Thursday, 28 May 2015

Consent Implied

I was on the GO train the other day when a young woman embarked. She sat diaginally across from me in one of those double row seats. She appeared to be a student. Beside her, and straight across from me, sat another young woman - older, professional, complete in business suit and all. This was in the still chilly March weather.

To my left, and in the corner, sat a gentleman. He might've been in his late twenties, early thirties. Bear with me. I'm going somewhere with this.

Shortly after we left Union station, the student and the gentleman struck up a quiet conversation. After all, we were seated in the Quiet Zone. It may have been about...ah! Yes. It was about his watch. There was something she found remarkable about it.

Shortly after that, she took her drawing pad and a pencil from her bag. And, she started drawing. I made a polite glance and realized she was drawing a caricature of the man. I cast a furtive glance in his general direction to catch any expression of surprise I could. Nada. Either he was blissfully unaware that his "likeness" was being reproduced, or, he was aware and didn't mind. Or, he did mind  but chose not to be confrontational. Or some like thought.

She continued drawing, rather fast, I might add. She really got that talent down pat. While she did, the young woman next to her reached for her smartphone, then held it up at an angle to direct the lens toward the notepad. Yes. She was unabashedly taking a few photos of the artwork in progress.

By this time, the guy being drawn was clearly in the know about the representation of his image. I'd caught him looking at the notepad. He'd said nothing. I wouldn't go as far as to say he seemed flattered. That'd be a romantic unfounded notion. But, at the least, he did appear a bit amused and totally, as in totally, not bothered.

The younger girl continued her drawing. She too didn't seem to care at all that her work was being photographed by a total stranger - in such proximity!

It was like an unspoken agreement among them.

Of course, when she wrapped that up and started in a new page and glanced a couple of times in my direction, I had to ask, "Are you drawing me now?"
"No," she answered with a smile.
The young woman and the man smiled, too. But, I needed to add, and so I did, "Okay, 'cause I'd have to, y'know, change seats," I said with a feint smile of the pursed "so-there's-that" lips kind. They did a mix of polite smile and chuckle.

At the next stop, our little community disbanded and life went on.

So, we are here. Total strangers all up in total strangers' faces like that. Someone who's performing pretty much expects the smartphones to come out. But, here was a guy, going about his business and voĆ­la! There'd been no request for permission to draw him. There'd been no request for permission to take a photo of the drawing. The characters in this true story simply did as they pleased, as though based on the assumption that the man was worth drawing, or the drawing was worth snapping, consent was implied.

A few weeks after that episode, I spotted a tweet re an article about a young woman who'd had a kind of altered rendition of her Instagram pic put on show. The blown-up photo was said to be sold for about $90,000. Just. Like. That.

I've said before that, these days, once you leave your house - or anyone else's house for that matter - be prepared to be caught up in someone else's video or photo. (Alas, you may be photo bombing and not know it.) It's as though your decision to be out and about in public means your consent to be caught on camera is implied.

I read an article recently about a (perhaps little-known) by-law in Toronto that forbids the taking of photos in parks. And I've visited at least one library that forbids the taking of photos within its walls - no matter how cute you think your niece and her playmates are, standing beside the giant stuffed gorilla. Just sayin'.

Well, you have to leave the house at some point. Correct? Whatyagonnado. Take comfort in the fact that most people couldn't care less about the people who happen to be caught in the background of their pics. Really.

You can leave the house now.


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