Photographing Children without Consent of a Parent

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by rj__, Jun 23, 2003.

  1. There have been a couple of threads recently that have touched on the
    question of the propriety or legality of photographing children
    without the consent of a parent.

    Personally, I haven't run into this situation often, but when I have
    I find that my practice "depends".

    A few months ago, while in the middle east, I took some photographs
    of children. I didn't ask them for permission and their parents were
    not around. When the kids noticed me photographing them, they
    started to ham for the camera.

    More recently, I was in my local park. There was a woman with her
    son, maybe four or five years old. The son was having a tough, but
    determined, time trying to drag his sled through fairly deep snow.
    It was an amusing sight. I took a couple of photos of him, but asked
    his mother first. I also sent her copies.

    The author of a current thread that touches on this subject, titled
    Legality in Toronto, says that he was questioned by police while
    taking photographs of children playing in a public fountain. This
    happened at a time when Toronto was coming to grips with the brutal
    slaying of a ten year old girl. On Friday, a respectable 35 year old
    software developer was arrested as a suspect.

    In another thread, a man expressed annoyance that he could not
    photograph his son at an ice hockey tournament in the UK because it
    was impossible to get the consent of all of the parents whose
    children were involved in the tournament.

    Some time ago, a participant uploaded a series of photos
    that she took on a bus of two boys, maybe nine or ten years old, on
    their way to school. It is apparent from the images that the boys
    were aware of the fact that they were being photographed, and that
    they were not very pleased. The person who uploaded these photos
    thought that they were amusing. I found them objectionable.

    What do others think of this issue?
  2. As far as I know, the legal difference between children and adults is that children can not enter into a legal agreement without a parent's consent (there are other differences, average size for one, but that's beside the point).

    In public places there is usually no need of an agreement to photograph people, and this of course covers children as well.

    How people will react to it is a different matter, but I believe that's the way it is legally in most places, and in addition I believe that's the way it should be.

    Regarding wether a particular photo of someone who doesn't appear to like being photographed should be made or not, that's a different matter and applies to adults just as much as to children.
  3. It is all a matter of common sense. If you are in a public place and happen to include a kid or two in a shot, there is not much 'wrong' in the images. But if, for example, you tend to 'follow' about a young lady or boy, and his/her parent happens to like weight-lifiting and bouncing camera equipment off the pavement -- you could have a problem.

    School sports photography in the States is fairly common -- some areas require you to 'register' with the school board and get permission to be on the school property. Selling images to parents is fairly easy, and you have to respect that some folks do not want action shots of their kids (i.e., you can't be over bearing in selling.)
  4. Remy, the question you ask about the Middle East situation is a good one, and it is why I mentioned it. I'm not sure that I have a good answer. I can tell you that there were no adults around, that initially the kids did not know that they were being photographed and that when they did notice, they did a major league ham-for-the camera routine. Does any of this matter? I'm not sure.

    Let me tell you about a couple of other instances from that trip. I took some photos of a teenager who was renting out his camel for rides. I also took a photo in old Jerusalem of a youth of perhaps eleven or twelve on a donkey. As he saw me raise my camera, he turned the donkey so that it was sideways to me and raised his arm to cover the side of his face. Later, speaking to local friends, I was given two interpretations. One was that he objected to being photographed on religious grounds. The other was that he wanted to be paid. Later, in Amman, I had a discussion with some Jordanian friends about the issue of photographing muslims. I got a lot of advice, most of it of the "depends" variety.

    I might also mention that I recently read that the UK, and perhaps some other jurisdictions, have enacted, as part of child protection legislation, a prohibition against publishing a photograph containing the image of a child without the consent of a parent.
  5. There is a big problem with kidnappings in Mexico, I have 3 kids of my own and I usually get comments form other people like "they are so cute", etc.

    They do are beautiful :)

    There is no local regulation around the matter, but believe me if someone asks me if it is Ok to take pics of my kids I would say absolutely NOT!!! and if I get anyone doing it I would beat the crap out if him (local police serves for nothing) and find out later. My advice is to be very careful specially if outside the States you do not know exactly how are things in other places.

