In answer to those who suggest that there is something creepy or morally reprehensible about taking photos of, and making up harmless stories about, complete strangers, I would just like to make a few points about the legal issues relating to street photography. Sit tight, listen up, who knows, you might learn something:
- There is no general restriction on taking photos in a public place and no one benefits from a presumption of privacy in a public place. “But what about my human rights?” you cry. Yes, you have a right to privacy (Article 8 ECHR), but it probably doesn’t mean what you think it means, and in any event, the photographer also has a right to freedom of expression (Article 10 ECHR).
- A person, let’s call them a photographer, can take photos in a public place for personal and commercial use provided they do not cause a nuisance or fall foul of specific anti-terrorism laws (which usually restrict the blanket right to take photos in certain public locations which are subject to heightened security). This means that taking photos of people in public places is generally acceptable, but pursuing them, sticking a lens in their face or harassing them is not ok (but only under common harassment or breach of the peace laws and not under any special anti-photographer laws).
- A photo taken from a public place will not constitute an invasion of privacy unless it is taken in a place where the subject has “a reasonable expectation of privacy”. So a photo of you while you sit in your front garden which faces onto a public street will probably not invade your privacy (except perhaps if it is taken by someone hiding in the hedge) but a photo of you in your bathroom taken from the street below probably will.
- While a photo of someone could conceivably constitute personal data under the Data Protection Act, it is unlikely to do so unless it also contains additional identifying information. So stop wearing that T-shirt with your name, address and date of birth on it.
- There is no law against taking photos of children in a public place even though most people seem to believe that there is, or just assume that anyone who does so is up to no good. The same laws that apply to photos of adults also apply to photos of children, so as long as you are not causing a nuisance or harassing anyone you are free to take photos of children as well. You do not need consent from their parents.
So in summary, if you do not want your photo taken when you’re out in public, don’t go out in public. If you see someone taking a photo of you and you object to it, you can ask them nicely to stop, but they do not have to oblige. You have no rights to insist. Do not invoke all sorts of made-up interpretations of the law and do not get threatening or grab at their camera – in this case, you are far more likely to be breaking the law (assault, attempted robbery or theft) than they are. If you don’t like it, you can write to your local MP, and (provided they are a Conservative) they may consider repealing the Human Rights Act.
I’m not a lawyer – oh wait, actually I am – but I’m not your lawyer, so this page does not constitute legal advice.
All characters referred to in the stories on this site are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental, or evidence of my amazing mind-reading abilities. All characters in the photos are real live strangers from the streets of London and bear absolutely no relation to the stories I have concocted.
All photos and text are (c) 2014-2018 Alex Mennie except for the bits that aren’t which will be in the public domain or licensed under an appropriate Creative Commons licence and clearly attributed. All of my rights are reserved. I accept no liability for the content of any external sites that I may choose to link to – it’s a scary world out there, so look after yourselves.
If you would like to use any of my photos or stories, or have any comments or requests (including in the unlikely event that you recognise yourself or someone else on this site and want an image removed) please contact me.