because you cast the people as rich (squinting ones eyes with a little sneer
    helps), you portray them as complainers and less worthy of empathic consideration being photographed surepititiously.
    What if they were merely middle class or poor? There's nothing wrong with treating all people with respect and dignity.

    >>> As they look at and feel compassion for the homeless people in those photos, are they considering that they are doing exactly what they're suggesting has been done to them?

    What? It appears a case is being made that most rich people in towers look at pictures of the homeless. And with that synthetic scenario, they should feel ok about being photographed surepititiously?
     
  44. It isn't about art if by art we drop constraints about who and when we photograph. This is not the first time we face shoot or don't shoot dilemmas.... It isn't even about motives, they can be pure as you like. The idea of no privacy from the camera in someone's home is getting to George Orwell 1984. Not quite, but window peeping to document private lives irks. How would you feel if you were the subject, and it got all over the place even with faces blocked out, but other tidbits bare.

    ( So If we want to tap someone's phone we need a warrant. Maybe we should have a warrant to shoot photos of them living their private lives as they wish to live it. In their undies or with the house messy..)...

    Stretching of points to confirm our personal strong held views? Maybe natural? Debater tactic. Useful try. The homeless are fair game and if they are then we are hypocrites? Uh uh. Not for me. I do not shoot vagrants nor people sleeping in doorways. And I am careful with street photos, and I do not chase ambulances. Or use super tele lenses to catch an indiscretion of a public person..

    To me that is tacky and mostly artless. Better go take pictures of tent dwellers living in refugee camps. But even then I would ask permission. They share a right in their makeshift homes to the privacy of a home and I respect their humanity that way.. I think that is the most defensible position.
    Even if legally not a crime.

    But I can see both sides. And that is not a wishy washy answer because it depends a lot on the way and the time and the situation. High minded motives, or artistic license a defense? Hardly. But I have not seen the whole exhibit, how it is presented and purpose and its messages in real life. Someone is upset. I think I would be. Maybe not.

    I meanI could change my mind. Nothing written so far is persuasive enough. Softening of stand I do once in a while on moral questions. I am treating it as a moral question with stake as big as we want to project. Or, which is the lesser evil or the greater good.

    I am coming down on Brad's side so far.
     
  45. It isn't about art if by art we drop constraints about who and when we photograph.​
    Gerry, consider Arbus again. She was the first photographer to shoot a population which had previously remained pretty faceless in terms of being subjects of photographs and series. She dropped existing constraints about who she photographed, thankfully, because now we have an honest document of her recognition of a community about which the world, at that time, remained mostly ignorant and mute. Contrary to what I think you're expressing, I think photographers and artists have historically been very much about dropping constraints about the who, the what, and the when of photographing. Until Mapplethorpe came along, for example, the degree of homoeroticism and shows of male S&M practices were very much taboo. He helped society get over that or at least confronted society with something that had remained unseen up until then. Sure, now it's safer to look back at Arbus and Mapplethorpe and say what they did was a good thing. At least I would certainly say that, as it increased awareness and raised consciousness. But at the time, I can just hear the "old fashioned" people decrying what was being done.
    John Petro is right when he says that the best art makes us think, discuss, and question (and disagree). And I appreciate that you also seem very open to an honest discussion and sincere disagreements. I'm generally more interested in photographers who can stimulate this kind of discussion and push us to consider such moral questions than I am of the more benign yet universally accepted photographers who can shoot a pretty sunset or flower. Earlier, you said you were "old fashioned on such things." I appreciate that and agree and I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with having old fashioned values, especially if you recognize them as such. Perhaps our difference comes from the fact that I don't think of myself as old fashioned or traditional, at least in a lot of ways. So I'm often willing to expand acceptable notions of morality and decorum. I'm willing to consider some of the downsides to things we generally take for granted as something positive, like privacy. I think the assertion of privacy is very often a detriment to understanding each other and sharing in many ways.
    We live more and more in isolated ways, watching more and more movies at home on tv, riding the bus without engaging with others in person but instead texting or reading on our cell phones, Americans asserting their so-called "rugged individualism" and referring to most things that are community-oriented as socialism or worse. We live behind our private walls and share with each other less and less. When I grew up, in the summer in my NYC apartment building, we would leave our doors wide open and neighbors would pass by and look in and sometimes even stop in to say hello. I didn't fear my neighbors who took an interest in me. I enjoyed the camaraderie. I can't say for sure how I would have felt about being photographed by a neighbor passing by. But maybe these pictures of Svenson show us that we all look somewhat similar when our faces are turned away and we're doing everyday things in the privacy of our own home. Maybe, in some ways, if seen in a certain light, we could allow these photos to bring us closer together in realizing how silly it is to be so protective of the privacy to recline on a couch and watch tv. I think it might be better for society if we allowed our private lives to be exposed more, not less. That may seem odd but it's honestly how I feel and I don't mind expressing it. I'd have to talk to Svenson to know exactly the kind of guy he is and the type of empathy he has for others and what his thoughts are about this work. But I can certainly see a lot of good messages that could come out of this work. And that freedom of expression, for me, trumps the privacy I would afford someone who chooses to do things in front of an open window.
     
  46. >>> Gerry, consider Arbus again. She was the first photographer to shoot a population which had
    previously remained pretty faceless in terms of being subjects of photographs and series.

    Arbus? She engaged her subjects openly, not surreptitiously. Her body of work exhibits extraordinary
    empathy towards her subjects because of her direct and honest engagement.

    Imagine if she were to photograph her subjects through windows, from great distances, without permission or knowledge...
     
  47. "Imagine if she were to photograph her subjects through windows, from great distances, without permission or knowledge..."​
    I can imagine it and could easily see it being a significant way to photograph. I don't view her work as exhibiting quite the sort of empathy you do. I think it's more conflicted than that and even alienated in a lot of instances, which is honest (if not always easy to digest or moralize about) and may actually help the viewer relate. This seems to be confirmed by her own words.
    "There's some thrill in going to a sideshow. I felt a mixture of shame and awe."

