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momentary unguarded reflection
January 22, 2013 2:42 PM   Subscribe

New Yorkers Caught Checking Themselves Out. Photographer Brad Farwell hid behind a two-way mirror at four different Manhattan locations: the Bowery, Midtown, NoLIta, and the Lower East Side. About 1 in 20, he says, paused to gaze.

(The last picture in the slideshow gives you a sense of what they were looking at.)
posted by farishta (127 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well, this is perfectly ethical and not creepy in any respect.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:46 PM on January 22, 2013 [52 favorites]


The mirror really stood out. I'm not surprised that people looked.
posted by orme at 2:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I like the dog saying to himself "how you doin'?"
posted by arcticseal at 2:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there supposed to be something embarrassing about being "caught" looking at your reflection in a mirror as you walk by? I mean, if it said "New Yorkers Caught Kissing Their Biceps And/Or Flexing," I guess I would get it, but making a big thing out of this seems a little ungenerous.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:49 PM on January 22, 2013 [39 favorites]


It surprises me how many of these people look annoyed by the fact that they can see their own reflections.
posted by xingcat at 2:50 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Seems douchey.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not really seeing the point of this, other than to prove that people tend to glance at mirrors as they walk by. Busted! You... narcissists, you!!
posted by Crane Shot at 2:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Most of these people don't really look like they've paused to gaze so much as glanced while still walking. Their expressions and body language mostly don't show cues that they're really examining or reflecting especially deeply with particular meaning...It's basically like when I surreptitiously look to see if I have spinach in my teeth, except there's no creepo in a ski mask hiding inside the bathroom mirror at the restaurant.

One hopes, anyway.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:52 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


From now on, I will flip the bird to all public mirrors.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 2:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


FYI: The dog is #27.
posted by Atom Eyes at 2:54 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I have to do a quick check to make sure I haven't accidentally left the house with like, the comb still in my hair again.
posted by The Whelk at 2:55 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I'm not really seeing the point of this, other than to prove that people tend to glance at mirrors as they walk by.

It's interesting photography.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:58 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Are there any happy people in New York City?
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 3:01 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have to do a quick check to make sure I haven't accidentally left the house with like, the comb still in my hair, my pants on backwards. Again.

Hate that.
posted by Skygazer at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I remember my first time in a big Manhattan nightclub. I sat down to have a drink on a bench near the bar and was totally mystified at the bizarre movements people were doing as they walked past me. as it turned out there was a mirror behind me and many, many people were checking themselves out and flexing in the mirror. it wasn't one or two people it was a constant stream.

I was completely dumbstruck, I had never been to a club outside of Portland or Seattle at that point and spent the rest of the night feeling like I was on mars.
posted by Dr. Twist at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there any happy people in New York City?

Millions.
posted by The World Famous at 3:03 PM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


But none on the UWS.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:05 PM on January 22, 2013


Honestly, this doesn't really strike me as a "Haha! Narcissists!" as much as just a neat technique for street photography, kind of like that strobe-snare rig Philip-Lorca diCorcia set up way back when to catch unsuspecting passers-by.

Most of the ethical questions are the same for conventional methods of photographing unsuspecting strangers on the street, and mostly have to do with the use of the resulting images.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Well, this is perfectly ethical and not creepy in any respect.

There's a lot of talk these days about how our old ideas of privacy are eroding away under the onslaught of the digital revolution, but in some ways it seems to me that there's a reverse movement happening too: there's such a generalized panic about the loss of our privacy that things which would once have scarcely raised an eyebrow now get condemned as gross invasions--and somehow sexualized invasions--of our privacy. These are photographs of people in public spaces, fully expecting themselves to be under observation from any and all passersby. I really struggle to understand how a photograph of a person in such a situation--unless it's some kind of upskirt or downblouse shot--is construed as unethical or "creepy" in any way. Did anyone make those kinds of comments about Walker Evans's hidden camera shots of people on the NYC subway when those were first published? Has this ever been a criticism made of the innumerable photo essays on people out and about in the streets of a major city?

And yet look at all the fuss people now make about the Google street view vans (so that faces of unidentified people in public spaces are now routinely blurred and so forth), or the inevitable conversation about privacy that any photoessay like this now sparks. Perhaps it's just an index of the fact that our cultural norms regarding privacy are in flux, so anything that raises the question of privacy at all becomes an occasion for a certain amount of panic?
posted by yoink at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2013 [22 favorites]


One of them looks astonishingly like my girlfriend, even has a similar jacket. I did a double-take before realizing it wasn't her.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:06 PM on January 22, 2013


I guess now I'll just have to announce "I know you're in there!" in a loud voice whenever I see a mirror in a public space, great.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 3:07 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


But none on the UWS

Don't you know that happniess is a leading cause of cancer?
posted by The Whelk at 3:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are there any happy people in New York City?

Do you usually smile gaily as you walk down the street? (And have you noticed how it causes everyone to avoid you like you're insane?)
posted by Sys Rq at 3:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


What is up with the girl making the duckface at herself? Perhaps she wanted to see how annoying she looks in her online dating pic?
posted by Afroblanco at 3:09 PM on January 22, 2013


Do you usually smile gaily as you walk down the street?

It's the only way I know how to smile.
posted by The World Famous at 3:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


yoink,

I think you're discounting people's feelings to some extent. I wouldn't say it's unethical or creepy to do this, but it does feel odd to have attention focused on you even in public. Walking down the street I know anyone can see me and yet it would be very uncomfortable if everyone actually were watching me as I passed by. I think there is some natural sense of privacy even on the street.

I wouldn't even say it's an issue of privacy, if that means that someone knows something about me. It just feels uncomfortable to feel observed.
posted by Sangermaine at 3:15 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Finally, my decades-old habit of smashing every mirror I pass in public serves a purpose. Take THAT, prosecuting attorneys.
posted by item at 3:16 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


This doesn't raise my hackles like that thing in Williamsburg did. Other then the 'rating strangers' aspect, I'm not sure why; both are pictures without permission. Maybe it's because this one more closely imitates accidental eye-contact on the street. Or maybe because the person photographed can see someone (even if it's just themselves) looking back at them.
posted by postcommunism at 3:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I really struggle to understand how a photograph of a person in such a situation--unless it's some kind of upskirt or downblouse shot--is construed as unethical or "creepy" in any way. Did anyone make those kinds of comments about Walker Evans's hidden camera shots of people on the NYC subway when those were first published? Has this ever been a criticism made of the innumerable photo essays on people out and about in the streets of a major city?

Yep. It's been not just an ethical issue, but a legal one, for decades now, to the point that street photography is essentially a dead medium nowadays. (Google the phrase "right to image.")
posted by Sys Rq at 3:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Harvey Kilobit: "Are there any happy people in New York City?"

