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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Red Wedding

This picture is a stolen moment, pure and simple. You can even see the window frame of my car on the right. I had just enough time to snap it before the traffic moved.

Not everyone knew their picture was being taken. Not everyone wanted their picture taken. Not everyone who's smiling is smiling at my camera. The guy who's frowning is frowning at me.

I wonder about photos like this. You don't know when I took it so unless you recognize the people, you don't know whose wedding it is. We were all on the public street, therefore I was within my legal rights to take the photo. Was it fair of me to do so? Is it ethical of me to post it?

17 comments:

Ben Wideman said...

I'm torn too. right after taking this photo:

http://theskyisbig.blogspot.com/2008/03/moon-bounce.html

my wife informed me that it was creepy to take pictures of other people's yards.

I think it all depends on your context. You're not mocking these people, nor are you attempting to profit off of their special day. I think you're in the clear.

Petrea said...

I remember that photo, but that thought never crossed my mind when I saw it. You make a good point and I hope you're right!

Tanya said...

I don't think there's any problem with it. They are in public, and you didn't zoom in on anyone.
It's kind of like if you were taking a picture of someone you know, and that wedding party was in the background, would the frowning guy not mind then?

from cali said...

I agree with Ben. And who knows, this couple might be flattered to be featured on a blog.

Then again, I live in fear of the camera so who am I to talk?

Ioanna said...

I have the same problem every time i take pictures of other people! I'm not sure if it is right, propably there is no problem, if it is a public place!

Bibi said...

I agree with Ben that it's a question of context. As long as you're not making fun of them. I took lots of photos of the brides and grooms at the collective wedding here last Sunday and they all saw me do so, and I was far from alone! In my case, they were happy to share their joy.

ginab said...

It looks to me like the bride is smiling at you. She trumps the groom!

Bernie K. said...

What intrigues me about the question is that we ask it at all. What is it about a camera that gives us such pause?

If I were to set up an easel and paint these folks, they'd surely not object, nor would we likely ask the question (on seeing the painting).

I could sketch them on a napkin, rapidly, but not as fast as a shutter can fall. Is it about the speed of photography, which allows so much information to be captured so casually? But what could be done with that "information"? There’s no indication of who these folks are, etc.

Can it be a question of the startling accuracy of a photograph? These are faithful likenesses, but where's the risk in that? Were that the issue, we'd all go around with masks or hoods, to protect against prying eyes.

No, I suspect it's a function of two dynamics: myths about cameras (the cliche, unsupported in history, that "natives" feared their immaterial selves would be imprisoned by the black box) combined with a general malaise about public scrutiny. That young man's glare may well have less to do with the sight of a photographer in a passing car than with the improper traffic stops he and his buddies suffer on weekends, because they're not lily-white.

So, context ├╝ber alles, and shutterbugs emptor. Still, I wouldn't hesitate to snap a shot in a public space, because I know my motives are good and I can always make friends with my subjects.

Katie said...

Delightful photo, especially with all the red. But the debate about whether one should take and post photos of other people is a really interesting question for sure. I just started blogging, but I mostly post photos of old postcards and my own photos of scenery or Parisian pastries. I did post a photo with my sister and her kid in the far background, and I checked with her first to see if she was ok with that. But in this case, kind of hard to jump out and ask the crowd if it was ok for you to post the photo.

I agree with the comments here that say context and motives are important. It's not like you posted this photo on some "Hot or Not" website and asked people to rank them. In this case, I'd say ok to post.

Petrea said...

It's an interesting discussion, and I thank you all for your contributions to it. I was going to disagree with Bernie about the young man's (guessed/supposed) motivations, because I look like anything but a cop, and because I don't like to believe it could be true. But I'll just add this: perhaps he also feels protective of the women.

I posted the photo because I just like it. I love the exuberance of the bride and her waving maid, the real people on the left who refuse to notice vs. the fake women on the right who seem interested, and the stern gaze of the man I take to be the groom.

marley said...

Interesting points raised. The wedding is in public but is a very personal event. I can't make my mind up! It makes for a good photo though.

Bernie K. said...

I'm crushed that you were going to disagree with me. What if I sent you a photo of me, glaring, in a red dress? Woo-hoo!!

Pont Girl said...

I love the picture - and if the bride is smiling at you, that's all you need to know!!

I love that you included the red curb - it's a nice highlight.

Petrea said...

Thank you, Marley. Yes, it's a poser.

Well, Bernie, we can't always agree. About the photo: if you send it, may I post it?

Pont girl: The bride chose red, I had to include the curb, didn't I? And as GinaB said, the bride trumps the groom (at least for one day).

Palm Axis said...

I wonder about these "gray" areas of law. Many years back I found some polaroids thrown into the ivy next to the Sizzler on Arroyo. I assumed that the girls posing in them had done so to impress a fellow who was playing them both. Not nudes, but provacative in a funny "don't let your mother see this" kind of way. I made some scans from them and sent the jpg's out to an illustrator friend. I didn't think to tell him not to forward them (a lesson learned on my part) He forwarded them. Next thing you know, one polaroid in particular ended up being the cover image for a Canadian punk band. It makes for a funny story but it was also kind of weird and creepy.

Knoxville Girl said...

If I'm in a public space, I expect the things I say or do, or the way I look to be open to public scrutiny. I also agree with Ben that it depends on context - a single snap with no ill intent would be different in my mind from paparazzi shoving a camera in one's face so they can profit from the image, even in a public space. Petrea, the fact that you are considering this question leaves no doubt in my mind of your good intentions.

Petrea said...

I don't know about the law on that one, Palm. The girls should have been careful about where they threw their photos, I guess. I think the law is clear about taking photos on a public street. What's unclear is the moral question about their use. Again, we go back to Ben's answer about context and intent. It's quite a story, though, about how far those pictures traveled.

Thanks, Knoxville Girl.

Hats off to you, Ben! Right from the beginning!