On tattoos and personal space

Jun 18 2011 Published by under Synaptic Misfires, Uncategorized

Some of you are aware that I have a really great tattoo. I love it. It's interesting, it's personal, it's artistic. In fact, it's SO interesting that I get comments on it every day. On any given day when it's exposed, I will get an average of four (low end 1, high end 20) people asking what it is or telling me how much they like it. I usually say thanks, cause I like it too! 🙂 Sometimes I walk around literally FEELING the eyes on my back, as people stare, trying to figure out what it is (most people think it's LSD. HAHAHAHAHA. Far too few rings, my friends). Of course I can cover it when I want, and when I don't really want people to talk to me, I do.

But when I do have it out and I'm walking around, I don't mind it being looked at. What I mind are the other eyes. The eyes of the cell phone cameras pointed at my back, accompanied by soft *click*s. The tourists pointing and then aiming their digital cameras. The hipsters giggling and aiming their cell phones, saying "I am SO putting that on Facebook".

I'm sorry, I didn't know this was YOUR tattoo I was wearing around.

Is it so very hard to ASK someone before you PHOTOGRAPH THEM? Is it so unheard of that maybe you ask someone's permission before pointing a camera? When people ASK to take a photo, I usually say yes. But somehow, most people don't ask to take a photo. I catch them as I turn around and they are pulling their phones down, embarrassed to be caught. Yeah, I'll bet you are.

So, this is just a PSA. You see a person walking around, and they look awesome for whatever reason. Say they have a cool tattoo, or interesting piercings, or cool tights, or something. And you think "I want to share this person with my friends". Please, be courteous, and ASK if they mind having their picture taken. Odds are, we know we look cool and we don't mind. But I, and my back, are not public property, and not asking before you click...is just rude.

20 responses so far

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Hahahah, you people crack me up. I mean seriously. "look at me, loook at meee...wait, not you"... Did you stop to think on this just a *smidge* when you were contemplating getting inked?

  • While I somewhat sympathize, this is the entire nature of the paparazzi industry. Permission is not required in public spaces.

  • Black_girl_scientist says:

    People don't touch your hair without permission. That is all.

  • genotopia says:

    While you are awesome, SciCurious, you're not Angelina Jolie. You're a private citizen. You (and I and everyone else with cool tattoos, interesting piercings, great tights, or whatever) therefore deserve a level of courtesy that someone who is famous for a living *voluntarily* relinquishes. As you say, it's not that you mind being photographed--it's people doing it without permission that irks. Amen. And yay for inked science nerds!

  • Bytor says:

    @DrugMonkey: You know what you said sounds an awful lot like? That police officer in Toronto, Constable Michael Sanguinetti, who that in order not to be victimized, "women should avoid dressing like sluts."

    Jut because somebody has a cool tattoo doesn't mean that it's OK for you to just go and take a picture of them and it without their permission. Permission may not be legally required but you should have some respect for the boundaries of others.

  • @genotopia I disagree with you that some people have more of an expectation of privacy than others. When we try to regulate who has the 'right' to not be photographed in public, we move in the direction of allowing the police to restrict people from recording them. And we know how well that is working.

    Now, I do agree that it is rude.

  • aek says:

    To take this issue in a slightly different direction, almost all Amish believe that it is not permissible to take photographs and to be subjects of photographs. If they agree to them, it is typically with their faces averted. However, they also partake in tourism - as businesses and as tourists, themselves. So they are in somewhat the same boat - having their photo taken without their knowledge and permission. What say you here?

    That said, they don't use their dress or appearance as body art, whereas tattoos fall into that category, if my impression is correct. So when art is displayed, unless there are specific instructions to the contrary, isn't media (video, photos, audio, etc.) capturing of it fair game?

    • scicurious says:

      Sure it's fair game. I am in a public space. It's not that they WANT to take pictures that upsets me, and if they ask, I'll pretty much always say yes. I just find it pretty rude not to be asked first before someone takes a picture of me.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    Riiiight bytor, it is exactly like that.

    • Namnezia says:

      No, it's not exactly like that, but it does sound an awful lot like it. You don't want to be one of the "well she was wearing a miniskirt, so I thought it was ok to take a picture of her legs" crowd, do you DM? 😉

    • Oneiric says:

      I mean seriously. "look at me, loook at meee...wait, not you"... Did you stop to think on this just a *smidge* when you were contemplating getting inked?

      You do see that your reasoning presupposes that Sci got the tattoo for 'attention', and therefore waives her right to choose what kind of attention (and in which context) she's okay with, right?

  • SeanH says:

    I'm pretty surprised that some people seem to side with the photographers here. IMO, it's impolite to take the picture of someone you do not know without asking permission no matter what they are wearing, doing, or have inked on their body.

  • I've mentioned it before, but let me repeat that I lurv your tattoo.

  • Vicki says:

    What should be obvious, but apparently isn't to at least some commenters here (as well as to people Scicurious is talking about): that something is legal, even if we agree it should be legal, doesn't mean it isn't rude, or that it's appropriate behavior.

    Taking photos of strangers without asking is often rude. And the people doing it seem to realize it, or they wouldn't be trying to conceal the camera or looking embarrassed, they'd be saying things like "Hey, I love your tattoo! I'm Pat, what's your name?"

    I am not a lawyer, but publishing the photos—and something like a Facebook posting likely counts—may not be legal even if the photos were taken in public, so the photography itself is protected. Someone who is hurriedly putting the camera away hasn't received, or asked for, a model release.

    And I don't think insisting that anyone has the right to photograph Sci's tattoo, or mine, without asking is going to keep the police from confiscating cameras or arresting photographers; most of the latter is extralegal already.

  • FrauTech says:

    Well I guess if you don't mind the attention and mind being looked at that I don't see how it's hypocritical (being photographed is a different thing, though we should all recognize we don't typically have a legal right NOT to be photographed in a public place.)

    It is interesting though that sci notes that when she doesn't want attention for it she covers it up...I feel like there's a metaphor there somewhere.

  • Kevin says:

    Even though I've seen a number of people with caffeine tattoos, yours is definitely awesomest because
    a) the design is far more intriguing and unique
    and
    b) you have a much better backstory than "I have coffee every morning."

  • barefootwriter says:

    I asked permission before snapping a pic of someone's baby broccoli in a community garden. I ask before I snap pics of people's dogs, even if the people aren't in them.

    Maybe a bit extreme, but they didn't belong to me to take pictures of, even if the broccoli and the dogs wouldn't have minded.

  • Alchemystress says:

    Touching a person without permission is called assault, rape, molestation, no matter what they look like or are wearing or have tattooed.

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