Photographs of the Public.

The current UK laws allow people to be photographed without their permission in public spaces. Is this fair?

Photographs of the Public.

Currently, photographing people without their permission, as long as it is in an area where it is allowed to take photographs, is completely legal. The photographer only has to delete the photograph if it goes against public morality, is harassment, and puts children in danger. For instance, if someone takes a photograph of you, fully dressed and in public, without your permission, they are under no legal obligation to delete it, no matter how violated you may feel. I have chosen this issue for my arts issue as street and urban photography involves photographing people and needs to comply with moral and legal rules.

When I took my photos for my arts challenge, I asked people who were featured in the pictures if they were okay with me doing so. I also spoke to the professional photographer running the workshop, Paul Hames, if it was acceptable to take photographs of people without their permission. He explained that it was okay to do so, as it is the photographer's right because they took the picture, and even is the person wanted it to be deleted, they did not have to. I understand his opinion as the photographer puts the effort into their art, however I disagree and would argue that it is unfair and the person may feel violated. I think his opinion was influenced by the fact that he is a photographer and may not be able to empathise with the person being photographed so much.

I also researched by giving questionnaires to various people, including fellow students, friends and family. The reason I included a variety of people in my research was because I wanted my findings to be as balanced and unbiased as possible, so I could have a fair and informed argument. Of the 10 people I surveyed, 8 people agreed that it is fair to take photos of people without their permission, unless persistent. Most people agreed that it should depend on the purpose of the photo and if the person wanted the picture to be deleted, it should be done.

My research has influenced me to come to the final argument that photographing people without their permission is acceptable in public, and the existing laws are fair, but they should be changed so that people have the right to refuse their photo and so that photographers have to legally delete their photographs if the subject does not like the image. My research has been very helpful in helping me understand a range of viewpoints and has helped me broaden my knowledge on photography and the law, especially from my online research. My primary research from speaking to a photographer and also obtaining information from surveys has influenced me to come to my final conclusion.


Noor Shah

Noor Shah

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  • Luke Taylor

    On 29 March 2017, 10:01 Luke Taylor Voice Reporter commented:

    I agree - it's wrong to show people's faces to the world without permission first.

  • Tom Inniss

    On 13 April 2017, 20:39 Tom Inniss Voice Team commented:

    I am of the opinion that if you are in a public place, then it's fair game. If you are out taking shots of buildings, or recording a news broadcast, it wouldn't be logical or practical to stop and reshoot everytime someone walks in front of the camera, or quickly chase them down and ask for permission.

    I think the current laws, just like you found, are currently perfectly fair. The clauses for harassment and invasion of privacy are such that most are afforded protection and can seek recourse should they wish.

    I write as a journalist though, not a photographer.

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