Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
The sticky issue of consent in street photography (bulletin.com)
220 points by LordAtlas 12 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 272 comments





This made me think - and I've still not managed to produce a coherent viewpoint.

Closest I can come up with is that there's some sort of asymmetric 'value' that sometimes appears from nowhere and this throws us off a bit.

As people have mentioned, security cameras are filming me all the time - and I've no issue with that. My image has no value. It's one amongst billions of frames taken, that will be ultimately wiped, unseen and uncared about. I don't care about the image as I know the owner doesn't - there's a balance.

If one of these frames was taken by a photographer deliberately - then suddenly I care more. Why did he take it? What was I doing? Where will it be shown? To whom will it be shown? What will they think of me, based upon it etc etc.

By taking that image, they've assigned value to it - but where's the value been taken from?

Maybe it's like the wind and there's 'value' going to waste all around us and the photo is just like putting up a turbine or a sail to capture it?

Maybe it's like somebody mining for diamonds under my house - they've found some value in something I didn't know I had, but I now want my share.

Maybe it's the concept of part of your soul being captured in the photo. That photo can be shown and might provoke a response to me, but I no longer have any control over it.

Maybe it's the flip side of social media, where you can choose the thoughts and images you wish to push to the world as your representation - except you didn't choose it and you don't have a reply or delete button next to it.


This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I'm in the same boat as em-bee - I am not ok with security cameras in public[1], or with public-facing doorbell cameras, either. My thought is basically: if a camera is recording the public, the public should have access to the recording. That isn't generally the case, so I'm not ok with it.

[1] Note that by "public" I mean cameras facing streets, sidewalks, etc. I can always choose not to go into a store if I don't want to be on its cameras.


I guess I have similar feelings but it's not so much about whether the public can access it. It's about the fact that I'm not so comfortable with surveillance in general.

I would also feel uncomfortable if they had street corners full of watchmen hired to just stare and keep track of everyone. I would feel uncomfortable at work if they had people or cameras positioned to stare over my shoulder. It's not the camera, it's the surveillance.

And by that token, I'm ok with street photography. I love street photography. It's completely different from surveillance.


I disagree with this.

I consider the human eye a camera. It also saves videos in a storage medium that doesn't permit deletion. I don't distinguish between a silicon-based camera and a carbon-based camera. To me they're just different rows of the periodic table.

In fact I even hope to think that one day silicon-based cameras can be used to restore vision to carbon-based beings that have non-functioning carbon-based cameras. To that extent even if I have functioning carbon-based cameras, having a silicon-based camera attached to my body is just an extension of my body and you most certainly do not have the right of access to the memories it records, regardless of whether those memories are stored in neurons or in an SD card (even that detail is not your right to know; I could have had a flash memory implant in my brain and it would be a HIPAA violation if you demanded to know what implants I have).

To ban silicon-based cameras is a gross ADA violation. To demand to know exactly by what mechanism videos are stored is a HIPAA violation. If you want to ban recording you might as well blindfold everyone while you're at it.


> I consider the human eye a camera. It also saves videos in a storage medium that doesn't permit deletion

The key distinction is that the human eye and its storage system doesn't meaningfully support duplication and distribution of the picture.

What someone saw is not going to show up in Clearview's biometric surveillance database years later, and while this one human may remember me, the inherent limitations of humans mean that the impact is vastly different from what is possible with technology.


I don’t know. I’d be roughly as uncomfortable with someone tweeting to a large audience that they saw me at a certain location at a certain time as I would be with someone posting a photo of me to a large audience.

That's the difference though. It doesn't happen in practice if you aren't famous, because the person with the eye can only do a limited number of things at the same time, and spending all day tweeting about random people isn't what most people want to spend their time on.

> The key distinction is that the human eye and its storage system doesn't meaningfully support duplication and distribution of the picture.

That isn't necessarily true. Just because your eye doesn't doesn't mean mine doesn't. How do you know I wasn't born blind and retrofitted with a silicon eye that gives me both the ability to see and record/duplicate more easily than other humans?


This is a bad faith reply. Non-existent hypothetical devices are not worth considering when talking about the morality of something that someone does today.

I saw this a while ago, Argus II implant: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=05ee61Bu-Ok

It exists, albeit only B&W and at a very low resolution. However as we all know, technology can advance very quickly, and high resolution cameras are not inconceivable for this application.


I choose to frame my view of morality in terms of technological developments that are likely to happen in the next 100 years (approximately a human lifetime for anyone born today), not what exists today. Today is antiquated as soon as something is invented something tomorrow.

"Hypothetical" is an assumption. You don't know what I have, and what I'm experimenting with.


We’re living in the present, not some cybernetic future. To say all this when it’s not relevant to the present is a little silly in my view.

We don’t have cameras and flash embedded in ourselves, someone’s recollections are not the same as an video file in terms of evidence, and there’s a substantial difference between someone actively on the street corner watching and security camera you can set and forget which will record 24/7.


The human eye, with or without a cybernetic enhancement is admissible in court. Indeed 'eye witness' testimony, despite being horribly unreliable is particularly powerful in court.

Personally I see little to no difference between human eyes and film eyes when one is standing in the middle of the street 50 years ago, let alone now with some implied cybernetics that make the difference actually zero.

If the argument is that a snapshot can not be observed as a collection of light wa eves hitting cellulose, or a digital sesnsor then one has to ask the question if allow the receptors in the human eyeball to detect the reflections of light is acceptable either.


The issue is whether a vast difference in quantity and price creates a difference on principle.

For example, if surveying a person in the 1970s cost $300k per year to have them constantly followed, the cops needed few other limits as the cost alone means it won’t become pervasive.

But if you can get almost the same surveillance in 2021 for $10 per annum, nothing qualitative has changed - but the primary control on overreach has gone.


Your memories carry little to no weight if they conflict with some more tangible record in a dispute. When that changes, there will no doubt be other ramifications, like neural disrupters or jamming technologies.

> We’re living in the present, not some cybernetic future.

Maybe you aren't, that doesn't mean everyone chooses that lifestyle or should be forced into that mode of thinking.

I for one choose to think in terms of the future.

> We don’t have cameras and flash embedded in ourselves

Oh you bet I do happen to have a piece of flash storage embedded in my body, for a reason I choose to not disclose here. Although mine is not wired into an imaging device, it's only a matter of time before someone else's flash implant IS wired to an imaging device, and they have every right to.


Sorry to be that pedant that zeroes in a singular point that in no way nullifies the larger argument being made--but that isn't how HIPAA works at all.

If you're going to make a high level argument, you should base it on something higher than two particular laws that have been passed by the government.

> Note that by "public" I mean cameras facing streets, sidewalks, etc. I can always choose not to go into a store if I don't want to be on its cameras.

Given how cheap and ubiquitous internet-connected security cams are now, this seems like a distinction without a difference. Unless you expect the “free market” to deliver a brand of “proudly webcam-free” businesses (don’t hold your breath), this is just going to mean that you can’t go in any stores.


The article addresses this. What you are okay with is not the sole basis for determining what is ethical. For instance, I am not okay with you reading this text. I meant it for everyone except mdorazio. I demand you apologize.

If you took this to a regulator they would probably laugh at you, but from what I can tell this statement is technically enforceable under GDPR.

The problem with surveillance is that law enforcement is not acting in your interests as an individual. Your image, captured on camera near a crime scene, becomes evidence of your guilt. It puts the onus on you to prove your innocence, and if law enforcement is lazy, fallible, stupid, or you just get unlucky, you're going to prison for a crime you didn't commit. Or you're going to get tangled up in a legal defense that could cost you years worth of paychecks to prove your innocence.

"I've got nothing to hide" is not a valid opinion to have with regards to surveillance - the two options are "I have information to share with the state" and "I do not wish to share information with the state. " Since the state is almost universally in an adversarial relationship with citizens, it never makes sense for a citizen to share information with the state unless compelled to (the processes of state compulsion have stricter rules and precedents that have higher levels of protections against casual abuse. A lawyer can recommend 5th amendment if necessary when compelled to testify. )

https://youtu.be/d-7o9xYp7eE

I think the side of private photography is much simpler. If you're in public you should expect to be seen and/or recorded. Public places are places where you have zero expectation of privacy. We should celebrate the art that comes from public photography.

I think we're long overdue for a sweeping, constitutional level reform of information privacy rights that protect citizens from abuses and reinforce modern norms around recording in public. It's obvious that we're living under the panopticon, so we need a system that accounts for that.


> Your image, captured on camera near a crime scene, becomes evidence of your guilt. It puts the onus on you to prove your innocence, and if law enforcement is lazy, fallible, stupid, or you just get unlucky, you're going to prison for a crime you didn't commit. Or you're going to get tangled up in a legal defense that could cost you years worth of paychecks to prove your innocence.

This is literally just FUD, albeit you're as much a victim of it as you are a vector.

As someone who was recently on a jury for a criminal trial that was based almost entirely on copious video camera surveillance footage (no, not that trial), a jury that acquitted the defendant of all charges (almost immediately, save for a few hangers on, including myself), your fears seem largely unfounded. Both the law and the judgement of humans heavily emphasize intent and motivation, and camera footage is neutral in that regard.

Admittedly, it's no picnic being subject to state-sponsored prosecution. But that was always the case, and despite all the FUD rooted in an unhealthily extreme anti-authoritarian sentiment (partially a product of our victim culture) that leaves little room for civil society to function, there's still conspicuously few claims, let alone evidence, that camera footage will result in a greater prevalence of false prosecutions, particularly for non-traffic offenses.


I'm MUCH more comfortable with street photography than CCTV.

I don't care if my image is taken in public, I have no expectation of privacy in the moment.

But I do care about subsequent analysis of, and storage of linked metadata about those images.

A random street photographer or member of the public is unlikely to be connected to a permanent, secret, and searchable database of facial recognition, gait analysis, or whatever else linked to bluetooth/phone signals to identify people in the images.

I cannot say that about the many, many CCTV cameras that seem to be everywhere.

Some people may think that's paranoid, but that's exactly what they would have said about mass surveillance pre-Snowden, and when you look at how much data they were storing and analyzing back then, think about what they're probably doing now...

Such scary things are possible now that couldn't have been imagined even 20 years ago.


Well, once someone publishes your street photo, it becomes instantly available to a plethora of searchable databases from all kinds of jurisdictions.

If it's CCTV, it's just one company that manages the photos, under local regulations.


But that would be just a single image with no context, and usually no location and no ability to link it to bluetooth or phone number, as most online services remove exif data now, I belive.

It's not like a fixed CCTV camera that is continuously recording and being constantly analyzed and stored forever, and can detect regular patterns of behavior, and thereby able to automatically tag things that are "out of the ordinary".

>If it's CCTV, it's just one company that manages the photos, under local regulations.

How could you possibly know that? There is nothing to say that the information is not being shared. TBH, it's extremely naive to think that information stays inside the building, or that the three-letter agencies haven't already connected those thousands of cameras.

It's interesting that you use the word "photos" too, what I'm worried about is much more than photos, it's a permanent historical record of dates/times/movement patterns that can be linked over thousands of cameras, creating a continuous historical record of everyone's movements, all linked to those photos. They can track a single person's movements over years. It can also correlate with other people to detect who may be connected to who. Bigdata tracking everyone at all times.

