World Photography Day: Why some pictures should never be clicked
The hesitation in seeking permission to click a picture of the subject, ironically leaves the photographer exposed like the old-school negatives
With affordable smartphones equipped with high-resolution cameras and unlimited access, everyone is a photographer on Sunday. The hesitation in seeking permission to click a picture of the subject, ironically leaves the photographer exposed like the old-school negatives.
The "right to click" seems to overshadow the right to privacy in the aggressive digital era. On World Photography Day, photographers reflect upon the complex social construct of morality in endangering one's privacy and if they seek permission before capturing the subject.
According to photojournalist Ranjan Basu, be it a critical situation or a conflict-ridden area, there is an unwritten code that the photographer cannot take anyone's photograph without their permission.
Basu, who went to Chhattisgarh's Dantewada on an assignment to cover the Naxals in 2008, says one has to keep the sensitivity in mind.
"I had to seek permission from the naxals to click their pictures. They took us inside the jungle, but they permitted me to click the photographs from the second day of my tour.
"In fact, one of the leaders did not want to show his face. So, I wasn't allowed to take his photo from the front," he told PTI.
Mayank Austen Soofi, blogger and photojournalist, who writes popular columns for leading dailies such as Hindustan Times and Mint, says he is careful about what pictures he clicks and believes the photograph should not compromise the subject's dignity.
"For me, privacy is very important. Especially when you're in a public space, then it depends on the photographer's common sense. Almost every other day people rudely tell me not to click, which is justified because of the way they may be feeling. But it's part of the job.
"I think it also depends on the vibe of the person who's clicking the photo. You can't fake your harmlessness or friendliness. As I keep discovering and rediscovering the city, I keep coming across familiar places and faces. So, it becomes easier gradually," he says.
When asked if he first takes the picture of the potential subject or seeks permission from the person, Soofi counter questions: ask French photography veteran Henry Cartier-Bresson first.
"I have got an answer but I don't think I'll tell you that. Even Facebook and Instagram also ask me," he quips.
Freelance photographer Sayan Acharya says privacy lies in the morality of the shutterbug.
"I would never click someone whom I don't know or would never click without their consent. You never know what the person is feeling in that situation. To get pictures, most of the photographers bypass this line. They just want to click the photo," Acharya says.
Gaurav Awasthi, a Canada-based IT professional and amateur photographer, shares an anecdote about his visit to Oxford, a famous town in Berkshire, UK, where he took a some pictures of the homeless.
"While none of them responded to me capturing their portraits, I somehow got disturbed by a deep stare from one of them. He made me realise that I was actually taking a benefit of their vulnerability.
"I wasn't only shooting their expressions but the cause of those expressions, which was directly related to their vulnerable situation. And that made me realise the importance of giving privacy to the subject whether its actively sought or passively expected," Awasthi says.
Psychologist Pallavi Ram says the notion of permission is its entirety is a social construct.
"Seeking permission also depends on the context. In my opinion, whatever the context may be, you should seek permission. After all it is their face, expressions - they are private, even though they are displayed publicly. Come what may, it is their right to control the use of those photos," she says.
Souvik Mukherjee, Assistant Professor, Amity Law School, Kolkata, quotes a 19th century paper, published by Warren and Brandeis, titled 'the right to privacy', wherein they cited Judge Cooley for the development of the concept of 'right to be let alone', the very concept was an outcome of the realisation that development of invention and business methods calls for a notice to provide protect for individuals' private and domestic life which have become vulnerable to instantaneous photographs and news.
"Even in 19th century they felt that law must afford some remedy for unauthorised circulation of portraits. Today with the internet governing most part of our life, we need the 'right to be let alone' be part of our fundamental right to privacy more than ever as the it represents manifestation of 'an inviolable personality'," Mukherjee says.
He adds, "If the subject matter is minding his own business then a photographer does not have the right to click him/her as if it is one then you are encroaching in his/her life without due permission."
Mukherjee says the apex court took note of the above concept while delivering the recent judgement on right to privacy.
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