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Thoughts about travel photography involving people

Thoughts about travel photography involving people

Old Jan 12th, 2015, 04:00 PM
  #21  
rje
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Wow.

I really understand now why so few people bother posting on this forum anymore.
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 06:18 PM
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Hey I'll post. Our eight year old became exceptionally frustrated with people in China grabbing him and putting him into their pictures. No real time to say no, although he and we would not have said no anyway.

We don't take any pictures of anyone, anywhere without asking their permission. But then again we hardly take any pictures.
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 06:45 PM
  #23  
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@ colduphere -- I bet that was frustrating for all of you! And I'm also sure that you all handled it with absolute grace.


To get to work each day, I must go through a passageway that tourists LOVE to photograph. It's a rare day that SOMEONE isn't taking a shot that includes me; during the height of tourist season, there might be dozens of people taking pics. When I first moved to this area, I tried to turn my face and /or put my hand up, but honestly, that just slows me down. It is my belief that no one is trying to take a picture OF me -- I just happen to be there, and maybe I'm that human form that helps give a sense of scale to the shot. BTW, no one has ever asked my permission to include me in their photographs. Whatever. I don't like it, but it's probably no different than my trying to take a picture of some site as people walk into / out of it. I endure it.

IMO, rje, you've initiated a discussion on an important issue, and it's obviously one about which you have strong feelings. I would like to think that this is a forum where we can raise issues and discuss them, even when there are disagreements.
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Old Jan 12th, 2015, 09:24 PM
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>> People will inevitably pull themselves into a stiff pose and give you a big artificial smile. Not at all the result desired if you're trying to capture genuine human moments. Now a good (or lucky) photographer can sometimes get around that, but the majority of photographs taken after asking will be pretty boring and predictable.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 09:16 AM
  #25  
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Clearly the people here who've criticized myself and other photographers for candid photography of people in public places have strong beliefs about the immorality of the practice.

So, I've written and posted this helpful guide to assist them:

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...hotography.cfm
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 06:13 PM
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I have no intention of addressing all of the entities in the linked post. I think one will be illustrative.

This is from the photographers' guidelines for National Geographic Traveler:

"Photographers must furnish complete caption information, including who, what, when, and where. Failure to comply will result in payment being withheld. Please jot down any quotes that could be used in captions to illuminate the photographs, and obtain telephone numbers of any persons prominently featured in case the caption writer wants to interview them."

I fail to see how one could obtain that information without also obtaining permission for the photograph, whether before or after the fact.

And this is from the rules for the National Geographic 2014 photo contest:

"RELEASES

If the photograph contains any material or elements that are not owned by the entrant and/or which are subject to the rights of third parties, and/or if any persons appear in the photograph, the entrant is responsible for obtaining, prior to submission of the photograph, any and all releases and consents necessary to permit the exhibition and use of the photograph in the manner set forth in these Official Rules without additional compensation. If any person appearing in any photograph is under the age of majority in their state/province/territory of residence the signature of a parent or legal guardian is required on each release.

Upon Sponsor's request, each entrant must be prepared to provide (within seven (7) calendar days of receipt of Sponsor's request) a signed release from all persons who appear in the photograph submitted, authorizing Sponsor and its licensees ("Authorized Parties") to reproduce, distribute, display, and create derivative works of the entry in connection with the Contest and promotion of the Contest, in any media now or hereafter known. Failure to provide such releases upon request may result in disqualification at any time during the Contest and selection of an alternate winner."
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 07:05 PM
  #27  
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@ thursdaysd -- very interesting - thanks!
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 09:25 PM
  #28  
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thursdaysd,

Thank you for your thoughtful response. I'd like to try and put what you posted in context.

As background, I should tell you that as part of my professional life I sell my photographs to companies all over the world, have been published in photo books and have had articles written about my work. I tell you this only to say that I also have some direct knowledge about the business end of photography, which is the subject of what you posted above.

I don't know how to say this on an internet thread without sounding condescending, because that is truly not my intention. I respect your intelligence, knowledge and experience gained from your extensive travel. But as someone not familiar with what is going on in media and photography, you just don't know how to interpret what you posted from National Geographic.

Let me start with the contest, because that is simpler. The business model of National Geographic has had to change in recent years for a lot of reasons. One of the ways they are trying to supplement their shrinking income is to hold contests to get free or cheap content. A lot of publications are doing the same thing. One of the benefits of this is that they don't have the annoying inconvenience of actually having to pay photographers.

But they are not working with people they know in these contests, and they don't know the origin or circumstances of the photograph submitted, so they are especially cautious, and ask for documentation.

