Green Cine Daily points us towards the 2005 documentary Off Limits (La Rue: Zone Interdite) by Montreal photographer Gilbert Duclos. In the late 80’s, Duclos was sued by a young woman who had appeared in one of Duclos’ street photos. The woman claimed that her right to her own likeness had been violated. She eventually won.
Off Limits looks at the issue of photographers being increasing hemmed in by laws designed to protect a person’s supposed right to their own image, and particularly droit de l’image laws in place in France. Duclos interviews William Klein, Marc Riboud, and Willy Ronis for his film, and these elder statesmen of the street or reportage photography tradition are not surprisingly pessimistic about the chilling effect such laws can have on photography as well as journalism.
French photojournalism now removes the faces of people in the street or in any other public setting, or pictures are simply staged. Editors at major magazines tell Duclos that they simply avoid publishing pictures that might trigger lawsuits, which means publishing far fewer pictures, which means that the street photography which has documented much of the 20th century has nowhere near the vitality in the country where it once seemed strongest.
The review notes that it is the United States that Duclos and others look to to protect the freedom of photographers to shoot and publish non-commercial candid images, though given the current climate one wonders how long it will continue to be the beacon in this regard.
RELATED: See my post from a couple of years ago on how “the right to one’s own likeness” comes up occasionally in Japan, mainly spearheaded by the entertainment industry out to protect their “assets.”