Question: Has there been any discussions regarding photographing children?

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Alex Benjamin

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In the USA, taking pictures in public places is considered free speech and strongly protected by our constitution.

Indeed it is, and rightfully so: without a camera, we wouldn't have known about George Floyd. Part of the reason it is a constitutional right is not only to report news but to protect the public from such abuse.

And it's the reason why I mentioned that the question of photographing children is not a legal matter but an ethical one.
 

VinceInMT

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When I visited the Uffuzi museum/gallery in Florence, Italy last May I notice a sign that indicated that non-commercial photography is permitted but taking pictures of people is not. It is near impossible to take photos of the art without including people and plenty of people were doing do, including me. Any people included in the photos are incidental and generally not identifiable, particularly due to a mask requirement. I like including them as a refence for scale.
 

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My full quote is: "...the information about me being in that place belongs to me and I should control whether or not I want to make it public, and to whom I want to make it public."

You are partially right. The information recorded on the film belongs to the photographer, but the information about me being where I am, doing what I was doing, being with who I was, etc., belongs to me.

The two are not the same. That's because image and context are not the same. Or rather, the photographic image creates new contexts that may or may not have anything to do with the actual context of what was captured.

We all know this: photography puts on a single plane a three dimensional scene. In doing so, it creates new relationships between people, objects, etc — most famous and oft quoted example of this being Friedlander's cloud on a street sign (Knoxville, Tennessee, 1971). These relationships are further manipulated by the photographer: shallow depth of field isolates, different lenses make things closer or further than they actually are, angle of capture creates or breaks relationships. Relationships created can also add symbolic meaning — like the American flag in Frank's The American, or rather how Frank photographs it.

On a photograph, I'm sitting on a bench, in a park, next to a woman, my head slightly turn toward her, my mouth slightly opened. Do I know her? Am I talking to her? Our hands seem close, are they touching? Is the guy behind us close or far? Do we know each other? How many people are there in the park? Why are we there?

This is all context, and depending on where the photographer is, what lens he is using, what depth of field he is using, what he decides to put in the frame (as the saying goes, a photograph is as much about what's in it than what's not in it), with all this, he can give different answers—or rather, suggest different possibilities of answers—to these questions.

We know this, it's street photography 101. Great street photography create relationships, play with context, or rather, the ambiguity of context. One of the greatest photographer working with all these possibilities is Garry Winogrand, who keeps suggesting relationships, brilliantly plays with the ambiguity of context, and adds a fantastic physicality to it all (his 1964 World's Fair photograph is a masterpiece, and a masterclass about this). This is what he meant by his famous quote: "How do you make a photograph that's more interesting than what happened? That's really the problem," and also why he compared street photography to a very physical sport in which you have to keep moving very fast in order to capture what you want the way you want it.

To sum up (sorry about the long post), "what happened" is the full context of why I'm sitting on that bench. That belongs to me. That's my privacy ; "what's more interesting" is your photograph of me. If it all stays between you and me, it's all fine, even if I don't know you took the picture. Problem arises from the fact that photos are made to be looked at, and people looking at it are free to make their own context from the contextual ambiguity and new relationships created or suggested by the photographers. There is a clash, a distorsion between the two narrative that comes from the very nature of photography, and that's why the right to privacy goes way beyond just "you're not allowed to take my picture," and also the reason why, if there is a "right to privacy" written down in may law books, nowhere in the world is there a "right to photograph."

And just to be clear. I'm not at all saying that one shouldn't do street photography or always ask for consent — I love great street photography and cherish the books I have by Winogrand, Frank and the other great street photographers precisely because the create ambiguity by creating new relationships which create new narratives which creates new realities, and that's what is so fantastic about street photography well done: it makes us see the world differently. I'm just saying one should be aware of what one is doing when taking a photograph.

Again, sorry about the long post, a bit off subject from the original post specifically about photographing children.


default.jpg


Garry Winogrand
World’s Fair, New York City
1964


All I can say is don't cheat on your wife in public if you don't want photos of it floating around. :wink:
 
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He needed to know if it was any good ya know? And you can pick your nose, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your friends nose. It's a picky situation.

I think the expression is you can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives. :smile:
 
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Indeed it is, and rightfully so: without a camera, we wouldn't have known about George Floyd. Part of the reason it is a constitutional right is not only to report news but to protect the public from such abuse.

And it's the reason why I mentioned that the question of photographing children is not a legal matter but an ethical one.

The same could be said about street photography in general. I often feel queasy shooting other people, including adults. I feel I'm trespassing into their space. However, that shouldn't prevent others from photography at will in public places. Showing what people look like and are doing in society photographically is not different than writing or speaking about contemporary society. It's all expression and free speech that's protected.
 

markjwyatt

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I've deleted part of your comment Mark because it is about an issue that is so incredibly political and religious that it breaches all the Photrio rules about those sorts of discussions.
That moderation action was taken without any reference to the position you appear to be taking with respect to the issues referenced.

