Monday, August 12, 2019

Drawing the Line

If you own a smartphone, you have a camera with you whoever you go. If you are on social media, you participate in an ongoing stream of shared photographs, whether purely as a consumer or perhaps by posting yourself. Probably both.

When I was young...blah blah blah Instamatic blah blah blah...developing film at the Revco...blah blah album.

There, we’ve dispensed with the historical context. I think we can agree that the current situation is wildly different. The “see it, snap it, share it” mantra seems to course through our veins. But is there a right and a wrong way to navigate this new world? I’ve been wondering.

This kind of photography has always been wrong and is still wrong, whether it gets shared on the internet or not. Upskirt photos are a violation of the subject’s personal privacy and they are taken without consent. That’s pretty easy, right? But not everything is quite that simple.

Knowing where to draw the line can be complicated.

I found myself embroiled in a photographic dispute not that long ago when a local amateur photographer wanted to take pictures at a local dance party I was hosting for preschoolers and their families. I am fiercely protective of young children. My gut tells me that if anyone is taking photographs at these events, it should be parents and family members. I don’t care if an event is free and open to the public. Children are not content. They deserve protection. To me, such photographs - -  taken by strangers, without their consent - - are a violation of their privacy.

Recently I viewed a selection of photographs taken at a highly successful local charitable event. Social media gives us many similar opportunities to view local happenings. But this struck me as different. I understood the desire to raise awareness about the event. But something inside me squirmed at photographs depicting the recipients of that charity. I would think it takes some bravery on the part of folks to come forward and say “I need help.” Would they necessarily want their photographs shared on social media?

Did they consent? Does sharing the photos violate their privacy?

There are no hard and fast rules for this new world we’re in when it comes to snapping and sharing. Probably the best rule of thumb is:

Do I have consent?
Am I violating someone’s privacy?

Just for fun, I’m closing with this satirical piece about summer camp photography. Even though it’s clearly meant to be humorous, it does make you wonder. Do photo sharing sites consciously or unconsciously favor physically attractive subjects more often than providing a comprehensive look at students/campers? Might there be a slant in favor of a particular gender or racial/ethnic group? Sure, the parent depicted here is a ridiculous caricature. But there are some underlying questions to ponder.

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