22 October 2005 Camera Etiquette
In France it is illegal, but in Britain we are free to annoy anyone with a digital camera, now perhaps conveniently located within the Mobil phone.
Traffic Wardens gather evidence against misplaced vehicles with digital cameras. Crimes and terrorists are tracked and located and identified using CCTV cameras. Some are comforted by this phenomena, others are affronted by it.
This week some small boys wound up a policeman by pointing a video phone at them. The policeman told them to put the camera away, or he would put the boy in a nearby trash can. The bluff was called and the policeman carried out his threat, and the small boy was upended and trashed in the bin. All this was recorded on the phones and subsequently broadcasted to the nation. The policeman has been suspended.
I remember in the 70s that I was asked to stand by the till in a Dolcis Shoe Shop, where they wished to take my photograph as a security measure. I remember being shocked by this, perhaps having read a little Orwell; I refused point blank and I have never been asked to pose in this way since then.. But now of course, they don’t even ask; the camera is there and we all now know that it is for our own good. Don’t we?
In America, a camera crew is as accepted as apple pie and in Britain we are going the American way and maybe that is healthy and maybe that is not. In the same week, I came across a BBC camera crew in Waitress where a documentary about naughty children was being shot. And at Bluewater shopping Centre Graham Norton was shooting a scene for some other unspecified drama/comedy. On both occasions, cameras were inadvertently pointed at Mr and Mrs Monk and no one thought to ask our permission
Photography as Art and News is another matter. We wish to record our time with photographic images and those images should have integrity. Integrity is something to strive for but not something we shall ever achieve, because ultimately photography cannot exist without exploitation. There are no Images of Victoria Beckham, that are free of exploitation. Victoria is exploited by the Paparazzi, and the Paparazzi are exploited by Victoria Beckham. And we the curtain twitching public are complicit since we can not get enough of it.
A new Diane Arbus exhibition is about to open at the V and A and her remarkable images are there to record what some might regard as her exploitation of grotesque disability. Few doubt that these are remarkable and significant images.