My reference to the children as chattels is actually a reference to how the law stood not too long ago. And more generally, about how radically changed things are from only a number of decades in the past.
Historically, most children had no rights and were rarely considered as being of importance under the law. The only exceptions tended to be children who were heirs entitled to substantial fortunes.
Traditionally, the only time that there were legal disputes about children were when having their "custody" meant that the custodial parent had access to the use of the substantial inheritances that those children were going to receive when some future event occurred.
And in those cases, the law heavily favoured the fathers - mothers often didn't even have standing to be heard in those cases.
The concepts of best interests of the child or parenting rights or a raft of other things that seem normal to us are remarkably modern.
I reference all that, because it was the context for how the world looked at photographs of children until fairly recently. If there was any complaint that might have been made back not so long ago about a photographer photographing a child without consent, it would probably have had been a complaint from a father - never a mother - about potential damage to his property (child).

What I stated was not "incredibly political and religious". l it was a simple statement of fact. I layered no political agenda on it nr took sides. Both sides of the argument YOU are referring to agree with the statement I made. When you said basically that things are better for children today, my statement seriously questioned your statement. But clearly we cannot discuss philosophy on Photrio, because someone may get offended over a simple fact. Maybe that is ok, it is a photography forum. Are you going to Start editing controversial photographs that may imply issues like the one I raised, e.g., is the expression of art next on the Photrio chopping block?
 

koraks

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is the expression of art next on the Photrio chopping block?

No, as long as those expressions remain respectful to people in general and other forum participants in particular. But if you want to discuss how this forum is being moderated, this thread is not the place. You're very welcome to open a conversation directly with Matt and/or other moderators to discuss this.
 

MattKing

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What I stated was not "incredibly political and religious". l it was a simple statement of fact. I layered no political agenda on it nr took sides. Both sides of the argument YOU are referring to agree with the statement I made. When you said basically that things are better for children today, my statement seriously questioned your statement. But clearly we cannot discuss philosophy on Photrio, because someone may get offended over a simple fact. Maybe that is ok, it is a photography forum. Are you going to Start editing controversial photographs that may imply issues like the one I raised, e.g., is the expression of art next on the Photrio chopping block?

The majority of the people in your country appear to disagree with your "fact". A larger percentage in my country appear to also disagree. I won't say what my opinion is of the issue, but that disagreement is intensely political and religious - thus the deletion.
And any future complaints about moderation are to be addressed directly to the moderators.
 
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markjwyatt

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The majority of the people in your country appear to disagree with your "fact". A larger percentage in my country appear to also disagree. I won't say what my opinion is of the issue, but that disagreement is intensely political and religious - thus the deletion.
And any future complaints about moderation are to be addressed directly to the moderators.

I am taking this as discussing ethics and philosophy, and not questioning your moderation action (since you are continuing the conversation) which I have let pass and will not discuss openly anymore. I disagree, I have heard intelligent people on both side of the issue state basically what I stated. What is an issue is to whom the civil right(s) belong to, and I purposely avoided that issue, trying to keep this a discussion of philosophy and ethics, and not politics. Even independent of religion both sides tend agree to that statement. Anyone who does not agree to that fact (as opposed to the political and religious issues attached to the fact), is not dealing in science and facts, but rather emotion and perhaps nihilism.

Let me try and state it in a more non-threatening way: When a certain act occurs, two human beings are effected. I was referring to one of them (who was effected extremely negatively), and to whom I was making the point was not protected at all (and thus fit into the discussion). Even informed advocates of said act agree that at least two human beings are involved- at the very least in the more extreme time periods where said act can occur. I have heard it many times from both sides.
 

Arcadia4

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A useful summary of the UK legal issues associated with the topic of this thread from the Editorial Photographers of the UK, -

'Photographing children in public places is, for most children, exactly the same as photographing adults under the same circumstances. That is, there is no right to privacy and hence it is legal.
There have been several legal cases in recent years where celebrities have argued for, and won, a right for their children to expect privacy in public places as a protection from tabloid and paparazzi intrusion. But those are special cases for rich people.

The more general exception is children (and vulnerable adults) who are wards of court or subject to a child protection order, or on the ‘at risk’ register. The Children Act 1989 creates special rights of privacy (‘the rights of the child’) which make it an offence to publish any photo that might place them at risk from, say, an estranged violent parent by divulging their location. A photograph of a child in a public place wearing school uniform, or accompanied by others whose whereabouts are known to the would-be assailant, might conceivably do this.

The Children Act is also the cause of problems at sports clubs and similar venues, as the supervising adult has a legal duty to safeguard these enhanced rights to privacy. And since part of that right is confidentiality about the child’s status, usually they will not know themselves which, if any, children in their charge the Act applies to. Their safest course of action then becomes one of challenging any photographer as an imminent threat.

