There are two points I will cover in this blog post: using mobile phone in public place as private media practice and the ethics of street photography. As mention in the lecture, taking photo of a person using a mobile device in public space is the task this week. And, ta-daaa, here is it!
I have been doing street photography for a couple of years and I have not really noticed the ethics. By that, I mean, when I did street photography, I never either asked for permission or acknowledge people, the only exception is when I would like to photograph a specific person intentionally, but it rarely happens. Therefore, for me, this week’s topic is worth paying attention.
I have to admit that after the lesson, I find it much harder to include people in my street photographs. And I also have to admit that the photograph above is not the one I took for the blog post. It was taken on the day I did my photoshoot at North Wollongong station. I was doing some testers to test the view and the light, and this lady accidentally lọt vào ống kính máy ảnh. Thus, the person in the photo was not asked for consent. But luckily, it matches the topic and I do not have to go out for a photo of a person using mobile phone in the campus and then ask them if I could use the photo for my assignment.
Though the task this week is to take a photograph of a person with consent, I would like to talk about photography in this situation. Am I violating the rule of street photography? It is mentioned in the Street Photographer’s Rights information sheet that “a person, in our society, does not have a right to be photographed.” So generally, it is okay to take photographs in public places, of buildings, sites and people, without asking permission. In fact, in Australia, “there is no right to privacy that protects a person’s image” (which is the same in Vietnam). According to the information paper, basically, you have to ask for permission only when you photograph people for commercial purpose. However, people are more aware of being photograph in public space, which results in photographers being approach by police while doing their job, especially when people are afraid of children being photographed without guardian’s consent. Thus, it is possible to include people in your street photography, as long as it is not used for commercial purpose. And thus, in this situation, I am not violating any photography ethics. However, when photographer intend to photograph some specific persons, agreement should be made to avoid misunderstanding.
Moving to the point of media practice, we covered two terms in this week’s lecture: public media practice and private media practice. The major differences between private and public space are access and control. As stated in the lecture, “traditional public spaces like cinemas are managed by traditional ideals balancing risk (strangers), opportunity (profit), logistics (scheduling) and obligation (health and safety).” Public media practice refers to actions like watching ambient television at the pub or at the airport while private media practice is sort of using personal devices to communicate. Using mobile device at a station can be called as private media practice in a public space. Public space, an area outside our private property (home), is where social interaction happens. Since the emergence of mobile devices, the notion of public space has changed. It adds “private media practice” to the old concept. Facebook-ing on the train, listening to music while walking, watching movies on tablets while waiting or even going out just to catch Pokemon, “public” is no longer public, the space outside home has turned semi-public. Through the use of mobile device, the young woman in the photograph is turning public space, train station, to a semi-public one, by living in her own virtual world. A cafe shop, considered as public sphere, was once a place for friends gathering, to chat, to talk face-to-face, is about to be replaced by mobile-phone-conversation. It is not an unfamiliar image that people sit together in a cafe but sticking their eyes to the phone instead of talking. As virtual space is growing bigger and bigger, thanks to the advancement in technology, will there be one day, PUBLIC space is eliminated?