Sneaky Snaps


As people chatter over the rose ceremony in this week’s episode of the Bachelor and others begin cleaning the dining table after a successful 21st birthday dinner, one party-goer sits himself down in the kitchen and pulls out his phone. I look over and realise I’ve found my moment.

“You’re so anti-social Rhys,” I laugh as I take the snap.

He looks up at me and smiles, “I know.”

Rhys wasn’t the first or last to pull out his phone throughout the night, the majority of guests held their phone in their hand, had it sat beside their plate as we ate dinner and would every now and then unlock it and withdraw from the party.

It’s the typical sight, in my opinion, to most Generation Y events in this day and age.

As Rhys sat and immersed himself in something outside the party he was taking himself away from the public space (although it was a private party – I say public due to the fact the apartment in which it was held was swarmed by guests and the celebration vibe; just as if the party were held in a bar) and into a private space. I couldn’t tell you what he was doing on his phone – but he was suddenly somewhere else.

According to the Arts Law Centre of Australia there are no publicity or personality rights in Australia, and there are no rights to privacy that protect a person’s image. Under the Privacy Act 1988 however, there are circumstances in which publishing a person’s image may breach the law. To be safe, I messaged Rhys following the party and attached the ‘anti-social’ image of him, to ask if I could use the photo as the basis of a blog post for my BCM subject. He found it amusing, but gave consent.

My sneaky photo of Rhys sitting on the kitchen floor is just one ‘sneaky snap’ of an abundance I take weekly of my friends, and even sometimes strangers in public places.

A few weeks ago I saw a man that a friend of mine had once dated walking on the pathway outside my gym. ‘Jess would find this amusing’ I thought to myself, whipped out my phone, opened Snapchat and took a photo of this unsuspecting male and sent it directly to his former flame.

This week’s topic made me realise that my sneaky snaps might not be so ethical after all and made me question whether I would like to be the subject of someone’s photos without being made aware. To be honest, that depends… if it was simply a photo of me going about everyday life I’m less fussed, but if the photo was being taken with the intent to hurt or embarrass me, then there’s a problem. There are a lot of grey areas in between, and so I can recognise that this topic is important to actually understand.

The fact is we have very little control regarding the actions and motives of ‘street photographers’ who are snap happy in the public sphere, but we can control ourselves and ensure our own intentions are genuine and that we mean no harm. When I say ‘we’, I am addressing my peers who have learnt this information with me, who have the opportunity to learn from what we have been shown and of course anyone who is interested in doing the same.

Joerg Colberg suggests that while the public’s wariness about photography poses both challenge and opportunity, the opportunity is an important one and allows us to talk about what photographs do and how they do it. This is what I find interesting… and why I would not be offended to be photographed unless the circumstances around the photography were to misrepresent, cause harm or embarrassment.

How do you feel about being the subject of someone else’s photography? Is it different if you are the sole subject, rather than one of many? Do you take sneaky snaps yourself? Ponder a while.



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