As I sat in a car park waiting and jamming out to music, I quickly looked up and noticed this girl standing there patiently on her phone, escaping reality. As I started to piece together her life I suddenly knew this would be a perfect opportunity for me to write this week blog task. Focusing on the issue of pubic spaces as an ethical dilemma, particularly the issue of taking a photograph of someone using or watching media in a public space. As I continued to watch her I began to question myself was it ethically right to take this photo, should I be doing this? Was it legal? . It all just felt uneasy, like I was invading someone personal space, entering into their world for just that brief moment. Though according to the Arts Law Center of Australia (2016,p1) I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t capturing a photo of a child under 16, I wasn’t on private property, I needed no permission for her to take this photograph, what a scary thought that is. I was allowed to capture this moment as along as it was in a public space. It was illustrated through the Arts Law center (2016,p.1) that there is no personality / publicity rights here in Australia and there is no right to privacy that protects a persons image (Arts Law Centre, 2016,p.1). Meaning you and I don’t have the right to own the picture of our face in a public area if a picture is taken and used for other purposes.
Australia has no specific law aimed at preventing the unauthorized use of your image, however there are circumstances in how your image is used. For instance if this image damages or injures your reputation or others you can claim for defamation. From here the photograph will be tested on whether the publication of the photograph is defamatory (Arts Law Center, 2016,pp.1-2). Another option is the Australian Consumer Law where Sate fair-trading prohibits the act of misleading and deceiving a person through commercial conduct. In order to claim, a person will need to show that the use of the image would mislead or deceive the public (Arts Law Center, 2016,p.2). Thirdly, there is no general right of privacy in Australia meaning if I wanted to take a photo, I don’t need to receive any personal consent first before capturing your image, nor does the individual have the right to stop her image being recorded (Arts Law Center, 2016,p.3). For example when capturing the image of the girl above, I followed the law. I didn’t risk her reputation, nor did I go and deceive her through commercial conduct. Everything was perfectly legal.
Though the questions remains just because it legal for me to capture an individual in a public space, shouldn’t we consider ethical values? As researchers and blog writers, Shouldn’t we follow a set of ethical guidelines and do what is morally right? For example the case study of drones, which are used to record and locate people. However, with street photography what are the ethical guidelines? Frist off it is best to treat the person you are photographing as a human as silly as that may sound, but to treat the individual as an equal. Question yourself and think would I like this if our roles where reversed? . Kim (2011) suggests talking to the person you are capturing, engage with them. Enter their lives for just that brief moment; make them feel comfortable by asking for consent before taking an image, particularly if the image is going to be displayed on a public website. A feeling Joerg Colberg (2013) feels strongly about quoting, “Photographers need to be aware of the ethics of their endeavor”(2013).
In my instances I approached this girl in the above picture in the end. Her name is Molly and she was waiting for her sister to pick her up after work. I kindly showed her the picture I took of her while she was using her phone. I explained that this was purely for educational purposes, in which would later be posted on my WordPress site. As anyone could image her reaction was priceless but sweetly she agreed to it. I quickly gave her my URL to my blog for her to read and follow up on, so molly if you’re reading this, I hope I’m doing you justice and THANKYOU for helping me. As Colberg highlights “having photographs in public spaces taken without permission poses a challenge for photography” (2013). It’s up to us as researchers to decided what is ethically right; create boundaries and a code of ethics for us to follow.
Though public photography makes for easier and effective research regarding public space ethnography , have a read of this research paper to understand . It gives us, the researcher, the chance to study and record how people live in their culture or their traditions. It gives us the opportunity to understand and share their beliefs along as we follow our codes of ethics, in order to prevent harm to that culture. In a way I think this safeguards are work, where we are able to know what is ethically right and follow it, making sure our work is sound and trust worthy.
I would love to hear your thoughts , please feel free to leave a comment below .
All the best , Chelsea
Colberg, J 2013, A photo of a man I took downtown that he asked me to delete. I did. , Conscientious extended, weblog post, 3rd April, viewed 1st September 2016, <http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/the_ethics_of_street_photography/>.
Kim, E 2011, Are there any Ethics in street Photography? , Erickimphotography, weblog post, 26th February, viewed 1st September 2016, <http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/01/26/are-there-any-ethics-in-street-photography/>.
Arts Law Centre of Australia 2016, Street Photographer’s rights information sheet, Australian National Community legal centre of the arts, viewed 1st September 2016, <https://www.artslaw.com.au/info-sheets/info-sheet/street-photographers-rights/>.