Is Twitter Attacking the Freedoms of the Street Photography?

It’s been over a week since Twitter decided to give more power to people who don’t want unconsented images of them shared on the platform. News outlets worldwide rushed to push the news out to their readers. The Phoblographer and I decided to wait. We waited because Twitter’s latest policy decision impacts something I love: street photography. And I didn’t want to write about the topic based on impulse. So, now that the dust has settled, here are my two cents on the matter.

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How Twitter’s Rules Impact Street Photography

“Sharing personal media, such as images or videos, can potentially violate a person’s privacy, and may lead to emotional or physical harm,” read a blog post made by the social media company. There’s nothing wrong with that statement. I agree that the impact of sharing media of a person without their consent can lead to distress. So what does Twitter intend to do?

People can report images of themselves shared on Twitter if they did not consent to it happening. What happens next is unclear. But because street photographs tend to share images without the subject’s knowledge, this new move could make it harder for them to share their work on the platform.

Millions of photographs from all walks of life are shared every day. So the chances of a person ever coming across an image of themselves are slim. But the new policy does send out a message that people, including street photographers, need to reflect on their actions before sharing a photograph on the internet.

Is This Good For Street Photography

The policy will likely divide the street photography community. While everyone loves the craft, not every day shares the same opinions and ethics on how it should be practiced. Some street photographers are old school. Anything goes as long as it remains within the realms of legalities. Others feel certain subjects should not be photographed, or at least, not shared online.

I tend to be in the middle. A center stance, in my opinion, is the best position to have. It allows you to see both sides of the spectrum and helps find a more balanced way forward. Going back to Twitter’s new policy, I think the street photography community should use it as a time to reflect on how we approach sharing images in the future.

When we look at the trendsetters, the trailblazers, the Henri Cartier-Bresson’s and the Diane Arbus’, we see their freedom to distribute their street photography as something the community should always fight to protect. But things are different now. We live in a completely different society, and the way we share photography is completely different too.

Do you think Cartier-Bresson could share a photograph on a Tuesday afternoon, and it have the potential to be viewed by millions of people? Absolutely not. Today, your average street photographer may have had their work viewed more times than the greats that built our genre. The nature of the beast has evolved, and with it, we must reflect on how we behave and distribute candid images of people made without their consent.

To avoid confusion. I’m not suggesting we should question the right to make images. But the right to share them freely needs to be reviewed. So, what’s the solution?

Solution And Final Thought

Twitter’s latest policy tweak is likely going to evolve. Right now, we can share the images, but that may change in the future. So, street photographers can show some understanding, dare I say it, empathy, by making moves to help protect what we do. If you make a candid image of people who are easily identifiable, say a couple embracing in a hug, for example, show to it them and ask them if you have permission to share it on Twitter. You can have a contract on your person and ask them to sign it if they agree to let you share the image.

Does it spoil the game of street photography? In a way, yes. We love to hunt, catch, and move on. But the pressure will continue to be put on us. And maybe it’s time to no longer fight every restriction we’re faced with and instead try to adapt to keep doing what we love.

Another solution would be to ambadon the platform and hope the likes of Facebook and Instagram don’t follow suit. Or, just take the risk that the image won’t be spotted by the subject. Either way, something has to done.

What do you think of Twitter’s new policy? How do you think the street photography community should react? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Dan Ginn

Dan Ginn is a content writer and journalist. He brings with him five years' experience writing in the photographic niche. During that time he has worked with a range of leading brands, as well as a host of professional photographers within the industry.