Give me a random person snapping street photos any day.

Any way you cut it, fixed cameras are more worrisome.


Two citations from Malhotra et al. (2004) [1] come to my mind here:

First, "any act of data collection […] is the starting point of various information privacy concerns” (p. 338).

Second, privacy can be defined as “the degree to which a person is concerned about the amount of individual-specific data possessed by others relative to the value of benefits received” (p. 338)

This explains why we are so sensitive if random people take pictures of us, without our consent. Usually, there is nothing we can gain, but a lot to loose, under some circumstances. In Social Media, it is necessary to acknowledge both sides of the trade - users also gain something, which is why they/we are more willingly to give up some part of their/our privacy. This is also the case, to some degree, in public street surveillance. It is not the case, however, in random street photography.

[1] Malhotra, N.K.; Kim, S.S.; Agarwal, J. Internet users’ information privacy concerns (IUIPC): The construct, the scale, and a causal model. Inf. Syst. Res. 2004, 15, 336–355.


i do take issue with security cameras filming me. it bothers me, because yes, maybe the images get wiped unseen, but maybe not. how secure are those cameras? who gets access to the feed?

on the other hand, if a photographer takes a photo of me, i don't care as long as the photo doesn't get published.

i take photos myself, and in general my attitude is that publishing one of my photos requires the permission of all subjects in it. when i put photos on my own website then i explicitly add a license that allows a subject in the photo to use it for their own purposes as they see fit.

so as a photographer i explicitly give control back to the subjects in the photo, because that is how i believe this should be handled.


"Racy Photos Were Often Shared at N.S.A., Snowden Says" - New York Times (July 20, 2014)

In 2021, to take a photo with a smartphone is to publish it, worldwide and forever.

(Of course I still take plenty of pictures of myself and friends. It's just not a clear line anymore what we get to control when social media and corporate/government leaks are everywhere)


When entering stores with security cameras, I wonder how many use facial recognition tools and then how that information is being used / aggregated / sold.

It would be good to know whether facial recognition is being used before entering a business.


It is a difficult subject. A store security camera that cycles every weeks is no big deal. But what if there are cameras on every street corner run by the government and saved for 5 years? What about Ring footage of your neighborhood/building being saved for 5 years? The tough question is how do we separate what the data could be used for and what it is likely to be used for. And if we aren't vigilant now, could we just wake up one day and it is too late?

> Maybe it's like somebody mining for diamonds under my house - they've found some value in something I didn't know I had, but I now want my share.

And this is one of the harder parts of assigning value to something like this... What is a person's share when someone exploits a resource that the first party had some kind of nominal claim to (i.e. "my land," even though really you live above that 3D region of space, not within it) but zero ability / opportunity / inclination to exploit?

There's volumes and volumes of legal precedent on this topic for tangibles, let alone the increasingly-intangibles that we can monetize online.


Value can be created without it being “taken” from anywhere.

Right; with the notable exception of value provided by governments, which largely comes out of the pockets of the working class.

"Money coming out of pockets" isn't evidence that value is "taken" from anywhere. The more cooperative exchanges of value we have, the more valuable and prosperous our economies are.

This reminds me of PG's essay: http://www.paulgraham.com/wealth.html

"A surprising number of people retain from childhood the idea that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world."


My worry about it is how street photographers are able to convey meaning through context, captions, etc. I don't mind someone taking a photo of me if they get permission afterwards to post it and I'm able to ask them to take it down. However, I don't like losing control over my image.

But it’s not yours. You don’t own your “image”, just like you don’t own your DNA.

It’s not reasonable to expect to require permission for someone to use your image that they captured. What if it’s for news purposes? What if it’s related to, say, and insurance fraud investigation? If you keep trying to draw the line, it gets harder and harder to draw.

So what’s reasonable? If you have an expectation of privacy that’s violated, that seems far. But if you do not, i.e. you are in public, you have no such expectation.

Now, photographs shot through a window? Close your blinds or shut up. It’s all up to you.


> But if you do not, i.e. you are in public,

What if you're on the street outside an HIV clinic? Or an abortion clinic? Or an STI clinic? Or a substance misuse clinic? Or a narcotics anonymous meeting?

What if you're on the street, but have clearly just exited the door from that clinic?

This isn't idle noodling. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Campbell_v_MGN_Ltd


"The House of Lords held MGN liable by majority vote, with lords Nicholls and Hoffmann dissenting. Baroness Hale, Lord Hope and Lord Carswell held that the picture added something of 'real significance'. The court engaged in a balancing test, firstly determining whether the applicant had a reasonable expectation of privacy (thus determining whether Art.8 ECHR was involved). It then considered whether, if the claimant was successful, this would result in a significant inference with freedom of expression (balancing Art. 8 with Art. 10). It was held that Campbell's right to privacy (ECHR, Sch 1, Part I, Art 8) outweighed MGN's right to freedom of expression (ECHR Art 10)."

So there is a specific legal cutout for those cases.

The legal system is not usually made up of complete idiots.


> The legal system is not usually made up of complete idiots.

Certainly not. There is the “evil asshole” contingent as well, but I expect a bit of overlap between the two.


In the united states you do in fact own and have a right to control commercial exploitation of your image / likeness, with exceptions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personality_rights#United_Stat...

News coverage is a common exception.

A fraud investigation is not commercial exploitation.

> If you keep trying to draw the line, it gets harder and harder to draw.

You're not qualified to make statements like this.


> You're not qualified to make statements like this.

Maybe, maybe not. Who the f*ck are you? (See how that works?)


Why, don't I own my dna?

Your “flesh and bone” are certainly yours. But DNA?

You didn’t create it, it’s not original, and yours is 99.9% identical to mine. You cannot copyright or patent it. And you’re pretty sloppy with it, leaving a trail of it everywhere you go.


>I don't mind someone taking a photo of me if they get permission afterwards to post it and I'm able to ask them to take it down. However, I don't like losing control over my image.

Perhaps you do not like loosing control over photographer and art expression of others? Perhaps 'control over image' is just an excuse for that?

Would you like to control all forms of arts? Just imagine the possibilities... They will publish what you allow. They would draw what you permit. They will beg you to forgive them if they did not satisfy your taste. You will have complete control over you image and not only photo image the public image too. Think about press. If they have something critical to say about you they would need your permission before they publish. Would you like all that?


It is novel and interesting because it compares the value of an image taken accidentally by a security camera to an image taken intentionally by a photographer. The author states that our value flows like the wind and photography captures it, which I thought was correct since photography is to record a moment in a constantly changing world.

the problem isnt value or really consent, its that the photographer cant see the future. it also involves not just value but also cost and risk. Social media and the ability for things to go viral has made it possible for even the most innocent and mundane/valueless media to have a huge impact/cost to the person in it. It could be anxiety and depression triggered by being in a viral meme. A video of a real or perceived mistake normally overlooked and ignored suddenly ruins their career and some relationships.

The subject, just as with the value may have no real way of knowing the cost and risk. most will assume there is no value, cost or risk like virtually every other photo and have no problem with it. Or they will think of those ever so rare photos that they see all the time at the top of their feed and either want far to much in compensation or never allow any photos they cant control taken.

The problem isnt really consent its that the photographer and subject cant predict the future. If the photographer knew the photo would never see general public viewing, win any prizes be seen by the subject or anyone they know. both the photographer and subject wouldn't care about consent. on the other hand if the photographer knew exactly how popular, how much value would be derived from it and the cost it would have on the subject they wouldn't hesitate to get consent and maybe offer some compensation based on the cost the photo would have on the subjects life.

it is however so rare a single photo has significance on anything, that everyone just assumes its not worth getting consent. only photo's where someone expects privacy is it assumed the cost to the subject is usually too high and requires consent.


Thinking about the security-cameras vs photographer thing:

- Security cameras: At least in theory, security camera footage is mostly private, and recorded with a specific, 'good' goal: if something happens, they have the security footage. It can be useful to me if someone robs me and they can get identified because they were filmed.

- Photographer: absolutely no use to me, and possibly going to share that picture on instagram, facebook, whatever, making 'everyone' knows that I was at there at that point.


Are we talking about rights or your convenience? Does a person has a right to freely express himself in any art form including photography?

This is a response to the parent, which said:

> As people have mentioned, security cameras are filming me all the time - and I've no issue with that.

> If one of these frames was taken by a photographer deliberately - then suddenly I care more. Why did he take it? What was I doing? Where will it be shown? To whom will it be shown? What will they think of me, based upon it etc etc.

I was just expanding on that. But go ahead and read my reply without thinking about what I was replying to


>I was just expanding on that.

Yes you were just explaining on that but you 'were explaining on that' purely from the convenience and point of view while if you think about right for the free speech it is frequently not so much convenient when you hear criticism. That is why I asked the question and the question stands.


Data point.

The most reproduced photo of the 20th century is https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V-J_Day_in_Times_Square. It raises multiple issues of consent. The photographer didn't know who was being photographed. The woman didn't consent to the kiss, and didn't realized she had been photographed until many years later. Under current law, it was a sexual assault. Indeed in another frame on the same camera, she was fighting back.

But it gets better. A man who claimed to have been the kisser later sued for a share of the proceeds. (George Mendonsa dropped the suit later citing costs.)

And there we have it. One of the most iconic photos of all time has lack of consent written all over it. And yet, I'm very glad that the photographer took the picture.


Counterpoint: If this photo hadn't been taken or the photographer had felt shame at its content and not put it forward for print, nothing would be lost. There are thousands of photos taken the same day that could have become iconic instead. It's an artistically and emotionally good photo, but it holds no special significance outside the fame it gathered.

If it hadn't become famous you wouldn't miss this photo and instead maybe some 5 year old waving to her dad coming home, or a mother hugging her son would have become famous.


I'm not sure if I buy that counterfactual. Taken to its logical conclusion, you can say that about any piece of art, or anyone you meet, or any event in your life. I don't believe that these are such interchangeable items. Taking your example of an alternate photo of a 5yo waving to her dad, or a mother hugging her son, they express different things compared with the photo in question, with the original photo giving me a sense of the joy of returning to a youthful life full of promise, while the 5yo waving photo would be of the relief of a father knowing that he will be able to raise his daughter, and the last would be of a dutiful son returning.

Or just simply some other homecoming soldier kissing his consenting girlfriend.

I wonder if they know they've been immortalized in National Harbor, MD.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/KnGhdR5gvGLtvq3v6


I’m willing to be swayed on this issue but to me the word “consent” implies permission, and the word permission implies some type of authority. In the case of photography in public there is no authority so no consent is needed. I personally believe that, for the most part, ethics and legality align here. I don’t think it is unethical to photograph and publish a picture of someone in public. However, I think there may be an ethical dilemma if the picture is unintentionally sexually suggestive. I still don’t believe it should be legislated. The societal and personal benefits guaranteed by the right which allows us to photograph in public is worth more than the protection that would come through legislation.

Additionally the picture in question is not sexual to me at all. I don’t even understand how anyone could construe it as sexual. To me it’s a raw, emotional photograph that perfectly describes what it’s like to mother children in a large city. It’s an amazing moment


If I understand correctly, the reason why public photography is considered protected speech is because we want citizens to be able to capture public events of interest. That is, protests, riots, cops using excessive force, or more happy events like celebrations, etc. When it comes to someone taking photos in those situations I have no problem with it.