Nope. We all moved to Florida.
posted by Splunge at 3:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Google the phrase "right to image."

I did, and found a bunch of sites confirming my understanding that if you're in a public place then you're fair game and have no right to refuse your consent to being photographed, or to that photograph being published (though not, of course, if it uses your likeness to endorse a product etc.). If you can point to a law that says otherwise, I'd be interested.

When you stop and think for a second, of course, how could it be otherwise? You couldn't snap a photograph at a tourist site and then put it up on your Flickr account without running around and getting everyone in the photo to sign a release--which would, of course, be absurd. Nor could the TV news show up with an "eyewitness" camera and film in any location where the public might appear on camera but not be reachable for waiving their 'image rights.'
posted by yoink at 3:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have to do a quick check to make sure I haven't accidentally left the house with like, the comb still in my hair again.
'

Yeah, no shit --as I looked at these, I thought 'if not for public reflected spaces and other people's photographs, I would have no idea what I look like except when I was shaving.'

And that was before I got to the end and realized that the mirror wasn't just a two way glass, but an obvious framed out-of-place mirror... which helps explain the many looks that said "what the fuck is that?"

That said, as somebody who cannot take a good picture for the life of me when I know the camera is on me, a secret hidden mirror with a professional photographer behind it seems like a weird missed opportunity.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 3:28 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


There's a lot of talk these days about how our old ideas of privacy are eroding away under the onslaught of the digital revolution, but in some ways it seems to me that there's a reverse movement happening too: there's such a generalized panic about the loss of our privacy that things which would once have scarcely raised an eyebrow now get condemned as gross invasions--and somehow sexualized invasions--of our privacy. These are photographs of people in public spaces, fully expecting themselves to be under observation from any and all passersby. I really struggle to understand how a photograph of a person in such a situation--unless it's some kind of upskirt or downblouse shot--is construed as unethical or "creepy" in any way. Did anyone make those kinds of comments about Walker Evans's hidden camera shots of people on the NYC subway when those were first published? Has this ever been a criticism made of the innumerable photo essays on people out and about in the streets of a major city?
There is a big difference between subject and incidental. If somebody takes a picture of a street that you happen to be walking on, that's different from somebody taking a picture specifically of you. Indeed, even without photographs, there's a line between looking at others in a public space, and staring at or watching them. This is a real social difference, and one that can be easily tested. Sit on a street corner looking into middle-distance or just broadly looking about, and nobody will say a word against you. Sit on a street corner and fix your eyes on somebody as they walk past, and you're sure that at least a few will ask, "what you looking at?"
posted by Jehan at 3:28 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's interesting photography.

Is it?

I mean that genuinely. I'm not trying to be an ass, but I just don't find it particularly interesting. Maybe it's a matter of personal taste, though.
posted by asnider at 3:30 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


My favorite part was the small kids with the super-worried facial expressions.
posted by and so but then, we at 3:31 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is it?

I think so. It's a novel perspective on candid street photography and isolates a universal human behavior in a way I've never seen explored before, while also being decent to look at. A lot of the subjects' personality comes through in these shots despite their being totally unselfconscious (or at least un-other-conscious) at the moment of exposure.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:34 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I did, and found a bunch of sites confirming my understanding that if you're in a public place then you're fair game and have no right to refuse your consent to being photographed, or to that photograph being published (though not, of course, if it uses your likeness to endorse a product etc.). If you can point to a law that says otherwise, I'd be interested.

FTFY.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:37 PM on January 22, 2013


Ugh, of course this is creepy. We shouldn't have to expect that just because we're outdoors, everything we do is publicly observed and that we cannot afford ourselves a single moment of privacy. We have a reasonable expectation that no one is hiding behind mirrors, so we feel free to furtively drop our guard and surreptitiously check our hair or our flies. People are allowed to attempt to steal private moments even when in a crowd, and intruding on those moments (when you don't need to) is a jerky and creepy thing to do. What this photographer is doing is akin to listening in on two people who are trying to whisper secrets to one another.
posted by painquale at 3:40 PM on January 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


There is a big difference between subject and incidental. If somebody takes a picture of a street that you happen to be walking on, that's different from somebody taking a picture specifically of you

Sure. There are obviously distinctions that can be drawn and we could imagine any possible set of cultural responses to these distinctions ranging from "who gives a toss?" to "OMG, you're stealing my soul with your devil machine!" What interests me is that we seem to be becoming--somewhat counterintuitively, given the ubiquity of cameras in our lives--more rather than less sensitive to the fact of having our image taken and published without our explicit consent.

Sys Rq is wrong, of course, to claim that street photography is dead. There is a long and distinguished tradition in photography of taking photographs of passersby on the streets (Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Levitt, Frank, Winogrand etc. etc.)--not simply as people who happen to be blurrily passing in the background but as detailed, close-up subjects--often implicitly the subjects of critique or social comment of one kind or another. Having looked at and read about a great deal of this kind of photography over the years, it does not seem to me that anxiety about this being a "creepy" invasion of privacy featured very large in the broader public response to these images during most of the C20th. What I do find interesting is that in this age when we're all supposed to be losing our sense of the distinction between the private and the public we seem to be more rather than less sensitive on this point than we were in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.
posted by yoink at 3:41 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


FTFY.

Oh, sorry--I wasn't aware that you were mentally adding "in Quebec" to your comments. It seems you may be right about Quebec. It looks like street photography in Quebec may well become a dying art.
posted by yoink at 3:43 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sys Rq is wrong, of course, to claim that street photography is dead. There is a long and distinguished tradition in photography of taking photographs of passersby on the streets (Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Levitt, Frank, Winogrand etc. etc.)--not simply as people who happen to be blurrily passing in the background but as detailed, close-up subjects--often implicitly the subjects of critique or social comment of one kind or another.

That which is dead was once alive, yes. The most recent of your examples is from, what, forty years ago?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:44 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


19 out of 20 new yorkers are vampires.
posted by srboisvert at 3:45 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Funny - one of those folks is a former roommate. I'm sure most in the slide show have been recognized, given the audience of the NYT. Not sure how I would feel it it were me.
posted by jetsetlag at 3:46 PM on January 22, 2013


I am the dog in #27. Not sure how I feel about this.
posted by mazola at 3:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Oh, sorry--I wasn't aware that you were mentally adding "in Quebec" to your comments. It seems you may be right about Quebec. It looks like street photography in Quebec may well become a dying art.