    She felt shame, most likely because she didn't feel totally moral or totally empathetic in terms of what she was doing. I certainly get a distinct feel of otherness (which ironically accompanies whatever empathy there also is) in her work. Working with and admitting that shame and feeling the otherness of her subjects, rather than insisting on a moral high ground for herself, takes its own sort of courage and risks moral outrage from others, which she received plenty of, if you read some of what Sontag said about her, for example. Shame is human and those willing to risk feeling shame are often those who will express something as intimately important as what Arbus expressed. Moral ambiguity is often necessary to such kind of willingness to approach something honestly and from a flawed, human point of view.
    ____________________________________________
    Sontag and plenty of others used the word "voyeuristic" in describing Arbus. Much of the time it was meant pejoratively. The same way Arneson is described. I, too, think both of them have voyeuristic aspects to their work. I don't view that pejoratively. I think it's human and honest.
     
  48. Fred, this is only partly in response to your last statement but it comes to mind as a reference point. I happen to be reading a history of cultural movements in the early part of the last century. As part of the stage against which great powers fought over small things and large things.

    The arts fought or challenged European traditions as well and tried to bring new ways of seeing in painting for instance. Cubism by Picasso and Braque she mentions. Erotic ballets by Diaghilev and Nijinski and Stravinsky
    The author, the very capable historian Margaret McMahan writes that the feeling then was that" a generation of artists should not be about upholding the values of a society; it should be shocking and liberating." To accomplish that, as she says, they tried quote" to probe beneath the surface into the life of instinct and emotion." One could even say human and honest ...in hindsight.


    I imagine that artists are expected to, and will whether we "approve" or not, be pushing boundaries just as segments of the same society will push back. I think I can admire the human compulsion to push and I guess I can claim the right to push back -some. It all depends on the case, and the conversation is never over. Aloha.
     
  49. John raises an interesting comparison with regard to painting vs photography. I can't explain why exactly, but I don't see painting as the same sort of violation of privacy as I do an uninvited photo. Perhaps it's because paintings simply don't represent reality like photographs do. The attachment to the subjects of a photograph are far more powerful, at least for me, and we also don't necessarily know how much of the painting came from the artist's imagination and how much is based on reality. And we might not even recognize that we are the subject for the painting. After all, a woman bent over cleaning could be any woman.
    We live in an interesting age, where many do lock themselves away from personal interaction yet reveal minute details of their lives to others on social media. But that's their choice, and it really isn't for anyone else to decide what privacy they are entitled to. You mention, Fred, that growing up, neighbors and friend would stop by unannounced. I grew up similarly. But you also mention you left your door open to them. Symbolically, that's an 'invitation,' but even then it was an invitation for them to participate in your lives, not record it. And I'd suggest that when the door was shut, the neighbors knew to stay away whether the shades were drawn or not. We should each be able to decide when to open our doors and when to close them.
    Artists can push their boundaries all they want, but does that give them the right to push mine?
    I'd also like to point out that the article said 'most' of the photographs had unrecognizable subjects, leading me to believe some did not. Does that make a difference? (please feel free to read that as rhetorical - not trying to belabor the issue)
     
  50. We should each be able to decide when to open our doors and when to close them.​
    I agree. It's kind of what I've been saying all along. Similarly, we should each be able to decide when to open our curtains and when to close them. I don't know whether these open doors and windows should exactly be considered an invitation, really. In our case, we were keeping our doors open mostly to allow cooler air in during the summer. The looks in from neighbors and visits seemed a reasonable response to the door being open even if we didn't consider it an active invitation. Regardless, though, neither an open door nor an open window seems to be the sign of a DISINVITATION, to me.
    ________________________________________________
    As you say, the point is not merely a visit or a look in but a photographic result. I would not advocate that all photography of people be done only upon invitation or by request, overt or implied. I can certainly understand that some photographers would restrict their photographing in that way. But all photographers being asked to do so would have stifled a lot of the best photographic voices throughout the ages and would continue to do so.
     
  51. I would not advocate that all photography of people be done only upon invitation or by request, overt or implied.​
    I agree. The disagreement expressed in this thread pertains to when such should require an invitation/request. Always, sometimes, never? I don't think we have any votes for 'always' and perhaps none for 'never,' so the difficulty is in defining 'sometimes.'
     
  52. I thought you stated it well in the early hours of this thread, when you said:
    " . . . perhaps 'visible with the naked eye' would be the deciding measure, though I still wonder why we should be expected to block all visibility to the inside of our homes to maintain privacy . . ."​
    That seems perfectly reasonable to me, so if someone climbs up a ladder and draws your curtains for you, that would be a no-no, but if someone lives across the street and can see you unobstructedly (with the naked eye, as you say) that would not be a no-no. In terms of your qualification, the doubts expressed in the second part of your statement, I think it's perfectly reasonable to wonder about that and consider it. My answer would be that we should block visibility to the inside of our homes to maintain privacy because the reasonable standard for not being photographed would be what's not available to the naked eye. So I would make sure, if I didn't want to be photographed, even in my own home, not to make myself available to other's naked eyes. It seems more reasonable to me than demanding all passersby and all neighbors and all photographers refrain from taking pictures of what's visible through my open windows, remembering that examples of the photojournalistic or documentary tenement pictures spoken about above should come into play and be allowed just as strongly as the pictures Svenson took. The naked eye standard feels like it works quite well. The I'm visible to the naked eye but in my own home exception would restrict too much significant expression, such as the tenement photos and many other street photos I've seen of, for example, European women hanging laundry in their windows, kids playing with their cats in a sunlit window, a lovely portrait of an unknown older woman reading by daylight behind her exposed window.
     
  53. >>> I can imagine it and could easily see it being a significant way to photograph.