However I really dislike the commercial street photographers as a concept. Basically instead of paying models to work for you, you go out to use random people as models and then sell your photos as art. That to me is exploitation. I understand that legally speaking it would be incredibly hard to separate the two types of street photography so it must all remain legal, but at the same time I strongly dislike the latter category, especially for the photogs who act like entitled assholes about it.


I dislike any ownership of the public space. I think there's a guarantee that will be used against you if you start to allow some people to own their public representations. Powerful people and corporations would love to own their public representation and limit what could be done with them. And the lines aren't going to be clear cut.

There's a conflict between the ability to document the public sphere and any right to privacy in the public sphere. And the need to be able to document the public sphere I think takes precedence. And just like you don't like all the speech in the public sphere, but it needs to be protected, you don't have to like all the documentation of the public sphere, but it needs to be protected.


The difference between a model and a random stranger is night and day. The reason the model gets paid is because they are professional and contribute roughly equally to the process. With [good] street photography, it's almost entirely the story that is told that brings the value, the subject just happens to be living their relatively ordinary life.

Every time I hear someone talk like you do, I think about this photo:

https://i.imgur.com/1p0GS9R.png

Street photographers are universally terrible people, and people who defend them are defending some of the more mundane scum of the earth.

This is made worse by their worship of people like Mark Cohen, who was an absolute creep: https://www.reddit.com/r/AnalogCommunity/comments/qxmjb4/


Taking photos of homeless people is generally seen an unacceptable amongst street photographers. I think maybe you're focusing on a couple specific people?

It's not just taking pictures of homeless people. Look at what Cohen does in that video, and remember he's one of the most celebrated and beloved street photographers.

Street photography is for hacks. I've known a lot of them, they're never good people.


Mark Cohen is 78 years old. He is not remotely relevant to the scene today. Photogs celebrate the people who came before them like Cohen or Gilden but you just don't see that type of behaviour in the current generation. Same with anything else really, older sports athletes are celebrated and at the same time rightfully criticised, older musicians, celebrities, the list goes on.

It seems you've had some bad experiences, that's a shame. But that's a hell of a broad brush you're painting with there, when there's so much good street out there telling beautiful stories from people we would never have heard from.


FWIW I agree that street photography is by and large not great. I know there are exceptions but mostly people don’t want to be photographed in public by a random stranger.

So you want to use my likeness to make money by selling it while simultaneously telling me that my life is too mundane to bother asking me if this is ok?

Most street photography that becomes popular is centered around people who are in distress. How is that not exploitation?


> Most street photography that becomes popular is centered around people who are in distress

Absolutely not true at all


"Public events of interest" is but one of many arguments, and your concern - Of being photographed on the street- Is in opposition to one of the other strongest arguments, that photography, even of random passers-by, is a form of art. That capturing life around you and the sights of your life are worth remembering.

Quite frankly, I suggest you take your argument to some frozen icy wastes.


Here, the trouble with HN up/down votes. I agree with the first part, but disagree with the snarky comment at the end.

I am honestly not sure what I just read, why it was written, or what it’s trying to say.

> “consent” implies permission, and the word permission implies some type of authority. In the case of photography in public there is no authority so no consent is needed.

The authority is over their own person. If I'm in public you don't get to touch grab my ass because "in the case of ass-grabbing in public there is no authority so no consent is needed."

> However, I think there may be an ethical dilemma if the picture is unintentionally sexually suggestive.

Think about why there's a dilemma. Can that same reasoning apply to other kinds of photos? And who should get to decide what's sufficiently suggestive? You or the subject?


Does my authority over my own person extend to denying you permission to transmit photons into my retina?

I agree for figures in public places, but taking a years worth of pictures through a window (from a public place into a private place) is also protected by law (from the article).

Is it OK to video/telephoto photograph from a rooftop through a window above the curtains into a shower of a naked person (over 18) and sell those on the internet along with the person's name and address? What about using deep IR to see through sheer curtains? Is it OK for the police to do the same with radar and sonar inside people's homes?

How far do you have to go to have some expectation of privacy?


According to the article, deep IR would be illegal:

> Spying into someone's private space with specialized equipment or a drone is illegal.


But a 50MP sensor, with tripod and 800mm telephoto... not specialized. At some point intent has to play a roll.

Yes, the law is clear on this and case law evolved back when photography was expensive and relatively uncommon. People want to reconsider now that everyone has a camera all the time and it is very easy. This is a common pattern with tech.

Nobody needed laws about automobiles before they were invented, and it took quite a few years before those laws became settled and close to universal.

(E.g. every jurisdiction will require you to drive either on the left or the right side of the road, but they differ. Nearly all the world now uses red stop signs and lights.)

Laws change in response to technological changes; this is normal. The spirit of a law is often more important than the wording, in deciding what changes to the law are appropriate.


Don't forget that laws about automobiles were shaped by years of intense lobbying and shaping public opinion with campaigns, all financed by car companies.

> In the case of photography in public there is no authority so no consent is needed.

In the US.


This bit me hard.

I love street photography and have been active for a number of years. I have done some good work.

I never appreciated the freedom I had as a photographer in the US.

A while ago I moved to Norway.

I kept taking pictures. Working on two different concepts / series.

I got some good shots, the cultural differences in behavior, fashion, what is considered polite etc was inspiring.

I shared some shots with friends back in the states including my mentor. I got some food and valuable reviews, and one series was well liked. I had put 4- 5 month of effort into it. (not all day every day)

I was starting to wonder about how to go about publishing them.

Now I hate social media. I do not put my photos on Instagram, Twitter, or wherever else. This turned out to be a blessing.

I was visiting a few galleries to learn about the local scene and dip my toes in the water and see what it takes to get a few photos up.

I dont take along an iPad with photos, I stick to an old portfolio with printed photos.

I got a couple of stern lectures about Norwegian law, and that all my photos were to be considered illegal esp. if I were to show them anywhere.

It was fortuitous that I dont share my work.

I admit I was pissed off for a while and I have had to put Street Photography out of my mind.

I am left with two folders on a harddrive with work that I cannot display. I have not yet been able to delete all of them. I have thought about showing them in the US, the legality of which I have not been able to establish so that is off as well.


Are you sure you need to delete them? I don't know Norwegian law specifically, but it might be the case that you are allowed to take photos in public and you just can't publish them without subjects consent.

This is for the most part true yes.

It is late and I do not have the exact phrasing, but

"You are not allowed to take a photo of a person who is in a vulnerable position"

The problem there is what constitutes a vulnerable position.

A man urinating, a drunk person, a beggar, a homeless person, children, someone crying are all examples of things that -can- be illegal. (Unless you have written release) (which is not enough in all cases).

There is also a part about clothing, like the story above mentioned. Most people (I think) look at the photo in the story and everything seems kosher as far as clothing goes. some disagree as the story indicates.

The big problem is the ambiguity of some of these terms and what the person you are taking a photo of would interpret said terms.


Looks like Norwegian law is terrible. It doesn't respect freedom of art expression. Isn't it a right of any person to see the world the way this person want to see it and express it in any art form that is available?

They wish to control pictures photographer produce and they take no shame in that. It is absolutely terrible. They basically oppress photographer who wish to show reality with all imperfections. They make illegal any photography that tries to show reality as it is or as photographer perceive it instead of some polished idealistic BS that has nothing to with what is really going on.


The law has more nuance than that. I am not a lawyer but it’s not as black and white as these comments make it seem.

Separately but this (photography/recording in public, and sharing/publishing of said material) is one of those cases where law and praxis varies widely between otherwise similar jurisdictions.


Pretty sure that's the point, they have no use for them but haven't resolved to delete them due to their lack of utility. They function as a memory just as everyone else has photos, its not the reason they took the photos though

I neighboring Sweden, you can take all the photos you want. Publishing is where the dragons are.

It's surprising that this is allowed in the US at all. For a country that values personal freedoms, the legalization of being photographed against one's will is unexpected.

As a non-photographer, I absolutely don't consent to having my photo taken for public display. For a private collection, that's a different matter, provided care is taken to make that photo inaccessible to the public. If a photographer is to make money off of my appearance, I want to make sure it's done with consent.


> It's surprising that this is allowed in the US at all.

I’m curious - why do you find this surprising?

> For a country that values personal freedoms, the legalization of being photographed against one's will is unexpected.

And what of the personal freedoms of the person holding the camera?

To make this more complex, what if that person is holding an iPhone, and the subject of their photo is their kid? And what if you happen to be in that shot?

While I completely understand the spirit of your concern, it shouldn’t surprise anyone familiar with US freedoms.


If a photo of someone's kid includes a recognizable photo of me, and the photo is for private use then it's a different matter than someone exhibiting that photo for public use.

As for general freedoms, a person's freedom ends when it infringes on the freedoms of another. We can debate the nuance of that sentiment (that's what courts are for) but the freedom of anyone to privacy should exceed the freedom of some to make money.


The point though is that the current state of things is neither surprising nor unexpected, which is what you were originally saying.

There is a spectrum of use between "private display" and "purely for commercial benefit" that is nearly impossible to legislate effectively. The acceptable use of photography equipment and fair use of the resulting photos can't be boiled down to privacy vs. profit, and that's why this particular subject is so controversial and difficult to resolve.


Or art, or historical record, apparently.

The basis of privacy rights in the US is the expectation of privacy. No one can claim an expectation of privacy in public. That image may be of you but you have no claim to it, as you didn’t take it.

That's what I mean. It's very surprising that exposing oneself to the public (as is unavoidable to do most things in life) warrants a loss of freedom to privacy. Effectively, the only people who get anonymity and a semblance of public privacy are those who can afford it, and not just anyone.

Writing this out, it makes a lot more sense. The US is known for allowing certain rights and privileges to those who can afford them ;)


> It's very surprising that exposing oneself to the public ... warrants a loss of freedom to privacy.

Again, I understand your personal desire for privacy (and even share it), but this argument doesn't make sense. "Public" is literally an antonym of "Private" - the reason one loses privacy in public is baked into the very definition of the words we're using to describe the situation.


It makes total sense. To live any kind of livable life you need to go into the public space now and then. That shouldn't mean you have to give up any rights or freedoms.

Hey, buddy. If you want privacy, stop reflecting photons into my camera! How can you claim ownership over photons you threw at me!

Should I be allowed to walk around naked in public? Play my music as loud as I want? Set up a tent and live there forever in public?

You didn't give up any rights or freedoms: there is no "right to not be photographed".

In Germany, there is a right to one's own image, even in public.

>If a photographer is to make money off of my appearance, I want to make sure it's done with consent.

US law is more specific than just whether it makes money. You can't control how your likeness is used in fine art, or for editorial or education purposes with limited exceptions for things like defamation. But you can control and entirely prevent your image from being used commercially, generally to advertise a product. And commercial use is more about the relationship implied than just about making money.

Like a newspaper can use your photo in an article about a newsworthy event that you were part of, even though the newspaper makes money selling newspapers. Or a street photographer can sell a limited number of prints in a gallery for tens of thousands of dollars as in Nussenzweig v. DiCorcia. But it would be commercial use and an infringement of your personality rights to print your face on t shirts or mugs even if they are a non profit giving them away.