But by far the biggest issue surrounding photographs of minors is public fear of paedophiles. There seems to be a widespread assumption that the only possible explanation for any adult photographing children who are not their own is that they are a pervert with a camera. Assaults on photographers are common. Proceed with extreme care and sensitivity, and if at all possible ask permission'.



So regardless of the legalities to photography of any kind , social norms and clarity of your intent is everything, to whether its seen by the general public as acceptable or not.

Those photographers whose work include lots of street photos of children (e.g. Tish Murtha or Sirkka- Lisa Konttinen both in NE England ) spent the time becoming known in the local community and developing trust (and being female also probably helps). This investment in time gets overlooked by people who want to try to imitate that style in a weekend.
 

MattKing

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I am taking this as discussing ethics and philosophy, and not questioning your moderation action (since you are continuing the conversation) which I have let pass and will not discuss openly anymore. I disagree, I have heard intelligent people on both side of the issue state basically what I stated. What is an issue is to whom the civil right(s) belong to, and I purposely avoided that issue, trying to keep this a discussion of philosophy and ethics, and not politics. Even independent of religion both sides tend agree to that statement. Anyone who does not agree to that fact (as opposed to the political and religious issues attached to the fact), is not dealing in science and facts, but rather emotion and perhaps nihilism.
All of which can make for a useful philosophical discussion in a thread, on a different site, that is concerned about something other than photographing children. All of which is outside Photrio's rules - the only reason for the moderation.
The only reason we have refenced the law in this thread is because some believe and have posted that the law is determinative of the issue - "the law permits me to photograph children in public, therefore I should be able to".
For a whole bunch of reasons, what is permitted by the law in any particular jurisdiction, at any particular time, may be more/different than what one ought to do. The law constrains our actions in this field, it doesn't mandate them. That is the ethical and philosophical photographic question. And that is what makes this thread useful in a photographic context.
 

VinceInMT

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Protecting the privacy of children just came up in my community in a unique way.

Our school district, like many others, operates a bus system. It contracts out for this service. It has the busses that stop at designated places to pick up or drop off students. It also operates busses that cater to special needs students and these busses pickup and drop off these students at their homes.

The contract that the school board must approve lists all the stops and, evidently, in the case of the special needs students, details who they are picking up or dropping off. The contract is public record and the district is being sued for releasing this information as it supposedly violates IDEA guidelines and possible HIPAA. (These are federal laws which protect, in the case of the former, the right of special needs students, and in the latter, private medical information.)
 

Sirius Glass

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What some are either unaware of or purposely ignoring, is that people object to their children being photographed because they do not want the photographs being manipulated to exploit their children's images to something embarrassing or pornographic.
 

Alex Benjamin

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What some are either unaware of or purposely ignoring, is that people object to their children being photographed because they do not want the photographs being manipulated to exploit their children's images to something embarrassing or pornographic.

Which would move the perspective from the unethical to the immoral.
 

Arthurwg

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Stating something that is blindingly obvious and has been said in slightly different words multiple times through this thread, could be construed as insulting to our intelligence.

No-one ever said that a photographer had to be intelligent.
 

MattKing

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What some are either unaware of or purposely ignoring, is that people object to their children being photographed because they do not want the photographs being manipulated to exploit their children's images to something embarrassing or pornographic.

Which would move the perspective from the unethical to the immoral.

Now the problem is more clearly presented.
And then there is Anne Geddes........
 

Alex Benjamin

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And then there is Anne Geddes........

Which would move the discussion from the unethical to the immoral to the unpalatable 😁 😁 😁 .
 

Alex Benjamin

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...and maybe it's just me. I find some of her photographs, like this one, profoundly disturbing. I'd be very curious to chat with her about it to try to understand what she sees.


EK2006Nx-0010798.jpg
 
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markjwyatt

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...and maybe it's just me. I find some of her photographs, like this one, profoundly disturbing. I'd be very curious to chat with her about it to try to understand what she sees.


EK2006Nx-0010798.jpg

I find her work pretty positive.
 

Alex Benjamin

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I find her work pretty positive.

A lot of people do. I honestly can't explain why I find it and what I find in it so disturbing — I want to say "repulsive," but it's a bit too strong, although there is something almost physical in the way I react to a lot of it. Maybe a discussion I should have more with a psychologist than on a photo forum... 🤔
 

GRHazelton

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I find her work pretty positive.
I agree. She is somehow able to create mages which, in other hands, would be horribly kitsch, but Ms Geddes is able to make them appealing, at least to some.
 
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A lot of people do. I honestly can't explain why I find it and what I find in it so disturbing — I want to say "repulsive," but it's a bit too strong, although there is something almost physical in the way I react to a lot of it. Maybe a discussion I should have more with a psychologist than on a photo forum... 🤔

The babies' heads are disembodied especially the one on the right.
 

MattKing

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I will say that most of the Anne Geddes work I dislike is in colour, while the relatively small number of black and white images I've seen are more to my taste.
But I don't know that I could have lasted this far into the year if this was on my wall:
1668816933039.png
 
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