I need to rant

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jethro's picture

This one has been brewing for awhile.

I have an urgent need to let go and rant – and seeing as this is my blog I suppose its as good a place as any!

The subject is photography in public. The issue is the ignorance and paranoia out there.

Here are some recent times when I have been harassed.

At a public sports ground – several acres of open ground, with a tarmac cycle track around it on which a variety of people (adults and teens) were riding their bikes fast in training. I knelt and took two photos of riders beside the track – out in plain sight. Next minute I’m embroiled in an discussion with a shirt wearing government employee who was purportedly training these kids for triathlons. I in plain language told her they had no right to privacy, explained I was just randomly taking photos and that any body could do so. She brought over the parents who had been several hundred metres away and I proceeded to delete the (crappy) photos to shut them up and then went into the middle of the ground and took pictures of a land sailor.

See the kids in the background? they are probably 300-400 metres away from me at this point.

2009-11-30 Land Sailing 018

The next one was while sitting out in the parking rank at Brisbane airport taking pics of cars and baggage trolleys a security guard wandered up and asked if I was taking pics of the security guards. I said no. He proceeded to try and tell me that was illegal (which it isn’t).

Picture of baggage trolley at airport and a lady who may or may not have been or loved a marine – judging by the tattoo on her foot. Click the picture for the large view of the tattoo.

2009-12-10 Brisbane Airport 010 2009-12-10 Brisbane Airport 008

The next time was a funny one. I was in the local shopping mall dressed in my running gear on a late night – after being at running club - when the mall was full of young teens and their phone cameras and hand cams galore. I snapped this picture of some donuts and then the interesting lacework on the back of this ladies dress. A security guard then told me I couldn’t take pictures in the mall. I laughed and said surely that’s a policy that would be impossible to police – had he seen all the kids in there with phone cameras? He got all high and mighty and said he did police it well. I was in there least week and took specific notice. I watched kids taking photos of the aftermath of a fight while the security guards and police stood around and sported it out. None of them approached the kids with the handy snap cameras.

2010-02-11 Running Club 043 2010-02-11 Running Club 040

Today was a classic case of ignorance in several ways.

I was standing on a footpath in front of a a vacant section (house burnt down years ago). I as taking photos of an ant on some leaves (see the picture). The next house over is on double frontage, set back from the road some 50 metres and was probably 80 metres from where I was standing. After leaving the tree I was walking to my car parked up the road a bit further when the lady drove into her driveway as I was about to cross it and wound her window down and asked in a very annoyed voice “why are you taking photos of my house with a telephoto lens?”. I was holding it in my hand – i laughed in amazement and said its not a telephoto lens, I wasn’t taking photos of your house i was taking photos of a tree and pointed at it some 30 metres away. I said its not illegal to take photos of someone’s house anyway. She got all feisty and demanded “so why were you?” I reiterated i wasn’t and showed her the pics of the tree.

2010-03-09 Tree 003

My annoyance stems form two things.

First the apparent assumption out there that anybody with an SLR camera is some kind of peeping tom, pervert, spy photographer or similar. I don’t see anybody with a hand snap camera being hassled in the same way.

Second the total ignorance of the law, or a deliberate attempt to ignore it. There exists NO RIGHT TO PRIVACY people except in places where you would reasonably expect it – e.g. a public change rooms or toilets or in your house. If you go out in public, expect to be photographed. If your house or yard is visible from the road, expect to be photographed. Google does it – has anybody seen street view for goodness sake They did it and it was legal – it still is. This lady today lives across the road from the train station carpark were there are numerous cameras on poles videoing every move. The funny thing is I am quite good friends with her husband, though she and I have never met before. I’m looking forward to that first introduced meeting! Oh and by the way darling – this is Tim!

Links for legal stuff


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Anonymous's picture

What a sad world we live in,

What a sad world we live in, when someone who simply wants to take photographs is challenged by individuals who have no clue, but seem to think they have become expert in the law and their 'right to privacy'. What sort of screwed up, paranoid world are we creating here??

I say, keep taking your photographs, from a legal perspective you have nothing to fear. Ignore those who challenge you and tell them to get stuffed if they ask you to delete a photo! They need to learn the realities of life and get over it!

jethro's picture

Thanks a lot - I will! - this

Thanks a lot - I will! - this is hopefully going to educate some people.

Anonymous's picture

It's a sensitive

It's a sensitive subject.

With purposefully taking photos of strangers, I do think that's a fine line. I guess for me it's fine so long as it's not for malicious intent. You know what I really hate? All those blogs like "People of Walmart" and stuff that post photos of people making fun of their clothes, their weight, their sexuality etc. I hate that with such a passion, mostly because I've had people take photos of me and share them around because I simply dared to be a fat woman in public. God knows where those photos will crop up on the internet! It's so humiliating.

However, you are doing the opposite with your photos. You're capturing the beautiful in the every day. That's cool! You're not posting identifying details, you're not sharing anything that isn't seen by all in public, you're not photographing anything in a skeevy, sexual manner.

I just had a photograph of me at TEDxBrisbane published that I didn't know was taken. But it is a respectful, beautiful photograph. It's not making fun of the fat lady, it's showing two ladies enjoying themselves at the event, one with flowers in her hair and an iPhone in her hand, the other smiling beautifully.

As for inanimate objects, so long as you're not publishing sensitive/identifying information like number plates etc, what does it bloody matter what you photograph, so long as you're not peeping over fences and in windows!

Anonymous's picture

I like to take photos in

I like to take photos in public, hell sometimes I go out to take photos of interesting people to complement people-watching observations that I write. I don't poke fun at people nor do I degrade, shame or post anything that could possibly be construed as perverted. A few times I've been stopped or hassled when taking photos of buildings, not private houses. Majority of people seem to have an incorrect grasp of the law with regard to photography and think I have devious plans for the subject of my admiration; which couldn't be further from the truth.

Certainly I'll admit to pushing the boundaries at times, I've taken photos in the 'plz no photos here' part of Sydney airport and I snuck my camera phone onto The Edge when I was visiting Melbourne for a shot straight down to the street.

My camera sits in the middle in terms of size and obtrusiveness and I've become adept at getting it from my bag, turning it on and grabbing a couple of quick shots before turning off and returning to bag in rather quick succession. It takes quite good quality photos though I'm still learning how to use it to its full capacity. Due to fears of people raging at me I tend to stick to primarily photographing landscapes, animals and obscure close-ups. Something I didn't realise I did so much until I returned from a holiday recently and realised I had more photos of things than the people I went away with.

Keep taking photos of whatever pleases you. Some of the crowd shots I've taken can tell so many stories, it's fun to dream up the story behind what you've captured in a single frame.