    As it would be if she shot blindfolded, or with earplugs, or from a ladder, or with a large format camera, etc. - there are myriad
    possibilities that can yield significant outcomes. Yet she chose to engage here subjects directly in the manner that she did.

    >>> She felt shame, most likely because she didn't feel totally moral or totally empathetic in terms of what she was doing.

    My interpretation is it's more likely guilt, though the words are closely related. With respect to her empathic views, much has been
    written about that. I'll go with Sandra Phillips characterization as Arbus being a great humanist photographer.

    But, this is neither here nor there, nor is using her as an example of artists pushing boundaries. I suspect most people here are aware
    that artists push boundaries, even in this particular situation where shooting through open windows has been done before.

    >>> Regardless, though, neither an open door nor an open window seems to be the sign of a DISINVITATION, to me.

    And that speaks to who we are as humans, and prioritizing your needs and wants over the discomfort, pain, humiliation, etc that
    others might feel as a consequence via a default rule about open windows not being the sign of a DISINVITATION - an interesting
    double negative, usually the domain of politicians.

    We all make choices.
     
  54. prioritizing your needs and wants over the discomfort, pain, humiliation, etc that others might feel as a consequence​
    For me, it doesn't simply boil down to such a morally black and white conclusion.

    Some people have expressed feeling a lot of pain when journalist cartoonists draw unwelcome images of their religious icons. To me, freedom of expression trumps the humiliation they feel. Many Catholics expressed feelings of discomfort, pain, and humiliation over Serrano's Piss Christ. His right to express himself photographically, IMO, trumps their pain and humiliation. As a gay man, I'm terrifically offended, even horrified and certainly pained by the words that Reverend Fred Phelps speaks in his public spectacles. His freedom of expression trumps my feelings and I've learned how to handle those feelings and how to embrace the freedom I want him to enjoy just as I would expect him to embrace the freedoms I want to enjoy. My embrace of such freedom of expression feels more important to me than whatever pain his words cause me. I'm sorry for the pain and humiliation the folks in these photos feel. I wish they didn't feel that way and can understand why they might. Since I think they would have had a relatively easy way to safeguard against feeling humiliated and in pain, by having curtains, I'm comfortable advocating for Arneson in this case. Just as I advocate changing the channel instead of banning a lot of programming that some would find offensive and even painful or humiliating, I advocate getting curtains instead of curtailing the freedom of expression of a photographer like Arneson. And I try to practice what I preach by welcoming the freedom of expression of those who hate me, which, for me, helps act as an antidote to that very hate.
     
  55. For me, there's a huge difference between satirizing or criticizing religious icons and tenets, and, humiliating and
    ridiculing specific fellow human beings simply because they are in front of your lens.

    If you need to prioritize your personal goals, feelings, and belief that you're pushing the boundaries making
    Art, over and at the expense of hurting another human (i.e., an open window not being a sign of
    disinvitation), that may be legal in many situations. But others, myself included, would prioritize things
    differently.

    Again, personal choices about how we think and care about other people.
     
  56. humiliating and ridiculing specific fellow human beings​
    The thing is, this is an assumption being made. I don't see these photos as in any way humiliating or ridiculing others. I can understand the folks in the pictures feeling that their privacy has been invaded (even though I think it's a tenuous accusation), but I can't understand the accusation that Arneson ridiculed or humiliated them. They are simply going about their business in their homes. The fact that it's made public seems to bring up questions about privacy but not about ridicule or humiliation.
    I suspect most people here are aware that artists push boundaries​
    I suspect so as well. My observations, both historically and personally and very much so in critiques and discussions I've read on PN, is that there's a difference between being aware that artists push boundaries as a general tenet and being confronted with specific cases of boundaries being pushed. The former, as I said above, gets acknowledged frequently. But, quite often, when the latter occurs and when people actually experience the boundaries being pushed, their general awareness often turns to rejection and even disgust, as has happened in this thread. Now, it's certainly possible that there is some art that pushes boundaries that, for whatever reason, deserves to be shunned and rejected. But I've seen it happen so frequently that I'm skeptical when a lot of people claim to embrace art's provocativeness as I see those same people consistently rejecting provocative art when it's newly placed before them. I've seen art that breaks rules be dismissed, derided, and rejected because a subject is centered, because a street photographer doesn't ask permission, because highlights are supposedly blown and the expressive value of that is missed, because there are distracting elements, because there is misunderstood blur, because it doesn't show a pleasant side of life, because it's not "pretty", because there are homosexual implications, because a photo may normalize someone who's transgender, because there's too blatant nudity. And while you and I may think there's a big difference between criticizing religious icons and photographing people in their homes, there are plenty of people who would come crashing down on us for even suggesting that criticizing religious icons in photos is OK, as bitterly as you are criticizing Arneson for what he's doing. That's why I'm for the most liberal allowances when it comes to photographic expression. And it's also why I said that a lot of people seem to me to be paying lip service to artists breaking boundaries but so often when push comes to shove they don't walk that walk as much as they talk the talk.
     
  57. >>> But, quite often, when the latter occurs and when people actually experience the boundaries being
    pushed, their general awareness often turns to rejection and even disgust, as has happened in this
    thread.

    No, it's not that. It's that some people are adverse to putting and prioritizing their own needs over those
    who might suffer as a consequence; likely viewed as collateral damage by the "my needs first over
    others" group.

    >>> My observations, both historically and personally and very much so in critiques and discussions I've
    read on PN, is that there's a difference between being aware that artists push boundaries as a general
    tenet and being confronted with specific cases of boundaries being pushed. The former, as I said above,
    gets acknowledged frequently. But, quite often, when the latter occurs and when people actually
    experience the boundaries being pushed, their general awareness often turns to rejection and even
    disgust, as has happened in this thread.


    Quite often? Please give a dozen examples of boundaries being pushed that later turn to rejection and
    disgust after awareness, on photonet.

