Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Two General Rules of Thumb for Taking Photos: 'Privacy' Issues...

Story by Nawfal Nur
Copyright Nawfal Nur 2006
All Rights Reserved

Two General Rules of Thumb for Taking Photos: 'Privacy' Issues...

This question comes up sometimes..."When & Where can I take Photos without 'privacy' issues messing up the works?"

There are two easy answers. However, by no means is this a cut-and-dry legal question and you should, for the obvious reasons, seek legal advice if you have specific and exact questions regarding your work and how it can be used.

The only reason I'm covering this topic is that it is a concern nowadays more than ever, especially when you have things like the indiscriminate incarceration of Photo Journalists for alleged connections with insurgents, as is the case for AP Photographer, Bilal Hussein:


(CPJ/IFEX) - The following is a 17 September 2006 CPJ press release:

AP photographer held by U.S. military for months without charge

New York, September 17, 2006 - The Committee to Protect Journalists is alarmed by news that a Pulitzer Prize-winning freelance photojournalist working for The Associated Press in Iraq has been held by U.S. military forces for five months without charge.

"U.S. authorities who have detained Bilal Hussein in Iraq must either charge him or release him from custody," said Joel Simon, CPJ executive director. "This is not an isolated incident. In the last 18 months alone, seven Iraqi journalists were detained for periods of many weeks or months before being released. No charges were substantiated in any of these cases. The long-term detention of Hussein is especially troublesome given explicit commitments made by U.S. officials that journalist detentions would be promptly reviewed."

In another report, AP Photo Editors said they have gone through all of Bilal's photos and only a small fraction show insurgents in them. They said what good does it do to show only one side of the dispute! What...photographers in war can only show the goings on of one side, hummmmm., that doesn't quite sound like unbiased journalism to me.

Anyway, here are a few General Considerations to keep in the back of your mind when taking photos:

1) If it can be seen, then it can be photographed...Period!

*Some people have fits if you photograph them, or if you photograph their homes, or if you photograph a power plant, or factory or whatever. Sure, you may seem suspicious pointing a camera at people and places, but if you are on public property and you want to photograph something, and your intentions are in the right place...Then, no one can bitch and moan that you are taking photos. Just be on high-alert if you see any axe-wielding lunatics coming at you...Then run really fast!

Of course, another thing is be courteous if people ask you what you are doing.

If you are 'on the job' then show the inquisitive person some tearsheets of your work, or explain to them the 'look' you are attempting to create. Then, they may be more cooperative and not give you a hard time.

Having Photography Credentials, Press Pass, or a Photography Membership Card of a Nationally or Internationally recognized organization is also a plus, just in case you have to prove that you are a freelance/pro shooter, and that you have an actual purpose for being where you are and taking photos.

2) If you can be there legally, you can shoot there legally!

As long as you are on public property, you can photograph almost anything you want.

There are at Least Three Exceptions to these Two General Rules regarding 'Privacy Issues' and Taking Photographs. Meaning, you could be held liable for trying to publish photographs you took if the photos meet any of the following criteria:

1) If your photo reveals any 'private facts' about anyone.
2) If your photo were to show a person in 'false light' - being misleading or defaming someone in any way.
3) If you use someone's 'likeness' for personal gain - publishing someone's photo in a magazine or for advertisement for personal gain without them signing a release form is a pretty big NO-NO! This, I suspect, goes for use of photos showing someone else's personal property as well. The owner would most probably need to sign a 'Property Release' form.

The only real exception to any of these rules or exceptions after 9/11, is that you wouldn't want to be pointing your camera in the general direction of any military establishment...That one can get you into a boat-load of trouble.

Every person with a camera seems to be suspect any more with the 'rage on terror' out of control around the world. And whomever said, "violence begets violence" was a very wise person indeed.

And here is the DISCLAIMER!
I'm not a law expert, but ONLY a photographer concerned with the Rights of Photographers and their ability to do their job, or, to just have fun taking photos without being harassed.

If you wish to have a more exact idea of 'Privacy Laws and Photography' within your State or Country, then please go see a Law Expert.

Thanks, Happy Shooting and 'Watch Your Six!'

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