I know these days basically everyone, in the first world, owns some kind of mobile phone device. The youth get criticised by older generations for constantly having their faces glued to their screens and not partaking in the real outside world. I agree– mobile phones can suck a lot of reality’s beauty from right under our noses. Partly, it is our fault, and partly it is society’s, boredom, a strive for connection or communication. There’s plenty of good reasons that we can blame for this technological takeover.
However, that all aside, our mobile phones are quite personal. You wouldn’t let just anyone browse through your messages or photos. The icons on your screen are organised in a particular way to suit your certain brain pattern. You have set a certain image for your home screen, a certain image for your lock screen– and regardless of how simple this meagre decision may look, it means something to you. You selected a certain message tone, ring tone, alarm bell. Your music library, your collection of apps. All of these things come together and create the space that is YOUR mobile phone and nobody else’s.
When we’re on our phones, and yes, somewhat sucked into a deep cyber space, we are in a world that we ourselves created. When you’re “alone” in a public space and retreat to your mobile device for solace, you are entering a world that is you. Where you can tap into social media or messages to contact family and friends, where you can use social media to browse, or google, or check the weather so you can organise your afternoon plans. Check your bank account so you can buy that dress you can’t really afford. It’s all about you when you’re in that media space. It’s personal, whether you’re surrounded by lots of people or not.
While I was waiting for my takeaway coffee at a cafe in town, I noticed a young man sitting at a table, waiting for his coffee, while browsing freely on his mobile phone. I politely asked him if I could take his photo for a university assignment, and briefly explained what it was about and what I would be discussing. He seemed to think it was a fairly interesting and relevant topic of discussion and politely obliged. I asked him to continue browsing on his phone, just like before, as if I wasn’t there. It took him a few moments to stop cracking a smile, and here we are:
I then asked him if he wouldn’t mind telling me what he was looking at. He said he was just scrolling through Instagram, somewhat aimlessly, while he waiting for his beverage and his friend to meet him. It was just a means of keeping busy.
Colberg (2013) discusses the differences between ethical and legal consent in regards to street photography. The lines cross over quite a bit, when it comes to paparazzi taking photos of celebrities (which people deem as okay and our right– they are subject to this because of they are a public figure) and then with the every day public. Personally, I think the ethics come strongly into play as soon as the image is subject to publication. When asking my subject to be photographed I made it very clear that this image would be published on my blog, which is accessed by the public but mainly viewed but university students and staff. I told him that he was more than welcome to remain anonymous, which he agreed to.
Colberg, J. (2013). Conscientious Extended | The Ethics of Street Photography. [online] Jmcolberg.com. Available at: http://jmcolberg.com/weblog/extended/archives/the_ethics_of_street_photography/ [Accessed 3 Oct. 2016].