Thursday, May 27, 2010

On intellectual property..

Just read a really great article/blog post by Cory at Ganymede Kids on intellectual property and blogging. The post is based around the recent outrage about the retail giant Zara selling T-shirts with an illustration which was a copy of one of Betty's (Le Blog de Betty) photographs.  I strongly recommend reading it!!!

Cory's post  made me think about a couple of things (which are not necessarily relevant to Cory's post)... Photography is an interesting beast.. especially when it comes to candid and street photography. On the one hand, photography is an art and often the only way to capture a great moment is to take a candid photo. On the other hand, that sort of photography is only art until you find a candid photo of yourself on someone else's blog. At which point you realise how vulnerable you really are to a camera lense.

I take candid photos and I love them, but I often think about how I would feel if I was the subject of a photograph and I didnt even know about it. I remember stumbling on a website of a certain photographer  who takes street photographs of everyday people on the streets.... except the streets happen to be in the same area where I work... All of a sudden the photographs stop being exotic (one of the reasons i love blogs is that you get to see places and everyday lives of people in other countries.. countries you have never even been to).. and become slightly weird.

I have worked at the same place for over 3 years now, so on his photos I saw not only photos of places and streets that I have seen every single day for the last 3 years but also people that you see on your way to work every morning.. and it was kind of strange! May be it's just me and I am weird... but it felt strange and voyeuristic. One of his photos captured a guy and a girl having an argument on their lunch break. The girl was crying... may be they were breaking up.. may be it just a tiff.. but in any case I thought to myself that I would absolutely HATE to be caught on camera at such a vulnerable moment and then circulated on the internet via Youtube and Blogger!

I asked my photography teacher about what he thought of this and he said that in Australia we do not have a right to privacy in a public place and that to him from a photographer's point of view it didnt seem weird at all.

This is also one of the reasons why I almost never post photos of young children on my blog... You see a lot of cute children wearing something cool or being funny and you just want to catch the moment on camera.. I dont have children (yet) but somehow I dont think I would enjoy coming across a photo of my child on a random internet page..

I mean...  if I take a photo of someone (especially when it is a portrait or a candid) I often feel like I owe it to that person to make sure that a photo of them does not end up on some dodgy website.. But one can never know...

Just a couple of weeks ago Sarah from Mocha Soy Whippy found her personal photos on a number of dodgy tumblr blogs.. and understandably she was not happy!! Lucky for her tumblr promptly fixed the problem by removing the photos...

I mean I may be taking it all too seriously...but still... What do you guys think???


Ashleigh Docherty said...

I think I'm with you.
I think it's all well and good to take photos and post them purely for art or fashion.
But who are we to decide when a photo goes from just being a moment in time, to being personal or a little too intimate to post?
The fact that we, as people, have no control over who photographs us and where they put those photos is a little scary.

And shit it's just made me wonder where all the behind the scenes shots of models and people that i have right clicked, saved and reposted come from. Do they even know?

Cory said...

Hey, really interesting observation!
Street style/candid photos are totally voyeuristic, not necessarily in a bad way, they offer you a little view of someone else's life and/or an exotic place. It's exactly when that unfamiliarity breaks down and recognition hits you that you experience that kind of disillusionment and just feel weird. I'm pretty sure Sartre described a term for this in La's really strange how we can feel simultaneously intrigued and violated by the same kind of thing. There isn't much privacy in public, everything is open and it'll likely get even more like that. You can view many public places via live webcam already.

This reminds me of a time I was filming some b-roll footage for an episode of a local TV show I was working. My coworker and I were at a train station, (the story was about some kids having a dance party on the train) a really high traffic public place where tourists frequently take photos. However, we had a video camera...a guy started yelling at us saying "Hey! Maybe these people don't want their picture taken! That's illegal!" It made me wonder why we perceive video cameras as so different from still cameras, especially considering that some DSLR cameras can now record video. Even my iPhone records video...

*sunday* said...

@ Cory, yes that's funny isnt it - the bigger the camera lense the more intimidate or wary people get... whilst you can have a tiny camera like an LX3 and get the same result. A girl from my photography class went to an Easter fair (back in April) and took a 18-200 lens.. she got yelled at and asked to leave because there were children around - a little extreme if you ask me :/

Biana said...

This is an interesting post. It's complicated. I think that if you publish a photo for artistic purposes and good intentions, it's acceptable.

We can't control who will take photos of us in public. I think the artist/photographer is responsible for the proper interpretation of the photo and should not take advantage of the subject or the subject's behaviour.

Also, photographers should respect someone's privacy, and should know where the boundaries are. I think you will feel that moment, because a little voice in you will say... "stop, this is not right" We should all listen to this voice in us, it's essential.

the nyanzi report said...

Wow. What a subject matter you have chosen here my dear.
Every time I intend to take someone's picture, i make it a point to ask them first and also give them a card afterwards. This eliminates all sorts of problems in the future.
But you are right when it come to privacy issues.
I think it's the duty of the photographer to inform their subjects of their intention and use of the pictures and also ask for clearance before they are put online.