Photography in France?

Discussion in 'Travel' started by StanleyBeck, Aug 13, 2018.

  1. I've been thinking of traveling to France, and I've heard that they have banned a lot of photography in public? What is the latest of their photography restrictions?
  2. See the link below — Assumning NON-commercial use...

    If you’re talking about typical tourist snaps of landmarks where an individual’s likeness is incidental, then I think you’re still okay.

    For street photos where an individual is the central subject, generally it is a delicate balance between the photographer’s right to freedom of expression, the subject’s right to privacy and the public's right to free exchange of ideas and opinion. Where that delicate balance tilts toward the public’s right to free exchange of ideas — as determined by a judge — then the photographer’s rights to freedom of expression supercedes the individual’s right to privacy... At least in theory.

    Commons:Country specific consent requirements - Wikimedia Commons
  3. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I guess one could refer it as "a delicate balance", and if so, then I think that the balance of delicacies is rooted in good communication and attaining rapport: neither of which needs to be verbal.

    Body language, combined with a relaxed demeanour and openness when carrying and using a camera, are essential components.

    Even in difficult circumstances, (as I think is depicted in the image below), the Photographer’s communication and the openness of the intent to make the photograph created rapport and resulted in what was correctly interpreted as an “OK” so to do.

    I think that knowing the local laws and customs is a good idea: but being able to communicate and read one’s fellow humans, is a far superior skill for Street Photography.

    I have not ever had any issue, making Street Photography, anywhere in France.


    EOS 5D and EF 24 to 105/4L
    Moving On likes this.
  4. Reading the arched eyebrow and finger off the trigger of a guy with a FAMAS F1 correctly comes in handy, I’m sure.....
    I expect in such cases looking like a tourist actually would work to one’s advantage....
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Apart from my carrying the DSLR, I'd been in Lyon for a week or two and I don't think I was really acting like a tourist - but my DSLRs do have a battery grips, so I guess the tourist factor was useful . . .

    However the back story is probably more relevant, as is the date. For the duration of my stay, the Army had been making regular sweeps in the main streets and also the smaller side streets. Typically four men, about 20 meters apart, two on each side of the street. This fellow was the lead, the other is just out of my framing, behind the two women with shopping bags.

    I began behind the soldiers and I got in front of them by walking quickly with my camera in full view, all four had eyes on and (I think importantly) I also got eye contact with all four, individually. It could seem a bit corny or crazy to some people, yet I honestly did feel very safe and quite secure all the time.

    When I got my Subject Distance, in front of this fellow, I waited for enough safe space to walk backwards at the same speed, I think I made three frames, in any case this was the first one, and the best one.

    The point of telling the above is that - 'rapport' and 'communication' began way back 100 metres down the street, a long time before I pulled any of the photos.

    On the reverse side - (only as an example) - I think it would be dumb to sit in waiting at a corner that the Soldiers were approaching, and then jump out in front of one of them to make a picture.

    Moving On likes this.
  6. I imagine there’s a fine line between keeping it candid and creating a situation where the wall goes up.
    Sounds like you’ve got it down.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Walls can go up very quickly. I think that shooting so many Weddings has taught me well and given me good intuition about people’s moods. I think that (usually) the best option when a wall is put up by a Street Photo Subject, is to acknowledge politely and then walk away.

    Not too sure that I do have it all down - there was a time when I'd have agreed - (or even said so myself), nowadays I am never absolutely certain, as that would be a big mistake. It’s a good idea to shoot street work with both eyes open (literally). Yet thanks for the compliment. I do have a few flying hours under my belt, that helps, I appear to most people pretty relaxed, and that certainly helps.

    When I was younger I got held down by two Coppers (Police Officers) – I was huddled down on the footpath (sidewalk), it was night time, and I was using a Fire Hydrant to support a long exposure of a glass lift (elevator) situated on the outside of an Hotel.

    That was my bad. I was absolutely ignorant of what that scene could “look like” to the Police in their Patrol Car. That was around 1978, in Hawaii. It all ended great. I made my photos and I noticed that the Police followed me back to the Hotel where I was staying.

