Week 6: Taking Photos of Strangers…

… Hopefully, this time around, taking photos of strangers will get me an HD rather than a criminal charge. Moving on.


This weeks task wasn’t super difficult but, second only to going to a cinema, was probably the most awkward. Lucky for me, I managed to capture not only the quintessential uni study environment, but the study of my BCM240 peers. With our camaraderie and shared experience of photographing strangers, requesting a photo of these two subjects with their devices went down pretty well. I asked, they allowed. Indeed, they had done the same only recently for the same task. Does this count as cheating? I’mma say no.

To be fully official, I followed my own pretty standard operating procedure for photographing strangers. I approached the two and addressed them at the same time. I asked if I could take the photo, then I explained why I wanted to. Finally, I explained what the photo would be used for and how it would be published. Luckily, none of these necessitated any significant trial or unnecessary difficulty for the subjects, either in the capturing of the image or it’s propagation. I’m sure they would have had a few more qualms if I was planning to put it on a billboard, but with a promise to only publish the image on my blog, the subjects completely consented.

I have taken photos of strangers before, and my process for doing so is generally similar to that above. It’s basic, but it’s effective. As long as I’m honest, relatively blunt but not aggressive, then consent is almost always given. That said, I’m not sure how easy it would be to get consent if I represented a larger media organisation that, through a larger media presence, posed a greater chance of large scale propagation of the image. For example, perhaps they would have been less cooperative had I represented a major new network and I was looking for stock imagery of students for weekly bulletins.

Interestingly, almost everyone that I’ve spoken to about gaining consent for photographs has a very similar process. This is interesting because, at least in Australia and NSW, there is very little legal need to. Providing that the photograph is taken in a public area and does not divulge any personal information or cause any undue defamation (Arts Law Centre of Australia 2016, p.2), media entities have almost free reign of those presented in public.

Now, where this gets difficult is when a photo is taken on private property, wherein the property owner has the right to declare at their whim photography policy. For example, the Uni has an interesting policy page for photography in the library. Among other things, the policy stipulates that for any and all commercial photography or film, the producers must have written consent from both the university and anyone filmed before that footage or image is used. Moreover, the University reserves the right to withdraw consent at any time (University of Wollongong 2013, n.p). This, as you can imagine, can make it a little difficult to stay within the lines of policy, common law and, above all, general politeness and civility.

Onto the other matter for the week, screens in public. I asked my subjects if I could get a photo of what was on their phones but they seemed understandably reluctant and turned me down. I would argue that, at least for the majority of students and people who were brought up in the screen age, we keep our online personas close to our chest. Beyond the relatively well regulated and presented facebook page or twitter, we protect our DMs and text chats. The social implications of this aren’t lost on me. The obvious one being that as well as the public digital presence, there is the private. Just because we present a large majority of ourselves online with relative transparency, there is just as much background politics and bitching as there has always been and, of course, we’re protective of this. Most interestingly (but this is just anecdotal ramblings by this stage), we are more protective of our data for the small scale, or micro implications of this. Ask anyone who they’re more worried about reading their texts, their best friends or Snowden and the Australia Signals Directorate, and I’d bet nine out of ten of them are more worried about the friends.


Arts Law Centre of Australia 2016, Street Photographer’s Rights, Arts Law Centre of Australia, viewed 20/9/2016 http://www.artslaw.com.au/images/uploads/Street_photographers_rights_2016.pdf

University of Wollongong 2013, Guidelines for photography and filming in the Library, University of Wollongong, viewed 20/9/2016 http://www.library.uow.edu.au/facilities/UOW044637.html 



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