McDining – Privacy laws

There is no image to accompany this post. You will see why.

A couple of days ago, I posted my latest watercolour called “McDining” and if you look back a couple of posts, you will see a modified image of “McDining”, the object of a legal question.

I was uncertain as to my right to publish the painting since I had taken a photo of a man eating at McDonald’s without his permission. He had no idea that I was photographing him.

I have since altered the photo in Adobe Photoshop so that the face is missing. Anon is eating at McDonalds!

Over a late evening cup of tea at Mrs. Stepford’s place last night, I had a chat with her husband a well respected lawyer in town who is quite aware of legislation and precedence on this subject.

“I thought you guys knew this stuff a long time ago,” he exclaimed, chiding us on our ignorance concerning privacy laws. He explained:

Military and police have the right to capture a person’s image without their permission. It’s in the best interests of law enforcement and the public good.

But an individual is not allowed to take a picture of another individual without their permission and they may not publish it without the subject’s express permission.

“Well,” proposes Mrs. Stepford in support of my cause, “what if she took the picture before she asked permission and then asked him if she could take his picture afterwards, and he agrees. Couldn’t she use the picture?

Mr. Stepford is completely disgusted with our moral turpitude. No means no!

We run through a number of scenarios:

If a model is hired to be painted by an artist and takes money for it, it is assumed that he or she is giving permission in the process.

If you ask someone before you take the picture if they mind if you do so and they are willing, then you can take their photo, but if you want to paint them using the photo for reference, then you must also get their permission to use their image in the art work.
This applies to photographers, including the press who must ask permission before publishing a person’s picture that hits the six o’clock news.

So I guess my McDining is confined forever to my own private viewing. I could take a risk and show it, says my lawyer friend – a risk that might end up with a $20,000.00 fine if the owner of the profile decides to sue for the breach of his privacy.

Well, maybe a few friends will see my painting, McDining. And maybe, like Roger Bacon, I could distort the faces; or like those pop-up books we had as children, put someone elses face on the image, someone I know, who gives  me permission for the use of their facial image. Or maybe take some self-images to put in place of the colonel’s head.  It might be quite surreal.

I haven’t given up on my McDining image. It’s just got me thinking.  I shall try it again in another configuration.


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One Response to “McDining – Privacy laws”

  1. suburbanlife Says:

    I took a look at your altered image of McDonald’s Man, and your strategy of using a rectangle to obliterate personal reference reminds me of one of John Baldessari’s strategies to deal with the issue of appropriation – he uses coloured circles to destroy reference to individuals in some of his appropriated film and video stills – in effect cancelling out individuality.
    One of the effects of this type of “cancellation” is to draw attention to the portion of portraIT being obliterated. It is so, but subtly, in case of your McDomald’s man, and still the effect is disturbing although the shape you used to obliterate his features is congruent with shapes in the overall composition. You might just as easily replace the rectangle with a photographic image of a Big Mac, therby pushing the painting into a more conceptual arena.
    But, you are probably thinking this kind of strategy has been followed bu so many Modern and Contemporary artists, so why bother? But it is a legitimate way of avoiding issues around permission. Duchamps painted a goatee on the MONa Lisa, the Surrealists ( Magritte and De Chirico) also used shapes to blank out personal reference. I do remember seeing in an earlier show of Terri Nurmi’s where she blocked identification from appropriated photos by using obliterating black rectangles across portions of faces. Edward Kienholz used clock faces to stand in for facial features in one of his famous sculptural installations. Sort of reduces individuals to generic everymen. That is legitimate and may be a way for you to deal with the series you are contemplating pursuing.
    Naturally, Rumpole is probably gagging in disgust at my ideas expressed here, but these are not original to me having been given legs by many other contemporary artists. G – aka. Stepford Wife

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