Dying for a photograph
Did you know that males who take lots of selfies are more than statistically likely to be psychopaths and/or narcissists? Learn something new every day.
Selfies are often meant to glorify, well, oneself, so the narcissism notion makes intuitive sense anyway.
As you might know, taking selfies can be dangerous, too.
An excellent, well-written (and I must say, pretty darn mature for the Internet) article at Priceonomics called "The Tragic Data Behind Selfie Fatalities" tracks fatalities associated with selfie self-glorifying.
It won't surprise you that the median dead self is 21 and male, which, as the father of a just-turned-23-year-old, I have to say does throw a bit of a scare into my heart. I don't think my son takes a lot of selfies, though, so maybe he's safe.
And I don't think he's ever been in India, where more selfie-related deaths happen than anywhere else (it appears to be connected to the danger of drowning, which is high in India.)
A 17-year-old Russian teenager identified only as Andrey R., weeks before he fell nine stories to his death while attempting a daredevil selfie.
After laying out the statistics and some examples, author Zachary Crockett adds, "Then there are the truly bizarre cases: The 21-year-old Mexican man who accidentally shot himself in the head while taking a selfie with a gun. The Cessna pilot who crashed, killing both himself and a passenger, after his cellphone selfies led him to lose control of the aircraft. The two Russian teens who blew themselves up while posing for a selfie with a live grenade in the Ural Mountains. The man who attempted a selfie at the running of the bulls festival in Spain and was fatally gored in the neck."
As regular readers know, I hate irony. And here's a big one. I think the title says it all: "With Corbis Sale, Tiananmen Protest Images Go to Chinese Media Company." Ouch. Of course everybody's jumping up and down to reassure anyone who will listen that there's nothing wrong here, that everything will be hunky-dory and keep on truckin' as normal. But I wonder how that feels to the photojournalists who risked their lives to get the Tiananmen photographs.
Corbis, which was founded by and up till recently owned by Bill Gates, also includes the Sygma Collection and the Betteman Archive.
Easier? Hold on there, hoss
And here's another irony. As we all know, photography has taken a quantum leap in convenience and easiness over the past twenty years—after decades of striving and struggling to find ways to make sharp, clear color pictures with a minimum of expense and effort, the floodgates opened and the "digital tsunami" was unleashed on an unsuspecting world, which is still more than a little unsure how to make sense of it all and sort it into a coherent culture. By the best, albeit still very rough, estimates, humans were making six billion photographs annually in the United States the year I got into photography seriously, 1980. The latest estimates of photos taken range between one and ten trillion per year.
But at the same time, the climate for photographers out in the world doing their work has become much, much worse. Suspicion and hostility are rampant; often, even the police don't know the laws; and, increasingly, photographers are being seen as a resource to exploit—a recent (2010) article from The Australian called "Not a Good Look" includes an account of a photographer being charged money to take a photograph of a sunset.
So is photographing getting easier, or harder? Easier in some ways, yes, but don't overlook the other side of the coin.
The article is a long one, but I recommend it to anyone who's interested in what it means to be a photographer today.
(Thanks to John Hogg and Carl Weese)
Original contents copyright 2016 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved. Links in this post may be to our affiliates; sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
Kefyn Moss: "I have to admit I was shocked to read The Australian article 'Not a Good Look' as I live in Cairns and have been taking photographs here for a long time with never a single hassle. I don't tend to do much 'street' photography here, but mostly because it's just boring little Cairns to me. I have definitely taken quite a few pictures at or near the lagoon mentioned in the article within the last few years, sometimes with a tripod, and never had a problem (including at sunrise and sunset).
"Nevertheless, whenever I return from overseas back to Australia, I am always hit with the impression of it being excessively controlled and regulated in comparison to the places I have visited. However, those same places have complaints by the locals in the same vein which I didn't experience, so in perspective, our home environments are sometimes the most oppressive and most people just don't notice it.
"It seems all the more ridiculous for a city like Cairns to be doing something like this when tourism is the lifeblood and sole reason for its modern existence. The photographers mentioned in the piece use large cameras and would be instantly pegged as 'professional' but as I mentioned, I have used a tripod there before without anyone saying a thing. Just lucky?"