Oh, ffs. Look, this is a HUGE issue that has gotten A LOT of traction in photography circles, not just in Quebec, but internationally (e.g. France -- France!). Really. I'm not going to bother doing your research for you. It's all there. If you'd like to learn more, maybe spend more than ten minutes skimming google results.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I dunno Sys Rq, my understanding is that Yoink's summary is correct in the US, the UK, and Australia - pretty major geographies.

It is still legal to take pictures of people in public without their permission. If you don't use them for advertising you're all good.

This is not to downplay the overzealous or ignorant actions of security guards, police, parents etc etc. Or the valid feelings of discomfort that many people have around having their pictures taken.

But legally, they don't have a leg to stand in the US, the UK, or Australia that I know of.

Mind you, I don't think the "death" of street photography is worth crying about, judging by the dismal standards I see on most photography forums. High contrast B&W photos with no composition or framing seem oddly popular.
posted by smoke at 3:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


1,406 photographs taken and THOSE were the good ones? Yikes.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


That which is dead was once alive, yes. The most recent of your examples is from, what, forty years ago?

Sys Rq, I can't tell if you're serious or not. Your link to an article about a rather obscure legal quirk in Quebec--an article which makes it clear that this is not even the law in the rest of Canada--hardly suggests that you genuinely believe what you're arguing here.

In any case, I suggest you click on the "street photography is dead" link for a whole heaping pile of living street photographers. No doubt not all that many of them live in Quebec.

Oh, ffs. Look, this is a HUGE issue that has gotten A LOT of traction in photography circles, not just in Quebec, but internationally (e.g. France -- France!). Really. I'm not going to bother doing your research for you. It's all there. If you'd like to learn more, maybe spend more than ten minutes skimming google results.

O.K., you're obviously joking, right? I mean, your own link is to an article about how weird this particular quirk of Quebec law happens to be. And this was your single, slam-dunk, best shot to prove your case that street photography is dead?
posted by yoink at 3:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


"It surprises me how many of these people look annoyed by the fact that they can see their own reflections."

Perhaps I'm projecting, but I suspect it has a lot to do with how attractive the person feels. Notice how a lot of the younger or more conventionally attractive people have neutral or smiling expressions, and the older/less conventionally attractive people are scowling at themselves. (Also, most of the people looking are women and kids FWIW.) When I was 24, spotting myself in a random mirror could be fun. These days I tend to hurry past mirrors, and only look into them if I'm worried my hair looks stupid or something.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:58 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


O.K., you're obviously joking, right? I mean, your own link is to an article about how weird this particular quirk of Quebec law happens to be. And this was your single, slam-dunk, best shot to prove your case that street photography is dead?

No, it was an example of a law that restricts street photography, which is what was requested. It was just the first one I found, nothing more. It took me about ten seconds. You want more? You do it.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:00 PM on January 22, 2013


Not trying to rile you up, Sys Rq, but don't you think that the fact your first - and perhaps the best - link you could find about laws against street photography, pertained to one state in Canada undermines your argument somewhat that there's a creeping legal blockade to street photography?

I mean, I think there's a creeping social blockade to it, sure - but that's what Yoink is essentially arguing, I think. I'm really not seeing any larger legal shift in this area, and I think the onus is on you to prove that there is, given the absence of any other examples.
posted by smoke at 4:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


19 out of 20 new yorkers are vampires.

The trick is figuring out which 20 New Yorkers.
posted by The World Famous at 4:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


No, it was an example of a law that restricts street photography, which is what was requested. It was just the first one I found, nothing more. It took me about ten seconds.

Well, I suggest you take 12 or 15 seconds next time, and notice that it's framing this law as an oddity, restricted to one particular jurisdiction in North America, and that it explicitly notes that this does not even apply to the rest of Canada. It also happens not apply to the all of the US, to all of the UK, to all of Australia and New Zealand, to very large areas of continental Europe etc. etc. etc. And in all of those places where this restriction does not apply, street photography continues to flourish as an artform, and one which faces no legal bar whatsoever.

So your claims are simply false. What is interesting, though, is that your misunderstanding of the law is, I think, becoming more common. People do increasingly (though incorrectly) think that they have the right to insist on not being photographed, and they do find being photographed in public increasingly perturbing (which was the phenomenon I was originally commenting on). So it is certainly possible that the legal framework in which street photographers are operating may well change, going forward. It simply has not happened yet.
posted by yoink at 4:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


So you're not going to bother engaging with reality, then? Alright, later.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:11 PM on January 22, 2013


This argument is boring.
posted by shakespeherian at 4:11 PM on January 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


These are photographs of people in public spaces, fully expecting themselves to be under observation from any and all passersby.

Imagine that with a flick of a switch the mirror became transparent. How would these people react? Much differently than if they discovered there was a tourist across the street taking pictures of the building they happen to be standing in front of.

These images are interesting only because the subjects do not expect that they will be under observation. We are seeing these unguarded moments because people reasonably assume they have some degree of privacy when they have their face toward a wall. The use of a two way mirror is deliberate trickery on the part of the photographer to get these people to expose themselves to the camera in ways they otherwise would not.

It may be legal, but then lots of nasty things people do to each other are legal.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:17 PM on January 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


This argument is boring.

Not if you live in Quebec!

not just in Quebec, but internationally (e.g. France -- France!).

By the way, if you happen to read French, here's a good article showing that the tide of legal decisions in France is actually moving the other way--giving more rights to photographers and setting a higher bar for people who sue on the grounds of invasion of privacy (they have to show that their image suffered some actual damage from the exposure). One of the cases involves a man who took photos of people on a subway train--just like Walker Evans.
posted by yoink at 4:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Both sides of this argument are right and in equal measures. Yes, street photography is still a vibrant form with many practitioners and yes, street photography is a dying art form fraught with legal and more significantly social barriers to its practice. No, it's not illegal to take someone's photo in the street in the US, nor is it in Canada or the UK. Yes, you can even sell their photograph as art without a model release. BUT, all the solid legal ground and pamphlets about photographer's rights in the world will not change the fact that more and more it's seen as a violation of the social contract to stick a camera in someone's face. Police might ask you what you're taking pictures of, security guards will ask you to leave private property, punks hepped up on goofballs on city streets will punch you in the face. It's very easy to get discouraged. I realize these are not universal truths. Some street photographers are extremely affable and skilled at disarming people, or are very good at the surreptitious part of surreptitous photography but my experience is the legality of taking strangers' pictures is not the problem.