    I have not seen any "disgust," here. It's more acknowledgement of the law and a discussion about empathy towards other humans, or lack of, personal priorities, and making choices when making photographs.

    By the way, it's Svenson, not Arneson (as in the sculptor/ceramicist).
     
  58. Please give a dozen examples of boundaries being pushed that later turns to rejection and disgust after awareness.​
    LOL. I don't think so. And I can imagine certain conclusions might be drawn by my refusal, which is fine. But my advice would be simply to follow many of the critique threads and look back at several of the WEEKLY DISCUSSION threads. It's certainly possible you and others won't interpret those discussions the same way I did which is part of the reason I wouldn't bother to take the time to find examples. They likely would have little impact. And to clarify, just as you have seen no evidence of disgust and I find it rather easy to find in many of the posts made, I see no evidence of things being viewed as collateral damage by the "my needs first over others" group and yet you have obviously picked up on that attitude. Thankfully, I'm not as interested in agreement or in convincing as I am gratified for having had a thoughtful discussion on these fairly controversial and tricky matters. I'm definitely with Gerry on the benefits of speaking candidly about these things.
     
  59. Brad says:
    and a discussion about empathy towards other humans, or lack of, personal priorities, and making choices when making photographs.​
    I'm not exactly sure how to parse this sentence and who is on which side but one parsing suggests to me that being in favor of a ruling for the plaintiff's shows empathy and being in favor of the defendant, Svenson, shows a lack thereof. I find such a reading intriguing and, as one who supports the Svenson side, worth a bit of disputing. So if I may, I'd like to say a few words in defense of my empathy.
    What I find fascinating about Svenson's photographs, and the many other most likely candid - taken w/o permission photographs - of humans in their environments (I've referred to tenement photos in earlier posts here), is precisely the empathy they evoke in me for the human condition. Vivian Maier, the reclusive street photographer, whose work was not discovered till after her death is another case in point. Most of her photographs I expect were taken w/o permission and some in this discussion may view them as an invasion of privacy. I just love her work and back in Jan I wrote a blog post on my web site about what it means to me and why and what it tells me of her. One of the words I used is "empathy". I wrote of her photographs "...each image speaks to me of the awareness and empathy she had for her fellow man...". Svenson's work, admittedly a bit more clandestine than Maier's so getting closer to an edge, suggests to me the same thing. I think it takes empathy to see a photograph worth scene in the windows of a building with only ordinary people doing ordinary things in view. I know that what I personally admire in such works is precisely the feelings of empathy they bring forth in me in witnessing an instant in time with humans going about their lives dealing with the circumstances in which they find themselves. Were such photographs taken with permission, hence staged, that same empathy would not be present to the same extent. A case in point, my own work.
    It is empathy that guides my own rather lame efforts in photographing people. I take photographs of people precisely because I find each and every one fascinating in their own unique ways. I have a gallery on my web site called "Environmental Portraits" of people I've encountered along the way. Most were taken with permission - because I am somewhat of a coward. For that reason I don't consider them as empathy evoking as Maier's or Svenson's.
    The defense rests.
     
  60. John... I looked at your portraits and they are beautiful and move me a lot. There's clearly a connection and understanding between
    subject and photographer. I come away feeling the same about many of Vivian Maier's photographs. I don't with Svensen's.
    Though "artful," they feel like surveillance photographs. And, I don't really feel boundaries were pushed as similar work has been created
    before - which of course is ok as it's not the issue. Svensen photographing the family's children without thinking about how their parents
    might feel, to me, demonstrates a lack of empathy. There are many aspects to empathy, one dimension is as you described. Another is
    putting one's self in another's shoes and being able to understand what the other is feeling or would feel if discovered from their frame of reference as photographs
    are being made.

    Most of the photographs I make on the street are a mixture of both candid and engaged street portraiture of strangers I
    meet when out there. There have been countless photographs I have not made, likely the majority, for various reasons that have to do with
    putting myself in a potential subject's shoes, and considering how they might feel. I also try and give back to the community in which I
    shoot, engaging in publishing projects to raise money for an organization that helps kids living on the street who would normally be
    subjected to human trafficking, drug/alcohol abuse, gang activity, prostitution, hunger, lack of health care, etc.

    In situations where I'm shooting candidly, my personal rule is to shoot out in the open, not hiding or pretending to be doing something else,
    not sneaking shots from the hip or from a telephoto half a block down. If a subject takes issue, I'm willing to listen to their complaint and
    have a conversation. Or to be punched in the nose if someone is that agitated. That's a sort of unwritten contract I have with those on the
    street. Engaged portraits, of course, are a different matter. Still, because I usually engage in conversation and get to know the person and
    leave as a friend, I try my best to not make photographs that might paint someone negatively.

    That's my view and how I conduct myself. It's the best I can do within the limits of the circumstances that exist. I also try very hard to not
    take the position that the photographer is always right, and do not make assumptions about people on the street who have absolutely no
    idea what street shooting is about and rightfully might come away spooked/frightened/angered when their picture is taken. Sometimes I find
    street shooters insular and selfish prioritizing their rights over a subject who might genuinely feel uncomfortable or threatened when
    photographed. There are other aspects as well, but that's enough for now.
     
