Question: I’m visiting France this fall and planning to take lots of photos. I hear there are laws against taking pictures of people. Is that true? Could I get into trouble for taking a snapshot of a person, even if it’s accidental?
Answer: You could. When I was in Paris a few months ago, a friend told me the story of his aunt, who he described as an “attractive” woman. She was at the French Riviera on vacation when she noticed a man taking her photo. She confronted him and demanded that he open the camera, exposing the film to light.
Ah, the French and their privacy laws.
Try that in the States and they’ll ignore you — which is when something like this happens.
I’m still shaking my head at this video, filmed at Hammonasset State Park in Madison, Conn., recently. This photographer’s “crime” was flying a quadcopter over a beach and shooting video. The drone-flying shutterbug was reportedly arrested, but police released him after he showed them this video, in which the woman is shown to be the aggressor.
In France, she might have been right. Here in the good ol’ U.S. of A., not so much.
I’ll never forget the case of the American tourist in Paris who was assaulted because of his photography hobby. I’m not lovin’ it.
But seriously, here’s the bottom line: You could get into trouble for pointing a camera at anyone anywhere. Sure, French laws favor the privacy-conscious, but the concept of privacy transcends borders. If you want to get a close-up picture of a Parisian, it’s better to ask for permission. It’s also true in New York, Vegas and London.
It’s just the polite thing to do.
If someone says, “Non,” then I recommend walking away, unless you’re a paparazzo and she’s Miley Cyrus.
You can’t really have a reasonable expectation of privacy in a big city, what with surveillance cameras everywhere. Even in a city that is said to respect the privacy of its citizens, who are they kidding?
You stroll through the park, they have you on camera. You walk into the Metro, they have you on camera. You run a red light, they have you on camera.
This spring, I traipsed through Paris with a massive piece of Canon hardware and a long lens slung around my neck, and I shot at anything that moved. No one said a word. Maybe they mumbled something about a stupid tourist under their breath, but if they did, I didn’t hear it. I took pictures of buildings, animals, people — all from a polite and respectful distance.
With a little common sense, you won’t get yourself arrested, or assaulted when you visit the City of Light this autumn.