That said, one need not look far to find street photographers doing interesting things with the form, or merely continuing its grand tradition. Well curated groups abound on flickr: HCSP, Winogrand Canted Moments, color street, minimal street and many more. Of course, looking at photographs is just like watching films: if you don't know Winogrand, you won't recognize his overarching influence, just like if you haven't seen the films of .... and I can't even finish that sentence because I don't know anything about film.
posted by Lorin at 4:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


well i thought the photos were p cool. that frank almost unmediated look of self appraisal and acknowledgement when you meet your own eyes in a mirror, an expression everyone is familiar with but would never see on anyone's face but their own, now staring back through a dozen different people. i think it's straight up edifying and also impossible to accomplish except in the way that it was.
posted by Ictus at 4:22 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


We have a reasonable expectation that no one is hiding behind mirrors, so we feel free to furtively drop our guard and surreptitiously check our hair or our flies

I used to work in an office building that had huge mirrored windows onto the street. It was quite surreal & a bit distracting to walk into the reception office & see passersby checking themselves out & sometimes adjusting their hair/makeup/outfit.
Now & then someone would tap on the window to let the person outside know they were being observed.
posted by goshling at 4:22 PM on January 22, 2013


yoink: “Sys Rq is wrong, of course, to claim that street photography is dead. There is a long and distinguished tradition in photography of taking photographs of passersby on the streets (Atget, Cartier-Bresson, Levitt, Frank, Winogrand etc. etc.)--not simply as people who happen to be blurrily passing in the background but as detailed, close-up subjects--often implicitly the subjects of critique or social comment of one kind or another.”

Er – neither of you seem to be offering up much evidence one way or the other. Maybe if you'd offered up members of this "tradition" from a more recent date your list would make more sense as a refutation.

It seems like Sys Rq is right that this is a difficult issue, and I imagine it does have an impact on photographers. I would also not be surprised if some photographers choose to believe that the supposed concerns raised are (as you seem to be saying) part of a heightened paranoia people have, and choose to continue with the tradition of street photography.

Personally, all I have to add is this – I grant to you that we might be becoming more paranoid. But I think certain things have really changed to make us more paranoid. Fifty years ago, a hundred years ago, if somebody took my picture on the street, I might be surprised to find it in an art gallery, or to encounter it printed in a magazine. And fifty or a hundred years ago, if I suggested that someone taking my photograph would make it instantly available to every government and marketing agency in the world and use it to try to follow me surreptitiously and sell me things, I would have been rightly labeled a crazy person. Today, those things are actually happening. Photographs of us are used to track us online, are available relatively instantly to anyone on the planet, and are very much used to track us and sell us things.

In short – I agree that we've become more sensitive to street photography, and more paranoid. However, I feel as though some of that paranoia is warranted simply because the age of mechanical reproduction has reached a hyper-phase where reproduction is so instantly possible that a whole realm of tracking and invasion of privacy is opened up.

The Supreme Court has had to deal with this, by the way. In the past few years, it's suddenly become possible, for example, for police to put tracking devices on the cars of citizens and follow them easily from their desks. This was never an issue before, mostly because the police could never have had enough manpower to follow every person's car before. These are real issues, and I think people are right to be at least a little paranoid about them.
posted by koeselitz at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a woman on the outside looking inside does she see me?
No she does not really see me 'cause she sees her own reflection
And I'm trying not to notice that she's hitching up her skirt
And while she's straightening her stockings her hair has gotten wet

posted by danb at 4:23 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Imagine that with a flick of a switch the mirror became transparent. How would these people react?

I reckon that would have made a much more interesting series of photos - before and after, as it were. How different people react. You might want a strong mirror, though.

more and more it's seen as a violation of the social contract to stick a camera in someone's face.

I find this really interesting, as - in Australia, at least - creeping public surveillance by authorities or simply organisations is exploding. The acceptance of being filmed by an organisation seems to be growing, whilst acceptance being filmed as an individual is seems to be shrinking.
posted by smoke at 4:26 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


shakespeherian: “This argument is boring.”

yoink: “Not if you live in Quebec!”

I've never been there. Do people have a fascination with talking past each other in Quebec?
posted by koeselitz at 4:26 PM on January 22, 2013


I like this, thanks.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you're walking on a public street, yes, even if you're "looking at a wall."
posted by girlmightlive at 4:27 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine that with a flick of a switch the mirror became transparent. How would these people react?...I reckon that would have made a much more interesting series of photos

If I had no regard for ethics or the law there would be all sorts of things I could do to get strangers on the street to make weird facial expressions.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 4:32 PM on January 22, 2013


The acceptance of being filmed by an organisation seems to be growing, whilst acceptance being filmed as an individual is seems to be shrinking.

Indeed. I once tried to point this out to a police officer and it had about as much effect as knowing the law. "Oh, you're gonna tell me about the law now?" I'm aware this is all cognitive bias on my part, I am a crazy person and as such I have been questioned by security just for standing around in the middle of a busy mall.
posted by Lorin at 4:34 PM on January 22, 2013


Question for the folks who are creeped out, and answer honestly: would it make a difference if there was a pretty lady behind the mirror taking pictures instead of some dude?
posted by TheGoldenOne at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have to do a quick check to make sure I haven't accidentally left the house with like, the comb still in my hair again.

Or to check that there's not a sock stuck to my sweater, toilet paper trailing from my shoe, cilantro in my teeth, or that my codpiece isn't askew.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 4:58 PM on January 22, 2013


No difference. It's fine if she's in front of the mirror, however.
posted by uraniumwilly at 5:00 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't believe he didn't catch anyone trying to pick something out of their teeth.
posted by spilon at 5:03 PM on January 22, 2013


TheGoldenOne: “Question for the folks who are creeped out, and answer honestly: would it make a difference if there was a pretty lady behind the mirror taking pictures instead of some dude?”

So you really think people are engaging in misandry here?
posted by koeselitz at 5:06 PM on January 22, 2013


To answer your question, though, the creepiest thing wouldn't be "some dude" or "a pretty lady" (although the phrase "a pretty lady" is pretty creepy). You know what would creep me out the most, if I knew it were hiding behind mirrors and taking secret pictures of me? The New York Times.
posted by koeselitz at 5:08 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


19 out of 20 new yorkers are vampires.

OMG. What happens when you look at a vampire through a two-way mirror? Why don't I already know this?

I'm guessing you'd see the vampire (and only the vampire) as if you were looking through regular, untinted glass. Since the mirror doesn't reflect any of the photons that bounced off the vampire, they must all pass through.
posted by straight at 5:09 PM on January 22, 2013


the phrase "a pretty lady" is pretty creepy
This is worth saying again.
posted by Glinn at 5:14 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's creepy without knowing the gender of the photographer, but it certainly would be creepier if the photographer was muttering to him/herself about "pretty ladies."

What happens when you look at a vampire through a two-way mirror?

