Photography and Privacy

January 26th, 2007

D20 3901 Photography and Privacy Well, that last post lead to some interesting discoveries. First, someone is actually reading this stuff! That’s pretty frightening. Remember what I said in the last post about photographers usually not being able to express themselves in a comprehendible manner…

But, Morgan makes a very valid point, one I certainly would not dispute. The conflict between the right of a photographer to freely photograph anything she sees and the right of a potential subject of those photos to have privacy and be free of the intrusion of a photographer goes to the core issue of freedom. Where does my freedom end and yours begin? The classic answer goes something like my freedom to swing my fist ends at your chin. Of course, in practice it tends to get a bit more complicated than that. And much of our legal system exists just to define those boundaries. Laws against murder, assault and theft are obvious examples and go back to the beginnings of society and laws.

So, I’ll blame the blog format for my not following through with this full thought yesterday. I thought the post was getting too long and just stopped before getting into this part of the discussion.

The question of what is fair game for photography has troubled me for all the many years I’ve been a photographer. Some answers are obvious, at least to me. News events are free game. The cleanup of Ground Zero was a tremendously important news event where photography was improperly prohibited. The prohibition was for political purposes and was counter to the core values of a free democratic society. I object to that. And there’s been a lot of that going on in recent years. The return of flag draped coffins to the US from Iraq and Afghanistan has been closed to photographers. The stated reason is to preserve the privacy of the dead and their families. BULLSHIT! The reason is to prevent the American people from seeing a powerful visual representation of the cost of the war. And that violates the foundation of a government that derives its authority from the consent of the governed. The citizens of a democratic society have a right and an obligation to be informed about the policies of their government and the consequences of those policies. Why? Because it is their responsibility as citizens to work to change those policies if they disagree with them.

(As an aside, if you haven’t read Harry G. Frankfurt’s On Bullshit, I highly recommend it to your attention.)

This is getting long again so I’ll wrap up and continue tomorrow with some of my own personal experiences with the issue of what is ok to photograph and what isn’t.

Just a couple more comments. Sheba mentioned a contest of subway photos. I wasn’t aware of that contest, but I was aware of the very improper ban on photography in the NYC subway system. I don’t think that ban was motivated by the political purposes of the ban at Ground Zero, but rather is just stupid bureaucracy in action. There have been a lot of that kind of heavy handed mindless restrictions since 9/11. I don’t think the motivation is usually evil, but rather just stupid overreaction. We have to be careful not to lose this “war on terrorism” (the problems with that name for what’s going on could take up several more posts) by giving up our freedom that the terrorists want to take away from us, thus giving them victory at our own hands.

And, one more story. An old friend was also at the Meyerowitz talk. He was the overnight photo editor for AP in NYC on 9/11. He told me that the AP never succeeded in getting a photographer into Ground Zero during the cleanup. That’s wrong. That’s a violation of the freedom of the press that is so essential to the functioning of a democracy that it was written into our constitution. The AP didn’t try to sneak photographers into the site, but simply rented an apartment with a view of the scene and kept a photographer there at all times monitoring, photographing and transmitting what they could see. Better than nothing, but it shouldn’t have had to be that way.

Thanks for the comments, folks. It really is nice to know that some come here for more than the naked photos.

Today’s naked photo is Nola in her attic again. A very private place. I chose this one especially for Morgan. She’ll know why.

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About this Blog

Photos and comments by Dave Levingston. This is the place to see my most recent work which may include nudes, dance, landscape, nature and whatever other kinds of photos I feel like taking.

Since it does contain nude photos, this blog is not intended for viewing by anyone under the age of 18.

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