With the growth of digital technology, and with cameras now ubiquitous on mobile phones, photography is no longer the preserve of professionals and a few amateur enthusiasts. But the explosion of photography comes at a time when there are also growing concerns about its ethical implications. Photographers face increasing codes and restrictions on taking pictures in public space. From privacy infringement laws to security concerns and taboos around photographing children, photographers have to navigate a minefield of formal and informal regulations. Yet despite such concerns, we are photographed more than ever before. With photo sharing sites like Flickr, Facebook and Myspace, the personal photo album – which people once would typically show only to a small circle of family and friends – has become an item for public display.
How do the new regulations and taboos affect the role of photographers in documenting public life? How can we strike a balance between safeguarding the artistic and journalistic freedom of photographers, and the privacy of the public? Can individuals in fact create more authentic representations of everyday life by documenting and displaying it themselves? Is the photojournalist redundant now that we can all take pictures with our mobile phones and send them in to eager broadcasters and newspapers? Or should we try to preserve and uphold the superior standards – and ethics – of professional photographers?
View the openlens group on Flickr - a photo pool which aims to highlight the challenges and opportunities for photographers interested in documenting interactions in public space.
writer and researcher
freelance photographer specialising in urban landscapes and architectural reportage
reportage photographer; member, Magnum; co-author On Being a Photographer and On Looking at Photographs (with Professor Bill Jay)
associate picture editor, The Times
freelance journalist; producer and reporter for Sweden's public service radio
A man who took a photograph of an ill woman outside an Edinburgh bar has been fined £100 after being branded "unchivalrous" by a sheriff.BBC News, 3 October 2008
It’s no secret that Web 2.0 has provided a launch pad to success for people who previously would have found it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve their aims. And nowhere is that more true than in the photo business.Sqweegee's Blog, Editorial Photographers UK, 16 May 2007
A law aimed at stopping stalkers is being used against photographers and even as a substitute for libel claims.Duncan Lamont, The Guardian, 5 March 2007
The story of how a small group of photographers - Robert Capa, Henri Cartier-Bresson, George Rodger and David "Chim" Seymour - established and nurtured a co-operative photographic agency that has survived against all the odds to become the most famous in the world.
Russell Miller, Pimlico, 4 February 1999
Digital technology is transforming photojournalism in hot spots around the world.Andrew Blum, PRINT Magazine