Does Photography border on Insensitivity at times?

I have been on a guilt trip ever since I took this photograph. Actually, it was one of those moments when I could not control myself, it was monsoon on Indian roads. As the car passed by, I looked at the face of the person who I had just clicked in my zest for photography. It was a very old woman who was barely able to walk, struggling to go somewhere on the slippery road. She instantly reminded me of my nonagenarian grandmother who is confined to bed having lost her memory and motor ability. A tear drop flowed by and I did not know what to do. For the last couple of weeks, have been constantly nagged by some of these questions

  • Do we get sometimes cross into an insensitive zone in our zest for taking pictures ?
  • Should you take a photograph of someone without their permission ?
  • Should I have given her a lift to her destination ?
  • Should I have given her a hug and offered some help ?
  • What do animals feel when they get photographed?

Is a photographer insensitiveWere you ever faced with these questions? If yes, what did you do, how did you feel !!



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  2. I think the fact that you asked the questions of yourself probably makes you a sensitive photographer, rather than an insensitive one! I don’t often do people (other than friends and family!), but when I do, I am always very torn. I guess it is good to have that moment of reflection and then go with your intuition as to whether it is the right thing.

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  8. Good questions Sangeeta. And yes, I often feel photos are intrusive. Here in the US, we have become addicted to taking photos of everything as if to prove our lives have meaning. And other times, it’s the simple joy of sharing. I guess we need to do what feels right to us.

  9. Yes, I do think insensitivity is a part of photography. I usually have these thoughts before snapping a picture and then actually don’t do it. Is it that I am not bold enough, am I too shy? What makes me inhibited? I see some amazing pictures of human emotion during tragedy or hardship and I think to myself, what makes the photographer be able to take these pictures with thoughts of ‘getting a good picture’ ? Maybe that photographer doesn’t even think that way so that is probably where I am wrong, but to be able to take an image of a sadness or struggle in a person is an invasion a bit into their privacy. Your picture above wouldn’t have made me thought the woman was having trouble until you described what was happening, which actually gave the photo emotion. I will look for scenes like this one and see if I am able to separate myself to take a picture or help the person 🙂 ..thanks for the inspiration!

  10. You bring up some important issues. Where is the line between capturing a moment and exploiting a situation for a interesting or socially gritty picture. It is an issue I struggle with myself. Wish I had an ancwer to these conflicting feelings as well.

  11. I wouldn’t feel guilty, Sangeeta. Maybe if you had taken the photo from the front without asking her and she had seen you snap the photo, then maybe yes. As to offering to stop to see if you could help….I can’t say what I would have done.

  12. Yes, these situations arise. When you see a tragic struck villager who deserves to be photographed, what would a permission to photograph mean ? If granted, does she have a clue about social media. Who will see her photographs. Her permission is limited to making you happy by allowing you to take her shot – it is not for anyone else