Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Street photographers, like snipers, pride themselves on stealth.' Camouflaged in nondescript clothing, they wander the streets undetectable, armed, and on the hunt. When they find their mark, they act quickly. As the famous twentieth-century street photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson described: "The creative act lasts but a brief moment, a lightning instant of give-and-take, just long enough for you to level the camera and to trap the fleeting prey in your little box." While methods of "trapping prey" vary from shooter to shooter, the mission remains the same-staying as covert as possible and catching an unknowing subject in a candid pose. In the formative years of street photography, Cartier-Bresson concealed himself by wrapping a large handkerchief around his camera and pretending to blow his nose while discretely taking a picture. He also covered his camera in black tape to conceal any shiny parts that might give him away to his subjects.

Today's street photographers are armed with a new generation of weapons that hardly need concealment. The rise of miniaturized and digital technologies has taken street shooting to a whole new level. In a world where companies compete to make the smallest, most inexpensive cameras, surreptitious photography runs rampant. For example, cell-phone cameras and "dime-sized spy cameras" make it possible for photographers to shoot their subjects from virtually any angle without detection.6 However, as technology advances, so does the potential scope and harm from photographic invasions of a subject's privacy.