Week 6: Ethics of Public Photography

I’m constantly baffled at the smorgasbord of young people around the University of Wollongong campus who have no idea of where there going. I’m not talking about the emotional types who have a few drinks down at The Grand Hotel and turn their life into a soap opera; “I just don’t know where my life is going man, I hate uni”.

I’m talking about the constant flow of foot traffic with people looking down, absolutely consumed by their mobile device. So much so that they are mastering the art of walking and texting at the same time. Suffice to say, the task of capturing a photo of somebody staring at a screen, engrossed in a different space and place of sorts, was not a difficult one.

Mobile phones and other technological devices such as laptops, tablets and gaming consoles such as Xbox or playstation assist with passing time often in public. Existing in semi public space that we often find ourselves in such as on a university campus means that these technologies take us our own individual public space where we are disconnected from reality and exist in a virtual world of technology.

Joerg Colberg’s article ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’ suggests that as a photographer I am well within my rights to photograph one of these subjects provided that they are in a public place. Similarly, under Arts Law it is stated that photographers generally do not need permission to take photos in public of buildings, sculptures or landmarks regardless of who is in the photo as they are not the primary focus. Despite this, it is important as a photographer to be prepared to explain exactly what it is you are doing if questioned in public by strangers or even by the police. Photographing any image where children under the age of 18 are present without consent is deemed as illegal and can have ramifications for a person who publishes such material.

So by capturing the feature image of this story, what rules and regulations must I comply with? The aforementioned Arts law states that there are appropriate steps to follow if you are photographing strangers in public. These are:

1.Explaining what you are doing

2. Ask if it is OK to take their photograph, and publish it publicly.

3. Have information on street photographer’s rights

4. Be prepared to delete photographs if asked to.

Fortunately, I captured a friend and gathered permission in doing so for the purpose of this weeks task. Without doing this, I could be liable to breaking consent laws which protect peoples privacy on social media and online websites such as blogs. It is important to be aware of such laws as the legal ramifications certainly outweigh those of producing a decent story!!




About alexdebs

Third year Bachelor of Communications and Media studies student at the University of Wollongong. I am an aspiring journalist with a passion for sport, music and travel.
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