Saturday, February 15, 2014

Are There Unknown Consequences for Capturing Humans?

People-watching is a wonderful pastime that many of us enjoy.  Having spent many, many hours waiting in California airports (and a few others), stuck in traffic on multi-lane highways, and just the general hanging-around in customer lounges and retail lines I have certainly done my share.  In fact once I learned to just observe others around me I found real pleasure in these otherwise irritating pauses to my “schedule.”  Many of these observations are of humorous situations and some are heart-warming interactions between strangers.  Yes there are the annoying “I can’t believe they just did that in public” moments, but I’ve become pretty jaded over the years and little surprises me in that area anymore.  There is a reason that shopping carts have signs telling parents not to let their kids stand up in the cart seat………

So we’re all out there together being human with our actions and interactions on display.  There are a lot of us and even those who stood out in a single day quickly fade from our memories.  We may remember and repeat to friends the incident or the outfit or the words, but these disappear eventually.  Unless we capture them in a photograph. 

Humans are interesting and make for great photos.  Some of those photos win awards for major photographers.  Most of us have taken our share of candid shots for a number of reasons.  Recently I came across some pictures taken at the old Riverside Raceway (now the Moreno Valley Mall) of strangers in the stands and in the pits.  Nothing particularly moving about any of them, they captured a fun t-shirt logo or a cool silhouette or a cute child.  The usual.  They were in a box in the attic.  No one but a handful of family and friends ever saw them, maybe nobody but the photographer.  They were taken before (long before) the Internet.

When I photographed the person in that t-shirt, the photo went from my camera to the developer to the box.  In essence the person was only seen by those at the raceway that day.  They chose to go to the event, to be seen by all the other people who would be there; in Riverside, California; on a Sunday.  Here’s the question:

What if it wasn’t safe for them to be seen somewhere else?  What if they were in California because it was far away from a threatening ex-spouse, a stalker, a malicious person who they got far, far away from?  No problem when the candid photo goes in a box in the attic.

A whole different story when a candid photo is posted on the Internet?  Are there unknown consequences for that person because I captured them and sent their location out to the whole world?

There are tens of millions of photographs on the Internet.  Google Images is more crowded with humans than all the entertainment venues and sports arenas in the world combined.  If I were looking for someone I wouldn’t know where to begin to search on the Internet for their picture.  It may be impossible without facial recognition software (but don’t those scary malicious people always have that stuff?)

Of course the flip-side is the happy ending of a separated family being reunited…….of a good and loving person finding them.

It is surely a ridiculous thing to worry about, sparked by too many Lifetime movies in my past.  For some reason though, in the last few weeks when I see candid shots of people captured for a blog post, I wonder…….were there unforeseen consequences? 


  1. Thought provoking blog! Thankfully, the vast majority of my photos are of where we are visiting in our travels. From now on, I will try to only photograph family and friends or ask permission. Thanks for the heads up!

    Oh, by the way, I found your blog through Al of the Bayfield Bunch. I am glad he did, you are a great read.

    1. Hi Nan! How great to have you stop by :-). Thank you for your nice words about my little blog. I actually tried the black bean and quinoa recipe last week and loved it.. Small world indeed. Safe travels.

  2. Great posting about random pictures, most I take I ask permission to post them on the Blog but occasionally just too many people in a crowd.
    Thanks for stopping by and visiting our travels too.
    Getting on the road is so exciting for the first time when we did it in 2006, and still love our travel days, every few week or so.

    1. Nice to hear from you George. We can't wait to get out there next year and hope to cross paths with you and Suzie. Safe travels.