Why Do People Think It’s OK To Take Pictures of Strangers?


It seems to be happening all around us, with no one really batting an eyelid. Until now that is. Taking a quick piccie of a cute boy in a dapper suit to send via Snapchat to a friend, or documenting the ‘look-a-like’ who you can’t help document for later, we’re all guilty of it. Even if we take a picture of the fluffy dog on the table next to us in the restaurant, should we be technically asking it’s owner’s permission? It’s not our dog. Or have we reached a new level of advanced technology that is engrained within our society that we think it’s totally within our rights to snap away at whoever we want to, whenever we want to? 

The reason this has now become an issue, and in fact a social ‘fear’, is because it takes seconds for a photo to go viral and hit mainstream media. It’s also possible to be really subtle without having camera sound on your phone. It’s not like you’re getting a heavy Canon 600d out of your bag, you just need to pretend to be playing Candy Crush at a weird angle and you’re in. Snap snap. One sneaky photo harmlessly uploaded onto Twitter is then in the public domain and has the potential to be spread anywhere, by anyone, and even end up on the front page of a tabloid newspaper. Forget skiving off work or having sex in the street, these days you could be made a fool of for just eating or sleeping on public transport. This is now a reality.

I must admit until now, I’ve often scrolled through blogs and poked fun behind my screen at Tumblrs that crowd source photos of the general public. Sites such as LAMFRT” (that’s Look At My F*cking Red Trousers). Essentially it’s a Tumblr for people to upload pictures of “posh idiots” who roam such events such as the Polo or Henley Regatta who wear the same silly red trousers. It’s funny to laugh at these members of society who thinks it’s cool to dress up wearing the same red trousers, isn’t it? However, something happened last week that made me feel exceptionally guilty about laughing at these posh people. I feel guilty that I could happily laugh along at a public Tumblr group that could have seriously upset the people that were on there and that it took a public group that posted pictures of women eating that made me think: oh shoot, I could so easily be pictured and mocked online too.

Let me explain: the latest victims of people snapping away without permission or any sense of decency, is the Facebook group “Women Who Eat on Tubes”. Suddenly, I felt a pang of absolute disgust over the fact that some horrible men have been taking secret photos of women eating at unflattering angles. It is a horrible, seedy group, and it’s not just the pictures that make it hard to look at; it’s the vile comments and captions underneath each picture that add an extra layer of evil. It’s the fact that these women are completely unaware and just enjoying a harmless bite to each on public transport. Soon to be seen and laughed at by thousands.

I don’t think this is a specific gender issue, or that it’s all about the battle between men and women, but I do find the whole thing very intimidating. I must admit I have recently paused when thinking about having a snack on the tube since discovering this group because it has become so main stream and has happened to a soon-to-be colleague. If it was the other way around and it was a group of women taking pictures of men eating it would be just as disgusting and invasive. I think the issue just needs to raised with Facebook and with the general public to reinforce the fact that it is just bad manners. It’s not OK to take pictures of people in a cruel way. It’s not OK full stop.

What I honestly cannot believe above all, is that Facebook hasn’t yet removed this group. It’s still there and what’s worse is it’s an ‘open group’ which means anyone can access it and anyone can post to it.  What’s even more sinister is the fact that the groups founder, recently interviewed by Telegraph’s Wonder Women compared it to capturing “wildlife” which honestly sends shivers down my spine: “It should cherish its subjects in the way a wildlife photographer cherishes a kingfisher in a river.” Ew.

I for one will be having second thoughts whenever I am tempted to photograph anyone without permission or for the sake of ‘sharing’, with friends or on the Internet. That includes snapping the backs of heads of nearby celebrities or anyone I don’t know even if it’s to capture the fact that I like their shoes. Just because we have portable cameras doesn’t mean we have any right to be snapping away in stranger’s faces.



2 thoughts on “Why Do People Think It’s OK To Take Pictures of Strangers?

  1. I’ve just had a browse of the Women Who Eat On Tubes Facebook group. It is appalling. It seems laughable that women simply having something to eat while travelling should be the subject of a group, but women are going to feel they can’t eat when they want to for fear of being clandestinely photographed now. It’s actually no better than Big Brother. Thank you for bringing this to my attention – the group makes me so angry. You’re right – it’s not only rude but completely cruel and an invasion of our privacy. I suppose this is what happens in a world in which taking hundreds of Snapchat-type pictures every day is the norm. Do you think Facebook will do anything about it?

  2. Oh i think its a huge invasion of privacy, I never realised that such groups exist, There was a scandal in Ireland awhile ago about a girl who was from a posh area, who was videoed when drunk that went viral here, that probably really embarassed everyone you know, i think you shouldn’t take advantage of vulnerable people through photos videos or whatever

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