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Street photography is now unlawful in Germany

As Germans are getting ever more tetchy about the protection of their public persona laws are becoming more stringent.

Most street photography showing identifiable persons is now illegal and can’t be taken and published lawfully.

The reasoning is that the individual holds the right the control their public image.

Fair enough to a degree, but laws against discrimination and defamation already exist and are well supported in Germany.

Consent needs to be sought of the people shown in the photographs but must be sought before taking the image.

Because the responsibility of proof of consent lies with the photographer the consent should be in writing.

This renders natural and candid street photography mostly impossible.

I have personally noticed that it is becoming more difficult to take images of people without their taking offense.

Recently I have been asked to delete images that showed two people enjoying a ferry trip even though there was nothing of concern recorded in the images.

On a previous trip I had a glass of Cola thrown at me, ruining a lens.

I never had these kind of reactions in New Zealand, the UK or Asia.

In virtually all cases people seemed happy to be photographed (or at least didn’t object) and even actively encouraged it.

The approach and attitude of the photographer generally decides if street photographs will be created without causing offense.

Please check out the image of the boy on the bicycle in the post below.

This image, a spontaneous street portrait, is illegal to be taken and published in Germany even though the boy rode into the picture with purpose and stopped to be photographed.

Because the boy is likely under age (younger than 18 years) consent would have to be sought from his parents before taking the image.

No spontaneous – and thereby natural – street photography can happen under such circumstances.

Real-life images – that are not manipulated to flatter the individual – would become very difficult to create and publish.

Street photography is already a little regarded genre of photography in Germany  and will be further diminished.

A layer of German  social and public life is likely to remain unphotographed and an important pictorial record lost.

Images can be published outside of Germany (for example on this New Zealand based website) without infringing the law (as New Zealand doesn’t have this law), although taking the images in Germany in the first place remains unlawful.

Any German can access this website and view the images making the law somewhat difficult to police.

Images in the styles of  for example Cartier-Bresson (France) and Martin Parr (England) would no longer be possible in Germany without breaking the law.

Many photographers and art/photography historians might argue that the honesty and integrity of images that show real slices of life is exactly what photography should be about, and what the medium of photography is so well suited to.

My position is that the new laws have gone too far and that my freedom of expression is being infringed.

The publication of images has always been based on the subjective judgement of individuals.

Most photographers, editors, publishers and authors do not intend to harm individuals and generally base their decisions on convention, ethics and demand.

Artists and professional image creators should be allowed to record their impressions of the world without fearing repercussions by the law.

What the current law will do is turn some creatives – with the best intentions of capturing their public and social environments – into criminals and to push the street photography scene underground.

What is most silly about this law is that the paparazzi style of photography – viewed by many as one of the most unethical genre of photography – is granted an exception under this law as the law recognises that publically known figures, and so called celebrities, can expect to be photographed due to their public interest.

In the end the law applies to the every day life and activities that are part of the social and public fabric of this country and of ordinary Germans.

It would be sad to not have a photographic history of this important aspect of German life.

Wind turbines – mechanical giants that overshadow the German countryside

It is easy to walk around the German countryside and imagine oneself back a century or two.

While one can expect change in a country over a quarter of a century, some of what has happened is at odds with itself.

In many parts of the country nothing appears to have changed. The same country lanes, forests, fields and age old buildings that have stood for centuries.

Yet in my travels across varying regions of Germany one recent addition stands out like the proverbial sore thumb.

The wind turbine.

It seems that everywhere there is a small rise in the land – a hill, ridge, mountain side – there is a wind turbine.

In some areas there are so many it is difficult to count them.

At first I wasn’t sure what to think.

The turbines are oddly sculptural and there is a certain aesthetic to them when viewed in the right light. The gentle and concerted movement of the many blades first struck me as meditative and somewhat mesmerising.

But they are completely out of context with their surroundings, and they make a decent racket when cutting through the wind.

Having lived with these constructions for a month I’m convinced they’re ugly and a blight on the landscape.

I’d be surprised if the (generally) environmentally aware Germans would have easily allowed the infestation of these things without some significant protest.

The turbines must  have crept up in a slow but steady manner to catch the population off guard. Or there must have been some very good arguments by the government to convince people to let the landscape be changed in this way.

I guess with many Germans being anti-nuclear it is  easy to see the government being able to present wind energy in a positive and less threatening light.

But if this is supposed to be environmentally friendly and green technology then I’m personally wondering if the material for construction, industrial energy and manpower needed to make and install these things has been calculated into the carbon/energy foot print.

What about the visual pollution? I assume it doesn’t count if it can’t be measured?

I’m truly glad that New Zealand has an anti-nuclear policy, but I hope that the government will have a close look at the German countryside before adopting a widespread distribution of these ugly machines. Perhaps there are better alternatives.

Otherwise New Zealand’s search for renewable energy might lead to a wholesale destruction of significant parts of the New Zealand environment.