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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

In defense of street photography vs 'creepshots'

I am a street photographer.

Sometimes I like to grab my camera and take to the streets to capture what I come across, and then share it via social media.

I do it for several reasons; one is for exercise. Another is because I love photography as an art. I do admittedly enjoy people-watching. Also, well… I like to share.

So I'm particularly disturbed by a story in the Toronto Sun about 'creepshots' — a collection of photos presumably only of women (I didn't see the images). The media attention has apparently prompted the moderators of said message board to set it to private access only.

The photos by one particular individual were brought to people's attention by an anonymous female. This "creep-shamer" was interviewed by the Toronto Standard and said she wants the laws changed to allow people to have their photos removed from a site if they want (but images associated with a crime are apparently OK, she adds).

I'm disturbed because this story might make some women fearful when they see a guy with a camera on the street. Yes, sometimes when I'm shooting photos of people on the street, I shoot photos of women — there sure are a lot of them out there, like say, half the population — but I'm really looking for interesting people and "slice of life" moments, I'm not zeroing in on females. If the subject of a photo I took was uncomfortable with it and contacted me, I would voluntarily remove it. Or, like what happened recently, I would gladly send them the original if they like it.

But I'm also disturbed because some idiot(s) are posting photos of women which, presumably, have clear intent to display the women in a sexual manner. Apparently taking public photos with "sexual intent" is actually illegal, according to a police source originally quoted in the Sun article (it has since been updated).

I completely respect people's rights. My rights included. So taking photos in public is a freedom I enjoy as a Canadian. However, while these creeper shots might be obvious, I think there's a grey area where I don't see how anyone can determine intent. I mean, if a girl happens to be in a photo, and she is deemed attractive by someone, does that person assume the photo was taken with ill intentions? How could they prove that?

The creeper photo people (we can't assume they're all men) need to use common sense. If someone's photos are all of women, and zoomed in on body parts, well yeah… of course I'm not going to defend that person, and of course they're going to draw criticism (and probably a lot of pervs).

But on the flipside, if laws are tightened for photos in public, what will that mean for news agencies? Security companies? Street photographers (who take the art more seriously?) One could argue that some of the most powerful and moving photos of all time have been candids.

Until a day ever comes when the law clamps down on public photography, I will happily wander around in my free time, camera in hand.