    I have taken like 1500 pics of my 4 year old daughter, as you might guess she sees a camera and she is more than pleased to pose or act naturally around it, she is used to it, Her attitude might tell one thing but his paranoid father would take it very personally. I think you took a big chance in the Middle East.
  6. [First of all, I'm not a father, so I might be completely wrong.But.]
    "When the kids noticed me photographing them, they started to ham for the camera." This IS important, indeed!
    <br>Just yesterday happened that we've been in a train, and a ~3-4 y old boy was running around on the corridor, between the compartments. When he noticed us watching him and laughing, he started to run back periodically to our compartment and saying "boo" or stg like that.
    This is how I remember also ourselves, being schoolkids(not *too* long time ago...:eek:) ). We've been trying hard to look "cool" when we knew that we are watched/photographed. That's how kids are nowadays too, I think. Unlike parents and serious policemen, the kids love to show off for anybody who's watching them, and a camera makes it even more fun!
    Of course, parents were protective 20 years ago as well...just not this way, not soooo damn seriously. They did not see so many people photographing around, they did not have so much time watching their kids, they did not follow every ugly story on the news about kids being harrassed by unknown misterious people, and especially, they did not think (or were not told )of the "dangers" of a photo taken of their kid. This is why i say it's sad. The kids did not change, neither the criminals; THE PARENTS DID, and I don't think it's for their advantage.
    Why would candid children photography rise the statistics of child abuse?
    <br>Why would a kid more likely being slaughtered by a sick guy waste of society if the kid's photo is on the
    <br>If I take a photo of that kid in the train, without asking his parents for permission, I still don't know where he lives, when he is home alone, and where is the key for the back door! Photographs don't usually record these details!
    <br>I just can't understand where the causality comes from.
    Of course, the issue related to the religion/local belief is something different. That belongs to the ethics of photographing anything/anybody in general, on a trip to a different culture.
    grtz, csab'.
  7. With all the respect...what is the difference between YOU taking photos of your kids and posting HERE on the Internet, and ME, going there as a stranger and asking for permission to take a photo of your (cute) kids???
  8. What we need is more B-Grade Horror Movies and less Network News Shows selling fear.
  9. German,

    If I am understanding your post, you would commit an assault on any stranger that you saw taking a photograph of one of your children? I’m not very knowledgeable of Mexican law, but isn’t that a serious felony? And by your own statement, it is not against the law of your country to photograph children. You then would you expect the police to take action. It seems unjustified to critize them for not acting as your personal bullies to enforce your whims. Like it or not, you are placing yourself in a very false position. While the police might not be there when you want them, they might be there after you committed your felonious assault. And then, there are those nasty tort lawyers.

    You have a right and duty to protect your children. But you are not above the law, and you are not entitled to go about assaulting innocent strangers who are doing nothing harmful or illegal. If you are so protective of your children, what kind of model would you be setting for them by beating up on strangers? Shame on you. I hope your rhetoric is more intense than your actions.

    As to the original post, no, I do not photograph children accept with the consent of their parents or guardian/s, unless they appear incidentally in a photograph taken of a general scene, for example, a peace rally. My other job (developmental psychologist) involves working with preschool children. Over the 30+ years of working with young children I have grown increasingly cautious. I will absolutely not allow myself to be with a child unless one of his or her parents is present. Public mores have changed greatly over that period, and it’s well to understand them. I suspect none of us wishes to give offense, far less running into a hot head who might launch an assault on our person or our equipment.


    Joe Stephenson
  10. Here in the States, I don't think it's so much the actual act of photographing the kids but who or what the parents imagine you are for doing it. <p>
    The difference between today and yesterday is of course the internet. There are lots of people who "get their jollies" by going out with their digital camera and posting their efforts all over the web. No parent wants their kids picture on websites all over the net even if they can't be identified or located. It's just too easy and prevalent these days so how can a parent tell what you are up to when they see you pointing a camera their way? And, even if you are a legitimate photographer, if you put photographs up on your own site it's very likely that they will wind up elsewhere.<p>

    In short, I think the web itself is as much to blame for the current paranoia as anything else. Add to that Bush, Ashcroft & Company telling us that there is a pervert under every bed, that we need to bring morality back while this is the most sexually repressed country in the free world and you can begin to see the problem.
  11. I apologize in advance for not reading all the fine comments above, but I want to mention one thing:

    When I was an elementary school teacher we needed written permission from parents to take photos of the students for the purpose of displaying the photos or putting them on our school's website.

    Tragically, the main reason for this is the safety of the children. In the USA there is rampant child abductions and sexual abuse and child killings, so that many parents do not want their child's photo displayed. I agree.

    This was not the case 20 years, so sad.
  12. ...In the USA there is rampant child abductions and sexual abuse and child killings...This was not the case 20 years ago.
    Maybe off topic, but I don't know what part of this I agree with.
    Many if not most child abductions are by an estranged parent who lost a custody battle. Not that it's right, but they mean the child no harm, it is their kid, and yet each case is made out to be a real kidnapping.
    Is there more sexual abuse today than yesterday or are kids more apt to come forward and report it now because of school education, media, etc? How much of it is what was once innocent touching or acts of endearment and are now perverted acts? How much of this is made up because kids know that once an adult is accused there really is no defense. This is a huge "power" that some kids know how to use against adults.
    Are there really that many kids killed by adults or does it seem like alot because whenever one happens it's the only thing CNN and Fox can talk about for months on end.
    Whatever the situation, there's no end today to the politically correct groups, lawyers and politicians that will take up the popular "protect our children" cause. Listen to them and we have a crisis on our hands. But is it really any different than it ever was or is it paranoia caused by the media and our conservative leaders that make it seem so?
  13. Re In the USA there is rampant child abductions

    Most already know the kid; almost always it has to do with divorce and who wants to get the kids........
  14. I don't believe it is possible to prevent people taking pictures of children in public places.

