Street Photography = street robbery?

There are increasingly people who think photography is robbery. They seem to equate a gun and a camera.

If a robber makes a robbery and takes away my material possessions or a photographer / a photographer shots a photo of me without asking me and takes away intangibles – what’s the difference?

The robber took my material goods, the photographer took my intangible assets – in that case a part of my personal/individual rights like the right to decide about pictures of myself.

 photoy by michael mahlke

We live in a democracy and believe to personal/individual/human rights. The self-determination over the own data (which just today also photos are) is an important human right in the digital age.

So I think in the field of streetphotography – as one example – you can see how far people accept the human and personal/individual rights – or if they make an partliy immaterial identity theft as well as the violation of individual/personal rights.

If anyone should see it differently, I’m curious about the reasoning.

Last but not least I have learned Oxford Standard English at school and I hope that the main thoughts are clear.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by or any affiliated companies.


Total comments: 10
By Ed_arizona (Jan 9, 2013)

I can't always take a public pic of kids these days, at a store cute little tot with her dad would have been a nice shot I asked if he mind if I take a picture he said he would. I will respect it because is his child....this never happened years ago now this world is so paranoid from all the freaks coming out of the woodwork and the news making it seem worse.

Deleted pending purge
By Deleted pending purge (Oct 7, 2012)

Your visual presence is what you take along when you go out of the privacy of your home and into the "jungle out there". In other words, you will be visible, seen, and taken pictures of.
From the photographer's point of view, you are a part of the scene. One among all the free visual aspects of one's surrounding. Anyone taking photos of you is within their rights.
Problems arise from people which behave differently. They feel that being seen doing something differs from being photographed doing it.
It can be just being in the wrong place at the wrong time ("Saw your picture in the paper, dear, weren't you supposed to be on a business trip?")
They'll try and reassign the responsibility for what they do to the photographer. Their conscience is giving them trouble.
Sometimes, the presentation of such shots can be a problem too. A witty capture or a bit of post-process prank can turn an ordinary photo into something entirely different, and no-one wants to be "it".
And so on...

1 upvote
By bunyarra (Sep 28, 2012)

<sigh> If you want to rant about sly photography go have as pop at the 1000's of security cameras that capture your every move in every city.

By delastro (Oct 2, 2012)

Hello, this was my first thought too. But it is different because if the camera is allowed it must be on a private place or used by the police and second the photos will not be published. Publishing the photos would mean the same like photographic street robbery ...

Turnip Chops
By Turnip Chops (Oct 10, 2012)

The purpose to which they are put is irrelevant. It matters little if the camera is on private property or used by the police. The suggestion that the state and private institutions have a greater 'right' to capture images of citizens is deeply worrying in my view. I would have less concern about being captured by a photographer than the beady eye of the state.

1 upvote
By sagebrushfire (Sep 26, 2012)

With freedom you just cannot have it all; to have absolute freedom would be a paradox because that would mean you're free to detract or take the freedom of others, who would then no longer have absolute freedom themselves.

So we argue and organize and find a balance that can satisfy the majority while giving the minority certain rights that allow them to coexist peacefully.

If you're in a non-essential public place or at a specifically planned event where photography is permitted, you don't have a reasonable right to privacy. You went out of your way to obtain access to a publicly available area.

Now, if you're walking in a business or residential area where you don't have much choice, perhaps you're traveling to work or school, I have less sympathy for photographers trying to snap your portrait because you have limited control over your ability to maintain privacy. That being said, photos of crowds or where a person is more or less unidentifiable are mostly harmless.

By delastro (Oct 2, 2012)

Yes and today you can normally blur every photo with a digital filter so that nobody can recognize you everything is all right. It is very easy to do it especially with smartphones ...

Turnip Chops
By Turnip Chops (Oct 10, 2012)

What would be the point of taking the picture if you are going to do that with it? Some of the most significant pictures in the history of photography would simply not exist if this view held sway!

By delastro (Oct 10, 2012)

I think for street photography this is necessary if you have no agreement with the people in the box/shots. Vice versa if you shot f.e. for amnesty it could be important to shot faces to show that these people need help. But this is different. In a country with personal rights you have to accept these rights and in a country without human rights it could be possible to use facephotos for a doumentation.

I do not know if the most significant pictures (which?) would not exist if personal rights would be respected but I know that then other photos would have been the most significant pictures.

Glenn NK
By Glenn NK (Oct 21, 2012)


Very well put - too often we forget that democracy is not an absolute - perhaps dictatorships could come close, but they are very uncomfortable for most of us, and they certainly don't offer much freedom for anyone.

We all like absolutes in our lives, but reflecting on this, I have long realized that absolutes don't exist.

However, on the topic of capturing someone's image, one must be very careful how it is used. A few years ago in the province of Quebec in Canada, an amateur photographer took an image of a young lady in a public place. This is not illegal. However, the photographer then submitted the image to a competition, it won a prize, and the image was re-printed publicly, and the lady was not amused. The lady won a lawsuit in court.

The laws covering this vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Caution is in order.

Comment edited 5 minutes after posting
Total comments: 10