August 23, 2014

A Friendly Face

So, it´s July and I come walking from town when I see this idyllic image: a guy with his fishing rod, a leisure boat coming towards him in the background. I got my camera out and when I started shooting, the guy hears the shutter. Oh dear, I thought, perhaps he doesn´t take kindly to being photographed. On the contrary, he did the exact same gesture as that guy in the canal boat in Birmingham! People don´t usually react to me like that, and now two guys in three weeks?

I have heard so much about people reacting badly to being photographed and at the library in Birmingham a librarian came up to me and said I could absolutely not take any photos with children in them. I assured her I was only interested in the architecture, but she didn´t look happy. (It was an odd feeling for me, to be taken for some kiddie stalker!) And some countries have laws against street photography. Considering how many people photograph everywhere, all the time, that must be a law difficult to uphold.

It´s impossible to photograph in a public place and completely avoid getting people in the frame. Actually, I like having people in the frame, as their presence is part of the experience. The English public seem to think their presence in my photos make them bad photos, and duck or back out whenever they see a camera and even apologize for being there!

I always try to pick photos for the blog that doesn´t show people´s faces, either being turned away or in the distance. Except my own, of course, but that´s my choice. Some friends say they don´t mind being on the blog, and that´s fine, some even see it as some kind of promotion of what they do, and I like to be supportive of that. It can be a tricky balance. If I´m unsure I ask beforehand. This guy, I proclaim The Friendly Face of Luleå in Summer.


  1. I just take tourist-y snapshots, but I've never had people object. Sometimes they think they are in the way and try to stay out of frame. I try not to get kids in the shots. There have been some issues with local police being aggressive in preventing photographs that include them, but time and again they lose those legal arguments.

    My daughter and a friend got hassled at a local museum once. They were told they needed prior permission to take exterior shots, which is just not true. Sometimes I think private security people (and others who adopt that role) are just a wee bit power-mad.

    1. Considering some of the malicious things that go on, it´s not surprising that people are protective of their children´s and their own images. But also, if you move around in a public place, you make your face public, I guess. I don´t think it´s a problem for most people. And in the UK, you are under CCTV surveillance pretty much all the time, which in some countries (like Sweden) is very controversial. What seems reasonable all depends on what you are trying to prevent.

    2. I don't worry about it at all when I'm in an area where tourists are taking photos, too, but when I'm someplace where folks are just going about their usual lives (exercising at the park, for example) I try to get shots without people. With cell phones, credit cards & security cameras like they are I'm not sure anyone has real privacy any more.

      When I saw my first BBC mystery show that had the detectives tracking suspects all over the place using CCTV footage I was shocked.

    3. The British have a long history of terrorism, even before 9/11, so I guess they know what they are doing. I saw some "Cops"-like television program once where they managed to prevent a girl getting hurt after a security guard saw her being followed on CCTV. As with everything, as long as the intent is good, we are fine.