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Photographers as Aggressors

This video is a chilling statement of the times: a man is harassed simply for taking video of people in a public place. The problem appears much worse in the U.K., but I suspect they're simply a few months ahead of the U.S. on their ass-backwards "no cameras/pictures/filming" policy.

I've just read a short essay by Bill Jay called "The Photographer as Aggressor" that talks about how, since the portable camera became common, photographers have been seen as an aggressor or predator - capturing public moments of people doing embarrassing things, women momentarily caught topless by a wave, etc. Though most of the paper talks about the early 1900s or late 1800s, the question still bubbles to the top: are photographers aggressors? Though the law may allow taking of pictures in certain places at certain times, what's the morality of doing so?

One Response to "Photographers as Aggressors"

  1. I recently watched the documentary on James Nachtway called "The War Photographer." A photographer will always be an intrusion to some. Just ask a high-profile celebrity. For others the photographer is a historian.

    I think the answer is found in the ethical posture of the photographer. Why are the photos being taken? What is the context?

    Nachtway said the following: "The worst thing is to feel that as a photographer I am benefiting from someone else's tragedy. This idea haunts me. It is something I have to reckon with every day because I know that if I ever allow genuine compassion to be overtaken by personal ambition I will have sold my soul."

    Photographs are neither good nor evil, they are a medium for communication and artistic expression. However, I believe caution should be used when showing private moments to the public through the use of photography.

    Good questions.


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