  61. Brad...It sounds like we have much in common in the underlying emotions and rewards of our photographing of people. While I wish I had more courage and insight (to get that 'decisive moment') for taking candid, unsolicited people photographs, I very much enjoy the conversations and shared stories that have resulted from my confronting people and asking permission. On my web site I try to include a brief sentence or two as caption on my people photographs giving a snippet of the subject's story. I ask for an email address and happily send the subject a copy of the resulting photograph. But, if I came across a quotidian scene of ordinary life taking place in the window of a structure (and all the visible people were clothed and nothing grossly embarrassing were taking place) I think I'd eagerly point my camera, compose and shoot. And for me why I'd want to capture such a scene is because the scene represents 'us', our common humanity. Might the individuals in the scene take offense, sure, some of Svenson's subjects demonstrated this conclusively. But personally I don't understand why. I see wanting to take and display such a photograph as celebrating our shared humanity.
    I don't know all the details in what happened in the Svenson case, but I will concede that when the subject's saw the photographs of themselves and if they then asked Svenson to remove them he should have acceded to the request - out of empathy for their concerns. I don't know if this was done or not. But if he refused, then while I lose some respect for Svenson, I don't think that the subjects should have legal recourse. If he acquiesced to their request, but the subject's responded that since the pictures were already displayed the harm was done so we are taking you to court, then I lose lots for respect for the subjects.
    For the record I am sitting here typing this in front of a window that often has the blinds raised. If someone comes by with a camera and wants to capture this scene of me in my house engaging in this humdrum activity I say, "have at it!". Could it make an engaging photograph? In my estimation, yes (and I don't say this because I'm in it). Besides....it could be the only way I'll ever have connection to a photograph on display in the MoMA ;-)
     
  62. >>> Brad...It sounds like we have much in common in the underlying emotions and rewards of our photographing of people.

    I think we do as well, John. I also ask subjects if they have email and have forwarded many photographs. Unfortunately though, some
    people in some areas do not have regular internet access or email. Many times I would make prints from an Epson 4x6 printer I have
    at home and carry a dozen or two of them in my bag - prints are cheap at less than 25 cents each. Often I'd find previous subjects
    on the street months later and give them a photo. One subject I encountered a 2nd time, kind of a tough guy, became teary-eyed when I gave him a photo of himself I made six months earlier - he never had a
    photo of himself and it was a very emotional moment.

    In the past, I've said that when shooting on the street, and especially making street portraits, coming away with a photo was
    secondary - and what jazzed me was the engagement and learning something new from someone I just met. That's mostly what
    drives me. Of course I still like to make photographs, but it's engagement and friend-making that makes my day.
     
  63. This should address your question about removal, John, at least in part.
    From PDN, by David Walker
    Svenson has said he tried to avoid photographing the faces of his subjects to conceal their identities. But the images included two of the Fosters’ children, Delaney and James. And in one of the images, Delaney’s face is identifiable.
    Svenson complied with the plaintiffs’ request to withdraw the two images of the children. The Fosters then sued to get a court injunction to stop Svenson from showing the images in the future. They also sought monetary damages. But Svenson argued that because his images were art, they were protected by the First Amendment. The lower court agreed, and dismissed the Fosters’ claim.​
    __________________________________________________________
    I brought up the class issue earlier. A lot of significant photography and art addresses social issues and class distinctions and I thought all along there was some relevance to this being a series of photos taken through unobstructed floor to ceiling windows in a luxury apartment building. In further research, I found I wasn't alone in my thinking and thought I'd share part of an article that appeared in The Guardian by Jill Filipovic. I don't know whether what Filipovic is talking about was even a part of Svenson's motivation (he, himself, hasn't talked about it in any sources I read through), but it's still an interesting reading of the series, not to mention gets to at least some irony surrounding the monetary damages part of the lawsuit that ensued:
    Though we may literally live stacked on top of one and other, making privacy an illusion, that facade of privacy keeps us sane. It's one thing to accept the fact that your neighbor might catch a glimpse of you getting ready for work; it's another to live understanding that you may be covertly photographed, and your image sold for thousands of dollars out of a Chelsea gallery.
    And yet that is a truth about living in New York: you may be covertly photographed, and your image may be sold for thousands of dollars out of a gallery. That is also the power of Svenson's art: it challenges the artificial lines we draw around the public and the private, especially in a place where true privacy is a luxury. It also shines a light on the fact that for the many in this city who live in luxury, part of the appeal is in its display.
    The very homes Svenson photographs offer only a transparent line between private abode and public display – they're showcase homes, with walls made of glass that are meant to let the casual observer see in as much as they allow the residents to see out. Their windows are frames for their interior; residents know people can see in, and furniture and art are positioned accordingly. The home is itself a piece of art, designed and owned by the person living in it. When Svenson shifts that ownership – complete with human being inside – to be his art, it's uncomfortable for the person who was previously creator of the space. Now they're just an object in a frame, like the chair they carefully selected for display.
    That his photos depict the rich inside glass homes – designed to be envied – is partially why, I suspect, it's easier to see Svenson's photos as art rather than violations. That he used a telephoto lens makes the photographs more offensive, but he wasn't peering into anything that the residents were trying to hide – as noted, part of the appeal of the real estate he photographed is its exhibition architecture.​
     
  64. Bill, THIS HOPPER PAINTING came to mind and relates to your post about painting and photography. For me, Hopper's paintings have always seemed exceptionally realistic and I don't know that I'd agree that painting doesn't have as much reality as photography. But, there does seem a very interesting sort of connection/disconnection between the person/thing photographed and the person/thing when it appears in the photograph. I tend often to at least partially disconnect photographed things and people from what was originally photographed. I think some, perhaps even many photographers do this and a famous one has quotes about that difference but these quotes are trotted out too often so I won't do that here. So, honestly, when I look at pictures of myself and when I look at portraits I've done and when I look at Svenson's work, I see them at least to some extent (not completely, of course) in the same sort of abstract way I would view the part of the woman in Hopper's painting, as not necessarily even representing the original people that were photographed just as Hopper's woman may very well not be based on an actual woman he saw in an actual window somewhere. I think that's part of the transformative aspect of photographing something or someone. The photo, for me, often both is and is not representative of the living breathing person or the actual thing originally photographed. The balance and extent of that possible separation will depend on the particular photograph, style, and approach. Again, this is how I experience photographs. Most people probably think of the real people and things the photographer was standing before, and though I might see a lot of Hopper in Svenson's work and therefore tend to disconnect the people in his photographs from who they actually were and might not even have thought about who they actually were had it not been for the lawsuit, I do understand why many people (particularly those involved) connected the photos to the real people in that building. I agree with what John said about Svenson's work having the ability, if we let it, to connect us to each other more than divide us from each other. In a sense, those simple daily gestures seen through the unobstructed windows, are all of us and I can view them universally and as a bond among us and probably would have done so much more before the lawsuit made them so much more connected to the real individuals for me.
     
