Street Ethics vs. A Winogrand Tutorial

This was going to be about listening to Mr. Winogrand, but along came a question to the weekly column “The Ethicist” regarding the appropriating of one’s likeness in public arenas. The issues seem murky. Mr. Klosterman: “A photograph is generated by a machine that uses optical technology to capture your actual likeness. It is literally a one-to-one depiction of who you are at a specific moment (unless the photographer uses additional technology to distort it). But a drawing is always interpretive. It’s not really you; it’s someone’s artistic construction of what she believes you look like (and if the artist is into something like Cubism, it might not resemble you at all). You possess the rights to your image, but you don’t possess the rights to what someone thinks you look like.”

Then the responses kick in; check it out.

Some of the responses include these statements:

“Actually, having your image drawn is the same as being photographed. And neither is unethical. You are free to take photographs of anyone in public. The question comes down to whether one has a reasonable expectation of privacy. A person riding a public subway has no reasonable expectation of privacy. That’s what ‘public’ means.”

“A very important distinction our ethicist fails to make is that certain looks are creepy and others aren’t, and to look at someone in a way that makes them uncomfortable is certainly unethical. Your right to look at a person in public does not supersede the person’s right to not be made uncomfortable.”

“I am not sure about the ethics of taking someone’s picture (as distinct from making a sketch) in a public place, but in the U.S. a photo is legal if the subject can have no reasonable expectation of privacy where the photo was taken. Thus, a photo of a couple kissing on the steps of the New York Public Library is legal, but one, using a telephoto lens, of a couple making love on a deck hundreds of yards away from possible viewers is not. In the latter environment you can have an expectation of privacy. In Europe there is a different presumption: no photos unless the photographer has received explicit permission.”


Now, here’s the important part: Garry visiting Geoff Winningham’s class at Rice University (with Lee Friedlander sitting in).

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