Save them. make a trust or will to publish in 50 years after you die. then it will be history. very interesting for everyone, and no legal issues.

I love this idea. It's thinking long term and beyond your own life (which is something we should be doing in everything we're doing with our lives.)

I always found this issue to be confusing. There are literally hundreds of cameras tracking me every day: in the parking lot, in front of the ATM, when I buy my groceries… I have no ability to know when I’m being recorded or what happens to those recordings.

Yet some people are upset if they get photographed by a human photographer in a public space.

Is the only difference that the photo was taken with intent?


I am strongly in favor of the right to photograph anything and anybody in public places, but from a moral/ethical/legal point of view, "intent" is indeed everything.

You make it sound like it would be secondary and not really relevant, but for example, intent is the difference between murder and involuntary manslaughter.

In candid street photography, I think what people fear is exactly that: bad intent, a willingness of the photographer to exploit the images in order to show ridicule or maybe even obtain sexual gratification.

And it's also an easy way to do some virtue signalling. It's striking that in the article, it's not the people being photographed who object, but complete strangers to the scene, who know absolutely nothing about the specific circumstances of how the image was taken and whether or not consent was granted.

Of course, intent lies not just in the pressing of a shutter; one can also select stills from security footage with intent to ridicule. And indeed, as a general rule, access to security footage is limited and controlled, probably for that reason.


> In candid street photography, I think what people fear is exactly that: bad intent, a willingness of the photographer to exploit the images in order to show ridicule or maybe even obtain sexual gratification.

That cuts both ways though -- I would be much more worried about the "intent" of someone looking up my face in particular and/or storing a database of millions of face-recognized surveillance videos than any possible malintent a human photographer could have. The former has much more potential for sinister outcomes originating from sinister intents.


> storing a database of millions ... any possible malintent a human photographer could have

Then again, as a sibling comment pointed out, there's a decent chance these days that the individual human photographer casually puts the image of your face into Facebook/Instagram(/Google?)'s database.


One should not assume that those who are not keen on being photographed in public are unconcerned by the high level if institutional snooping, or that they have always felt this way. What has changed is the environment.

Until relatively recently, there was comparatively little institutional snooping going on, and most of that was not disseminated: for the most part, it stayed where it was taken for a couple of weeks, then the tapes were overwritten. These days, it is likely to last forever, and make its way into the hands of those companies that have made it their business to find out everything about us.

Similarly, when someone takes a snapshot on the street, it is very likely to be sucked up into the cloud. Even though I have no account with Facebook, I have little doubt that it can recognize me in the background of other people's pictures, and has a file on my whereabouts and activities.

Therefore, the issue is not the taking of the pictures per se, but the use they are put to by third parties. While I do not spend much time worrying about what could happen as a consequence, I sure do not like it, and I don't think I should have to justify that dislike.


I don't think the issue is solely intent at the time the photo is taken. If I put up a CCTV camera in my brick and mortar business with the intent of having security footage in the event of a crime, but I subsequently review the footage, take some stills I think are funny, and put them on social media to build and entertain an audience, then I have pulled a kind of bait-and-switch. If people in or near my business reasonably assumed that the footage would be used specifically for security purposes, and are OK with being filmed for such a purpose, they may justifiably feel deceived.

I can be on-board with the arrangement that "You're on camera. We'll see you if you shoplift. But hopefully you're in a store where others are also weakly dissuaded away from shoplifting."

I might choose not to frequent a business where the deal is "Don't shoplift. But also, if you trip and fall maybe we'll cut a clip of you for the internet to laugh at."


Is it so unbelievable? You listed hidden cameras. When you don't see a camera, and don't know you're being recorded, you don't object to it as strenuously as when a stranger points a camera at you. Even if you remember reading somewhere that cameras are in the store, you can easily forget that because you don't see them. Instead, imagine if grocery stores had employees follow customers around recording with cameras while they were in the store, and on the way back to their cars: would you expect more complaints, or the same amount?

It's a very good point. This whole debate is semi-consciously influenced by an semi-conscious quirk of our human brains: watching for apparent agency in the world and ascribing more weight to things that seem to have it.

Seems to me the objections come from assuming bad intent of the photographer

A little apples to oranges, but I get the feeling the same folks who are against being photographed in public are probably pro police bodycams

And how far and widely do they apply this? Sailor kiss in Times Sq comes to mind. Shots of the crowd at a sporting event?

And then there's war photography...


As an aside, the times square kiss is kind of messed up. They didn't know each other, and the woman didn't want the kiss. It's kind of weird that such an iconic image of celebration here is an image of sexual assault.

Yikes. It was just the first 'candid historic photo' that I thought of

> A little apples to oranges, but I get the feeling the same folks who are against being photographed in public are probably pro police bodycams

The reasoning is not contradictory as you imply at the end; it is indeed apples and oranges. The "pro police bodycam" position is for capturing the actions of the person wearing it, protecting the camera's subject by adding accountability. The point is for the recording to be available as a public record in case of a problem, not for the officer to be able to use it.

A random videographer on the street does not have anything like the same relationship with their captured subjects, and is probably not making a record that is positive for the recorded person (or the public).

And that's to say nothing of private surveillance cameras; the difference there should be obvious.


Like most things it's a double-edged sword - would the protests last year have happened without publicly shot video of the Floyd incident?

Impossible to say yes or no, but it definitely seemed pivotal


Sure, but those videos were taken deliberately for purpose A: to establish a public record of something related to official actions/accountability. I don't think they can be put under "random videographer".

Part of the issue is that modern cameras are very high definition. For example, they can capture your skin in detail which is unnerving.

They can also capture what you are reading which means that they dance very closely to the idea of recording audio in public without consent. This could be especially bad if the photographer captures images of communications used by people with disabilities such as braille or signs.

A third issue could be having your photograph taken while doing something private in public such as pooping in the woods.


Recording audio in public is also legal in the US, I'm not sure why the analog for persons with disabilities would make any difference? Under US law, there is not presumption of privacy in public spaces, and therefore citizens have no rights to privacy while in public spaces. If someone is concerned enough about this, they are free to wear masks and communicate in code.

People who objects to being photographed in public object to those photos being put on internet or journals.

Generally, the security camera pictures won't be published. Where they are published, they are still so boring that no one looks at them.


Is intent just another way of distinguishing between active and passive recording?

CCTV footage doesn't go viral, and my social circle won't see it.

I find it hard to understand that people in this thread see no problem there.

You can still believe that photographers should have every right to take photos (and legally they do, so there's nothing to discuss about the status quo), but you need to address this point, even if only by summarily dismissing it.


> CCTV footage doesn't go viral

Unless you trip over, get mugged or your pants fall down.


That feels like it's just looping around to the same problem. If you use an image or video of a other person for ridicule or profit, and it is likely to bring them unwanted attention, that is exploitation of that person. In my opinion it's ethically wrong.

> CCTV footage doesn't go viral, and my social circle won't see it.

It absolutely can and has. Such as if the CCTV captured footage of a crime or a suspect of a crime.

Additionally, if the CCTV is government controlled, it is subject to freedom of information laws (FOIA), which means anyone can get a copy of the footage for any reason and use it for any purpose. It is in effect public domain.


Being willing to accept risk that if crime happens at the same place, the CCTV might go viral still can dislike idea of photographer making I intentional photo of him and make it viral. Those are very different situations.

Your second point does not address comment you respond to.


YouTube is full of "look what my Ring camera recorded" videos.

What situations of a photo going viral do you consider bad enough to consider blanket banning? Are those nit already illegal as libel or whatever it is that makes upskirt photos illegal?

I haven't said a single word about making anything illegal. I simply point out that people have every right to feel uncomfortable with being photographed by strangers. And all "I don't mind" won't change that many people do mind.

>and legally they do

It depends of the country.


> CCTV footage doesn't go viral, and my social circle won't see it.

It's available to LEO - and they come with a history of leveraging surveillance in ways that profoundly damage lives.


Curious about “ And asking for it afterwards almost guarantees you will be turned down. ” She seems to know most people wont approve it, so the solution is to not ask. I imagine my daughter: “Dad, i didnt ask for permission because you would say no, so i not asked for it and Im safe for being grounded.” Weird thinking

It's also empirically wrong in my experience. I take a lot of photos of my dog, particularly at the dog park or around my neighborhood when we're out walking. I put the best ones up on Instagram. Some of those photos have people in them. I never post a photo with an identifiable person in it without showing them the photos and asking the person first. Not once have I been turned down.

I did once take a photo of my dog with two cute little twin 8 year old girls who live in my neighborhood. I told them to tell their parents, and that I wasn't going to put that one up online, and I didn't. Later, I met their father when my dog and I were out on a walk, after I introduced myself, I made sure to tell him explicitly that I had taken the photo. I just don't think it's fair to put kids' photos online like that.


I think it very much depends on the circumstances. If people are sitting down and are in an environment where they feel safe, you can walk over with a friendly smile, chat a little, show them the camera and btw, I took some pictures of you that I hope will turn out really nice. I hope you don’t mind, I’ll be happy to send you a copy. Few people say no.

On he other hand, people who are in a hurry or feel vulnerable mostly say no just by default. Does it reflect their true feelings about the matter if they had time to reflect? Hard to know.

In the US the situation should be simple. The first amendment must trump any right to any expectation of privacy in a public space.


Yes, “I didn’t ask to kiss you because I knew you’d say no. It's better for society if I just go ahead.”

It's becuase people will assume a different intent, it sounds like a scam that way.

As a rather privacy-conscious person, I find this argument rather troubling:

> asking for [consent] afterwards almost guarantees you will be turned down.

In other words: I can't ask for people's consent because they might not give consent.

> Even I, as a photographer, would feel suspicious if a stranger came up to me saying they just took my photo and would like some kind of retroactive permission.

The fact that most people would not explicitly consent to being photographed is (prima facie) a pretty strong argument against taking such photographs.

It's worth noting that some people have particularly strong reasons not to want to be photographed. Among them: some religious traditions forbid photography, and some people (e.g. closeted LGBTQ people) need to keep aspects of their lives private.


> In other words: I can't ask for people's consent because they might not give consent.

I think you missed the point.

If somebody came up to me and asked permission to do something they already did, i'd say no out of "what the fuck" factor even if i would have said yes if they asked before.

Implying they were suggesting otherwise is stretching the truth.


I understand that people may have particularly strong reasons no not wanting to be photographed in public, but the strength of their conviction is not in itself necessarily a reason to respect those reasons. For example, lots of people strongly think that Bill Gates is using vaccines to insert microchips for surveillance purposes. Should we respect those ideas?

And yes, the surveillance state is a real thing, so I wouldn't go so far as to say that everyone's concerns are completely unfounded, but at least some of the time, the overall logic and philosophical underpinnings of their reasoning are not well considered. Do they really want to restrict the rights of others in a way that may end up harming them? Wouldn't they in fact be grateful if (without consent) a villain was caught on video attacking them, or if a kidnapper (without signing a release) was caught on video putting a child in a van? Some might conclude that only well-behaved people have a right to public privacy, and think no further about the full implications of that.

But, technology has created this problem, and may very well soon solve it. First, the increasing spread of deepfakes enables people to at least facially deny that the image in a photo is theirs. Second, the rise of deep learning means that it's becoming increasingly possible for photographers to alter photos of real people so that the faces in street photos are replaced with realistic GAN-generated faces that are distinct from the original face, but the expressions and everything else stay the same. It's not hard to imagine that that may become standard etiquette, another decade or two down the line. What a time to be alive.


