Last year I wrote about the phenomenon of audience members taking digital photographs of slides during a talk at a conference or department seminar. I also discussed an example in which a speaker's mother ran around a conference room taking dozens of distracting flash photos of a speaker, her daughter.
Recently I observed something new related to photography during a talk: an audience member who took photos of a speaker he did not know personally.
Photography Man (whose name I don't know in real life) doesn't work at my university, but I've seen him at talks in my department before, and I have seen him take pictures of slides projected on the screen in front of the room. Until recently, however, I had never seen him take pictures of a speaker before.
I happen to know that he does not know the speaker personally and did not even meet her in person during her visit to my department. Yet he took a lot of photographs of her during her talk.
I was sitting a few rows behind him and became increasingly disturbed as he took photo after photo of the speaker, especially when she stepped out from behind a podium. The photo-man took some images that didn't even include her face -- just her torso. Then I watched him examine some of these photos, zooming in so that an image of her chest filled the screen.
This made me angry. I hardly listened to the question-and-answer session after the talk because I was thinking about what I would say to this man when we got out of our seats.
But then he left the talk as soon as it was over, before I could get over to him. I asked some of the people (all men) who had been sitting near me if they had noticed his photography activity. They had noticed, and also thought it strange that he was taking so many pictures of someone he didn't know.
These are public lectures and there are no official rules about audience behavior, although the expectation is that the audience won't be too disruptive. But does the fact that these are public lectures give any audience member the right to photograph a speaker without permission? I don't know, but I found this particular photographic episode disturbing.
If I see Photography Man again, perhaps I will ask him if he had requested the speaker's permission to take [anatomical] photographs of her. Maybe he will be sufficiently embarrassed and not do it anymore. Maybe he will dismiss my comments and continue with his speaker-voyeurism. Maybe I will ask his permission for me to take a photo of him taking a [headless] photo of a female speaker and then post my photo of him on the internet.
6 months ago