Cafe Baba: Courtney Place, Wellington
So this is a post to explain some of what I’ve been doing running around in the dark on Courtney Place in Wellington in recent months.
I’m currently taking photos on Courtney because I’ve a street photography project with a focus on nightlife in Wellington. Many of the people I’ve taken photos of on Courtney ask me the same questions, so I thought I’d post to explain. The first question most people ask is; why?
I can explain some of the motivations but at the moment I can’t fully answer that question; I’ve not taken enough photos to be able to.
A year ago I came across a book called Street Photography Now, one of the photographers was a Polish guy called Maciej Dakowicz. His photobook Cardiff After Dark is a series of photos taken over a period of several years of one of Cardiff’s night spots. He documents public bad behaviour and lewdness in a humorous and poignant way that ultimately gives an ironic dignity to his subjects. Here’s one of his more famous pics:
His photos resonate with me because of where I come from; Scotland. The scenes of comic mayhem are exactly those I saw in Glasgow and Edinburgh when I was a student. Dakowicz was one of the reasons I started street photography – photos taken in the street with and without permission.
Street photography is a genre of photography that focuses on people in an urban environment. Here’s how Eric Kim defines it:
“Simply put, the main focus of street photography is taking the everyday and the mundane and making it into something unique and beautiful.”
Cafe Baba: Courtney Place, Wellington
My photos tend to be of people and mostly they’re portraits. They’re of normal, ordinary people in New Zealand. I’m interested in Courtney Place because it has energy and darkness. It also lets me show an aspect of contemporary New Zealand culture that seems to be missing elsewhere.
I’m a little tired of seeing photos of New Zealand that hark back to some highly stylised Cartier-Bresson era. The kids I see hanging around Courtney and Newtown don’t really fit with that. And although I take landscape photos myself, don’t get me started on what I think is wrong with New Zealand landscape photography. Contemporary Street Photography has a power to tell New Zealand stories that few seem to have grasped. As an outsider here I suppose I have a different perspective than most Kiwis.
Someone who’s work in New Zealand I really like is Julian Ward.
Bus Stop: Courtney Place, Wellington
What will you do with the photos?
Most of the photos don’t get used at all. There are only a small number of pictures that are actually well composed and, well lit etc. Most of them turn out blurred or having just missed the moment, so most of the photos end up on a hard drive and will never be used for anything.
The small number of photos that are any good I’ll usually post on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nomadwriter/
From there I’ll submit them to various groups, including:
Some of the portraits and photos will appear in January at Photospace Gallery as part of a Documentary Group Show that I was part of. I’m hoping that I can exhibit more photos in the future.
Cuba Street, Wellington
I’m about to start a remote workshop with Charlie Kirk so many of the photos will be part of the projects he sets me.
Once I’ve got a collection of photos I think have a focus I’ll self-publish a photobook through Blurb
I don’t post on Facebook. I don’t name people.
There’s a long history of people like Bruce Gilden and more recently Charlie Kirk who take confrontational photos on the street. I’m interested in that style of photography because it’s honest and direct; you know that I’m taking your picture because I’m at most a couple of metres away and I’m waving a flash in your face. I’m not lurking with a telephoto lens and a raincoat. You can ask me why I’m taking your picture and if you are uncomfortable with me having taken your picture you can ask me to delete it. I enjoy talking about photos, so I like interacting with people on the street. I don’t respond well to being told to ‘fuck off’ and I don’t respond well to people being aggressive towards me.
Shop Window: Cuba Street, Wellington.
Is it legal to take someone’s photo without their permission?
Yes it is. Here’s some stuff that I’ve pulled together from various sources with regard to New Zealand Privacy Law in regard to taking photos on the street.
“Interestingly enough in New Zealand, there is no strict guarantee of privacy, particularly when it comes to photography. Instead, restrictions on photography come into play when it may be construed as “offensive” to a reasonable person. How offensive is defined as been a point of argument amongst the courts.”
Photography Rights in Different Countries
“Q: Isn’t it Illegal to publish a person’s photo on a website or other media without their consent?
A: Only in Quebec or France. In every other country, including Australia, publication is fully legal, provided the following criteria are met:
(1) The pictures aren’t defamatory;
(2) They aren’t indecent, offensive or otherwise demean the people in them or;
(3) They aren’t being used for a “commercial purpose”
Q: Can I stop people from taking photos of my children?
A: Only if the images are indecent or offensive. Otherwise children are not afforded any special protection under current law.”
“It is the role of the Privacy Commissioner to receive written complaints from the public outlining potential breaches of privacy. The Privacy Act 1993 enables the Commissioner to either disregard or investigate the complaint and assess whether the grounds amount to a breach of privacy.
An action for breach of privacy may be brought by the Commissioner where a breach has occurred and that
breach has caused;
(a) Loss, detriment, damage or injury to the complainant; or
(b) The rights, benefits, privileges, obligations of the complainant to be adversely affected, or may do so; or
(c) Significant humiliation, loss of dignity or injury to the complainants feelings, or may do so.“
Photography Law in New Zealand – The Clendons Guide to NZ Law Relating to Photography
In summary: it’s legal.
Doormen: Courtney Place, Wellington
I try wherever possible to give the people I take photos of the opportunity to get a printed copy of their photo. Many of the doormen and security guys on Courtney now have a print as a result. If you are one of the people I’ve taken a picture of and you want a copy just get in touch. If you would like your photo not to appear on Flickr then please just email me and I’ll remove it.
I hope having explained some of the reasons for taking photos it might make it easier for more people to start taking photos in the dark and on the street.