FromTA: "there is nothing inherently dangerous in the mere act of photographing people, children included, in the anonymity of a public space"

In times past public space anonymity was a thing. Now it isn't.

In a world of social media, surveillance, face detection, viral topics, polarisation of debate - the effects of social chilling are very real. Street photography is but a victim of this social chilling, sad as it is.

I am willing to bet, that if a person was aware of every camera as they walked down the street AND THEY COULD TURN THEM OFF/DELETE FOOTAGE they would absolutely do so.

To put it another way, if I could wear a magical badge on my shirt that prevented such imagery of me, I would wear it all the time.

Take away the ability to easily share an image of me with everyone in the world, and I would be less concerned about images of me.


How is the topic of "well people are okay with this totally separate usage" such an issue? Obviously how an image is used matters. If you take a photo with a camera that automatically deletes it immediately, nobody cares. It's not the act of taking a photo that people care about, it's what you do with the picture afterwards.

That's why consent is great. One person might think the photo of them in a bathing suit that you want to put on your instagram is creepy and another might be fine. Letting the subject decide is a great way to avoid the issue.


> If you take a photo with a camera that automatically deletes it immediately, nobody cares. It's not the act of taking a photo that people care about,

If people are jumping in front of me paparazzi-style, pushing, gaping, pointing, flashing their cameras, I'd be bothered whether the camera deletes the image or not. I wouldn't even know whether it does. For me the act of photo taking, the unexpected attention in a public space is a bigger deal than the picture. Luckily, I'm not interesting enough


How do you get consent for a photo of a crowd?

I'm trying to arguing that a one size fits all approach doesn't work, because end use matters. So this question is more specific than I think is productive.

But to answer it anyways, I'd say that for security tape you don't need it, but if you want to put it on the front page of your website, maybe you blur the identifying features of the people whose consent you haven't gotten and get consent of everyone else? Or just keep it low res enough that it's blurred by default. Or just don't use it that way. The point is that there are options, and they aren't one-size-fits-all.


Exactly, you generally don't. People tend not to care if they're in some picture with a hundred other random people.

I studied video production in college. For one project, I did a documentary on a non-profit that was working in a high-crime area. We drove down the street with a video camera pointed out the window * As we drove by a house with some young men on the porch, one of them saw the camera and yelled angrily, "Yo, what the fuck!" and started chasing us. After that experience, I've never been able to point my camera at someone without getting their verbal consent first. I worked for awhile as a photographer/videographer for a school, and struggled to get good footage of students because of that.

* (With the documentary, we hadn't intended to record and people without consent, and when we finally published it, we had signed consent forms for everyone who appeared in it.)


It is generally a smart idea to get consent first, especially if the imagery is intended for monetized use, such as ads and posters, especially since such use can result in law suits if done without consent. The one thing that might outweigh this general rule, is if something newsworthy happens, or something that would be deemed important for the public to see, such as a crime. Where I'm from (Norway) the general rule is that a person cannot take up the focus or majority of an image without prior consent. This makes it possible to video or take pictures of public events without needing to ask everyone on the stadium, for instance.

> The one thing that might outweigh this general rule, is if something newsworthy happens, or something that would be deemed important for the public to see, such as a crime.

It actually sounds like that isn’t required in the US.

https://dinalitovsky.bulletin.com/590041038798261


She says: _`"Consent" seems like an easy concept, but it's really not, at least not on the street.`_

Well, it`s funny how things get fuzzy when one`s direct interest is involved. The Weinsteins of the world keep saying that phrase.


Asking for permission before a photo is taken immediately nullifies any possibility of a candid moment. And asking for it afterwards almost guarantees you will be turned down.

If that last part is true then you are knowingly taking pictures of people who don't want to be photographed, which has ethics implications all by itself.


The legal situation is similar in Germany, but I wouldn't do street photography here, either.

The article discusses morality and ethics versus personal preference, but that's just high-brow talk.

The point is that today, once someone photographs you, you cannot possibly know where he will post or publish your photo. And yes, that's creepy.

Decades ago photographers maybe showed your picture at a gallery or exhibition. Today everything goes to Instagram, and someone will probably ridicule me for some small thing (a stain on my shirt?), and maybe thousands will pile on, and maybe everyone in my social circle will see it? Embarrassing.


In the US it’s pretty well established that art is exempt from privacy laws. It gets muddy[1]when you try to use it commercially: so you can sell a photograph as art, but you can’t use it without consent or permission if the art is for commercial purposes (to advertise, for example).

A well known case is a Hasidic Jew suing photographer DiCorcia. New York State sided with the photographer: http://www.artistrights.info/nussenzweig-v-dicorcia

[1]Whats the rule if you have an exhibit and the gallery or whatever wants to advertise they have an exhibit by the artist. Can they put up big banners with the art? Is that commercial use?


Then you have to describe a legal definition of art, which is something artists spend their entire life trying to destroy.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fountain_(Duchamp)


I think people are more discussing what the law should be in the modern age than what the law currently is.

In the U.S., you can use a photo you have taken for commercial purposes without requiring the consent of the subjects in the photo as long as: 1) the subject didn't hire you to take the photo (thus making it their property), 2) there is no reasonable expectation of privacy (photo taken in a public place). [0]

Any "muddy" aspects are purely a civil matter, and even then, public photography is a constitutionally protected activity under the first amendment.

[0]: https://www.pixobo.com/photography-laws-can-a-photographer-u...


Yes, however, I believe you cannot take a public photograph and use it as a basis for a commercial advertisement: to sell nappies, or cars, etc…

Photographers have always had this obnoxious nature to them in many circumstances. Similar to journalists in many ways.

I think the US approach ultimately makes the most sense. There’s a societal benefit to being able to capture images and stories.


Now I must use dark glasses as turning my head could mean “I am a sexual ofender on internet for life”, but I was turning my head! Yes, i’m going to far, but maybe, just maybe, with enough bad luck…

But when you're informed about cookies when entering the site, the only option is "I accept". Not unlike walking in a public space, where it's is, and should be, legal to photograph anyone. (And no, the back button is not a meaningful other option.)

People conflate clicking on a button that says "I accept" with some kind of moral or legal obligation or agreement. One doesn't necessarily mean the other. In the EU, for example, if there wasn't the option to decline, then no permission is being given even if you click on "I accept".

> But when you're informed about cookies when entering the site, the only option is "I accept".

Not true in the EU. (Legally, anyway.)


Your other option is the back button.

I'll tell you what is the other option: Digging through the code and extracting the information without accepting the blood contract, because people who are stupid enough to put something in the public sphere on the internet don't deserve respect when they treat their visitors with only one viable alternative.

This will be an unpopular opinion but I feel someone taking a photo with me as the subject without my permission is almost on par with assault

It feels like a huge invasion of my personal space, regardless of whether or not the photographer is in my face or not.


>taking a photo with me as the subject without my permission is almost on par with assault

Why would you wish to give 'permission' to art expression of someone else? Isn't that an assault to the freedom of other person?

>It feels like a huge invasion of my personal space

It feels this way until there is understanding that public space means that you are part of that public and public can be photographed by anyone interested to preserve the moment.

Some people feel uncomfortable and find it hard to respect basic freedom of other person for art expression. It is a small price to pay though considering the alternative of living in society where disrespect to the freedom of art expression is a norm. Such society is doomed to be oppressive and living in oppression could be much more uncomfortable.

Look at this attitude: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29332188


> It feels this way until there is understanding that public space means that you are part of that public and public can be photographed by anyone interested to preserve the moment

I understand this and also disagree with it. It may be the way things are but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

> Some people feel uncomfortable and find it hard to respect basic freedom of other person for art expression

You are asking me to care more about people's artistic freedom than my own peace of mind. That is never going to happen.

> Such society is doomed to be oppressive and living in oppression could be much more uncomfortable

I don't see how asking for a good faith effort to ask permission to take or publish photos of an individual is trampling the ability of artists to express themselves.

When people photograph you, they can then do anything they want with that photo. They can delete it, or store it indefinitely, or post it online, turn it into a meme, whatever.

Forgive me if I don't think someone else should have that kind of control over something that could affect me deeply.


>Forgive me if I don't think someone else should have that kind of control over something that could affect me deeply.

No, I am not going to forgive you for that. Not you nor any one else with such views. It sounds like you are ready to deny to other people their basic freedoms just because it "could affect you deeply". This way any oppression really work. To avoid repeating myself I'll direct you to my other comment: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29335887

>I understand this and also disagree with it. It may be the way things are but that doesn't mean I have to like it.

Of course it doesn't mean you have to like it. You may not like it as long as you do not convert it to aggressive actions that I have observed many times in the streets.

>You are asking me to care more about people's artistic freedom than my own peace of mind. That is never going to happen.

I am not asking you anything it is your responsibility to care about things that could lead to loosing freedom in society.

I am claiming it is a right of an artist to have freedom of thoughts and art expression and if you really mean what you say it seems like you are ready step over it. From my perspective you are crossing the line there with severe consequences.

>I don't see how asking for a good faith effort to ask permission to take or publish photos of an individual is trampling the ability of artists to express themselves.

Street photography doesn't work this way at all which means zero ability for artist to express themselves in that way. If you ask permission then you already lost the moment you wanted to picture. If you have to ask permissions you are not free to do what you really wanted because the subject who is sometimes unable to grasp what was in your mind due to the lack of education or any other reason would have the ability to block your work just because to his uneducated or corrupted or super enlightened mind it is not what photographer should picture. Why to bother then if someone else in full censorship over your work? It is zero freedom for art expression. And it influences the mood of photographer thus not allowing him to feel free and make pictures of what is really going on according to his perception. So instead of work of art you'll get glamour stupid pictures. Artificial demo instead of quality observation by the artist. Thanks to the attitude you've perfectly described it makes it in some countries absolutely impossible to do proper street photography and even harder to publish due to a lot of hassle. This leads to the situation where I simply do not publish my street photography and this is exactly: "how asking for a good faith effort to ask permission to take or publish photos of an individual is trampling the ability of artists to express themselves."

>When people photograph you, they can then do anything they want with that photo. They can delete it, or store it indefinitely, or post it online, turn it into a meme, whatever.

It is not exactly like that, there are nuances in each case of usage and they vary in different countries. But in general freedom of other person means that it is choice of that person and yes it can affect you deeply. Does it mean you should prohibit everything that affects you deeply? again there are other things that affect you much more deeply: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29335887

Would you also be in favor of prohibiting a free speech? After all some of it could be unpleasant and affect you deeply? Just keep in mind that once you do that the society looses ability to discuss hard issues thus unable to face real issues thus separating itself from reality and together with inability for the artist to deliver different perspective on things would exactly be moving toward doomed oppressed society that is unable to deal with real world. If you wish to see live example you can look toward Russia and Belarus. Would you prefer to live there?


I find this view to be wildly dramatic. As if the right to street photography is the only thing stopping society from sliding into fascism. Give me a break.

Trying to paint me as some kind of jackboot who is ready to trample all over everyones freedom because I happen to disagree with how consent around public photography is handled is nonsense.

