People exposing themselves in public

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by cenelsonfoto, Oct 5, 2004.

  1. I have searched and find nothing definitive.

    Briefly - last weekend there was a motorcycle rally in town. I spent
    two days shooting whatever came before me, including two different
    instances of women exposing their breasts.

    What are the ethical/legal issues here. Both shots taken on a public
    sidewalk. Not posting them, yet. Once woman clearly showing nipple,
    the other had hers out fully exposed, but I shot from below her (she
    was hanging over the fence of an elevated beer garden of sorts) and so
    while I did capture flesh, there is no clear indication of areola or

    Not trying to start an argument here. I have no designs on profiting
    from these images, but I am concerned about adding them to my
    collections. For the record, both women invited the camera to capture
  2. If god had wanted us to walk around naked, we would have been born that way. Beyond that, I'd invoke "fair use".

    Some people may be pre-disposed to be offended and others pre-disposed towards civil remedies. At some point, we may hesitate to shoot the living room carpet for fear of copyright violations or national security issues.
  3. Thanks for your input.
  4. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    Anyone can sue anyone for anything. But since these are images in public of people willingly presenting themselves to the public, you're standing on fairly strong legal ground if you show them. As always, though, consult a lawyer in your area speicializing in privacy issues.

    "Fair use" is concerned with reproducing copyrighted materials for purposes of education, critique, or review--it's completely unrelated to people exposing themselve to the camera.
  5. Sheeesh, I can't afford an attorney.

    I would like your personal opinion on the images - mind if I shoot you small copies via e-mail?
  6. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    From a legal standpoint, my personal opinion doesn't matter. As described, you shouldn't have a problem. The producers of the "Girls Gone Wild" videos prevailed in court, and their stuff is more explicit than what you describe.

    But if someone does decide to sue you, my opinion isn't going to carry any weight with the judge, and I won't share any financial responsibility if there's a judgement against you.
  7. Mike, maybe I need to look this up further. My understanding is that fair use covers images made in public. I'd appreciate references that clarify this if you have them.
  8. Ok, for the sake of argument, here are the two images. I've taken care to mask faces.

    Now, as a photographer, would you feel "ok" to keep these, use, display etc. Mind you, with the faces unobscured.

    <img src=""><p>
    <img src="">
  9. CE,

    People exposing themselves in public *may* be fun to look at but
    rarely make great street photography. Consider interesting
    gestures, facial espressions and good lighting. Mike Dixon is
    indeed one of the best street/environmental portrait
    photographer here and quite humble about it. A true rarity
    among SP forumers.
  10. "leslie cheung , oct 06, 2004; 04:16 a.m. CE, People exposing themselves in public *may* be fun to look at but rarely make great street photography. Consider interesting gestures, facial espressions and good lighting. Mike Dixon is indeed one of the best street/environmental portrait photographer here and quite humble about it. A true rarity among SP forumers."
    Im not asking if the images are pleasing to any one of you. I shoot for my own eyes, that other's may enjoy what I see is second to my own tastes. I have no doubt that Mike is qualified - I see the "superhero" icon, and I am aware of his work. This is why I am asking for his opinion as to whether or not such images are taboo. As stated, no desire to start an argument. But please note that I am not interested in aesthetics here. The question is simple enough - people exposing themselves in public are to be afforded special consideration or to be treated like anything else we shoot in public? Is a purposely exposed breast a fire hydrant a cat a Buick a doorknob? Or is a breast so sacred that even if forced into our mouths we should spit it out?
  11. ahhh, nevermind it.
  12. CE

    I posted my post before I saw your photos so I was not judging at
    all. I simply made a general statement concerning SP. If you
    have been around long enough, you should know hero icon
    means crap most of the time but Mike really do deserve it. No
    mood for arguing...chill out guy.
  13. The law in England is clear, if it is in a public place you can photograph it. As for the ethics, whatever people do in public they should expect to be photographed.
  14. "Fair use" is a copyright term, having no bearing on the situation at hand.

    All you're up against here is "reasonable expectation of privacy", which in the case of
    public flashing is zero.

    Er, as long as your CERTAIN they're over 18--that's where the "Girls Gone Wild" guys got in
    big trouble.
  15. Regarding "fair use", here's an article by Dan Heller: Here he states that fair use is "a legal term that refers to a subject that happens to be in full view from anywhere at any time by the general public." Unfortunately, Mr. Heller doesn't provide citations or references for these assertions.
  16. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    Stanford University Fair Use and Copyright Center. I did an AltaVista search on just the term "fair use" to see if it turned up any other uses than copyright exceptions--there weren't any on the first five pages of links.
    Thanks for the kind words, Leslie. I truly appreciate that you're so easily impressed. ; )
    CE, I don't see anything particularly shocking about your shots, nor do I see anything in them that would be illegal to show. But again, I'm not a lawyer, and I don't even play one on TV.
  17. mike dixon