    Last Christmas I was in Japan with my wife and daughter (aged 3). All the time, people were taking pictures of my daughter using their mobile phone cameras, because she's cute and unusual looking.

    Even if I was worried about it, there is no way I could stop people from taking pictures like that. Nearly everyone in Tokyo has a mobile phone with a camera in it. It will be like that in the US and Europe soon enough.
  15. Never understimate the hysteria of the stupid, the cupidity of the tabloid press or the hypocrisy of the politicians. Children are almost certainly safer today than they have ever been but it suits those three groups to cry wolf to such a degree that the poor little buggers are driven to and from school, prevented from exploring the world around them and kept from getting sufficient excercise so that they grow up nervous and obese. Frankly, I'd ban the tabloid press tomorrow if I had the power - the damage they inflict far outweighs any good they've achieved.
  16. ...In the USA there is rampant child abductions and sexual abuse and child killings...This was not the case 20 years ago.
    This statement is false. Child abductions and crimes against children are not at all common in the U.S.A., and no more common than they were 20 years ago. In fact, the rate of these crimes has been going down, even though reporting of them has probably become more complete.
    This will come as a surprise to people who watch the local television news in America. What is undoubtedly the case is that many Americans believe that child abductions are increasing dramatically, and concern for the safety of children seems to be at an all-time high.
  17. Wouldn't taking photographs fall into the same realm as taking video without sound of someone? I know that there has been alot of talk lately about "voyeur" laws and some states have passed them to some degree. What these laws do is make it illegal to varying degrees for you to unknowingly capture images of someone els. The same with taping a phone conversation, or any other voice communication it's illegal unless you have their permission.
    Just recently there was the case of the father who was taping his 14 yr old daughter in her own bedroom and posting the pictures on the net. As disgusting as it was, there was no voyeur law in effect in that state (I can't remember which one) and he walked away scott free on the actual charges of taking the pictures.
    I personally would ask the parents if it was obvious who they were. I would feel very strange taking pictures of someone elses kids. It would depend heavily on the circumstances, I would probably just avoid it completely given the choice.
  18. Brian,

    You have a point. We in the US tend to focus on what the press whats us to focus on - good or bad. It brings to mind the saying. "dog bites man, but man bites dog is".

    Sad that most can't seem to look beyond the sensationalism to see the real truth and react to that.
  19. Maybe it's an issue of more publicity. All I know is from personal experience. When I was young (late 1940's and 1950's) I could go all over town, walking or biking, and we never were concerned about such dangers, and I lived in the LA area. This is just a personal perception.
  20. I know that there has been alot of talk lately about "voyeur" laws and some states have passed them to some degree. What these laws do is make it illegal to varying degrees for you to unknowingly capture images of someone else.
    I believe these "voyeur" laws only concern photographing or video recording victims in restrooms, bedrooms, hotel rooms- anywhere where you would normally have an expectation of privacy and would have no reason to believe that you are being watched. I think that it always has been a crime to photograph from outside through a window for instance. This just extends this further because technology has brought us such wonderful things as miniature digital cameras that are easily conceiled in just about anything and can easily be used for such purposes by those of that mindset. I think also that they are talking about additional penalties if such images are posted on the web.
    I wouldn't think that any of this is the same as photographing people in a public place with the photographer in plain sight.
  21. Quote:
    " When I was young (late 1940's and 1950's) I could go all over town"
    Jezzz..Todd, I believed you were a bit younger! ;)
    The laws about "vouyerism' are quit right on time. Some tabloids are relying to any possible source and technology to get what they want.
    There is a limit : no paparazzi or nobody has right to invade the privacy of any celebrity or any common citizen, neither any celebrity has the right to attack a phothographer in a public place.
  22. I was photographing at a county owned pool for a newspaper, although I was allowed
    to be there, and photographing for legitimate reasons, 4 different lifeguards
    approached me to say that photography at the pool is prohibited. People are
    paranoid more and more access to many places is being more restricted. Myself i
    won't photograph children until I ask a parent for permission. If a really great shot is
    available I might take it first, and ask later.

    Even In a public place we should think of people as more than just a subject for a
    photo and treat them with as much respect and sensitivity as possible.
  23. well if you're a parent and have a child/children, and you see someone taking pics of your kid in a public park w/o your permission ,, how would you react ???

    guess the best and safest way to go abt it ,is to ask for permission,, very simple really,,that pertains to material things/stuff too, how much more to people...... my 2 cents...pc

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