Here's an anecdote from my local paper: A woman is on a public bus with her baby. A man starts taking photographs of her baby. She asks him to stop because it makes her uncomfortable. He doesn't stop, insisting that he's perfectly allowed because it's a public space.

He's right of course. But I have a huge problem with that and think it shouldn't be allowed.

I guess that makes me a fascist. Like how dare I think that guy should have to ask permission.

And surely if he wasn't allowed to do that it would mean the absolute end of freedom in the world. Those baby photos are critical to maintain our rights.

Get outta here.


>I find this view to be wildly dramatic. As if the right to street photography is the only thing stopping society from sliding into fascism. Give me a break.

This is not what I was saying. I was talking about freedom of the artist in general and how it is not respected in street photography in particular. Street photography is just an example where people can put own little discomfort and feelings above principles designed to keep society free.

Freedom of speech and many other things could make us uncomfortable but not all of them should be taken more seriously than values protecting freedom. In a society with freedom of speech we are not trying to avoid discomfort we are intentionally ignore certain discomfort for the sake of a greater good: discuss freely serious issues and see the different perspective on things provided by artists of all kinds. Some serious issues cannot be discussed without hurting some feelings and this is by design. Certain discomfort is accepted for the sake of freedom. On the other hand person can learn that doesn't have to hurt own feelings.

If you explore how some societies ended up in totalitarianism you see the common pattern that they are happy to accept laws protecting some discomfort without thinking about consequences and those consequences come faster then they expect. Unfortunately those consequences deliver much more discomforts then the first laws were trying to avoid.

>Trying to paint me as some kind of jackboot who is ready to trample all over everyones freedom

I have no interest to paint you anyhow. My interest is the point of view you describe at the moment and I am trying to explain where such view leads in a long run.

When you say "But I have a huge problem with that and think it shouldn't be allowed." it is indeed shows that the view you possibly hold at the moment leads to readiness to trample at least on freedom of photographer. I do not know the details of the story but women doesn't have to be offended by photography by the way and some women are even proud and happy in such situations and can take it with smile. I mean it is a decision of a person how to take it isn't it?

Here is another anecdote from my personal experience: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29342547 and another one when I was making video of bush: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29339707 and I have many more stories like that ...

>I guess that makes me a fascist. Like how dare I think that guy should have to ask permission.

The problem here with the word "should". If you use it it means you are ready to trample over freedom of photographer if I am not mistaken here?

>And surely if he wasn't allowed to do that it would mean the absolute end of freedom in the world. Those baby photos are critical to maintain our rights.

This statement is manipulative. I was not talking about particular photos I was talking about principle of readiness to step over freedom of an artist and where it leads. As I was saying above : Street photography is just an example where people can put own little discomfort and feelings above principles designed to keep society free.

>Get outta here.

I do not think I am willing to satisfy your feeling here because people with the view you've described need learn to respect freedom of artists and see the benefit for the society in doing so.

And together with "Get outta here." you are saying: " Trying to paint me as some kind of jackboot who is ready to trample all over everyones freedom ..."

I am not sure how to properly interpret that. But I guess people who are ready to step over freedom of photographer to avoid own feeling of discomfort are not very active in protecting feelings of photographers from discomfort for merely doing their job.

I just hope you can learn the other side from the anecdote I've provided to see the whole picture.


Would you feel the same way if someone did a painting of the same scene from memory? What if they were particularly adept at creating photorealistic paintings? How about if someone wrote a very vivid description of the same scene? Would you feel the same way?

I'm genuinely interested and not trying to make any particular point.


The story thing has actually happened to me, believe it or not.

Actually it's probably happened to a ton of people. It happens all the time. Usually in verbal form, along with "remember that one time...?"

But in my case someone actually wrote a NaNoWriMo story with me as one of the central characters. It was science fiction and no one could ever mistake it for being a true story. I still did not super like being included in such a way.


Would you feel the same way if someone looked at them and commited the image to their memory?

I can feel the same about people looking at me without my permission. Is there a difference between the two?

Yes, and it should be obvious.

Someone looking at you doesn't produce an artifact that they can profit off of, for one.


People who don't want their image taken by a stranger often confuse strong personal preferences with ethics. But for an action to transcend individual discomfort and enter the netherworld of immorality there has to be both a strong societal consensus as well as palpable, real-world harm resulting from it.

Working from the real-world harm angle I find non-consensual, bulk surveillance to be an active threat to individuals and society. One primary reason is it's increasing purpose as a tool for those in power to exert control over those who aren't.

Conversely the potential harms from candid photography are far less concerning. There have been times when a publicized photo is subject to bad choices by the public. Even that worst case scenario illustrates that individual photographers don't compare with the countless, coordinating agencies that impact millions of lives.


Sometimes there is an engineering solution to a social problem. Rather than blurring faces software can now isolate them, downscale and then upscale them, such that they look like real people but don't actually exist. The photo doesn't look censored but the consent issue goes away. Then you just have to identify the faces that you want to keep. The same could be done with the brands and logos that randomly litter photos, creating other legal issues.

>> The photo doesn't look censored but the consent issue goes away.

No it doesn't. What post-processing you do is up to you but that doesn't change how people feel about you taking the picture in the first place. They have no idea weather you're going to blur them, enhance them, throw the picture away, or what. Like the author said, it's legal and you don't need consent. The real trick is to not be creepy about it but that's not universally defined.

I was at the marina one day and saw a dog chasing a stick in the water. Lots of splashing about. I stopped and took a picture with my big honking camera. I was careful to get just the dog and not the woman that was throwing the stick, but neither her nor her husband could have known exactly what I got a shot of. Nobody said a word and I moved on thinking how odd it could seem to do that. A friendly comment about what a great subject the dog is might have helped calm any discomfort they may have had but I didn't get the impression it was an issue. Was it to them? I dunno.


I know thats the direction we're heading but do you have an example that's available now and realistic?

I don't think that's actually a solution, just a way of making the same underlying problem harder to spot.

In general, I am extremely distrustful of this as an idea:

> Sometimes there is an engineering solution to a social problem.


IMO, street photography is a low art form. It's walking around without a plan, snapping random snapshots of people and expect some meaning to come out on its own. The creation process is regulated to pressing a button and some minor processing. Perhaps similar to throwing buckets of paint at a canvas and seeing what comes out.

It's usually derivative. Someone alone looking sad because that's their resting face. A black and white high contrast photo of an old person. A homeless person. Political street art (that someone else created).

Some exceptions of course, like Humans of NY where arguably the main part is the backstory and writing behind the people they capture with permission, but that's more portrait photography than street.


You're obviously allowed to feel what you feel but if you've ever seen a "good" body of work taken on the street, and a "bad" body of work taken on the street, the skill of the photographer matters, and it expresses art.

The low vs. high debate is old as time, with sculptors looking down on painters, with painters looking down on photographers.

The camera is a canvas and the photographer paints with what they put in front of the lens and when they close the shutter. Street photography takes it an extra step further and removes a ton of control over what you're photographing and leaves you creating art out of what is happening before you.


I respectively disagree. I think people are attractive, in general, and in particular I like looking at people. For me, seeing a photo that captures a memorable or unusual moment in sports, in a performance, or even in a park or on the sidewalk is worth viewing. I agree with the original article that there is a creepiness to voyeuristic photos, and in the case of the woman on the bus photo I would be more comfortable with it if she had agreed to its use, but I do think it's a "good" photo.

When at a museum we frequently look at pictures or sculptures of people. Our viewing of these works of art are totally outside the context of the original subject's goal for the artwork. Is it inappropriate to look at these works of art?

I agree that there are too many black and white photos of the old, sad, and homeless. These don't usually speak to me as art. If I was a photographer that wanted to do street photography, I would take advantage of the capabilities that new cameras have and show the resulting photos to the subjects and ask for their permission to use the photos. One could even offer to send them a copy of the photos by giving them business card with an annotation of the frame numbers so that they could request them via email.


Public photography (at least in the U.S.) isn't just constitutionally protected because it is a form of expression (art), but also because it is an exercise in free press. In the U.S., anyone can be free press, and as such can document any goings on in public, including photography.

Feh, HONY... http://warscapes.com/opinion/sentimentality-critique-humans-...

> HONY presents photographs derived from this tradition but divorced from its vast potential for social import. Its brand of “humanity” requires no scrutiny, for it is designed to do what photography’s critics have accused the medium of doing at its worst: to capture, to possess, and to provoke in the viewer unprocessable, useless emotion.


There's so many hack street photographers, it's crazy. The classic homeless beggar in front of a high end jewlery store. Visual puns. Bold and outrageous clothing. But I still like street photography, because the ones that can manage to tell an interesting story really stand out.

Can I take your picture in a public space? A picture of your kids? Your kids in their bathing suits at the pool? Everyone draws the line, and at a different point. It's not boolean.

It absolutely is boolean for some people.

If I'm in a public space w/o an expectation of privacy you have every right to photograph me. Same goes for my daughter, bathing-suit or street-clothes.

I value the right of others to make photos in public spaces and I recognize that it applies to me as a subject.


I am pro public photography but it is never boolean. Everyone has a limit. Maybe your bend over to pick something up and they photograph your breasts or they continually follow you with a camera in your face for blocks. At some point a line can be crossed for even the most open minded.

>Maybe your bend over to pick something up and they photograph your breasts

In that case wasn't it your choice if you wear something like that in public perfectly knowing that you can "bend over" and thus who can say it wasn't your intention to show what you show. What it has to do with photographer who simply makes a picture of what you show in public by your own design in that example?

>or they continually follow you with a camera in your face for blocks.

If someone continually follow you may be the 'follow' is the problem, not the photography part? I mean if someone continually follow you for blocks without camera could it be worse? At least photographer presumably does it for pictures only and simply due to the poor skills didn't succeed with the first 10 tries. Again what it has to do with the photography by itself ?

So may be it is boolean? You are in public and that means someone have right to make pictures of what public looks like. Or you have other examples?


I'm still not convinced it's boolean. How about pictures taken from a public space like the street or sidewalk into your house or yard, how about pictures like this: https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/arne-svenson-the-neighb...

What about if a neighbor decided to take pics of your daughter walking to school every day? What if that neighbor starts a blog?


I don't think you'd be ok with someone that would come to your house every morning to take pictures of your daughter that goes to school. You'll call police on day two if that happened.

Because it's stalking?

It's interesting that the incredulous replies to my comment have to resort to describing contrived situations that go beyond simple candid photography in public to harassment or other illegal acts to "prove" I can't possibly feel how I do.

There's this pervasive attitude in the comments for this article that having your photo taken in public is some major affront. I see people equating it with assault, even. That feels very "Internet tough guy" to me.

I feel like I've made the "Internet tough guys" unhappy by not falling in line behind them. They simply can't conceive that I wouldn't be "outraged" at the same things they are. That, too, "outrages" them, apparently.


You didn't make anybody unhappy. You can say whatever you want in the Internet, nobody will bother to verify even if you post your home address here. We all know that you'd be freaked out, as regular person, if someone started intentionally making pictures of you or your daughter (if you have one).

Would you be ok with a drone someone programs to follow you every time you’re in public, taking photographs and recording everything you do?

An extreme example, but I suspect there are very few people for whom this is a Boolean issue.


This stops being street photography then.