    mike dixon Moderator

    I just checked out the Dan Heller link that Chris provided. That information is WRONG! He seems to draw no distinction between editorial and commercial usage when determining the need for a release. If you heed his advice, you do so at your own peril. (Well, if you heed my advice, you also do so at your own peril, but mine is less perilous.)
  18. Is this a real conversation?! It's just a chick with her baps out.
  19. Emigrate to New Zealand, where if a babe flashes her tits or wears her jeans just half covering her arse in a public place , you can photograph that legally. Glad I don't live in a sick place like the U.S.A. where everyone is terrified of being sued or shot.
  20. "Sheeesh, I can't afford an attorney."

    If it costs too much now, wait until you follow the free legal 'opinions' you seek around here.
  21. What Mike D said about Dan Heller's page. His page came up in discussion several weeks
    ago. At first glance it seems very complete and authoritative. Until you get to where he
    introduces "fair use," which applies to limitations and exceptions to copyright. Perhaps he
    should make the appropriate disclaimers about not being an attorney.

    Some states, such as California, have non-profit organizations like California Lawyers for
    The Arts who can set up a meeting with an attorney who practices in a particular field for a
    very low fee; $30 in this case. It's good to do a little research and go prepared so you can
    ask good questions during your 30 minutes. A good place to start would be the four
    privacy torts: Intrusion, False Light, Appropriation, and Disclosure of Private Facts.
  22. "All you're up against here is "reasonable expectation of privacy", which in the case of public flashing is zero."

    And especially so at events where there's also a reasonable expectation and even concrete knowledge of coverage, such as the larger motorcycle rallies, G & L festivals, etc.

    In West Hollywood, for example, during scheduled "events" I've seen intensive camera coverage areas with notices/disclaimers posted at their perimeters. The reasonableness of one's expectation of privacy goes into the negative numbers once you cross those lines.
  23. Ethics? You need to make up your own mind on that. Really. Some people are very uncomfortable with the idea of taking other peoples's pictures and/or don't like theirs being taken. Others would keep shooting till the blood stopped flowing. There are a wide variety of responses you'll see to different "ethical" questions when it comes to opportunistic (actually pretty much any) photography. And we could probably create a broad set of "what ifs" to keep you tied up in knots wondering. Strikes me that someone who sees a camera and exposes themselves isn't that concerned about getting their picture taken.

    Legal? Generally anything that happens in public is acceptable photographic fodder. Probably not a problem but none of us know all the facts of the situation, you have more knowledge of the circumstances than anybody here. And it's the specific facts of the specific incident that can keep the "general" from applying. (Which is why you'll seldom see anyone, even the lawyers, from asserting that the advice you get is authoritative.) And we don't know what "adding them to your collection" means. Keeping them at home on your hard drive, in files, putting them on view on websites? If you aren't comfortable about possible repercussions, simply don't put them out on display.

    When it comes down to being almost absolutely sure about a specific legal question, you'd really need to get a competent local lawyers opinion. "Almost" because there is always the potential that someone can come up with a new wrinkle or at least assert one. There are general principles and rules of law but they may vary slightly from state to state, the case law may have changed somewhat, and ultimately, any given jury may find differently than one might expect.

    A search on "privacy" or "privacy torts" would give you more info than you may want. A search on "right to (or of) publicity" may be helpful as well. This may be very helpful to you:
  24. "Or is a breast so sacred that even if forced into our mouths we should spit it out?" -Good Lord, certainly not! :)

    If you ask me (who knows *X&$#**X&$#**X&$#**X&$#* about legal rights related to the subject), it is perfectly *ethical* to post the photos. The persons are mature ladies wishing to expose body parts in an environment where most people don't. By you postiong their photographs, they get even more exposure so you actually help them in their goal.

    Eventually, the question arises if it was ethical/legal from their part to publicly expose their breasts. Some people out there might have ethical problems with that and in some places it is illegal to do it on the street.
  25. The question has been answered to my satisfaction, and yes I am one of those heartless guys who would shoot until the "blood ceased", capture every last drop. To me the breast is no big deal, but I live in the "Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave", and titties are dangerous here.

    Thank you all for the insight/commentary/minor insults, etc.
  26. Mike, thanks for the research and references. It sounds like Mr. Heller is misappropriating a term, at best. It sure stuck in my mind, though!
  27. I guess the comment fits the question. Ignorance is bliss.
  28. Here's my thoughts:
    If she didn't want those fake things photographed, then she shouldn't have pulled them out for all to see.
    As far as I'm concerned, this woman exhibits absolutely no expectation of privacy...but she does exhibit poor taste in jewelry and maybe more.
  29. Tits are for kids.
  30. Gene - i'm a kid then :)

Share This Page