Friday, October 17, 2008

Stolen Moments - Inappropriate Photography

Growing up in the north of England, it was just a matter of semantics that I came to think of, and talk about, a photograph as being "taken". It was part of my everyday speech to say "I took a picture of my son...that mountain...those flowers", etc. I really didn't give the matter anymore thought than that, for a long time. It was just the language that we all used.

When I came to think more, and understand more, about the process of photography, the notion of the image being 'taken' - as in concepts such as: "freezing the moment"; "the decisive image"; "capturing the scene" - was consolidated in my mind.

Many years later, particularly after having become familiar with digital image manipulation, the concept of "making a photograph" became familiar. I also noticed on my travels to the USA (and in talking with American friends) that the phrase "making a photograph" was frequently used. I still have trouble with that concept - because for me it gets away from the idea of "capturing the moment", and taints what was always the essence of photography, for me - namely the pure and "unretouched" state of the captured image.

Now, photographer and stage magician David Thiel has introduced another concept into the mix - that of photographs being "stolen". David, owner of the excellent Blog "Photoshop Basics in 6 Hours" has been in contact with me about his experiences and thoughts since photographing a street person in New York, called "Red". (You can read the full article HERE).

David has this to say about it...

"I find my feelings about the whole notion of "stealing" pictures have changed significantly since the whole "Red" thing. I've taken TONS of images with my telephoto and have gone through my library and deleted the vast majority that show faces, or where the subject I stole the image from can be recognized. Walking down the street and sticking my camera in the faces of strangers is, to my mind, unforgivable. Simply because these people are living their lives doesn't give anyone the right to take their pictures. While I admit that the images certain street photographers get are outstanding, they are stolen nonetheless."

Strong views, and held with a conviction and sense of integrity that is hard to ignore.

But, is he right? When we do not seek permission to take (or make) a photograph - or are not granted permission - are we "stealing" those images?

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