In addition, the contract above means they own your photo to do whatever they want with it, which probably means selling it, or at the very least, using it for their own commercial gain, not editorial purposes.

The laws are very different as applied to commercial use of a photograph containing a person than from artistic or non-commercial usage. Commercial use of a photograph with a person prominently displayed requires a signed model release, as well as contact information. Without a signed model release, the person photographed can sue, and will probably win. And frankly, they should. No person should be used for commercial purposes without their permission, and a model release signed shows they granted that permission. They also have to be paid "something" for that. The law is very clear on this, and I agree with it completely.

These kind of contests don't feel good to me. A lot of people are giving away their photographs to media companies who will make money off them in return for nothing more than a pat on the head. But since they're amateurs, they get excited about having their photo chosen, and get some bragging rights to their friends. I actually think they are getting ripped off. But they may not agree if just the excitement gained is compensation enough for them.

The first section you posted is also due in part to making sure they can use the photos for commercial purposes if they want. This is different from editorial purposes, which would be things like just putting the photo in their magazine or website. Also due to the increasing litigation risk in publishing, as well as some more esoteric risks, such as the possibility of fraudulent photos that have been altered with Photoshop. Nat Geo has got themselves in some hot water over this in the past, and don't want a repeat. Do you know what happened to them with the altered photo of the pyramids? There are more reasons, and it would take a lot longer to explain, and I really don't know if you have that much interest. Also, it is getting late here where I live.

Let me add though, that those guidelines are often ignored. For instance the request for phone numbers of subjects is just plain silly, since as you know, many subjects in poor rural areas (or even cities) do not even own a phone.

National Geographic has all through it's history used candid photography, and been widely admired for it. Look at the work of Steve McCurry for example. He is most famous for that photo of the Afghan girl with the striking blue eyes, you probably have seen that shot. And yes, that particular shot was not candid. But he has taken thousands of candid shots of people all over the world, published in Nat Geo, as well as other magazines, as has probably every other Nat Geo photographer.

But the practices of media companies are certainly not the only reason I'd give for how widely accepted the idea and ethical practice of taking candid photos of people is in most countries in the world. Although yes, some of the media do have ethical advisors working for them.

Neither would I use just the fact that courts all over the world have decided in favor of candid photography. And while both of us have a healthy skepticism of courts, remember, we are talking about most of the courts in the world deciding in favor of candid photography.

But take those two entities, and add to them all the ethicists who have written books about the issue of privacy, virtually all of the museums in the world, most historians and art history authors and anthropologists, and I think you have a pretty persuasive argument that when done with respect for the people one is photographing, candid photography is a very important thing.

I know most of us here on Fodors are concerned about harming people in the cultures we visit. And are concerned about violating local cultural norms and beliefs that are not our own. But I don't think you know how prevalent the acceptance of candid photography is in Asian countries. This acceptance and tradition goes back easily over 50 years. Some of the great Asian candid photographers are celebrated by Asians for their accomplishments. And what they are doing is walking around taking photos candidly of people.

Some of the best known are Ho Fan of Hong Kong (who I've met), Raghu Rai of India, Raghubir Singh of India, Daido Moriyama of Japan, Lu Nan of China, Shahidul Alam of Bangladesh, Manit Sriwanichpoom of Thailand, Oscar Motuloh of Indonesia, Wang Fuchun of China, Erik Prasetya of Indonesia, Che’ Ahmad Azhar of Malaysia, and Chang Tsai of Taiwan, to name just a few. Some of them started in the 1930s. This has been accepted as an art form in Asia for a very long time, and is considered not just ethical and culturally accepted, but as an important part of their own Asian culture.

Well, it is late here, and I've been going on for a while now! But I do hope you'll consider all this in your evaluation of the subject of candid photography.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 10:02 PM
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Taking photographs without permission is bad.
Taking photographs without permission and selling them is inexcusable.

I have nothing further to say on the subject.
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 10:25 PM
  #30  
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BTW, I remembered a book that National Geographic published and sells that recommends taking candid photographs of people without their knowledge. I don't personally recommend the book.

Their advice in shooting candids actually sounds a bit creepy to me!

Here are some quotes from page 252 of the book:

"Think of yourself as a hunter after elusive prey, so unobtrusive that your subjects forget you're even there"

and

"Perhaps you see a child caught up in an art project - whatever attracts you"

and

Use a long lens so people in the scene don't see you immediately. Compose your image and get your shot before anyone notices you're there."

