If you have found yourself in a picture and don’t like it, please contact me and I will take it down as soon as possible. If you also want an explanation for what I do and why I do it, then please continue reading.

Why I do street photography without asking permission

My photography explores the human condition. As soon as people are aware of a camera their behaviour and their facial expressions change, because they become self-conscious. Suddenly their behaviour isn’t real anymore, their actions not honest and the moment is gone. For this reason I don’t ask permission beforehand and often don’t make myself noticed, since then my pictures wouldn’t be what they were: A documentary of human behaviour in public. I also don’t ask permission afterwards, because most of the time it’s just not feasible. Everyone is in a hurry, pictures get taken in passing and until I see the pictures in full resolution I won’t know whether I got anything that even deserves mentioning. Asking for permission would make my work impossible.

Some rules of conduct

I believe that I as a street photographer have a responsibility towards the world around me. This is why I have rules for what I do that decide whether I take a picture or not and, if I took it, whether I show the picture to anyone. Every photographer has different rules: Some don’t take pictures of children, others don’t take pictures of homeless people, again others don’t take pictures at all where a person can be identified. Keep in mind that this is an individual choice and some photographers don’t have any rules at all. I’m not one of them.

My rules are these:

  1. I don’t take voyeuristic pictures.
  2. I don’t use telephoto lenses for street photography. People always get a chance to notice me and possibly make it clear that they don’t want their picture taken.
  3. I only take pictures of children when they are happily playing or together with their parents.
  4. I only show the reactions to misery and not just the misery itself.
  5. If someone makes it clear that they don’t want their picture taken then I don’t take it. If I already took the picture before and they are identifiable I delete it if they are the main subject. If they are only in the background I keep the picture, but don’t show it.
  6. If someone finds their picture and doesn’t like it I take it down without discussion. This is not a choice out of legal reasons – in some countries, I would not be legally required. For me this is a moral choice.
  7. I don’t invade people’s lives just to get a picture, i.e. I don’t jump at people with a portrait lens or an off camera flash like some photographers do. It’s just not my style to behave like a prick.


What about personal rights / privacy?

If you are worried about your privacy and your personal rights being affected with photographers like me about, I think you should take a long hard look at the state of your personal rights in general. Since 9/11 and the London attacks we have sold most of our personal rights for the illusion of safety. Already before 9 /11 England had a continuous CCTV surveillance network spanning the entirety of its coastline additionally to CCTV cameras in shops, banks, elevators, trains, buses, parking garages and so on. Even in countries like Germany where there is a personal right to your own picture one is filmed on every train, tram, bus, in every shop, bank and on almost every street corner. Open your eyes and count all the surveillance cameras on your daily routes. The last time I did this exercise I stopped counting at 15.  The bad thing is that very little of this is really happening for our safety. A lot of it happens just for financial gain, namely to discourage stealing, vandalism and bank robberies. And in the end, does it really help to know who blew up a building after it already happened? Does it bring back the dead? No, such magic is still impossible despite all the other magic we can do nowadays.

Does this end with CCTV cameras? No. Recent scandals have proven that intelligence agencies read our emails, listen in on our phone conversations and read our text messages. And since we’re talking of text messages: Even our location can be ascertained electronically through our mobile phones. We sold our privacy and personal rights for the illusion of security and for convenience. And what about Facebook, Twitter and the other sharing networks? A lot of people choose to share the movies they like, the books they read, the pictures they take of themselves and their kids, heck, even the meals they ate. They do this for no particular reason whatsoever and they do it freely without thinking. We sold our privacy and personal rights for the illusion of privacy, for convenience and the illusion of interpersonal connections. And what about the rising number of countries that require you to carry ID, which thanks to newest technology often contains RFID chips?

And now imagine what a malicious totalitarian government could do with all this surveillance and information. Think about the latest face recognition software and location tracking via RFID chips possibly even injected at birth or together with vaccines, think about video editing to manufacture proof, think about lists of forbidden books and movies.  Believe me, we already have the technological basis for a totalitarian government right out of our worst nightmares.

So, if you are really that worried about your personal rights and your privacy, I recommend forgetting about my blog and following this list in order: Delete your Facebook and Google accounts, disconnect your internet connection, throw away your mobile phone and anything that involves a GPS chip, throw away your ID and any cards that might contain RFID chips. Finally head out of the cities to a nice cabin in the woods. This might not be enough though, because in a few years time you might find an automated surveillance drone hovering outside your cabin window before a humanoid drone comes in through the front door to (forcibly) inject you with an RFID chip. After all they do it with dogs already. It doesn’t need a drone either. Maybe it will just be some government employee who will even knock on the door, be all polite about it and offer you a shiny brochure explaining that new law of theirs. Science Fiction? Not at all. The future is today, since we already have the technology for this.

Did this give you the chills? It certainly does for me.


To come back to street photography: What is one picture taken by a stranger compared to the stream of pixelated badly lit self portraits uploaded to instagram? And does one picture really make a difference when we already live in a worse privacy nightmare than Orwell could ever have imagined? I don’t think so. Nevertheless, if you object to your picture on my blog, then that’s alright with me as well and I will take it down.

And if thinking about the personal rights of the people in my street pictures makes even only one person have a long hard look at the state of their personal rights and their privacy today, then street photography could even be called political activism. Although this is not my primary aim, I happily accept it as a nice side effect.

Final Disclaimer

If you have questions, objections or worries, and also if you found your picture and want it removed, feel free to contact me. I will get back to you as soon as possible.