Even better, what if you use a half-silvered beam splitter? Think of the implications of vampirism for quantum optics!
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sys Rq is giving me the performance art vibe but I know it's not intended. Just sayin'
posted by lordaych at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Er – neither of you seem to be offering up much evidence one way or the other. Maybe if you'd offered up members of this "tradition" from a more recent date your list would make more sense as a refutation.

Do some people read Metafilter in some version where links are invisible? The post you're commenting on--indeed the sentence immediately preceding the one you're commenting on--includes a link to a site "Street Photographers," "an international collective of photographers, whose members carry on the long tradition of street photography." And yet neither you nor Sys Rq seemed to be willing to bother to click on the link--to see a vibrant collection of work by living street photographers.

As for "talking past each other." No, we're not. Sys Rq made a completely false claim, that street photography as an art form had died out because it was no longer legally possible to take and publish photographs of people without their express permission. This claim was simply false and I merely pointed out that it was false--offering examples of living street photographers who continue the art form. In the United States--where the photography in the FPP took place--one has no general right to prevent someone taking and publishing your photograph if you are in a public place whatsoever.
posted by yoink at 5:24 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Less snarkily, the art isn't dying, just transforming in an arms-racey way that might amusingly (right now anyway) culminate in photogs being prosecuted based on total surveillance records in our dystopian future we are gleefully hurtling toward.
posted by lordaych at 5:28 PM on January 22, 2013


girlmightlive: "I like this, thanks.

There is no reasonable expectation of privacy when you're walking on a public street, yes, even if you're "looking at a wall."
"

Sure there is. It would be unreasonable to walk on a public street and expect no one to look at you or meet your eyes or even take a pic with you showing up in the background if you see someone taking pics and you don't make any effort to duck out of the picture.

I'd argue it is reasonable, though, to walk down a busy city street assuming your picture is not being taken by a hidden camera behind a mirror. I mean, that's the default, right? Mirrors generally do not have cameras behind them filming you. Why would you assume otherwise?

You go somewhere where a commercial or movie is being filmed, you're generally going to see signs saying that if you are in the area, there is a possibility of being photographed. Even the camera crew that posed as tourists in Disney World had iPhones, so you knew there was some picture taking going on.

Also, hey, if I'm walking down a street and other people on that street see me, I'm probably okay with that. If I'm walking down the street and my ex-stalker, the guy I moved three states away from after I changed my name just to escape, sees that mirror pic of me and tracks me down to a specific neighborhood in NYC? That's a situation I could not have reasonably anticipated happening.

It just seems like an image of you--one singling you out, not some crowd or street shot--should be something you decide on. Especially if that image is going to be widely distributed. You should not be immortalized on film without even knowing it ever happened.
posted by misha at 5:29 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This man is hiding in order to take portraits of people without their consent. He is an asshole. The fact that the nation's paper of record thought fit to pay him to do so and published his photographs does not change this fact.

I wish him ill.
posted by samofidelis at 5:29 PM on January 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Another site to check out if you're interested in the current state of street photography is in-public. Trent Parke is a great example of someone with a unique visual style. Hey, it's good enough for Magnum. But to be clear and by way of apologizing for the derail: the images in the FPP aren't street photography. Not as defined by its practitioners anyway--street photography implies actually being in the street (although, to muddy the waters further it need not be an actual street). If you're using a long lens, that's street portraiture and if you're completely hidden, well I would call that surveillance.
posted by Lorin at 5:32 PM on January 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


OMG. What happens when you look at a vampire through a two-way mirror?

What happens if I testify against Mario "the Mangler" Mazzoli, he gets sent up the river, I'm walking down the street thinking everything is hunky dory in the Witness Protection Program, just glance inna mirror to check my look, like you do, and BAM! Just like that, Mazzoli's guys realize Johnny Twofaced's alive and well in NYC.

How'm I gonna protect Angela and the kids when I don't even know I've been made? I was out, man! We were this close to starting a new life. Now little Bobby and the baby gotta suffer because this punk photographer decides to hide behind a piece of glass? Where's the justice in that?!

This is fun.
posted by misha at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Are there any happy people in New York City?

Not really, because we're too busy wondering where all the hidden cameras have been placed by some asshole making shitty "art".
posted by elizardbits at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


yoink: “Do some people read Metafilter in some version where links are invisible?”

All I was saying is that both things can be concurrently true – street photography could be (and probably is) a less popular and more threatened medium because of legal issues; and it could still live on in some quarters. How in the world are we supposed to debate this?

“As for ‘talking past each other.’ No, we're not. Sys Rq made a completely false claim...”

Look, I was probably too blunt about it, but I still think this is a pointless derail. Nobody is going to be well-served if we sit here debating the relative vibrancy of street photography, because it is (a) well beside the point and (b) probably entirely subjective and (c) boring, as shakes already said.

The real debate that I suspect you and Sys Rq might have is about whether or not there happen to be ethical complications involved in taking surreptitious photographs in public places where nobody has any reasonable expectation of privacy. Am I wrong there?

And again, I repeat the only substantive (I thought) contribution I tried to make to this conversation – it seems to me that expectations of privacy have been complicated in the modern era because of complications in the ways images are used. I gather that you don't agree with me on that.
posted by koeselitz at 5:37 PM on January 22, 2013


Lorin: “But to be clear and by way of apologizing for the derail: the images in the FPP aren't street photography. Not as defined by its practitioners anyway--street photography implies actually being in the street...”

There's not much to apologize for; derails are just derails, anyway. But that's a very interesting point. Thanks.
posted by koeselitz at 5:40 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This man is hiding in order to take portraits of people without their consent. He is an asshole.

So is every single photograph of people who did not know they were having their photograph taken and who did not retroactively authorize the publication of that photograph an ethical violation? Because that's going to include an awful lot of really great photographs--including some of the most famous from the history of photography.
posted by yoink at 5:40 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This man is hiding in order to take portraits of people without their consent. He is an asshole. The fact that the nation's paper of record thought fit to pay him to do so and published his photographs does not change this fact.

I wish him ill.


Is it that different to the kind of photojournalism all papers of record pay for? I don't mean crowd shots, but the candid shots of individuals that you see in papers every day.
posted by Greener Backyards at 5:42 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


street photography could be (and probably is) a less popular and more threatened medium because of legal issues

Yes, it could be--in certain jurisdictions (not, for example, in the US, where the law is very clear and has not changed). That was not the claim that Sys Rq made, however, nor was it the claim that I was responding to.

Nobody is going to be well-served if we sit here debating the relative vibrancy of street photography

And, again, nobody was discussing the "relative vibrancy" of street photography. Sys Rq was making the hilariously bizarre claim that it had ceased to exist because it was now universally illegal.
posted by yoink at 5:44 PM on January 22, 2013


yoink: "In the United States--where the photography in the FPP took place--one has no general right to prevent someone taking and publishing your photograph if you are in a public place whatsoever."