Here's a link to the book on Amazon, who also sell it:
http://tinyurl.com/q45ul88
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Old Jan 13th, 2015, 10:31 PM
  #31  
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thursdaysd,

I never sell a photograph of a person without their written permission.
I hope you didn't get the impression that I do.
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 09:14 PM
  #32  
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As I have already said, I think the issues raised in this thread and its predecessor are important and worthy of serious discussion. Just to be clear, I am not personally interested in trying to determine whether the OP does / does not behave in an ethical or moral way. Instead, my interest is in fostering discussion of some of the murky dilemmas that I believe accompany taking photographs in public spaces. I’ve found reference to quite a few different questions in the responses to this post and would be interested in hearing various perspectives on how one might approach them.

I must admit that from MY perspective, neither historic nor artistic merit is a justification for taking a photograph of someone without permission. That doesn’t mean that there might not be a justification – just that these ones don’t work for me. That there may be a tradition within a culture that supports candid photography does not strike me as a justification. That other people have done so and are acclaimed does not strike me as not a justification. To take these arguments to a logical extreme (and yes, it is an extreme), depriving women of literacy, forcing them (or selling them) into arranged marriages even before puberty, and genital mutilation could all be said to be justified. (No, I am NOT saying that these things are comparable to candid photographs – I’m only noting through some extreme examples that the use of appeals that aren’t grounded in moral or ethical principals don’t work for me.)

I think rje has spoken to many of these issues; I would love to hear from others, and particularly from others who are NOT professional photographers. For example:

- If someone is not the focus of your photo, but is nonetheless clearly identifiable, does one need to obtain that person’s permission to retain the photograph? How “prominent” does the person need to be before one should seek permision?

- Does it matter whether you share your photos, or how widely you share them?

- While at least some laws make require a person’s permission before selling a photograph that features him/her, are there indirect or non-financial gains that should also be considered, e.g., acclaim for one’s un-sold candid photos or awards for amateur photos?

- What are the things we can do to assure that permission is actually WILLINGLY given?

- How do we deal with the assumption that public space is “fair game” when in a culture where private space is virtually non-existent?

I don't currently think there are hard and fast answers to these questions, but I am interested in hearing how various people approach them and whether / how we, as travel fans, can encourage other travelers and tourists to give thought to some of these issues.
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 10:27 PM
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I was not going to post anymore as it was getting obvious that rje was trolling.
You are clearly not doing so and are worthy of a response:
"I must admit that from MY perspective, neither historic nor artistic merit is a justification for taking a photograph of someone without permission."
Agreed

"That there may be a tradition within a culture that supports candid photography does not strike me as a justification. That other people have done so and are acclaimed does not strike me as not a justification."
Agreed

"If someone is not the focus of your photo, but is nonetheless clearly identifiable, does one need to obtain that person’s permission to retain the photograph?"
I don't think so, and have never done so. The fact that they are in the photo is largely accidental.

"How do we deal with the assumption that public space is “fair game” when in a culture where private space is virtually non-existent?

"How do we deal with the assumption that public space is “fair game” when in a culture where private space is virtually non-existent?"
I have no idea. Do you have any suggestions?

One final comment: I do find the whole concept of candid photography without permission to be a bit creepy. Do you feel this as well?
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Old Jan 14th, 2015, 11:25 PM
  #34  
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"I do find the whole concept of candid photography without permission to be a bit creepy. Do you feel this as well?" Personally, I do find intentional candid photography creepy, but I'm willing to listen to arguments to the contrary if they appeal to moral or ethical principals. There are several things that I once thought "creepy" that I no longer view that way once I became better informed.

I'm a bit more puzzled by what I find murkier -- the "candid" photos that were entirely unintentional and "simply" captured someone who was not the focus of one's shot, but is nonetheless identifiable. Over the years, I have found that I take greater and greater efforts to crop them out, but I do view it as a grey area and am trying to think through the principals that might help guide my thinking.

"'How do we deal with the assumption that public space is “fair game” when in a culture where private space is virtually non-existent?' I have no idea. Do you have any suggestions?"

I wish! That's part of my reason for prolonging this thread -- I would love to hear other people's ideas! So far, I just try to be as conservative as possible -- crop when possible, use photo editing options to obscure when possible, make sure I don't have a better way to show what I am trying to feature, share only with family and friends and not via the internet.... The dilemma with which I struggle is that if these people are identifiable, then they are JUST as identifiable as if I had taken an INTENTIONAL candid shot of them, and so (it would seem) there is an argument that I need their permission, too.

Thanks for responding, Vientianeboy. I hope that others will also take a few moments to explore the issues. While I suspect there are no ultimate "right or wrong" answers for these grey areas and while I sincerely believe that EACH of us must reach his/her OWN decision about them, they strike me as issues for which the input from a variety of people will ultimately result in more informed personal decisions.
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 03:58 AM
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Great set of questions, kja.