That’s a separate topic and beside the point. It’s not a question of rights. I want everyone to have the right to say all sorts of shit that I also think it’s immoral for them to say.

Upskirt photos are typically done at public places.

Advertising, social media, even personal photos are highly edited, overly polished, artificially perfected representations of the world. Not only should we celebrate the breathtaking photo that is the centerpiece of this article, we should encourage more of it. As a species, it's important that we allow these portraits of our lives, behaviors, and quirky interactions to be made as, if not art, then simply a more accurate representation of what it means to be human at this moment in time. I understand these types of photographs can offend, or cross the line, or cause debate. That's what Art is for. We are better for it.

I always find it fascinating as there's also an aspect of documentation with certain street photography. If you look at stuff from the 1980's and see how much things have changed, the fashion the shops and so on, but also how certain things are still the same.

Certain cameras are marketed with the whole concept of being good for street photography and like to play with the historic aspect. Like most marketing it's aspirational. Will you be able to capture the decisive moment like Henri Cartier-Bresson?

There are various famous street photographers and their books are always popular with enthusiasts.


People equating street photography with surveillance are missing a crucial difference between the two which pertains to what happens to the media after it has been recorded.

Street photography exists for the purpose of displaying such photos to the public later on. Surveillance footage need not be seen until deemed necessary, which may or may not ever happen.

I have no opinion on this either way, but thought that was important to point out.


I mean this is just not true at all. Here's Times Square live:

https://www.earthcam.com/cams/newyork/timessquare/?cam=tsstr...


Speaking of consent, can someone post a version that doesn’t include a blocking cookie modal that offers no other option than to accept all cookies?

Developer Tools, find the overlay DIV, hit delete...


Who will build a SaaS that replaces the people in the pictures with ”this person does not exist”? Keeping facial expressions etc the same.

It's a neat idea, but take the second photo in the article for example: The guy gawking (well who knows, but it could be construed that way) at the women doesn't even have his face visible. Yet just from the clothing and context, his friends and colleagues would probably be able to identify him.

That said, if it works, your suggestion would probably cover >90% of cases.


Relatedly: Since most people on this thread probably don't know this, we are often under surveillance from high-altitude aircraft. It's incredibly creepy.

Book about this: https://www.amazon.com/Eyes-Sky-Secret-Gorgon-Stare-ebook/dp...

Video example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptSeU-OnI8E&t=7s&ab_channel=...



I sympathize with the author but I would consider non-consensual street photography ill-advised at best, not necessarily immoral. It's an accessibility issue, and like with many accessibility issues, it helps to engage in a "thought experiment."

Just like you would assume someone with a wheelchair may want to enter your public building, you should assume that when taking picture of strangers you are being invasive towards someone struggling with anxiety and body image. It doesn't mean you _are_ being invasive whenever you take photos, just like a person with a wheelchair may never want to enter your building. I personally don't feel comfortable taking photos of strangers except if they are very far away in the shot. The author mentions the "possibility of sometimes making someone slightly uncomfortable" but from personal experience that's not the worst case scenario.

And of course there are exceptions like emergencies where you should take photos.

"But for an action to transcend individual discomfort and enter the netherworld of immorality there has to be both a strong societal consensus as well as palpable, real-world harm resulting from it." I can't really agree... does something need to have "strong societal consensus" of immorality to be immoral? Does a wheelchair-inaccessible public building need a disabled person sitting at the entrance to be immoral?


Pointing your camera in the wrong direction at the wrong moment can also get you killed. I've heard stories like https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=29331480 but which ended in tragedy.

They were in a high crime area pointing a video camera (which I'm assuming was larger than your typical camera) at some people sitting on their porch. That's completely different from typical street photography

The story I'm thinking of that ended in tragedy involved park photography.

If I met this person on the subway, I think it would be a good lesson to go over to them and tell them that they are a complete piece of shit in my opinion and spend a considerable time doing so. Why? Well it’s not illegal to do so, and since I’m just sharing my opinion it’s not really unethical to do so. I don’t even have to care about consent. At the end of the day it is just rude, and apparently that doesn’t matter the least bit to this person.

Honestly it’s surprising that a photographer would even think about ethics of consent when faced with a shitstorm online cause by being rude to a mother and her two children.

Imagine if the response to the woman throwing a cat in the garbage had been an article detailing the ethics and legalities of doing so. Would that be suppose to convince anyone that she wasn’t being an asshole? Incidentally that situation was captured on video in public, but for some unexplainable reason people weren’t discussing the ethics or legalities of the video taping someone in public, and instead focused on the subject being a human piece of garbage.


> For an action to transcend individual discomfort and enter the netherworld of immorality there has to be both a strong societal consensus as well as palpable, real-world harm resulting from it.

If that's really the case, is it required that the harm be made known to other people? Is privacy not a factor here?

What if someone's reason for not being photographed is literally "because I don't want others to even know that I'm here"? The underlying reason could be anything as minor as going to a job interview, surprising a loved one, etc. to something as major as avoiding/fleeing persecution in their home country—you have no idea. Is it not presumptuous to assume we should be able to know people's reasons for things? Do/should they have an obligation to explain their rationales to random street photographers trying to make money off them? Why should they even trust that they can safely tell the reason to a random photographer to begin with? If the photographer doesn't see a harm because 99% of people are OK with it, does that also make it moral toward the 1% left?


One thing I've found is that photographing strangers is a lot more widely accepted in places around the world with more community oriented culture, and less accepted in very individualistic cultures like in the West.

I think this individualism considers the act of someone taking a photo of you as a transaction, where people stand to gain or lose from it, and quite frankly oversensitivity over how it could affect you personally.

And this is in stark contrast to community oriented cultures where I think people assume good faith and fun and shared experiences. It's a breath of fresh air really, not everything needs to be analysed from a legalistic or moralistic viewpoint.

It's incredibly unlikely that your image will end up on a billboard with spinach in your teeth. It can happen, sure, but it's so very unlikely, and so overwhelmingly more likely to be some kid's hobby or for an humble portfolio. And it's sad that modern life in the West has made people so paranoid and afraid of everyone around them, so they miss out on this shared experience.


I think you'll find that even in those "community oriented" cultures, many people don't like random strangers taking photographs of them, although unlike Westerners they may not be as forthcoming about it, especially to a foreigner.

Yeah that's the thing, I don't find that. There are plenty of locals who shoot all over Asia for example and do just fine. I think maybe you're projecting.

It may be, that the legal issues, surrounding (commercial) YouTube Video production, require getting the explicit consent of the subjects. But this has quite a disturbing effect on the very meaning of what we consider Street Photography to be. Many "Photography Influencers" that show their process on tiktok or YouTube ask all the subjects of their pictures for explicit consent before taking pictures that I would consider to be more in the realms of fashion or model photography than in the true spirit of street photography. Street Photography is, to me, an art form that requires capturing unstaged moments and not just staged shots outside of the studio. It is the more artisticly inclined cousin of photojournalism, at times prefering form over function and serendipitous beauty over obvious significance and timely message.

BTW It's notable that YouTube in particular seems to steer viewers to channels that celebrate hobbies which if they don't require expensive purchases can at least benefit from them. The "Photography Influencers" are a niche that owes its growth to the massive advertisement Dollars surrounding the space. The more people watch photography content, the bigger the audience Alphabet can sell to Sony, Canon and thousands of accessoire makers. So there is an incentive to push their almighty recommendation algorithm to steer users into this niche and grow demand. At the same time on the supply side, content producers, are incentivized to go into this niche by the higher availability of niche adjacent sponsorship deals for their videos. This dynamic obviously plays out in other niches as well, whether it be cars, gardening or golf. Potential sponsors and advertisers for math youtubers like blackpenredpen however are more limited so google is disincentivized to grow their niche. Does this, over the long term, push peoples preferences toward more materialistic pursuits ? I guess we'll find out.


The root of the issue with street photography has a whole lot less to do with the photograph and more to do with the ever present issue of male sexual abuse towards women.

No one would even give a crap about these photos if not for that root cause.

This is why intent is at the root of these issues. We won't likely address these issues of public domain vs privacy unless we address the root of why anyone really cares about the issues in the first place. I don't think people are saying I don't like art. I think people are saying "I'm sick of being sexually objectified"

I say all this as street photographer myself.

Also food for thought. Would this have been as big of an issue had the photographer been a woman? Would it had gotten the same push back? These are question that dig more the root cause of why this has less to do with the photo and more to do with who is taking the photo and why.


> The root of the issue with street photography has a whole lot less to do with the photograph and more to do with the ever present issue of male sexual abuse towards women.

This is low effort sexism. You could remove the words "male" and "towards women" and you'd avoid be being sexist while sending the same message.

> Also food for thought. Would this have been as big of an issue had the photographer been a woman? Would it had gotten the same push back? These are question that dig more the root cause of why this has less to do with the photo and more to do with who is taking the photo and why.

Nobody is required to tolerate being stereotyped based on their gender.


Lol, I know for a fact you have never once done street photography. Everything you just said proves it. I didn't just make this shit up and my singling out men was my intent. I don't really give a shit if you believe me or think I'm biased, it the facts regardless if you can deal with it. For the record I considered myself male and yeah men fucked it up for everyone. Deal with it.

Also I've been through this very thing after I took photos of people reading books from out on the street at Powell's books in Portland. The company seen the photos on Instagram and re promoted the photos. I was attacked senselessly by angry women who took issue with photos without consent claiming they were creepy and offensive. https://500px.com/photo/253650727/portland-street-photograph...

There was nothing wrong with anything I had done. I just fell victim to a valid concern by people who have been pushed to their breaking point because of other men who abuse the public domain. So I have a personal issue with these men as they have cause me and countless others problems and yeah they fucked it up for me. I know some of these men personally and I don't care for them one fucking bit. Oddly they placate the issue just the same as you, saying similar things as you. go figure.

Low effort? No more than your butt hut response. By the way don't talk to me anymore cause I've had enough of your low effort.


The law needs to catch up. We were comfortable with the idea that a person is not entitled to privacy in public when we knew that the observation would simply be from other humans in close enough proximity to see us. But in the day when we can inexpensively put cameras everwhere, take pictures of everything you do, and effortlessly distribute it to the entire world ... maybe the idea of privacy, or at least anonymity, needs to be revisited.

I'm not sure exactly where the compromise point is, though. We want photographers to be able to snap pictures of a crowd, and it is infeasible to gain permission of every member of the crowd. We may not want photographers taking close up shots of individuals, who will do things that they may not want photographed even when they're in public.


Tangential, but my fav case/story/art related to this.

Article about the case :

"Voyeuristic Photographer Arne Svenson Wins New York Appellate Court Case- Should New York revise its privacy laws?"

https://news.artnet.com/market/arne-svenson-neighbors-photog...

And a talk by the photographer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ePjeX6IiSTQ

And an article with more of the photos:

https://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/arne-svenson-the-neighb...


As I understand the law "commercial use" as requiring a release form does not include 'advertising yourself as an artist, or selling your photos as art'.

This is different from offering your pictures as stock photography, as PR materials, or in advertising of anything other than yourself.


I think you're right, I only posted the links because I happened to find that art/artist/story particularly interesting/good.