Well then the law should be that you BOTH--photographer and photographee--have to be out in that public place. Not hanging out behind walls trying to catch vampires with your tricksy two-way mirrors.

So there.
posted by misha at 5:44 PM on January 22, 2013


The number of people adjusting clothing or hair seems very low given the number of photos taken. I'm sure 95% of people were just wondering why the hell there was a mirror taped onto the store window. I know if I'd been walking past they would have gotten a horrific picture of me with a confused look on my face.
posted by Kris10_b at 5:46 PM on January 22, 2013


So is every single photograph of people who did not know they were having their photograph taken and who did not retroactively authorize the publication of that photograph an ethical violation?

yes.

Because that's going to include an awful lot of really great photographs--including some of the most famous from the history of photography.

that doesn't magically make it okay.
posted by elizardbits at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2013


I am the dog in #27. Not sure how I feel about this.

On the internet nobody everybody knows you're a guy in a dog suit.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:47 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


TBH I barely look at myself* in the mirror in the privacy of my own home. I would never look at myself in the mirror in public, much less primp in one.

not my face or my hair or anything like that. just my butt, because it is awesome.
posted by elizardbits at 5:48 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you don't see the difference between (a) hiding behind a mirror in order to photograph someone and (b) taking a photo in a public space of someone who simply hasn't noticed the photographer, you may wish to reflect upon how creepy an individual you are. These are not the same thing.

Here are twenty-some images. He's got fourteen hundred more. Probably a lot of spinach-in-teeth. Probably there's a picture of someone having one of the worst days of his or her life. I'm sure he's got pictures of people in tears. From up close and personal.

So. Yeah, fuck him.
posted by samofidelis at 5:50 PM on January 22, 2013


yoink: “Yes, it could be--in certain jurisdictions (not, for example, in the US, where the law is very clear and has not changed).”

I'm not entirely sure about that yet. For example, it seems as though the US Supreme Court has only tacitly acknowledged that people have a "right to image." Maybe you'd argue that that case, which is about taking photos of police in public, is entirely different from art photography – that might be true, I don't know.

“And, again, nobody was discussing the 'relative vibrancy' of street photography. Sys Rq was making the hilariously bizarre claim that it had ceased to exist because it was now universally illegal.”

I don't really care whether Sys Rq said something that's wrong. I was actually trying to shift the conversation away from the rightness or wrongness of Sys Rq toward some more substantive issues. The wrongness of Sys Rq seems to be what you want to focus on here, though.

Do you think the expanding availability and ease of imaging technology has changed the status of images taken in public?
posted by koeselitz at 5:52 PM on January 22, 2013


A lot of people are just checking their hair out, but I do think there are some real moments in the collection. It's a valid photo project.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 5:53 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't see the difference between (a) hiding behind a mirror in order to photograph someone and (b) taking a photo in a public space of someone who simply hasn't noticed the photographer, you may wish to reflect upon how creepy an individual you are. These are not the same thing.

Well that's a little offensive because I'm not actually a creepy individual. But I don't really see a huge chasm between everyday photojournalism and this morally deplorable candid photography. These are people photographed in public without their knowledge and consent. I don't see the physical position of the photographer as hugely significant.

FWIW, I was an unwitting subject of Philip-Lorca Dicorcia's Heads series, so I have had plenty of time to consider my own feelings on this. Although Dicorcia photographed me from a hidden position, I don't consider what he did very different to the work of someone like Cartier-Bresson, who afaik has never really attracted this kind of criticism.
posted by Greener Backyards at 6:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


A depressing version: it takes a snapchat of you that expires on 30 seconds and shares it with no one
posted by mulligan at 6:28 PM on January 22, 2013


And have you noticed how it causes everyone to avoid you like you're insane?

And that's why I still haven't been approached by those medecins sans frontieres people who hang around the end of my street.
posted by mattoxic at 6:29 PM on January 22, 2013


You should not be immortalized on film without even knowing it ever happened.

The courts have consistently disagreed with this, as well they should.

If you are being photographed by a stalker whom you probably have a restraining order against, that's entirely different from what we're talking about here.

There was a case about a photographer getting a photograph of a woman whose skirt had blown up from wind. She sued, and the courts agreed that her being exposed in her underwear in public is not newsworthy enough, and that's the correct ruling. No one would justify, say, upskirt photos in public.

But someone walking down the street in a completely innocuous is neither unethical nor immoral. We don't get to pick and choose who is documented in public.

And the courts have also set numerous precedents on the difference between editorial and commercial photography and videography in public.

I don't normally subscribe to slippery slopes but there is a HUGE one if people think no one should be photographed in public, under any circumstances, without consent.
posted by girlmightlive at 6:36 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I used to read longingly of the great metropolises of history - Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Shanghai - where the lives of people of dozens of ethnicities crossed and merged with each others. Now, I just look around my city (Boston) when walking or riding the subway, and it looks like the people in that slideshow. It's pretty cool.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:43 PM on January 22, 2013


What if he captured an utterly brilliant photograph. It would be too ethically compromised to be appreciated?

If CCTV filmed a crime being committed - is that evidence then compromised because the image was captured without the criminal's consent?

If you're in public you can expect to be photographed.
posted by mattoxic at 6:49 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If that is the mirror in the last image, it has a fair amount of distortion in it. Some folks are looking straight at themselves. For most of folks though, the headline could read "New Yorkers Caught Looking At Funhouse Mirror."
posted by R. Mutt at 6:50 PM on January 22, 2013


misha: "You should not be immortalized on film without even knowing it ever happened.."

girlmightlive: "The courts have consistently disagreed with this, as well they should."

On the contrary, no court I know of has ever taken up the question of whether you should be photographed without your knowledge. It is not their purview at all to say what should or should not happen. They have taken up the question of whether it's legal under current laws for a person to be photographed without their knowledge. The trouble with slippery slopes is that they erase these kinds of distinctions by making the sometimes dubious assumption that they will ultimately cease to exist.

I think it would be hard to argue that public photography should be illegal. It would also be hard to argue that most forms of verbal abuse should be illegal; it'd be almost impossible to regulate that anyhow. But it's fair, I think to discuss whether surreptitious public photography is ethical or not. And given that we can be said to live in an age when surreptitious public photography is more ubiquitous than ever before, I think it's probably a good thing that we're discussing it.
posted by koeselitz at 7:09 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Okay, whether we're talking about "should" or "can be," the discussion is whether or not this is harmful. There are already laws and precedents set about forms of photography that are harmful, and I still think it's a stretch to say this is harmful to the subjects.

