I think just about everyone is familiar with the Chinese expression that “a picture is worth 1,000 words”. I don’t necessarily know how quote unquote “true” that is but certainly photographs (especially in the age of digital cameras) are an ubiquitous part of our lives. We are all constantly being photographed, whether by our governments or our friends and family, and those photographs are all over the internet. I sincerely doubt there’s a single person reading these words who does not have at least one image of their face online somewhere.
Part of that reality of having your image online is, of course, on Facebook. Some of you do not use this website but others of you do and are connected to me there and so you know a portion of what happened but I felt it deserved a longer explanation.
Although I don’t do it as often as I should, I enjoy taking photographs. It’s one of my “lesser” hobbies but an enjoyable one nonetheless. And beyond taking photos of my cats and nature and architecture and other parts of the world around me, I sometimes take photos of the people I know. And maybe about 1 in 100 of those photographs of people I know gets selected and put online (on FB) because it’s either a happy memory or I think it’s flattering or in some other way would be a good thing for everyone involved.
Yet time and time people complain about this and it’s a very strange mystery to me. All of the photographs I’ve taken were at public events or outside on the street or in other ways very upfront situations. The people involved are looking at the camera and know full well that I am taking their picture (my camera is shiny red and quite large and it’s no mystery I am using it). I’ve never once posted any pictures of anyone in a state of undress, in an embarrassing or compromised situation, doing anything illegal or immoral or engaged in anything but totally normal (and again, public) behavior that in no way would compromise their relationship or standing with anyone, whether family, potential (or actual) employer or personal relationship status. To put it more simply, these are public photographs of people acting normally.
And yet time and time again, certain people complained. Facebook has an option where if you are “tagged” in a photo this means that anyone who “knows” you can see the image (because it is linked to your name). But it is easy to “untag” yourself and thus remove your name’s link to the photograph in question although the photograph still remains. Certain people have always been rigorous about de-linking these photographs from their name and Facebook allows you to do this without any problems and I’ve always felt that if that’s what they want to do then that’s fine.
Nonetheless, STILL some people complain about some of the photos. They are not linked in any way to their name (aka “tagged”) and they’re under my account (since I posted them, obviously) so what they are in effect saying is that some other person out there would have to be scrolling through images I posted, see the photo in question, recognize it as Person A and that this would somehow be objectionable to Person A (if somehow they found out). Again, I remind you these are all public photographs of people acting in normal, societally-approved ways, nothing sneaky, voyeuristic or scandalous.
To be fair, I had one person ask me to remove a photograph a while back because the person in question was doing something in contravention to his family’s religion and feared some blowback because of that. A little odd (since he was in public at the time while breaking this so-called rule) but religious beliefs are by definition not rational and so I regretfully removed the photograph (it was quite a good one) with the understanding that this was a special circumstance.
But what exactly is the special circumstance of wanting photographs removed of yourself when you are in public and the image in question is either flattering (in my opinion) or a memento of a good time and again is in no way scandalous, voyeuristic, compromising or in any other way posing a risk to your good standing with employers, spouses, friends or personal relationships (or religion)? What exactly is driving these requests to remove these photos? And again, these photos were all taken in public, when the persons involved had time to choose their dress, their makeup (where applicable) and all other aspects of their appearance ahead of time.
I think the answer is obvious – the colossal ego that some people in this country have. Quite frankly there are photos of me on Facebook both taken by me and by others and not all of them are flattering. One of them shows me when I was tremendously obese and drunk at the same time. But I left all of them online (and the “tags”!) because hey, that’s who I am. They aren’t works of fiction but the real me and sometimes I look great and sometimes I don’t but it’s who I am. I’m not some one dimensional work of Photoshop for a magazine cover but a breathing human being.
I always posted what I felt were the most flattering or representative photos of other people and yet they still complained and wanted me to remove them and the only conclusion I can come to is an over-inflated sense of ego and self-importance, that they and they alone shall have decide which angle and which settings are permissible to show their holy self to the world. Of course this is a crock of shit because this isn’t the year 1880 where you have to sit still for 20 minutes to take a photograph and images of people are being captured and recorded on a continuous basis, most of them outside of their control (even indirectly, such as knowing me and asking me to remove them).
There are probably 1-5 photographs taken by government agencies in their possession (for identification documents, etc) that they had no control over. There are group photos from school, work and other activities that they have no control over. There are thousands of images recorded every day from surveillance cameras (yes even here in Unicorn City) that they have no control over. The bank takes a photo every time you use an ATM (bancomat). And so on and so forth, not to mention getting caught in the background of other people’s photos whom you don’t know and thus can’t whine and wheedle to when they post them online.
If you leave your house, you’re highly likely to be photographed and sooner or later those images are going to be online. Sometimes it sucks and sometimes it’s an outrageous invasion of our privacy but at the end of the day it’s something we’ve got to at least tolerate for the moment. Real celebrities have wacko paparazzi stalking them and shooting photos from 2 km offshore and popping out of bushes and so all of the “lesser celebrities” of this world are just going to have to get used to at least a watered down version of that.
If you’re in public, people see you and sometimes they’re going to photograph you. I do it with a big, red shiny camera and you know about it and I go through later and pick the most flattering images or the ones that best represent the occasion but other people are going to be doing it voyeuristically with hidden or unseen cameras, using telephones or other gadgets that you don’t know are recording you and there is pretty much nothing you can do to stop them.
I for one am done with this business and quite frankly I’ll keep the photographs to myself for my own memories as I’d rather avoid the egotistical whining and mewling from certain people about how they weren’t caught in the absolutely most flattering light. And that’s my very long explanation (1,425 words) for the reason why I took all my photos offline from Facebook.
The good news, for all of you, is that all the photos on the blog both past and future, will remain as they’re either of my cats or other general shots of life in Romania and are unaffected by this recent development. Speaking of which, now that it’s springtime and the plants are coming back to life, time to break out the camera and get some new photographs, eh? Yes!