I have conquered The Met.
Two of my works have made it to the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. Consider this as an invitation to the exhibit as it opens on the 20th of this month. My photos, ‘LEAP’ and ‘QUIAPO UNDERPASS’, were taken with artistic intents only and nothing more. But of course, if those images could pay the rent, that would be a bonus.
Now the sad news is, I may no longer be able to go around doing street shots the way I do. There is this looming bill in Congress which appears to be crafted in order to shut down shutterbugs.
House Bill 4807 — called the Protection Against Personal Intrusion Act — prohibits taking visual or sound impressions of unsuspecting individuals with the intent to gain or profit therefrom. Plainly put, this outlaws taking photos or videos of people without their consent through the use of modern devices such as cameras, videocams and smartphones. The bill aims to ‘promote and protect the personal privacy of every person by preventing intrusion for commercial purposes, and enjoining everyone to respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of every person.’
Respect. Privacy. Intrusion. I agree.
Some photographers have gone too far with their gears. There are in fact, cameras — aside from spy cams — which are, in many ways, designed for, well — furtive shots. They’re lightweight, more handy, and has faster and totally silent shutters. Perfectly stealthy. Any jackass can get his hands on these things. Not to mention the powerful lenses used by voyeurs and paparazzis who are hell-bent on intruding people’s private moments for whatever purpose it may served them. House Bill 4807 will curb these photography misdeeds if not eradicate them completely.
Unfortunately — however good the intent of this bill is — I would like to raise some bones of contentions here:
- The bill will curtail press freedom.
- And freedom of expression too.
- Consent doesn’t go with photojournalism in most cases. How does a journalist ask for consent from, say, an angry mob?
- This will make news photos and videos illegal. Do you stop media outfits from documenting actions of officials and minimize journalists’ access to information and proofs?
- The danger here is when hideous organizations/elements or the police itself prevent reporters from taking photos of their actions.
- Tourists may get caught up in this law and — worse — give another blow to tourism.
- How do you ask permission from people in picturesque places? Or do you simply wait till the frame is cleared of every single body?
- Does it apply to CCTV cameras? Because it takes videos and pictures of me without my consent.
- How about TV cameras? Because they take close-up shots of audiences in a ballgame without their consent as well.
- The bill could be used as a tool for suppression.
Of all the creeps this House Bill is stirring, my greatest concern now is what will happen to STREET PHOTOGRAPHY in this land should 4807 comes into law. This genre of photography features the very subject the bill aims to ‘protect’ — people. Human scenes in public places.
CONSENT doesn’t go with street photography. While I don’t have any trouble in asking strangers for a photo (in fact with the right approach you will be amazed how people can be so accommodating) the result wouldn’t go anywhere near street photography. SP is more than a snapshot. It is about capturing people’s emotions and actions candidly. It is about documenting the life of our times genuinely and exhibiting it as it is. And since there is a clear amount of intrusiveness in doing Streets, no question the artistic expression would go head-on with the bill.
As of this writing, 4807 is on its third reading. And we’re hanging on to every word.
Latest: The lawmaker gave in to the people’s demand yesterday, Sept. 11, 2014 and has withdrawn his support for his own bill. (Weird as a dream, this is how they do it in Congress) But of course, this doesn’t mean House Bill 4807 is laid to rest.