I mean, someone upthread someone said one of these people could've been having the worst day of his/her life, but it's not as if you can prosecute someone for making your feelings hurt.

The tools haven't changed enough to make it seem as if what's happening now is actually new photography. There have been small cameras, and I can look out my apartment window and photograph anyone walking by just like W. Eugene Smith did.

I don't see reason to change the laws, or seen a sound proposal, just because it's more prevalent than it used to be.
posted by girlmightlive at 7:21 PM on January 22, 2013


Nice looking people!
posted by letitrain at 7:43 PM on January 22, 2013


So "pretty lady" is a creepy term? Did I miss the feminist outrage boat or something? Should I have said "hot chick" instead?
I don't pretend that a person's level of attractiveness doesn't affect how others respond to them, and as a female photojournalist, I certainly don't pretend that gender doesn't play a role in how I am able to do my job. Taking pictures of children on a playground? Parents are totally cool. My male colleagues doing the same thing? Pederast alert, danger Will Robinson. I asked about the female/male thing because people seemed to be responding real adversely to the concept of a man in a ski mask behind a mirror, but something tells me this would be at least slightly more palatable to many folks if they found out an attractive female was behind the mirror. Less threatening, I think. Perhaps Metafilter was not the right place to poll. Sorry some of y'all think "pretty lady" is pejorative or something.
Also, for those who are outraged by the notion that privacy has been violated and ethics breached here: You're being watched every moment of every day. If not by me, the government or the ghosts of your ancestors, remember that God is watching you pee and ceiling cat is watching you masturbate.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 8:13 PM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Speaking as one who never misses a chance to gawk at myself in a public mirror, I'm actually kind of disappointed at the lack of a comical narcissist in these photos. Where's the autohomosexual Saturday Night Fever-era John Travolta with that "Well, heellloooo, tiger" smirk?

#17 is the only one that has something like a respectable come hither self-oggle.
posted by dgaicun at 8:18 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


girlmightlive: “I don't see reason to change the laws, or seen a sound proposal, just because it's more prevalent than it used to be.”

I don't either, to be honest. In fact, if the laws are changed at all, I have a notion that maybe they ought to be changed to make it explicitly legal for people to photograph police officers in public.

“There are already laws and precedents set about forms of photography that are harmful, and I still think it's a stretch to say this is harmful to the subjects.”

Well, I think there are events external to this particular photo shoot that probably are coloring people's perceptions here, and it's worth considering them. For me, the primary event in the past year in this arena was the debacle over creepshots over on Reddit; a group of people were taking surreptitious photos of women in public and then posting them online as a kind of creepy porn. (Some mefi threads are here and here.) Can having one's photo taken by a stranger and posted online to be gawked at lewdly count as harm? Well, that can go pretty far, so I think maybe we should entertain the possibility that it is. The bare threat that being exposed like that constitutes is not exactly benign.

That's a bit far from a NYT photo spread, I grant. And I think it should be said that the photographer probably left out photos that could be construed as invasive or lewd. Still, if people are sensitive about this subject, I think it's because of the creepshots thing.

There's also the Facebook thing, too. I mean – privacy is less and less possible in the world we've constructed. That's okay, but photography enters into that. In certain countries it's easy for the government to track all movements of citizens as they go about the day, because every square inch of public space has cameras pointed at it.

TheGoldenOne: “So 'pretty lady' is a creepy term? Did I miss the feminist outrage boat or something? Should I have said 'hot chick' instead?
I don't pretend that a person's level of attractiveness doesn't affect how others respond to them, and as a female photojournalist, I certainly don't pretend that gender doesn't play a role in how I am able to do my job. Taking pictures of children on a playground? Parents are totally cool. My male colleagues doing the same thing? Pederast alert, danger Will Robinson. I asked about the female/male thing because people seemed to be responding real adversely to the concept of a man in a ski mask behind a mirror, but something tells me this would be at least slightly more palatable to many folks if they found out an attractive female was behind the mirror. Less threatening, I think. Perhaps Metafilter was not the right place to poll. Sorry some of y'all think 'pretty lady' is pejorative or something.
Also, for those who are outraged by the notion that privacy has been violated and ethics breached here: You're being watched every moment of every day. If not by me, the government or the ghosts of your ancestors, remember that God is watching you pee and ceiling cat is watching you masturbate.”


I take your point, and I'm sorry that I was a bit glib earlier. If I was creeped out by "pretty lady," incidentally, it was because I don't think sexualizing the photographer made it better – and that's kinda what "pretty lady" sounded like to me. But it seems clear that that's not what you meant by it; you were asking whether it made it better if the photographer was not a threatening presence.

I will say that I don't believe the reaction people here has much to do with the photographer; and that seems to kind of miss the point of what it means to have photos taken now. If a person were just sitting there watching people, it might matter who it were on the other side of the mirror. But these are pictures being taken and published for the entire world on the internet. So: no matter who you are or what you're into, the creepiest type of person that you most dislike is gonna view your picture in the least desireable context. See, of course, the creepshots debacle I mentioned above.

Is that just something we have to accept since we're walking around in public? Maybe. I can understand how people would be bothered by this, though. And I think there are certainly cases at this point where someone has been harmed personally by photos taken of them by strangers in public.

Again, generally we're not really talking about art photography here. Once upon a time, this was a niche thing done only by street photographers. Now, there are whole communities dedicated to taking pictures of strangers to be used as porn. That's a new frontier.
posted by koeselitz at 8:41 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh god, A New York thread where I didn't immediately jump in to proclaim New York the bestest place on earth or insult non New Yorkers. I must be slipping, I've seen it before, next I'll stop arguing about bagels and hot dogs, then next thing you know I'll be one of those poor SOBs on NJ transit, talking about how I used to live in the city,and how tough it is.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:32 PM on January 22, 2013


TheGoldenOne, I reacted to "pretty lady" because it made it sound to me as though the photographer was taking pictures for sexual gratification. That's not what you meant, and perhaps the fact that I misread you proves your point that society tends to be more suspicious of male photographers.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:41 PM on January 22, 2013


At my office, the entire front wall is glass, and 4 out of 5 people will check themselves out, fix errant hairs, etc. In the late afternoon, they can't see themselves anymore, and they can now see us. That doesn't seem to stop them from doing it again the next day. It's almost like they forget there are at least 5 people observing them; or that we only actually show up to the office in the afternoon.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:46 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


So "pretty lady" is a creepy term? Did I miss the feminist outrage boat or something?

