Do I Have Your Consent?

It can often be difficult to photograph or film a public space, everyone is different, and everyone has personal preferences on whether or not they care if they are in the background of a photograph. Personally, if I’m in the background of a photograph, I won’t mind that an individual is taking a photograph of a public space that I am in, but if I am a focus of the photograph then I have an issue. But this is a different instance to that of getting photographed at a nightclub, photographers will generally ask if they can take a photo of you and go from there, even sometimes they will show you afterwards the final photo.


Both these instances of public places and private, deal with consent and ethics when looking into media practices. People have different preferences when it comes to being involved in media practices, especially when the one performing the media practice is a stranger. With friends, the ethics and consent seem to be irrelevant, or at least altered; I have encountered circumstances where friends will take photos to intentionally embarrass friends, even when their consent for a photograph is firmly declined. The difference is, when a stranger asks to photograph the public space that you are in, is that you don’t know the stranger, they could have intentions for the photograph in question that individuals may not be comfortable with.


I recall attempting to take a snapchat of what was on the television in a gym once, to send to a friend, what I didn’t take into consideration at the time was that there was a stranger standing right next to the television that was included in the photograph. The stranger did not attempt to question me about the issue of their consent (I am quite certain that the stranger thought I was taking a photo of them). Whether the stranger was concerned of being included in the photograph, or not, no engagement in conversation was implemented to enquire the details or involvement that the media practice demonstrated.

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Ethics and consent can be a difficult obstacle when using media practices in public spaces, especially when involving strangers. Private spaces are generally more forgiving, given the presumption that being in a private place means being with people that are known. Personally, I value my privacy and always attempt to treat others with the consideration that I would like myself. Engaging with strict consent when dealing with media practices and strangers in public places is vital and ethical.


I have engaged with this discussion of consent by performing media practices in public spaces. On a public train recently, I was in a carriage with only three others scattered throughout; I had approached all three passengers and inquired whether they gave me their consent for taking a photograph of the carriage with them in the space. I detailed that the photograph would not be used for anything; it was just an experiment for a University assignment. The couple sitting together approved their consent, and did not seem too bothered; the individual sitting by herself however, did not consent and reacted awkwardly and distant. Therefore, no photograph of the public space was taken.


It can be difficult to engage in media practices in public spaces when asking for consent, it is possible that you can just take a photo without asking for consent and no problem will occur (as demonstrated when taking a photograph of the television in the gym). However it is evident that privacy is something that people value and takes into consideration when dealing with strangers. Detailing the intent of the media practice is essential when asking for consent, specifically to represent the individual in their preferred state. Everybody is different and everybody has their own preferences to be involved in a strangers media practices, but involving participants with the correct ethics, proves and demonstrates value to the practice.



Glogger, 2007, Picture of outdoor public art sculpture, Available From: < > [20th September 2016]



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