Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Taking Photographic Liberties

One of the problems with digital cameras, mobiles, tablets is that they have removed the element of cost. Once upon a time, in the days of everyone using film, a fair degree of discretion was required. Don't go wasting a shot, because you've not only paid to take it, you will also have to pay to print it. There was also the limited number of shots per reel. That little counter would click ominously towards zero. Digital has thus dispensed with discretion, as storage has multiplied astronomically the number of shots at the photographer's disposal. What did it used to be? Typically thirty, something like that?

While there are clearly enormous advantages from digital, there are also the downsides. One of these is if you happen to be unfortunate enough to be the victim of someone who insists on showing you the entire catalogue of snaps of their holiday or simply their day out.

Yes, it's happened to me, as it has no doubt happened to you. Visitor X pitches up, produces the digital device and hotfoots it to the nearest seaside location. On return, there are hundreds of items of evidence of the excursion. How many times can one person take roughly the same photo of, say, Puerto Pollensa's pinewalk or boats in the Alcudiamar? Hundreds indeed. It's not a case so much of familiarity with the subject breeding contempt as of ennui. For God's sake, whatever you do, don't show me another damn snap of part of a pine tree hanging in the foreground against the backdrop of Pollensa Bay.

Among this mountainous archive of the repetitious can occasionally be the unfamiliar. "Look at the composition with the bougainvillea," announces Visitor X with a passion that is sadly difficult to reciprocate. "Oh yes, lovely." It's not the bougainvillea which is unfamiliar - there's enough of that around to fill the entire digital storage capacity of all devices for sale in a large electronics retail outlet. It's what the bougainvillea belongs to. Someone's house.

Although never having been so uncharitable as to say so, my reaction to photos of people's property is always the same: is it not just a little bit intrusive? Often has been the time when I've seen a tourist stop and snap a villa, its garden, its bougainvillea. I have also seen tourists help themselves to conveniently unlocked gates. Getting nearer does so help with composition, doesn't it.

A former neighbour of mine once grew so sick and tired of her property being invaded that she had a wall built. I never found out, but the town hall probably eventually latched onto this and slapped a fine for not having got permission; that's the sort of thing town halls do. But the obstacle of a wall became necessary in the quest for privacy and indeed non-trespass.

While I suppose I can understand the impulse to photograph houses, villas, gardens and what have you - there are, after all, some fabulous properties knocking around - I'm not one of those inclined to do so. It can seem like taking a bit of a liberty, and an even greater one if the photographing involves wandering across somebody's lawn.

It can seem that everything is fair game for the digital snapper, who then decides to take advantage of another great digital downside: the sheer inability to not then share the photo on social networks. Which brings me to Wikiloc.

If you are unfamiliar with Wikiloc, I should explain that it is a social network community for those who wish to share routes (walking, cycling, what have you) and geolocate them for digital devices. Which is all fair enough. Part of this route-sharing frenzy can be and is the use of photos. Well, of course, if you want to show a route, it's not much use if you can't actually see it.

But lurking within this route-sharing is potential intrusiveness, and so into this story enters the case of the Fartàrix finca in Pollensa. The administrator of this finca insisted that an image of the actual building be removed from Wikiloc. A hiker had uploaded it, and the administrator said that it was a violation of data protection law and of privacy. The hiker responded by pointing out that the landscape belongs to everyone and so can be photographed, which wasn't what the administrator was driving at. The photo in question couldn't have been taken from the public way. It could only have been taken from the garden.

I don't know that photographing a property can constitute a breach of data protection law, but sharing it may do; m'learned friends would know better than me. Trespass is another matter. So all in all, good on the finca administrator. The only trouble is of course that people now know about the finca; I, for one, had never previously heard of it.

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