Think Before You Snap: The ethics of street photography

This might sound outwardly suspicious but I rather do wish it was commonly acceptable to take photos of whatever you want. This comes down to a couple of things for me, the first of which is that I love photography and would take a camera with me if I could. The problem with this, as I have experience while doing some photography projects is that people are a little suspicious of you. If you haven’t experienced this it’s basically the same as when you go to a foreign country and everyone stares at you because you’re a tourist.

The second is because I haveĀ terrible visual memory. I don’t know about most people but I feel that for a lot of things my memory only extends to the knowledge of things happening with accompanying pictures. It really rather annoys me, and made me super excited about the prospect of getting Google Glass when that was an actual thing.

The third is that one of the best pictures I’ve ever seen was taken without the subjects consent. When my brother was younger and lived in Cronulla a famous photographer took a photo of him sitting near the beach at sunset which went on to be published and widely circulated. He only discovered it because he walked past a shop window and recognised himself in the image.

Below are few photos that, upon reflecting on, maybe ethically blurry:


This photo was taken from a friends house. It displays peoples houses imitatively which the occupants might not be comfortable. I was only really concerned about how the tree looked at the time.

ForgottenThis photo taken at Wollongong beach was taken without context given to the subject. I took it from afar because I thought it would make a good photo.


Taken from a hotel window in Melbourne, the people in the picture would potentially have a problem with being unwittingly photographed.

As Joerg Colberg says in “The Ethics of Street Photography“, the question of whether it is ethical comes down to the subject and whether they are okay with the photograph. In some cases it can be fine to take photos without permission but it just depends on the angel and context of it all.

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