Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Privacy and its Expectation in Public Places

This morning, while waiting for my turn in line at the regular Wednesday Food Bank in the Community Center, I took a wide angle picture of the main dining room. Seated around the table were a half-dozen Lockwood seniors. There was no flash as ambient light was sufficient for the photo. I took one shot and returned to my place in line.

A very few minutes later, I was told that someone had a question for me. It was "why" had I take the photo. I replied I am chronicler many public photos of Lockwood. She then objected to having had her picture taken. Addressing the group, I offered to edit any identification of any individuals (who might object). I have software, (as seen above) that can alter digital photos in many ways. Pixel-ating to hid identity is one of the easier processes. The woman, who here will remain anonymous in deference to her demands of privacy, asked if I could just delete the one I took. I said I could, but would not; after another in the group threatened to sue if I published her likeness. I expect a more mature response than I received. It sounded to me like more of a demand than a request.

The objecting woman called someone to ask what to do. Told they could call the sheriff, she did. Meanwhile, my time came to get groceries. Half-way through my shopping, two Deputies arrived..They asked if I would talk to them. I asked to finish what I was doing; to which the replied, with some verbal force, that they just wanted to talk.  We went outside and discussed the situation.

They wanted me to delete my photo "in the interest of neighborly peace." I explained the long struggle I have had with this group of women; that I would not delete nor publish the photo. I would edit out any identifying areas in it; that I would keep it in my Life in Lockwood file for future reference only. Aside, I was asked what I expect from old women like them.

Here is what I expect. I expect to be able to take photography in any public space where there is no expectancy of privacy. I expect to be treated with the same respect that anyone, who might object to such photography, may require. I expect to be left alone so long as what I am doing harms no one.

The deputies were reasonable and respectful. For that I am thankful, and will let the Sheriff know as much if the opportunity presents itself. I was able to finish my grocery run and return home.

This incident was unnecessary and a waste of county resources.  I feel fortunate to live somewhere that their difficult job can still afford common courtesy. The Sheriff's office has better things to do than field complaints from citizens unable to settle situations in a mature manner. I did not delete the photo, and will not, because doing so would have given them a victory. Such ill feelings are a two-way street; one that is as polarizing as politics. If I make enemies over such, I am bigger than returning their spite would paint me. 

No comments: