Sunday, April 30, 2006

Privacy vs. Photographs

I have been thinking a lot about the sex offender registry and the concerns about invasion of privacy that it brings up. I’ve been connecting it in my mind to the case studies we talked about in class quite a while ago- the case study about the photograph of the man falling from the world trade center and the the case study about the picture of the girls falling from the fire escape. Something about these two case studies disturbed me when we talked in class. I feel very conflicted about the issue of privacy versus capturing and recording history or setting reform in motion. I do feel like the pictures were violations of their subject’s privacy. I wouldn’t want my picture to be used the way theirs were. But I also recognize how important both pictures are. I have been impacted and touched by photographs just like these.
So what’s more important? History or the individual? My conscience requires me to take the side of the individual. I think it’s wrong to show pictures of people who are about to die; they were alive when the picture was taken, alive and living their final, very personal, moments. It doesn’t matter that there were witnesses at the scene who actually watched what the photographer captured; these final moments were still personal to the subjects, and a witness is a lot different than a picture. Since they were alive when the pictures were taken, they are entitled to full privacy protection. And as for both pictures being taken on public streets, well, bad things can happen to you in public- but your death is still your own business. Plus, it’s illegal to show random people in the street’s faces on tv if they haven’t signed something... It just seems disrespectful and crass for these photographs to made public.
And I don’t think the argument that the photos brought about about reform or truly captured a historic event are good enough; violation of privacy for a truly altruistic purpose is still violation. I agree with Kant- that people should never be a means to an end, even if the end is noble.

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