Pretty lady has been creepy ever since Jerry Lewis has been using it. no feminist outrage boat required.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:13 AM on January 23, 2013 [3 favorites]


You can see yourself in the side mirror, tossing your hair
If no one is there, then why do you care?
Though I let you think there was no witness to all of your crimes,
I knew what you were, a climber who climbs.

posted by fiercecupcake at 5:20 AM on January 23, 2013


Gender does weird things. Not that I reacted strongly enough to bother chiming in about it, but I think I can admit in retrospect that had I realized the person who said "pretty lady" wasn't a man I'd not have taken the same level of umbrage at it. I guess that fact makes me feel a little uncomfortable, because it sort of puts me in league with the playground parents playing the "is that person a creeper" odds with the male or female photographers pointing cameras at their kids, but I guess we live in a culture that sexism built. (I'm not being terribly clear here, but I think what I'm trying to get at is that "misandry" -- mentioned earlier -- isn't a helpful description of this sort of phenomenon, that "misandry" gives off a sense of "feminism has gone too far" where in fact it's the opposite. These are symptoms of centuries of institutionalized sexism.)

But as for the main topic here, I think Yoink's original point is a really interesting one.

I wonder if it's no accident that a heightened touchiness about this sort of potential invasion of privacy correlates with society giving away more and more of its privacy online by (intentionally) sharing details with strangers and (inadvertently) sharing information with corporations (including browsing habits, via all those +1 and 'like' buttons floating around, even if unclicked -- though maybe if the general public were made fully aware of that, that might be seen as creepy too?).

In any case, I wonder if society's increasing discomfort about this sort of street portraiture is actually less about the photograph being taken, potentially shown in a gallery, or even printed in a national newspaper, but rather about the images subsequently being put online where a handful of inbound identifying links can immortalize the image via google results for one's name much, much more greatly than a gallery show or a printed newspaper photo ever could. There's an extra layer of permanence. (If that awful Williamsburg webcam site were simply streaming its images into a gallery space, or even if it were online but just as a constant stream, I think it would be a non-issue. There are already tons of webcams streaming various parts of NYC. It's the splitting them into separately linkable photos that gives it a particularly gross feeling.)
posted by nobody at 7:11 AM on January 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I must be goofy or something. It seems to me the ultimate in painfully uptight, to be deeply concerned with the idea that somewhere, someone might be masturbating while viewing a photo of you, taken without your knowledge. And by painfully uptight I mean, seek help.
posted by Goofyy at 7:18 AM on January 23, 2013


Koeselitz: Now, there are whole communities dedicated to taking pictures of strangers to be used as porn. That's a new frontier.

There is??

How do the "strangers" know that they should shed their clothes and get all, p0rn-y??

I mean, like how much more can the rubric and concept of "porn" really contain within it's auspices? If everything is PR0N then WTF, humanity has entered it's Bonobo stage of (de) evolution and everything is about fucking, and if everything is about "fucking," than what good is "fucking"?

Are We Not Men? We are DEVO. You preverts!
posted by Skygazer at 8:33 AM on January 23, 2013


How do the "strangers" know that they should shed their clothes and get all, p0rn-y??

You may find this sadly enlightening.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 10:03 AM on January 23, 2013


> There is?

Yes. You can read about it, or one version of it, here.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:04 AM on January 23, 2013


Rustic Etruscan: You may find this sadly enlightening.

The corpse in the library: Yes. You can read about it, or one version of it, here.

Whoa, dudes. Psych! Nice synchronicity. A little spooky...

Anyhow, yeah, I never even looked at the thing (creeppicturesedit or whatever it was called) cos it was way too rape-y weird and just a place I didn't want to encourage with traffic....

But it would kinda suck if everything that was spontaneous and naturalistic was given the "rape-y" label...there is a point where human nature if it's not hurting anyone needs to be accepted and not pathologized and made weird, as i think that just causes more people the sense of being abnormal or fucked up in some way, and feeling fucked with shameful hurt, simply for very natural physical reactions and attractions etc...
posted by Skygazer at 11:15 AM on January 23, 2013


I get you, Skygazer, and I agree. I really think taking pics in public is just fine, and probably a lot of other folks in this thread do as well.

What makes it weird, IMO, is that the guy is hiding to take those pics. That's it.

Maybe I come from the background of having been in photoshoots with photographers I trust, where I've been able to control whether a pic is published or not. So I've been able to say, "Yeah, go ahead and use that one of my legs with the skirt blowing up but HELL NO on the accidental nipple slip," and know my decision will be respected.

Someone upthread asked, 'What if the guy behind the mirror got a brilliant pic? Shouldn't he be able to use it?' Well, maybe so. You could also get a brilliant pic without doing it surreptitiously. It's probably easier to rationalize when you start from the philosophy of "the end justifies the means". I guess it just depends on your perspective.

While it's true the photographer didn't use, apparently, any embarrassing pics of people picking their noses or having wardrobe malfunctions, he could have, and those people wouldn't have any control over that. Would we feel differently about his approach if he had started a "Look at these fuckin' New Yorkers" point and laugh Tumblr site?
posted by misha at 12:25 PM on January 23, 2013


Sys Rq: Are there any happy people in New York City?

Do you usually smile gaily as you walk down the street? (And have you noticed how it causes everyone to avoid you like you're insane?)
Never once, but I don't live in a million-people mashup like NYC.

FYI: the normal human reaction to a stranger smiling is not to avoid them, but to assume they're happy.
posted by IAmBroom at 2:44 PM on January 23, 2013


Brocktoon: "At my office, the entire front wall is glass, and 4 out of 5 people will check themselves out, fix errant hairs, etc. In the late afternoon, they can't see themselves anymore, and they can now see us. That doesn't seem to stop them from doing it again the next day. It's almost like they forget there are at least 5 people observing them; or that we only actually show up to the office in the afternoon."

Maybe they don't care?
posted by Splunge at 2:54 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


While it's true the photographer didn't use, apparently, any embarrassing pics of people picking their noses or having wardrobe malfunctions, he could have, and those people wouldn't have any control over that.

Not necessarily. It depends on what they were doing, and I don't think it's fair to judge someone based on what they could've done. No one here knows what the other photos looked like (and there's precedent re: published vs. unpublished photos, anyway).

Would we feel differently about his approach if he had started a "Look at these fuckin' New Yorkers" point and laugh Tumblr site?

There are already sites like that (People of Walmart) but it's mostly anonymous. Maybe that's why it's so popular.
posted by girlmightlive at 4:32 PM on January 23, 2013


They do care, because occasionally they realize people are on the other side (they hear us, probably), and try to act all cool cat.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:32 PM on January 23, 2013


I must be goofy or something.
posted by Goofyy

posted by shakespeherian at 11:55 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


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