Another consideration. The recent arrival of facial rcognition software, which makes it increasingly difficult for anyone in a photo posted on the net to remain anonymous. And before someone says that they don't care about being recognized, that is not a choice you should make for someone else.
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 08:15 AM
  #36  
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Good point, thrursdaysd -- that software really does add a whole extra layer of complications to an already messy set of considerations, doesn't it?
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 11:02 AM
  #37  
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kja,

Your serious and moral beliefs and respect for others who have different opinions is admirable, and in turn demands respect.

I agree that this is a complicated issue, and one for which many will not find a totally satisfactory answer.

Just a quick personal aside, I'm not actually a photographer by profession. The reason I think this small difference matters is that I'm not as vested in the subject as someone whose livelihood depends on photography, and thus less inclined to try and rationalize ethical issues that conflict with my personal interests.

I'd answer one of your questions with the thought that if one believes it is wrong to take a photograph of someone without their permission, than it is also both wrong to accidentally take their picture without their permission, and wrong to keep it. I don't agree that this is a grey area. The moral stance you suggest requires that one bear the responsibility to take the time to carefully view through the viewfinder of their camera to ensure that no one in frame is identifiable before taking the photo.

Not being identifiable means that just being out of focus is not enough, as any identifying objects, clothing, locations, etc. that might allow a viewer to identify a person would also disqualify the photo. These are some of the legal requirements used in determining if a photo used for commercial purposes is acceptable, and these same criterion would need to apply to non-commercial purposes within the moral framework you suggest.

So the only possible action if one has these beliefs, and one has accidentally taken a photo with a person in it who has not given their permission, is to acquire permission retroactively from the subject for the photographer to keep the photograph (understandably rarely possible). Or remove those people through cropping or retouching. Or to destroy all versions of the image. If the image has appeared publicly, the person should also in some way be compensated and given an apology.

To reason as Vientianeboy does that it is OK because "The fact that they are in the photo is largely accidental." is intellectually and morally flawed reasoning. Is he really suggesting that the reason the main subject has been wronged is because they are the main subject, but that others in the photo have not been equally wronged, as they were not the true chosen subject?

Anyway, in most cases it shouldn't even have happened accidentally, because unless a person flings themselves in front of the camera at the last second, it is easily avoidable by choosing not to take the photo at all. If an immoral action is committed even by accident, it doesn't make it OK. Nor does it eliminate the moral imperative to correct the wrong.

I would think that the same reasoning that applies to not taking photos of people without their permission would have to apply to their homes, which are deeply personal places. If we have no right to take a photo of a person without their permission, what right to we have to take a photo of their home, whether it is in a tribal village or a building in a city with their apartment windows visible?
And pets and livestock should also be added to this list. And works of art not created by ourselves, too. The list is really rather lengthy.

As I said, this is a complicated issue.


thursdaysd,

An interesting question, and one that brings up the question of how well facial recognition even works. From what I've read, efforts by law enforcement to use it have been disappointing, and even hindering (due to time wasted reviewing so many false leads but achieving no true ones). So a lot of police departments won't use it.

I personally find the technology worrisome even in the hands of law enforcement searching for a dangerous criminal, when it works so poorly. The probability of arrest and even conviction of innocent people is frightening.

And when it gets good enough to really start to work, the implications for any individual privacy then become scary. Governing bodies utilizing outdoor security cameras would be able to track where individuals are at all times. It's easy to see where that can go.
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Old Jan 15th, 2015, 10:40 PM
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Don't feed the trolls.
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Old Jan 16th, 2015, 05:23 AM
  #39  
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There are times when I see inciting posts from people who have a history of writing hurtful and taunting posts that I have to fight the temptation to use the word "troll".

In this case I'll leave it to the Fodors community who know the history of individual posters to determine who is a troll.

Ultimately I suspect the reason this thread has had so few people commenting is that few people care about the subject of whether it is right or wrong to take photos of people.

Too bad, as like kja, I would have liked to hear other opinions.
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Old Jan 16th, 2015, 07:10 AM
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Never mind google glass, there is now this!!! (From a link from a Wendy Perrin email).

"Narrative Clip 2 ($199) — Want to live in the moment and not worry about pulling out your camera but still have pictures commemorating every single thing that you do? So do we. The Narrative Clip 2 is a “life-logging” camera that automatically takes a picture every 30 seconds without any required action from you. The new version shoots 8 MP photos and has a wider field of view than its predecessor. It also automatically uploads the pictures to your phone via WiFi and Bluetooth creating a seamless record of your day without requiring you to do anything at all."

I've been thinking about wearing a mask in public...
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