GENTLE READER: Don’t you think it shows that he has a job touting this product and is going to drop off samples everywhere he can? In that case, Miss Manners would count it as a double transgression: annoying your friends and exploiting them.
It is possible, she supposes, that he is merely running around bestowing presents. That would be merely bizarre.
But whether he is exploiting people or overwhelming them, he seems to have a problem with social boundaries that goes beyond the transgression of dropping in without warning. Miss Manners suggests that you address the deeper issue instead of requiring him to annoy your friends with telephone calls.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I took a picture of a little girl wearing the most incredibly beautiful dress today, and it caused a problem that I have been mulling over ever since.
To set the scene: It was in a public place, where many children were splashing about in the shallow area near a bridge. When I saw this little girl wading around in a gorgeous silky dress with sequin details, I was reminded of my own daughter, who went out to play wearing green sweats and sparkly ruby slippers.
I took a picture, and then a mother approached me looking upset and asked if I had taken a picture of her daughter. I assumed it was her daughter in the dress and said I had taken a picture because I liked the dress.
She told me she was disturbed by that, and I offered to erase the photos since she seemed so bothered. I apologized again after I had erased the photos. Since then, I have been wondering what the ethics of this are. She was in a public place, fully clothed. Why was this wrong?
Am I now supposed to erase my memory? I am an artist, and it was beautiful. Suppose I made a painting of this? I actually now feel unjustly accused, but then I am not raising a child in this new Internet environment.
GENTLE READER: In a society where nearly everyone carries a telephone with a camera every day, and hardly anyone is safe from being shown on social media, privacy is a difficult concept to explain.
The mother you encountered would probably put it in terms of danger. Yet even aside from that element, people do still expect a certain amount of privacy, even when they are out in public. Tourists who go around photographing people for “local color” are notorious; in some places, “natives” feel exploited enough to demand payment when used as models.
Still, Miss Manners is not without sympathy for your artistic interests. She only asks that when you photograph someone close enough to be recognizable, you first explain what you are doing and then obtain permission. In the case of children, you should obtain parental permission to photograph them in any context.
Will this inhibit your art? Somewhat. But as you are also a painter, it might inspire you to greater imaginativeness.
Visit Miss Manners at her Web site, www.missmanners.com, where you can send her your questions.
@ 2011, by Judith Martin
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