Pictures, Permission, and Citizen Paparazzi

With the rise of social media, there has been the rise of photographers and people exploring their artistic side and being able to share it on platforms around the world. This is great for everyone who could not afford to fiscally pursue a career in the arts, or simply did not want to do it full time. With the 2016 American presidential campaign, we saw how damaging that could be, as anyone could post anything, and it was here that we really got the gage of how far misinformation could go. While the misinformation that could spread unchecked has been the source of endless discourse and even court and congressional hearings, the fact that anything could be posted of anyone regardless of whether they have put themselves in the public eye or not has rarely made the news.

Having worked in most major London museums because of my historical background, this has been a significant problem that is increasingly having to be faced as a safeguarding issue. And social media has not made it the slightest bit easier. This has been especially the case in people and visitors attempting (and sometimes succeeding) in taking pictures of young children in order to get the ‘cute’ factor for their feed. Usually, once caught, we call security and have them removed. However, this is not always possible, and honestly, the social media community, for the most part, does not call people to account for this.

Moreover, this affects children of colour and women of colour disproportionately as well as the vulnerable, because they are perceived as somehow ‘exceptional.’ This was the explanation I was given when I caught a visitor (I’m 5ft nothing) trying to take a picture of me when he was pretending to take a selfie. I guess my all-black outfit, including my hijab and purple lipstick on the day, weren’t exactly ‘normal,’ but that was not permitted. 

I had another encounter like that where I told a visitor no three times, and then when they wouldn’t listen, I told their partner. They had an argument in my gallery and left. I laugh about it now, but I was an adult, fully aware, and fully able. So, I was able to do something about it. Not everyone is, and being able to exercise that right is not always there. Now when I say, pictures let me be clear. I do not mean pictures where no one person is the object, and you are in a crowded place, and someone happens to be in it but is not identifiable. I mean, when you take an unauthorised picture of someone with the excuse of it’s ‘nice,’ and instead of offering it to them then and there you post it on social media for thousands if not millions to see. Once the person sees it, whether they like it or not, the picture is out there. Irrevocably a part of the internet and other peoples’ feeds, albums, group messages, whatever it is. 

I saw an interesting interaction about this a little while ago after the tragedy of Notre Dame burning down. Having visited the monument as both a historian and a tourist, I was obviously disheartened by the fire and the fact that a lot could not be saved. 


However, someone had taken the opportunity to take a picture of what appears to be a father, and their son and share are far and wide across the internet through twitter in order ‘to get it to them.’ Neither seems to have been POC, but still, they are human, and it is obvious that no permission was sought and that even if the parent was happy to receive the picture, in the end, there was really no other choice. It was out there. In this vein, someone had posted on a public platform Instagram that was this not strange? For someone to think it was okay to take a picture of a parent and a child? And it was interestingly an exchange between two women. ( I blocked out their usernames) The other had turned vitriolic in the face of someone asking why it was an acceptable act to commit, which you can see in the picture provided. But my question is, why is it? No organisation can publish something without permission. Why are individuals who now stand to gain any different?

Why do people like this without looking at the background and context? And should not be mindful consumers of content? You cannot feel it when someone takes a picture of you without asking. But if you do not want it happening to you. Why would you support someone who is exploiting an image of another? Especially now that most of us are stuck indoors, and perhaps using social media more than ever.

Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.

Our name is poking fun at the stereotype that all Asians are overachievers, especially Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. It’s also in recognition of all of us who have had no choice but to be overachievers: managing societal expectations, family obligations, and educational opportunities, all while fighting the patriarchy.

We have grown since then, putting out bimonthly issues (we are contributor powered: apply to write for our next one!), and weekly reviews of culture, and news that is important to us.

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We do not claim to speak for all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities. We are just here to give them a place to speak for themselves.

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