Snap Happy

20 04 2008

My CameraHaving received a digital camera for his birthday (that’s his baby in the thumbnail on the left, click for a larger image. Isn’t she beautiful?), Mr President is suddenly rediscovering his old interest in photography. When he was in his early teens he used to really enjoy it.

Granted he’s no Alfred Eisenstaedt, but it’s certainly something he once derived a lot of pleasure from and one he thinks might grow on him again. He definitely prefers being behind the camera to being in front of it, and if you knew how gorgeous he is, you’d realise what a big statement that is. Women go weak at the knees in his presence.

Photography has also featured in the news recently. First, whilst settling down to his Friday morning coffee, he sees a story on BBC Breakfast all about a man in Blackpool ordered to delete his pictures by a police officer. Then, interested by the story, he found another piece by the BBC covering a different photographer stopped by police.

You see El Presidente loves urban photography. Country landscapes bore him silly, whether in photograph form or worse yet, in painted form. He can’t understand how people call things like that art, when they so lack any emotion or feeling in them. Scenes of everyday people going about their business, those are fascinating and evocative.

So the idea that because of fears over terrorism and paedophilia we’re going to clamp down on such activities is a worrying trend. He understands that when fighting a threat such as terrorism it may be necessary for certain liberties we take for granted to be somewhat curtailed but he does believe we must be careful. What good is protecting our way of life, he says, if we change our way of life to do so? The terrorists win.

As for paedophilia, quite frankly so many people put their family pictures online, whether through something like Flickr or a social networking site like Facebook. People may think these things are safe from prying eyes but often don’t actively take steps to protect their privacy. Even many of those who do so still don’t realise that such measures don’t protect 100%, and that ultimately anything online is not private.

Scary as this may sound if you put pictures of your young children online, paedophiles may get access to them. Street photography, then, poses no more threat to your child’s safety when it comes to this threat than your own actions may do. Also I think nobody would argue that if someone came and took closeups of your children you ought to have the right to make them stop and delete any pictures. The issue is inadvertent shots.

Where someone is taking pictures in a public place of a street and your children just happen to wander into shot, for example, it seems unfair that the innocent photographer lose what could be a beautiful photograph. Whilst there is still a minute risk that such a picture could be “enjoyed” by Paedophiles, on balance this seems less of a risk than the chilling effect of suspending the photographer’s freedom.

Photographs of public buildings, likewise, are not really much of a terrorist threat when floorplans for most such buildings are a matter of public record. Of course things like military bases are an exception and here the government ought to, and does, retain the right to ban photography. It’s also hard to argue any case for tourism there.

Pictures of famous landmarks, however, like the Houses of Parliament or the White House, though they may pose a security threat, are clearly very likely in the majority of cases to be taken by tourists. Do we want a world where people are afraid to record the details of their holidays in photographic form? Mr President says no.

A little common sense could go a long way. Let us not live in a world ruled by fear.


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5 responses

20 04 2008
Stella Devine

You know, it’s only a small step from, ‘We need to protect our children from the leering eyes of predators,’ to, ‘We need to clad our children in floor length burqas with only a strip of black mesh across the eyes to see out.’

Middle Eastern cultures who keep their women similarly hidden from view believe fervently that they are protecting them, not imprisoning them.

Dare I say that most of the liberties we have sacrificed with the aim of preventing terrorism have gone in vain? I still don’t quite understand how my eyebrow tweezers could possibly be used to hijack a flight, and if they could, well, the security guards should probably confiscate my pen too.

21 04 2008
Mr President

Exactly. There’s always a slippery slope when sacrificing liberties so we must be very very careful that we’re not needlessly going down the line towards becoming the very thing we’re fighting against.

That’s an interesting point about the Middle East, the very cultures the War on Terror attacks and yet is in danger of turning ours into.

As for the eyebrow tweezers on a plane I couldn’t agree more, we absolutely lack common sense when it comes to airport security.

Does anyone else hate being made to feel like a terrorist when they go through airport security? Granted, I feel safer, but I still feel incredibly humiliated by having to strip, or by the “random” searches that aren’t random but driven by the fact I have brown skin.

21 04 2008
Stella

Hmm – I’ve often wondered if the regular ‘random’ searches on me were because I was a 20-something chick with tight jeans and a nice smile. Not that they think I’m likely to be a terrorist, but they just want to see me take off my knee-high boots.

Clearly it does go the other way too, and my Indian-Australian male colleague was once detained for three hours for smiling at a security guard coming into Cairns International Airport (strategic importance: Nil). There is no question that he was stopped due to his race.

22 04 2008
Mr President

To be fair if I was in airport security I’d stop every 20-something girl in tight jeans and knee-high boots. It doesn’t hurt that you’re gorgeous.

I get why they do it with indians and people that they think look “arabic”, but that doesn’t stop me feeling bad about it. Of course I’m glad they’re at least doing something to keep me safe but still.

9 05 2008
Cotton Wool Generation « Textual Relations

[…] Wool Generation 9 05 2008 There was a piece on BBC Breakfast yesterday (can you tell it’s become quite the source of material for the blog recently?), as part of their series […]

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