Today, taking a picture is as easy as pressing a single button. But there was a time where taking a picture wasn’t so easy. In order to take a picture, you had to have your camera on you. Now, every smartphone has an inbuilt top of the line camera ready for anyone to use at any time.
But how has this instantaneous photography impacted our lives and the lives of others?
We can now take photo’s anywhere, and do so discretely. We can look like we are using our phones when in fact we are taking photos. This means that we can take photos of anyone, anywhere and broadcast it online without their knowledge or consent. Columnist, Fregal Crehan states that “technology has moved forward so quickly that social taboos and etiquette have not yet solidified around the issue. The ubiquity of the smartphone means that not only can photos be taken more easily, but that are taken more often.(2014)”
Within a public space, we have smaller, individualised personal bubbles where each person is allocated a certain amount of space and privacy . When we take photos with a friend people step out of the frame to give you privacy, aside from the few photo bombers who dance the line of ethics and jump in the photo and invade ones personal space. Similar to when we are talk on our phones in public, we step away from others so that we re-gain our personal space within a public space. When we are scrolling on our phones in public people don’t squeeze their way into your line of vision to look at your screen. This would be an invasion of personal space and privacy. This is where the idea of the semi-public space is introduced as the use of mobile phones changed human behaviour and interaction.
I decided to take this photo to showcase how the use of phones within a public place alters the space into that of a semi-public place. During a class, my friends decided to take a Snapchat selfie with Kate Bowles. The screen of a phone can only fit so much space within it, so fitting three people in one photo was stretching it’s limits. However, the interesting aspect of this image is the fact that when my friend took out her phone, I automatically moved away from the camera’s point of view, giving the girls their space. This is because the phone changed the dynamic of space from a public to semi public and were given privacy.
However, this introduces the idea of voyeurism and the act of looking from the outside in. Here, I practised my social behaviour within a semi-public space and waited for the picture to be taken, then once they had finished, we resumed our initial positions within the public space. Although, instead of sitting idly for the photo to be taken, I took a photo of them.
While taking the photo I felt as though I had to position my phone on an angle so that they couldn’t see what I was doing. This is where I considered my ethics because the photo was taken without their consent. Instead of asking for their permission, I decided to take a quick snap without their knowledge, because its true when they say ‘what you dont know cant hurt you.’
In fact, I didn’t need to hide my phone to take the photo because according to Arts Law Centre Australia-Street Photographer’s Right, taking a photo of people in a public place–without their permission–is legal!
“It is generally possible to take photographs in a public place without asking permission. This extends to taking photographs of buildings, sites and people…There are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image.”
As voyeurs, we observe human interaction within public spaces where the act of taking a picture is extending the human psyche in an effort to make sense of the world. However, with no set rules in place as stated in this video by Jack Hart from the Freedom Association, we need to have conversation to establish “what we are okay with and what we find acceptable.” (2014)
But will we ever agree on a universal consensus as to what is ethically right and wrong regarding taking photos in public places?
Crehan F, 2014 ‘If you take photos of people without their knowledge, your being a creep,’ The Journal, 7 April <http://www.thejournal.ie/readme/women-who-eat-on-tubes-stranger-shaming-social-media-1403346-Apr2014/>
The Arts Law Centre of Australia, (2016). Street Photographer’s Rights. Australian Government. <http://www.artslaw.com.au/images/uploads/Street_photographers_rights_2016.pdf>