Your picture is being taken. There are hundreds of thousands of phones, many of them iPhones, being sold every month that have the capability of taking high quality digital images and it’s nearly impossible to tell when your picture is being taken.  You could be waiting for a train and someone is waiting with you, taking pictures of you without you realizing it. This is one of the first photos I took. I was waiting for a train and people were standing all around me, also absentmindedly
waiting for a train. I wondered what was the chance that I could take photos of people without their noticing.


The idea came to me one day when I realized that there are many blogs out there that basically take images of people taken without their knowledge doing things that they would not want the entire world to see. There’s a blog a man created because he was tired of standing in crutches while people sat in the disability section.

There’s an iPhone app that allows you to view what is being seen by surveillance cameras around the world — now we are becoming the surveillance cameras and adding to the constriction of image capturing.

At first I felt a little bad about taking photos of people who might not have wanted their photos taken – but I remembered what I read in a blog dedicated to taking photos of men deemed by the photo takers to be sexual harassers.

If a person is in the public domain, there is nothing legal that can be done to prevent their photo from being taken. The photos below were mostly taken at random, with not much thought given to the subject as much as the location of the subject — places where people would not expect to have their photo taken.  We have blurred faces when appropriate because we’re just trying to prove a point — without being creepy.

You could be on a train just trying to get to work or to the movie theater, listening to music or reading a book and someone else could be on the train as well, taking pictures of you. What really interested me in these people was that they seemed genuinely oblivious to the fact that I was taking their photo. At this point I tried to make it obvious that I was doing it and yet they were so clueless that they just let it happen without a glance.

You could even be walking down the street and someone could be in their car, taking picture after picture of you. I took this photo when sitting behind the wheel of a car.

It was one of many photos I took to see if anyone would notice a guy in a car taking photos. I was not surprised to find that absolutely nobody noticed. I was asked to move the car once, but nary a query from a passing photo subject.

What does all of this mean? It means that we are quickly on the way to becoming a world where you have no privacy just about anywhere you might think that you do.

What’s next for our bored society when it comes to Panopticonic social networking?  Will blogs sprout up detailing the amazingly ordinary adventures of people who buy goat’s milk at their organic market?

9 Comments

  1. You ask many great questions, Gordon!
    Do we have a right to expect any sort of privacy in public from strangers who are not gathering news; but rather collecting peccadilloes display on their blogs?

  2. That is definitely a creeping wondering, Gordon, and I shudder to imagine how many people have snapped us as we unwittingly wander around our ordinary lives.
    I wonder if we should always be smiling in public — or do we risk letting down our mask to be captured as we truly are…

  3. Interestingly enough, I smile a lot in public anyhow. I wonder if subconsciously I think I may be getting my photo taken and don’t want to be caught sans smile.

  4. Ha! That might be it, Gordon! I used to smile all the time, too, when I moved to NYC and then I got so much hassle for it from strangers on the street that I stopped. I “turn off into neutral” when I’m in the public midst now.

  5. Hi Gordon,
    It’s so true! It happened to me very recently.
    I was in a car…on the way to the hotel from the airport and the car happened to stop at a traffic light; I had an uncanny feeling as if someone was watching me – I looked to my right and saw a guy shifting his posture with his cellphone in one hand pointing towards me…how awkward is that???
    My immediate thought was – cellphone camera should be banned!