Princess Diana & Public Photography.

Are we public in a way that we are open to society’s views and perspective of our raw, natural state? Are we willing to be in other’s moments in time, be it in the background of someone’s visit to the Zoo or seated across from a couples dinner date?

Traditional public spaces, such as cinemas or shopping centres, involve large numbers of strangers congregating together, breathing the same air, touching the same elevator buttons or sharing the same seats. But do we appreciate it when we see fellow citizens taking a selfie in the cinema, knowing we are bound to be in the background?

Street Photography, as discussed in The Ethics of Street Photography by Joerg Colberg, debates the issue of street photographers, the public and privacy. On one hand, we have individuals who document for various reasons the day-to-day lives of a society. By doing so, they are more often than not capturing members of the public who may wish to not be seen or included in these photographs. However, as Colberg states, we have groups such as the Paparazzi who haunt and torment celebrities 24/7. As Colberg states-

Sadly our culture has embraced the idea that celebrities somehow deserve to be treated in ways that we would reject for ourselves, that celebrities in effect are fair game for our societal bullying.


Remember Princess Diana?

And the way the Paparazzi hounded her?

Remember the 31st August 1997?

And how it ended?

You may think this case is a rather exaggerated example- Paparazzi vs Street Photographers. However, both operate within the same environment, and the word “celebrity” is purely subjective; especially within today’s 5 minutes of fame society.

This is our society, captured in time, some beautifully unaware they’re on my Samsung’s memory card.

As we can see here, I took this photo without permission from the photo subjects, as I wished to capture spontaneous, raw social emotion. We see a man, presumably with his wife and kids, on his phone, whilst the rest of their family enjoy their coffee’s. We see two set’s of strangers, each with groceries within trolley’s, going about their duties in the centre. This was taken from a high-angle with the subjects blissfully unaware of my position.

As Colberg states-

I am very concerned about street photographers brushing aside concerns voiced by the public. If a large number of people do not want to have their photograph taken in the street, then that poses a serious ethical problem.

Personally, I do not mind being included in strangers photography, sometimes I go out of the way for the odd “photobomb”, however, it is when the lines of individual liberties, privacy and art become blurred; so too does the ethical questions of should we and do we?

Stay Classy UOW,

Todd Steele


Colberg, J 2013, ‘The Ethics of Street Photography’, Conscientous Extended, April 3rd, viewed 7th September 2015.


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