Privacy. The ability to have your own personal space, thoughts, actions, and components of your life without the intrusion of others.
Privacy. The ability to give away pieces of yourself only when asked.
Privacy. Why, if someone drove by my house and started shooting pictures of my yard, myself, my window, I would call the police.
We demand privacy. We expect privacy. So why is it so hard for us to forget about privacy when travelling?
We drive by houses in rural Tanzania and, because the Masaii look different than us, we point and shoot our cameras. Better if we can capture a Masaii herder, too!
How would you feel if a stranger started shooting pics of you and your house?
We see the most adorable child so we immediately start snatching her picture, without asking permission from the parent. Or even the child.
How would you feel if some stranger started randomly taking a picture of your kid?
We take away dignity from individuals every time we point and shoot, without the basic courtesy of asking permission. We take away dignity from individuals every time we point and shoot, without thinking about the person impacted by the picture. We take away dignity from individuals every time we point and shoot, and immediately upload to social media, so that this person, who we do not know, now has their image portrayed across the internet.
I was traveling just outside Jinja, Uganda, on my way to see the River Nile, when I caught glimpses of a pineapple market and started taking pictures. A man on a bicycle raced up to me and angrily asked did you just take a picture of me? what are you going to do with this? why? I showed him my camera and the pictures I had taken, not of him, but of the pineapples.
He smiled and we began chatting. Because his village is on the way to the river, many tourists pass by and take pictures of their community. Although his English level didn’t allow him to put it into proper words, what he described to me was feelings of exploitation. Villagers didn’t like that people were just snapping pictures of them living their daily lives. And they really didn’t like that people would not even say ‘hello’ before, or after, taking these photos.
A community in Senegal I visited believed that taking a picture of someone is stealing their soul. Imagine your inner turmoil if some stranger were to visit your country and take your soul from within you. Imagine the feelings of parents watching, helplessly, as the soul of their child is snatched by a stranger.
Pictures are wonderful tools for capturing memories and showing others what we saw and experienced. I’m very pro-picture. But having spent considerable time with less fortunate individuals who are often that unknown face in a picture taken by a stranger, I encourage you to ask these questions before you take that picture on your next vacation:
Did I ask permission from the person whose picture I am taking?
Would I feel comfortable if a stranger came to my community and took this picture of me?
Am I respecting this person’s dignity through their right to privacy?
The first question, asking permission, is the easiest way to avoid any issues. Just ask! Often times people don’t mind at all…and light up at the fact that you respected them enough to ask!
Remember, the Golden Rule: Do until others as you would have them do unto you. We expect others to respect our own privacy; so lets respect the privacy of others, even when travelling.