From another post on the same blog:

"Publishing an image. Not only is it legal to photograph anyone from a public space, it is also legal to display, publish and sell the images in any context except commercial (meaning advertising). This could get a bit confusing to a non-photographer, as it did for Erno Nussenzweig, an unwitting subject of a Philip-Lorca diCorcia Heads project. Discovering that a photo of himself sold for thousands of dollars in a fine art gallery, Nussenzweig sued diCorcia in 1999, claiming that this published photograph violated his religion. He famously lost. Had the photographer sold the image to Coca-Cola to use in an ad, however, the verdict would have been entirely different.

A slight, and fair, caveat to the rule is that you can't wildly and willfully misrepresent the subjects. If you photograph a bunch of teenagers hanging out in Washington Square and publish the image with an unfounded and damaging caption like "teenage junkies," you could be held accountable for defamation."


There are so many bad takes in this. But mostly, I think the author is internally inconsistent on multiple fronts.

In one paragraph she argues that the subjects of photos aren't upset by having their photo taken and then shared/promoted/published whatever.

> Over the years, many people I’ve photographed have found themselves either in publications or on Instagram. Almost everyone asked me to send them a copy, thanking me for the captured moment.

But later she says she fully expects that if she asked for consent after a photo is taken, it wouldn't be given.

> And asking for it afterwards almost guarantees you will be turned down. Even I, as a photographer, would feel suspicious if a stranger came up to me saying they just took my photo and would like some kind of retroactive permission.

This to me highlights that she's cherry-picking. Some subjects are fine with their picture being taken and shared. Great! But clearly this doesn't imply that all subjects are fine with it, and she knows this. If you're going to explicitly disregard some subject's "strong personal preferences" when they disagree with you, you don't get to use other subjects' acquiescence as any kind of evidence of an absence of harm.

She highlights a photographer who spent a year photographing a family through their windows, and say that though it was legal, "the ethics of what he was doing are certainly up for debate." But later she says "But for an action to transcend individual discomfort and enter the netherworld of immorality there has to be both a strong societal consensus as well as palpable, real-world harm resulting from it." So ... if the family didn't experience a "palpable, real-world harm", the photographer wasn't being unethical? Who gets to decide whether the harm was 'real-world'? Does she think that only if a domestic abuser is able to hunt down their ex or something that a subject has experienced any "harm"?

The author jumps from a lack of "palpable" harm to conclude "there is nothing inherently dangerous in the mere act of photographing people, children included, in the anonymity of a public space." "Unethical" and "inherently dangerous" are not the same, and a harm, which may or may not be "palpable" is that photography coupled with social media and instant sharable publishing can totally destroy the "anonymity of a public space" that she takes as a given. Have you experienced stage fright? If in a public space someone builds a stage around you, and places you before a digital audience, have you experienced harm? Have you fastidiously curated and cropped and tweaked images of yourself before putting them into particular public contexts? Do you experience a 'harm' if a photographer with a large following decides that the candid shot of you which they think will get the greatest audience response is not one that's flattering? Is that harm 'palpable'?

I think the understanding of "ethics" in this context has to switch from being about trying to establish "harm", and instead look a equity and power. The photographer sees an opportunity to benefit. Taking the photo followed by sharing and promotion may bolster the photographer's reputation, build their audience, even lead to financial benefit later. The photographer gets to exercise choice and control throughout the process -- which shot to use, how to crop it and manipulate it, in what context to show it. The subject has no control, likely enjoys no share in any benefit, and has the possibility to see various perhaps immaterial harms. It's unethical in part because it's inequitable; it's arranging one's own benefit at another person's possible expense -- and arguing then that the detriment to others isn't "palpable" or "real-world" is just minimizing so she can keep doing what she wants to do.

Yes it's legal. Often harms will be negligible. I'm not saying that street photographers are monsters. But as with any behavior with concentrated benefits (in this case to photographers) and diffuse costs (to subjects), of course the party that stands to gain is going to say they're doing nothing wrong -- and they're the least credible judge exactly because they have the most to gain.


I think this is the best take.

The article really falls down at the end where the conclusion is basically, "I don't care about people's privacy concerns and discomfort because I like street photography and enjoy making it." With a hint of, "and other people like to look at it, too. (Ignoring the uncomfortable people who would immediately refuse to have their photograph displayed, if asked)". So the author is basically arguing that they know better than their subjects and think their favorite hobby is good for society. That's not a very convincing justification.

As others have mentioned, being surveilled for specific purposes which we can generally assume will be viewed by one or zero people is different than being frozen in time for many people to dissect and judge.


Awareness of the photo being taken ruins it, what I like about street photography is that it's alive.

I have plenty more issues with security cameras...


I usually don't like having my picture taken by anyone, machine or human.

But it's probably less threatening to most people if it's just someone taking a picture of the area from a distance – or an amateur/tourist with a smartphone rather than a professional with an expensive camera. Women photographers might also be perceived as more benign.


I think the laws need revising on the issue of “visible from a public space” because of the technology available today. I’m OK with people being photographed on the street but not through their bedroom window with a 600mm lens from half a mile away 1000 feet off the ground on a drone.

Good article but the "share this on facebook" popup when I highlight text is _incredibly annoying_

Yes. Especially when I scroll by selecting.

OP’s example of the people in the fire escape in NYC being fine with the photo because they have no expectation of privacy is something that relies on people already knowing that.

Its not really the best representation of an opinion. There are plenty of people in plenty of places that are not aware of that.


Privacy, in a legal sense, only exists within a very narrow domain. Whenever you are in public, whether you are there to be seen or not, you are seen and therefore have no right to privacy in that domain.

some trivia from https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0322802/trivia?item=tr0618399 "Another reason for filming extensively in Japan is that laws requiring non-consenting participants to have their faces blurred out do not apply in Japan"

I would have read that article but I could not get past the sticky 'consent or go away' cookie banner.

Yeah, somehow the author/site still thinks it's a good idea to use Facebook's integration (there are FB comments under the article).

But on desktop, the Developer Tools helps, just open it, find the cookie overlay (div with class "__fb-light-mode"), and delete it. I didn't need to consent to whatever Zuck wanted...


Just FYI: this page doesn't load when you set Firefox's privacy protection to "strict".

Streets/Subways are public, you have no expectation of privacy in public. Consent is implied. If you go into publicly accessible areas you will be on camera.

However, a professional photographer despite knowing this would have asked for additional consent given the nature and subjects of the photo and their intentions on how the photo will be used.


No one is confused about what the current norm is. The author and other commenters are curious about the arguments for the implications and improvement or replacement of it.

This has been widely debated for years, photography is nearly 200 years old. Where we have landed is the probably the best place.

  1. You have no privacy in public.

  2. Individuals have a right to use a camera in public spaces recording whatever their eyes can see.
Changing the above would require a modification to the 1st Amendment in the US which makes any argument almost completely moot.

I fear we are conflating morality with legality

Here's a ripple question for the lawyers.

While it's perfectly legal to take a photo of me in public, I own the "copyright" to my own image, can someone make money off it?

And if not my image what if I am wearing clothing that are my own creation, my mugshot might be fair game, but is the copyright of my clothing "Fair use"?


You _don't_ own the copyright of your own image in a photograph taken by a third party.

As a hobbyist photographer I once went on a street photography course in London. They did cover the ethics and morals of street photography, along with various techniques about what to do if challenged.

UK law is a bit different than US law. From my understanding the US law allows any photography in a public space. While UK law does not allow street photography on private property (although if you're on public property photographing into private property that's OK), plus any photos of places where they'd expect a degree of privacy. So you can't stick your camera over walls etc.

I also checked the laws around photography in the UK and there are general rules around nuisance photography (that wouldn't cover conventional street photography). Additionally I looked at rules around photographing children in the UK, and generally it's not permitted to take photos of other people's children without their parent's / guardians permission.

The photo on the subway in the article wouldn't _technically_ be allowed in the UK, as the tube in London is private property (although everyone takes photos there) and photographing other people's children without permission isn't really allowed.

At the other end of the spectrum, I've also been to events on private property in the UK like Comic Cons. They have a very comprehensive photo policy for both the photographers and the attendees. While photographing at these events I often switch to a kind of "pantomime" mode, where it's very clear that I'm taking a photo and the subject has clearly agreed to be photographed. Other times I point my camera lens downwards when checking the shots and show them to the subject or have the lens cap on. At these events I've spoken to cosplayers who have thanked me for working like this, as they have had trouble with photographers behaving inappropriately.

I've only been challenged twice while doing street photography. Once while on the street photography course where I was taking a photo of a sandwich shop and a guy walked out while I was taking the photo. He politely challenged me and explained he was uncomfortable with me taking his photo. I showed him the photo and explained he wasn't in the shot. The second time I was challenged more aggressively, I was taking a photo of a long street with trams on near a tram station. Someone came up to me almost shouting asking if I took their photo. I explained I was taking a photo of the tram lines, and showed them a few shots. They seemed happier after that and left me to it. In truth when I got home and looked at my photos they were in the shot, but they were just one of many faces in the crowd. This shot was all about the lines of the tram station and how busy it was.


Not street photography but I'm bringing up a different context, which I think is perhaps an even more important ethical conversation to have.

Consent of photographic subjects, specifically BIPOC, being used by for profit companies in marketing.

My recent example is in Climbing. gyms require waivers that also contain text granting the company rights to take your photo and use it however they want throughout the universe in perpetuity lol.

Now, there are BIPOC speaking out because they feel used.

Context: BIPOC are very underrepresented in the sport.

There was a recent IG post (sorry I can't find) from a women of color who climbs (I think at Brooklyn boulders). She had her photo taken, she didn't notice it was. Then she saw it used to promote the gym.

One complaint is mentioned in the article: not being approached or asked about taking photos and feeling this invisible, targeted white male gaze.

With corporations it goes further than public space art photography: - giving away of rights - for free with zero compensation - hidden in legal docs - then being used in marketing to sell stuff - companies are just doing 'woke slacktivism marketing' without doing anything to support these communities. Remember all those black squares on IG?! Then going back to buy this shoe without taking any action whatsoever

Props to the gym which did actually take action, changed their waiver, said they wouldn't take photos without permission AND provide compensation/recognition in any marketing.

This article says: - The people who get the most worked up over the ethics of certain images are NOT themselves the subjects of the photo. - This example did care and spoke out. Many other examples across industries too. - "palpable, real-world harm resulting from it." - A bit more nuanced. But she argued that the gym was pretending to be a safe space with more climbers of color. Even though it's still like almost every other gym, super white, with a history of loud male chauvinism/racism. - "intention" is important I agree.

I think the intention of a lot of these companies is to make money on the backs of creators & communities without giving compensation or even just basic support.

Outside of climbing there is also a huge history of stealing art, imagery, creativity from minority cultures without giving any compensation or even mention/nod to the original creators.

In art & fashion you can find some specific incidents that have been called out by Diet Prada on IG.


I always read every contract I sign, but I may not be representative. However, the woman you were talking about could have crossed out the offending paragraphs in the contract in the gym probably would have gone along.

That said, I think contracts like that where you have to opt out of what you would think of to be normal behavior shitty.


They are almost all on ipads at climbing gyms. Yeah it would be cool to have like mini check boxes for each major provision, especially ones that aren't safety critical (they wouldn't let you climb if you didn't check those)

Lame! Didn’t think of that

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: