Photo faux pas

Painting with light might be the essence of photography but the language attached to it is less romantic. We “take” photographs at a photo  “shoot”. The best “shots” are “captured” when they are “lifted” in the darkroom.
If we were drawing the image it might be described as “creating” or “making “ a sketch, somehow inferring ownership of the entire process, but “taking” or shooting” has quite different connotations. Here it seems we are removing something rather than creating it.
There are more concrete examples of this idea of “taking” in some of the taboos around photography. When taking photos of people we ask their permission first, although  in a public place this is not a legal requirement.  Do we do this because if they can see us we consider it polite to ask?  Would we ask if we might include them in a pencil sketch of a scene? Possibly, but with less of a moral attitude.


Tourists take photographs of people in other countries, sometimes with little knowledge of the local taboos. In some countries it is considered rude to take photographs of unmarried or unaccompanied women.  Do we have the right to take pictures of another human being and particularly a possibly vulnerable young woman?


Pixaaby Creative Commons

Pixaaby CCO Public Domain

And what about the dead? Again, this is “not done”. Photos of funerals, cremations, burials would be considered in bad taste while a photographer at a wedding is essential.
Of course nudity in photographs is contentious although “sexting”, sending sexually explicit photographs to another by mobile phone is considered harmless by UK law, as long as it does not involve images of children.
Older photographic taboos may include the prohibition of taking photos of sacred sites, temples and ceremonies, while more recently no-go areas may include government buildings and any sort of military installation.
What exactly is it that we are taking? Information? A moment in time? The soul of the dead? The power of the camera, it seems, is mightier than that of the pencil.


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