This post started out as a comment on K8’s blog, but it got so long that I felt bad about taking over her blog and decided to just make it a post on my own instead! You can read her post here. Basically, she said that when the school photographer turns up without warning and takes pictures of her child, then demands money for the pictures, she feels “invaded”:
It got to me that nobody had asked my permission to take that picture, or at least warned me about it so that I could have given her hair a pre-emptive brush. It suddenly struck me that if I didn’t pay for this photograph, somebody else would get at it and could potentially do strange and unimaginable things with it. I felt compelled to give these bastards my coal money, just to save my daughter’s soul.
It also occurs to me that there is now a negative picture somewhere in someone’s studio with my kid on it, and no amount of cash can get it back. Not sure my kid needs that.
I’m highly bloody un-nerved by this.
I understand her point, but I can’t agree with it, other than the being blackmailed into buying them. But even that, I agree with for a different reason! To me, the obligation to buy a photo is not because you want to get it away from a stranger – more because you might feel like a bad parent if you’re the only one who doesn’t buy one. That’s the bit that would annoy me!
Maybe this is something that I can never understand because I don’t have kids, but it does actually really annoy me how taking pictures is close to becoming a criminal activity in our culture nowadays. If you take pictures of a child, you’re a pervert. If you take pictures of a building, you’re a terrorist. I mean, yes, there’s a very small minority that *could* be perverts or terrorists, but does that mean everyone should have to apply for permission before they take photos? If a small minority of people throw themselves in front of trains, should all train users have to undergo psychiatric tests before stepping on to a platform? (Not the best example, I’m tired!)
When I was in Switzerland, I saw a little boy and girl in a garden up in the mountains. They were wearing very quaint, old-fashioned clothes, and busily tidying up using a wheelbarrow and a rake, from what I can remember. It was like a scene from a picture postcard, and I badly wanted to take a photo – but I was scared of being seen and getting into trouble, so I didn’t. In the UK and Ireland, strangers taking photos of children is a Very Bad Thing. The person who was with me, on the other hand, went ahead and took a picture, saying that there was no law against it. He was perfectly right, and he did what I wanted to do but was too afraid to. Neither of us had any nasty, sick motive – we wanted a picture simply because it was a beautiful scene and the kids were so cute. They were in their own garden, but there was no high wall or fence – we didn’t have to snoop or climb or peek through a gap. Anyone walking past could quite easily aim their camera and click.
If those had been your kids, would you have been angry? What if they’d been on the other side of the low wall, i.e. not in a private garden? And does it stretch to adults as well? Like photos of crowds, street scenes, etc.? I’m interested to hear opinions on this. Here in Korea, the teachers at school take pictures of the kids practically every day, and I like that I can do that without feeling like I’m a bad person for it. I have dozens and dozens of photos of my students now, simply because I love them and I want to have reminders of them for when they leave. Parents have absolutely no issues with it – it doesn’t bother them at all that some woman they don’t know has pictures of their child. The people here don’t even understand the concept when I try to explain how people back home would feel about it. Is that wrong?
As for adults, I don’t really mind strangers taking pictures of me (which is a good thing, since I’m something akin to an exotic animal in a zoo, here!), because how is them having pictures going to affect me? I take pictures of people without them knowing all the time – I wouldn’t enjoy this photo half as much, for example, if I’d drawn attention to the camera and they were all making peace signs and saying cheese:
I asked because she was watching me and it seemed rude to brazenly photograph her without even checking if she minded. To me, there’s a difference – it’s not that one photo is somehow more OK than the other; it’s about politeness. If I could have taken a natural, unposed picture without her noticing, I would have, and I don’t think that’s something to feel bad about. I feel the same way about pictures of children, but I’m just a lot more nervous then about what people might accuse me of!
You can see why I decided not to post all this as a comment on someone else’s blog, can’t you?! But what do you think – about any of it? I’m interested, in case you didn’t pick up on that! I love taking photos of people, adults and children alike, going about their daily lives in the various places I visit. I will be polite and ask, if they see me. If I can do it without them seeing, I won’t ask. I’m simply capturing an image that is right there for every other passer-by to see, and preserving that moment. I’m not snooping or spying. As I see it, I’m doing nothing wrong.