Photographs in public places

By D.A. Sharpe | Published Wednesday, November 28, 2012

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Bob Buckel’s column (Messenger, Saturday, Nov. 24) about public photography, especially among youth, is right on with my thinking. As one who enjoys the “art” of taking photographs, I have sensed the real attitude of our society about people thinking their photograph should not be taken or appear in any public venue. It is a sad condition that our society has fallen into that general position.

In my growing-up days and in most of my adult life, just about all the photograph publicity you could attract was good! We all cherished the rare opportunity to appear in anyone’s newspaper or magazine, even when it wasn’t our best pose.

There seems to be another element affecting people being willing to be photographed. If the picture does not look like they are a candidate to be a model, their self-esteem is reluctant to let any public venue see them as they are (even though everybody does see them as they are and usually still likes them).

I enjoy the “art” of studies on the faces of people. Many of my amateur photographs are people studies, and the characteristics that can be exhibited are just wonderful aspects of what is in God’s creation among people. I like that. It is evident in many of the photographs I take and post on Facebook. My account has almost 11,000 pictures in it, among 214 albums, many of them focused upon particular community and political events that have crossed my path.

It is my hope and expectation that the freedom to photograph people in public circumstances ultimately will not be muted by a well-intended society that may invite legislation to limit severely what photographers can do, just because some weird people do bad things to children. The ever-protective government does what it believes is good at the cost of more and more freedoms.

D.A. Sharpe

2 Responses to “Photographs in public places”

  1. I think I’ll check your FB account and see if there are any photos of me in there. Maybe I can sue you and make some money. 🙂 Seriously, I agree with you Mr. Sharpe. People really should lighten up. -Craig

  2. Cindy Berry says:

    Mr. Sharpe,

    I teach journalism, which also includes photojournalism, to teenagers every year. I agree with you, but since the school setting for photography can be a bit different, I feel it is important to teach them to respect others, when the space, for example, within a classroom, can be deemed as private, as opposed to public.

    I agree, that while a person is in a public place, it is the photographer’s right to shoot photos of that subject.

    With that said, I have always taught my students to try and create a relationship with the person they want to photograph first, even if it’s a handshake and a friendly “hello.” I teach them never to shoot a photo of someone doing something that they, too, wouldn’t be willing to do.

    Several years ago, I sponsored two wonderful students, Cody Duty and Ashley Burgess, to a photo workshop in Austin. While there and on assignment, as we walked along Guadalupe Street and came upon a homeless couple and their dog, Cody struck up a conversation with them, and eventually asked them if he could shoot photos of them with their dog. They agreed. As we walked off, the young man yelled something unpleasant to students across the street who were shooting their photos from across four lanes of traffic without even a simple greeting.

    I learned a lot that day from Cody and Ashley about dignity and respect, and how to treat people, ALL people. And, I’ll never forget that moment, that lesson.

    I expect you also treat your subjects with that same dignity and respect. It is unfortunate that it is those “bad people who do weird things” who seem to ruin it for the rest of us.

    But I also believe that the average person isn’t really aware of what his rights are while in a public place.

    Thanks for sharing.
    Good Luck.



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