  65. Fred.....Here, here! Thanks for the ref to the Hopper painting. In my 'artist statement' that I post at the few local gallery shows I've had, I list Hopper as one of my inspirations. The one you link to perfectly demonstrates my earlier question about painting vs photography, and further shows that such images evoke empathy for the human condition - where we live and how we live. You nailed it for me in saying "...see a lot of Hopper in Svenson's work". I did and do. Most of your analysis throughout this entire thread has resonated with me. Finally, I am glad to hear Svenson offered to withdraw some images (now maybe he did so under the threat of lawsuit) and I'm sorry to hear that nevertheless the subjects wanted some monetary compensation.
    Brad....Here, here, as well. I too have both hand delivered and sent printed photographs via the good old USPS to probably a half dozen or so of the folks in my "environmental portrait" collection. The encounters I've had with people thanks to my camera (I am an introvert) have been very rewarding for me. Making one such encounter can make my day, yes, even sometimes when the intended subject says no to the photograph or as happened recently in Santa Fe, a lovely young woman agrees to the photograph but asks that I not post it on my web site - I acceded to her request but this was disappointing since to me a photograph's value is to be shared and seen by others.
    To conclude (is anyone still there?), we are in the midst of a major transformation in coming to terms with the fact that everything we do and say can be recorded and saved and played back AND shown to the world. In the 20th century and earlier such stuff was novel and hence the subjects of such recordings were generally happy to be the subject. Now it is not only NOT novel, it is pervasive, and it is becoming the exception to find a place or activity where we are NOT being recorded. And so we grasp and fight back at the few instances where perhaps we can hold on to some privacy and what suffers is something like Svenson's work which is really one of the least threatening (and actually to me, uplifting) invasions of privacy his subjects will probably ever experience going forward in the 21st century.
     
  66. I applaud the thoughtful and civil discussion here. Many valid points on different sides of the issue, and while I am not convinced that what the photographer did was respectful, honorable, or even useful, I do understand why others would disagree.
    Fred, I appreciate the link to the Hopper work. I think we tend to disconnect with strangers whether they are in a photo or painting, though when I look at a painting of a realistic scene, I tend to focus more on the detail the artist was able to achieve and the technical merits more than the scene itself, while with a photo, I tend to focus more on the overall scene.
    So, for example, if I were to see a painting of a homeless child huddled in a corner under a makeshift lean-to on a cold winter morning, I wouldn't view it in quite the same way as a photo of the same. The photo would be far more powerful, to me, in its ability to generate a feeling of sympathy and sadness, while in the painting, I'd be more engaged in looking at how the artist was able to capture every fold in a blanket or the forlorn look in the child's eyes.
    I'm not suggesting that is the correct way of viewing those things - it's simply how I do it. Perhaps it is different, though, when we recognize the subject. If I knew the child in the painting, and therefore knew the scene was real, would it make a difference? I really don't know. Perhaps this is a bit off topic, but I think it might help explain why someone would be more objectionable to a photograph than a painting, and feel more violated by one over the other.
    As far as whether or not Svenson's work has the ability to connect us more than divide us, that may be true, but would it be any less true had he asked the subjects for permission to display the photographs once he'd taken them? I don't think class matters at all in this issue.
     
  67. As far as whether or not Svenson's work has the ability to connect us more than divide us, that may be true, but would it be any less true had he asked the subjects for permission to display the photographs once he'd taken them?​
    It might very well be less true because they might not have given their permission so we wouldn't have seen them in the first place and would therefore have missed the opportunity to even consider that.
    Now, if someone asked me to take down a photo, I'd respond the way Svenson did and take it down. And there have been instances where I have asked permission before printing or showing a photo. But I'm not in the habit of doing so when I'm shooting people who I haven't made prior arrangements with. And I don't expect my own practices to be followed by other photographers and am actually glad they're not. I would not want all photographers, and am glad Svenson didn't, to ask for permission from their subjects to use photographs of them, whether they're in their homes on view to the public or out on the street on view to the public.
    There have been plenty of too important pictures taken over the last century that would have been withheld from our group consciousness had the subjects or their parents or families been given the power to decide what can and can't be shown. I have to wonder how Kim Phuc and/or her parents and family (if they were still alive) would have answered had they been asked permission if their daughter's picture, running nude down the road at such a moment of extreme personal terror and danger, could be shown. There's a sense in which her "privacy" was "violated" more than the kids shot by Svenson, IMO. If I say the trade-off is worth the world being able to see that picture despite what Phuc and her family may have wanted, some will suggest I lack empathy. I will always think there are more important causes and reasons and concerns than the individual (though will only make those decisions on a case by case basis). And, yes, IMO, sometimes an individual's right of privacy gets trumped by expression and information that the world is entitled to hear, see, and know.
    THIS 1940s photo by Claude Detloff might likely not have been made in today's times because either the photographer would have stopped himself because so many of us won't take recognizable pics of other people's children or because our overly protective collective sensibility would have been too suspicious of a photographer daring to take or show a picture of another's child without permission. (We might be tempted to draw a distinction between photojournalism/documentary work and art photography and there are certain distinctions, but I believe all photos, art and still life and nature and landscape have documentary elements and that unfettered artistic expression is as significant as unfettered journalistic expression.) I think there are good reasons to fear for our privacy in this day and age but I still regret it and am very glad there are contemporary photographers willing to put themselves out there and challenge what I see as society's increaslingly over-protective nature. (I understand wanting to protect ourselves from a spying government more than I understand our suspicions of art photographers and each other.)
    I might well ask permission. But what I would do is often not my own standard for what I accept from others. I think there's plenty of room for a lot of differing interpretations of what's moral and what's empathetic and, sometimes, empathy demands the difficult action of putting oneself in the shoes of those with whom one disagrees vehemently. I am admittedly flawed when it comes to that and I suspect many of us are, and I'm glad we're flawed. It would be too difficult and energy-consuming, IMO, to always be righteous. So, as I said much earlier, if there is some voyeurism on the part of Svenson and he's willing to expose his own voyeurism by making a public display of it, that's worthy of an artist, IMO.
     