    Using experiences wisely can be a very valuable teacher. Until just now, I had never thought of the relevance and the link between that incident in Hawaii and making the photo of the Soldier in Lyon.

    Anyway, we’ve wandered a bit of the topic – it’s not about my experience, other than how my views and experience might assist the OP.

  8. There is no doubt that good rapport is key... however, just to play devil's advocate, the soldier could have claimed invasion of privacy -- even after you established rapport -- and you'd have to convince a judge that this image is in the public's best interest and the free exchange of information.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Sure. No argument from me at all on that point. It is a point of technicality, and yes I agree valid and possible, but, in my opinion, not a very plausible situation for the Soldier.

    My view is if he (the Soldier) had made a claim pursuant to what I understand the applicable Laws in France then I'd be pretty secure.

    The salient points being:

    A) he (the Soldier) was there, in situ, to be quite public and not at all private

    B) apropos ‘public interest and free exchange of information’ the making of the photo (I would argue) only served to enhance the awareness of the most dire situation – publishing it (as per here) serves that public purpose, also

    Moving On and photo_galleries like this.
  10. This took a bit of negotiating. I stopped my bike and exclaimed about how picturesque they all were, and asked if I could take their photograph. The fellow on the left asked what I would use it for, and I assured him it was for personal use as a tourist photographer (in other words, I'm not going to sell it ….) I then took the shot.

    The fellow on the right was very friendly, and also curious. He unbuttoned his holster strap and half-drew his weapon in order to make a proper inquiry about whether American police were armed. I assured him they were. And just to make fun of us Americans, I said, "It's America! We're all armed!"

    Good fun. Always best to engage people well, so there is no misunderstanding or bad feelings.

    Sandy Vongries and Moving On like this.
  11. Great story. Thanks for the background.
  12. unless their on a secret mission or could be compromised in their job by a photo, soldiers and police on duty should never be off limits in public, their public servants not private citizens
  13. “.....soldiers and police on duty should never be off limits in public, their public servants not private citizens”

    They remain private citizens.
    We all surrender privacy in public.
    Balance and common courtesy are what reduce the need for police in the first place.
    Roger G likes this.
  14. when out photographing i’m always courteous to people especially people in uniform w guns who are mainly there to protect me and others. i’m courteous and appreciative even while affording them less privacy because their public servants acting as public servants.
  15. Alas, things ain't what they used to be. When I was a younger man, I took pictures of everything & everybody wherever we went without fear of trouble. In April 1974, I spent at least 20 minutes on my stomach lying across a curb behind the Centre Pompidou to get the shot below of the apartments across the street reflected in the water in the gutter, and nobody cared. I photographed Paris Metro stations, government buildings & employees, and all manor of street people - even in the 10th, which at the time was so seedy that the Metro stop nearest to Brasserie Flo closed at 10 PM for everyone's safety. I did this for many years around the world prior to 9/11, when sensitivity increased everywhere - just stopping on the sidewalk near many government buildings now brings out the guard. After being warned to put my camera away & watched closely to be sure I did, my wife & I were rushed past the US Embassy in Rome by heavily armed police a few years ago. So I'm (reluctantly) a lot more careful about taking pictures now anywhere in the world.


    Sadly, I can't find my original film. This image is a scan of a Cibachrome print I made 44 years ago. Now I know why I should have invested in better storage for my negatives and prints :(
  16. I've been to France in 2013 and 2014 I found it's much easier to take pictures on the street in France than in the US. People don't seem to look at you like criminals when you take pictures of them.
  17. A lot of people in the U.S., taking pictures of strangers on the street, do their best to look and act like criminals. On the other hand, looking and acting like a tourist in Chicago is likely to attract criminals. Fortunately looking like a tourist, and having photos to back up your side of the story, has a lot of weight if the police get involved.
  18. Paris was impressed me a lot
  19. I like Paris a lot. A good tip still is to use honorifics, e.g.,

    s'il vous plaît, m'sieur
    is better than just s'il vous plaît,

    On the other hand, of all the airports I have been through, Orly is the least pleasant.

    waiting room at the Lalibela International Airport, Ethiopia in 1973
    (it's been improved since;))


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