Kenneth Wajda (partial comment): "We live in times when it's tough to be male with a camera, but I'm still going out to shoot on the street. I keep the camera in plain sight, and shoot like I belong there, working on a story—which I am—and people assume I do. I also worked for years as a photojournalist for a daily newspaper, so I have that confidence from frequently shooting in public spaces. Fearfulness and hiding our camera is the thing that we must avoid. I sometimes walk with my camera to my eye for a whole city block. That tells people you're shooting and they come to accept it. Other times, I just walk with it around my neck and shoot without picking it up to my eye. Both work great.
"Own the street. We have a right to be there."
John Robison: "Ten trillion! That's mind boggling. I think about my output—more recently 4x5, and since I really can't afford film I'm shooting paper negs—is about six or eight a week. Well at least, it's cheap fun. I sometimes take a snap or two with my iPhone, after having it about six months I think I have about 100 pictures on it. Ten trillion. (Shakes head, is distracted by sudden idea for next paper negative, moves on.)"
Mike replies: :-)
Graham Smith: "I feel I should provide some balance to the article 'Not A Good Look' that Mike has linked to in his post. It was written five and a half years ago and although some points are valid in any context the article generally is a highly exaggerated account of the position of amateur photographers then, and most certainly now.
"Some councils and authorities do impose restrictions and fees on commercial photography at various sites in their jurisdiction but I can assure all TOP readers who are contemplating a visit to Australia that you will be able to freely take pictures of The Opera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge, Bondi Beach and Uluru (and far more tourist sites than your memory cards will hold!) all without a fee.
"Members of my camera club regularly go on Urban Landscape outings around the city of Melbourne. We photograph inside and outside public buildings and except where security is an issue we are never questioned. The only rules that will apply are the ones of common sense. Don't intrude on anyone's privacy. If in doubt—ask. Don't photograph children without asking their parents permission. I have followed those guidelines in all my travels around Australia, and overseas, with little disappointment.
"And as the person in the article being charged a fee to a photograph of a sunset—did you really believe that? My parents had a wonderful old saying when people got a little excited (as the two main photographers in the article—Dupain and Duncan—seem to be): 'They should have a cup of tea, a Bex (mild sedative for headaches) and a good lie down.' If you come to Australia—you wont be disappointed. And you will go away with some wonderful photographs to remember your trip!"
Doug Thacker (partial comment): "Back when Gates was acquiring the Betteman Archive, and subsequent archives, it was presented in the press as an act of corporate or oligarchic stewardship. I remember reading an article that went into some detail about the climate controlled vault he'd had built for the purpose deep inside a mountain. Made it sound like the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Saving Our Photographic Heritage For the Good of All Humanity. (I heard that when Gates made the recent deal he offered to include for a small surcharge his own mother's heart, but the Chinese didn't want to pay the freight.) Oh, well. Probably in safer hands at this point with the Chinese."
John Gordon: "Re Australia, Andrew Nemeth, photographer and lawyer, has written an excellent article summarising the law here. It is not quite as bad as the article makes it sound. Two extracts: 'As Justice Dowd put it with ruthless clarity in R v Sotheren (2001) NSWSC 204: "A person, in our society, does not have a right not to be photographed."' 'In Australia most forms of "unauthorised" photography have in fact been authorised since the 1937 High Court decision in Victoria Park Racing v. Taylor (1937) 58 CLR 479 (at p.496). This was reaffirmed recently in ABC v Lenah (2001) HCA 63, where the Court ruled that despite the passage of decades since Victoria Park, any concept of a "Tort of invasion of privacy" still does not exist in Australia.'"
Stuart: "While public reaction to photography and the hysteria around public photography is a problem, the increasing difficulty of taking images in a public space is also symptomatic of the larger problem of the increasing privatisation of public space. This exerts a greater level of control of action, unfettered by concerns about freedom of expression. Here is an excellent piece about this in The Guardian."