  68. Powerful photo Fred, thanks for the link. The difference, I would argue, in the linked shot and the Phuc photo as compared to the Svenson work is that those photos were taken out in public. The discussion is not about street photography in general but about how far it should reasonably extend, I suppose, though Svenson wasn't photographing from the street anyway, so I'm not sure we can even categorize it as that.
    Nonetheless, I'm in full agreement with this:
    I think there's plenty of room for a lot of differing interpretations of what's moral and what's empathetic and, sometimes, empathy demands the difficult action of putting oneself in the shoes of those with whom one disagrees vehemently.​
     
  69. Bill, for me, the important question you asked about Svenson getting permission was whether it would make a difference in terms of connecting us in a human way and, as I said, it might well have made a big difference. And, having thought about his series now in terms of, as Filipovic put it, the lines between public and private and, even more importantly, the offense many take to them, yes it would have made a difference because asking permission would have made the photos less transgressive. There's much art that's reliant on its offensiveness to prevailing sensibilities for its power. NOT LIKING art and even resenting some of it can and has been as important both personally and historically as liking it. Serrano and Mapplethorpe, as well, wouldn't have been as effective if they hadn't offended some sensibilities.
     
  70. >>> Serrano and Mapplethorpe, as well, wouldn't have been as effective if they hadn't offended some
    sensibilities.

    Serrano and Mapplethorpe's work only offended some viewers. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that.
    Don't like their work, you are not required to look at it.

    Svensen's work offended the subjects of his work, extending no empathy to those he photographed.

    Sad that in order to "connect us in a human way" (a tenuous and debatable goal, ascribed after the fact),
    humans need to suffer as a result. Some might consider that collateral damage - though that's
    probably not the right phrase. As an aside, I wonder how much money Svensen will make off his gallery sales?

    BTW, extending empathy to one's subjects is certainly not a requirement. Some photographers though choose to do so, that aspect being important. Others don't.
     
  71. Svensen's work offended the subjects of his work, extending no empathy to those he photographed.​
    And Kim Phuc now says, in her words, “I really wanted to escape from that little girl. But it seems to me the picture didn’t let me go.” So there was a time when she might well have felt that the picture was harmful to her as the subject of the photo. Yet, I don't question Ut's empathy. And now Phuc says she is able to use the photo in a more positive way. So what once felt as if it was causing her harm has transformed through the years into something positive, which is wonderful. I can't and wouldn't draw the conclusion that a subject's being offended by a photo of them means that the photographer extended no empathy.
    BTW, extending empathy to one's subjects is certainly not a requirement.​
    Agreed. Many great photographers have made important photos of people they have little empathy for, even people they hate. I consider that a great challenge and something very worthy of respect. Alienation, which often doesn't feel so good, can be as important a photographic tool as empathy, which tends to feel better. It's negative emotions that often wind up pushing boundaries and going deep. But that's certainly not for everyone.
    "connect us in a human way" (a tenuous and debatable goal, ascribed after the fact)​
    Tenuous and debatable, yes, and we're doing just that here. But it couldn't have been described before the fact, since until we had the photos we couldn't have discussed them. A big part of this series is that most have discovered it due to the lawsuit, so most of what has been ascribed has been done "after the fact." I wonder if many of the same negative opinions would have been ascribed if the lawsuit controversy had never taken place and people were just viewing these photos without the input from the subjects or the artist or the lawyers or the media writing prolifically about it.
     
  72. >>> Yet, I don't question Ut's empathy.

    Nick Ut is an AP photographer who covered the Vietnam war. Quite a different situation.


    >>> But it couldn't have been described before the fact, since until we had the photos we couldn't have
    discussed them.

    Sure it could have. Many (most?) project-oriented photographers start with a project idea, an issue to
    explore, pursue and reveal over a period of time. Their photos support that journey. Many times, on the other hand, and I've
    seen this firsthand locally, the project narrative is driven after the fact from a collection of photos captured.
     
  73. Their photos support that journey.​
    As I said, it wasn't Svenson who described his work as bringing together humans, either before or after the fact. He did describe his project from the standpoint of the New York experience of anonymity and the importance and universality of simple human gestures, which sounds to me like he does have some sense of connection to those around him. Even if he didn't think about his work, overtly, in terms of human connection, a lot of good art expands in the public consciousness well beyond the intents and goals of the artist. Art that doesn't expand in such a way is often a failure. Since art is alive, as much may happen after the fact as before it and the artist can still be thanked for that.
    Nick Ut is an AP photographer who covered the Vietnam war. Quite a different situation.​
    With regard to potential harm done to a subject, I think there are similarities enough to bring Ut and Phuc, the subject of one of his most noteworthy photos, into the discussion. Situations don't have to be exactly the same in order to draw out important ideas about a subject's response not necessarily cluing viewers into a photographer's ability to empathize. To me, it simply doesn't work and doesn't do justice to an artist or photographer to draw a conclusion about the level of a photographer's or artist's empathy by the reaction of the subjects. A lot of famous and unfamous subjects have deplored the way they've been portrayed in books, films, documentaries, and articles. They are entitled to their feelings but their feelings don't necessarily tell us something about the minds and hearts of the people showing or telling their stories.
     
  74. I don't see any similarities worthy of comparison. A war photojournalist is *required* to cover a story with
    photographs made (with or without empathy - hopefully the former if circumstances permit) that let others
    understand what is being experienced - in this case the horrors of war..

    I don't think Svensen was required to photograph his neighbors surreptitiously. Nor do I think empathy
    was considered by putting himself in the family's shoes and contemplating how they might feel
    photographed in such a manner. Again, extending empathy is not a legal requirement. Many photographers
    however choose to be empathic when engaging their subjects. It's a choice I make without reservation.
    Svensen/you/others are not required to make the same choice.
     
  75. I was thinking more about Kim Phuc as subject and how she felt, just as you've been talking about the NYC families and how they felt. Kim Phuc's being somewhat tormented by those photos weren't much affected by the requirements that may have led to them. And I'm relatively sure, as you've stated you do and many photographers do all the time, there are photojournalists who've made decisions not to take certain pictures, specifically to spare victims all kinds of pain, whether that accedes to the requirements of their job or not. We very often don't see published pictures of rape victims. My guess is that more of war winds up not getting shown than does, and that's mostly to the detriment of society and mostly because of increasingly repressive attitudes toward photographers and toward the dissemination of information and free expression.

    I'm not suggesting Ut should have made a decision not to take that photo by any means, any more than Svenson should have. But the ethical question of whether photojournalists should take pictures of families or children in grief or in the throes of suffering tragedy and how far that extends is not set in stone. The answers are not cut and dry, black and white.

    There's plenty of room in this discussion of Svenson to leave open the possibility that Svenson has empathy and that those of us who support his art or who even might shoot as he does have empathy as well. There's really no need to divide us up into the false categories of those like yourself who have empathy on the one hand and "Svenson/you/others" on the other who are "not required to make the same choices."

    The claim to know what's in Svenson's mind and heart, the degree to which he has empathy, continues to seem unsupportable to me.
    Svensen/you/others are not required to make the same choice.​
    Right, though the fact that I appreciate, understand, and like Svenson's work and that I think there's no basis for the assumption that he's shown no empathy or that he's humiliated and ridiculed his subjects doesn't mean I would make the same choices as him as a photographer. I try to shoot with many varied approaches, sometimes feeling great empathy for my subjects, sometimes feeling alienation from my subjects, sometimes a degree of each, sometimes with feelings much more ambivalent, sometimes not even knowing what I feel and finding that uncertainness helping my photographic expression and helping get to a true or significant photo of my subjects. I don't shoot the same way or with the same feelings or empathetic/non-empathetic approach toward my subjects each time.
     
  76. >>> Right, though the fact that I appreciate, understand, and like Svenson's work and that I think there's no
    basis for the assumption that he's shown no empathy or that he's humiliated and ridiculed his subjects
    doesn't mean I would make the same choices as him as a photographer.

    No basis? I suppose another possibility is that he actually demonstrated a great deal of empathy putting
    himself in the shoes of the parents and children he photographed surreptitiously with a telephoto lens,
    contemplating how they might feel if they were aware of that happening. But after careful and reasoned thought, he came to the fair-minded conclusion
    there was no reason for them to mind the act of being photographed in the manner in which they were, and
    later, no reason for them to mind the public display of their images.
     
  77. I think the discussion would be more clear if privacy concerns didn’t blur with accusations about empathy.
    If it's about privacy, some reasoned arguments have been presented (though challengeable and not legally binding). But if it's about empathy, then all the examples of photos and situations in public that might show a lack of empathy (the street photos in which people are shot without their permission who may not want the photos taken or shown) can't be dismissed because they weren't taken behind closed doors. Every time one of these public photos has been given as an example—photos that haven't garnered the negative reaction Svenson's have—it's been rejected as an example since it was not taken in the privacy of someone's home. But the point of those photos is whether or not the photographer is putting himself in the other guy's shoes (which is what empathy is about), and that can happen both in public and in private. This can't be avoided by making it seem like all examples would have to take place behind closed doors in order to apply. That’s only if we’re talking strictly about privacy. If the additional claim is made that Svenson had no empathy, that claim is based on his not putting himself in others' shoes, and the claim is that a photographer is not putting himself in a subject's shoes if he shoots them without permission and if they don't want to be shot. That would hold in both public and private and is why at least most of the examples given in this thread are relevant and would have to be considered in a discussion involving empathy.
    Not only has empathy been brought up in a way that can lead to some potentially hypocritical stances (applying it in private but not in public), further steps have been taken to claim he has both ridiculed and humiliated his subjects as if invasion of privacy, if it applied, would automatically mean someone is out to ridicule and humiliate those whose privacy they invade.
    I am becoming used to stories like this going well beyond what they’re actually about, which I believe is more limited to the clash of expectations of privacy and freedom of expression. This seems a big and significant enough topic without throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the guy.
     
  78. To be clear, I don't think street shooters who don't always get permission or who might show photos of people who wouldn't necessarily want their photos shown can be determined automatically to lack empathy because of those decisions and actions. And nothing I've read about Svenson makes me think he's any different from a lot of street shooters in terms of empathy, even if his way of shooting and resulting photos do bring in questions of privacy, which I believe still leaves him on solid ground.
     
  79. Yes the appellate court found as to privacy that Svenson's use of the photos was on solid legal ground. Here is the text of the appellate court's unanimous opinion: http://law.justia.com/cases/new-york/appellate-division-first-department/2015/651826-13-12998.html . "Undoubtedly, like plaintiffs, many people would be rightfully offended by the intrusive manner in which the photographs were taken in this case."
    And some would not be offended by the photographer's intrusiveness to the degree the plaintiffs were, perhaps not to any degree. Rather than locating the nexus of moral perception in the intrinsic quality of the act (judging that an act lacks empathy), those not particularly offended might instead locate that nexus in the results of the act, in the consequences of the act. Broadly, some advocate for moral reasoning that is based on the intrinsic quality of the act, advocate for moral reasoning that holds some acts as just plain categorically wrong. And some instead advocate for consequentialist moral judgment, a more utilitarian one.
     

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