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March 12, 2013

Getting into Trouble on the Train



Yes, I have been off on my travels again. It was World Book Day last week, so all the schools invite authors and illustrators in, to do talks and work with the children. I have been in schools every day for a fortnight and have had a lot of fun.


I tried to take a photo, holding up my sketchbook in the train, with the man below-left in the background, but got a right telling off by a complete stranger across the aisle from me. She said I should ask the man's permission if I was posting his photo to the internet (perhaps a good point?). Then she said I should delete all the photos I had taken of him from my phone (slight over-reaction?). Then the woman opposite her pitched in (another random stranger) saying I should not be drawing people at all unless I first gained permission. 



I so rarely get a negative reaction like this (just 3 times in all the years and then only one occasion was as extreme) and get so many positive reactions, I am comfortable that she is wrong about drawing people (and asking permission to draw people would destroy it - the attention I would draw to myself would make it impossible).

Interestingly, most sketchers who post sketchbook photos with the subject behind are drawing mainly buildings. I don't think it's such a good idea on reflection, if only to avoid unnecessary conflict, so won't take photos again, even though, in this case, he would have been too far away down the carraige and too out of focus to be recognisable.

18 comments :

Stan KRAMER said...

FWIW, I completely agree with your critics, though I too am a sketcher. Certainly publishing images of people without their permission could be embarrassing to them and could even have potential to do them harm if they had a legitimate reason to keep their whereabouts private. Personally, I ask, whether I'm sketching or taking reference photos and have rarely been turned down.

Lynne the Pencil said...

So you wouldn't even post sketches on Urban Sketchers if they contain people, unless you have managed to get their permission first? This would seriously restrict my postings, not because I don't want to ask them, but because it's often not feasible and, if they are working or sleeping, they quite often never know it's happened.

Chuster said...

I do a good deal of sketching on commuter trains and have run into the problem of some people complaining that I am drawing people. Oddly enough, it is never the people that I am drawing although I have had some people move to another seat. I try to be discreet and I do not take photos. I have been told by a conductor that I should ask people first, but I agree with Lynne that as soon as you ask someone they become rigid, and start to pose which is exactly what I don't want.

Anthony Duce said...

I think sketching, drawing, painting, the world, ideas, including the people is what artists do. Portraying reality, weather liked or not is not a reason not to keep attempting to do so. There will always be those who complain. Just persevere.

Holger Wendt said...

Agree with Lynne and Chuster. Drawing for me is a way of seeing more profoundly. Asking permission to draw someone is like asking permission to see. I think the people who tell you to ask permission carries the belief and misconception that the drawing IS what is seen, that something of the "soul" is caught on paper. At the same time I can understand that people sometimes want to not be noticed at all. I stop drawing if I notice that they want to be ignored.

Carmela said...

Lynne
I suggest checking UK laws re: photographing people in public. An internet search should give some info. Alter your behavior accordingly.
Certainly, sensitivity to others' wishes should be considered, as has been noted by you and others.

arhitectul said...

I am not sure about the laws there, but there are usually restrictions to protect individual right to privacy, Mr. Kramer made this point. On the other hand, drawing manage to bypass those. Even so, I had some problems in the metro, drawing. A guardian wanted to stop me. Fortunately, I knew the law better then him. But I only take pictures knowing it is not legal, so I am very careful.

Still... I love your sketches! Did I told you already? Keep on drawing everywhere! Drawing is a free art!

don said...

What a petty, paranoid world we seem to have become these last few years. Keep sketching Lynne.

Lance Gambis said...

I like draw people on my subway commute (in NY) but end up sketching a lot of sleeping faces (esp) in the the morning or feet, bags, backs, etc. I sometimes take a reference picture if I'm really invested in the sketch and wanted to finish or add some details, colors.

tg said...

Nice colors !!!

Lynne the Pencil said...

As far as I can tell, it is completely legal to both draw and photograph people in a pub;ic place, without asking permission. The law seems to be that you can even post photographs to your website. It is only when it becomes a commercial venture that permission is needed.

Still, I think you have an obligation to respect other people's wishes, if they don't want to be drawn or photographed.

I just get a bit irritated at the 'busybody' nature of those who are not involved, interfering and creating unnecessary conflict. We are also a bit privacy obsessed of late - I think it is the paranoia created by social networking sites. A bit sad.

Stephen Gardner said...

I've had a negative response only once in 8 years and decided not to take any notice of it. It was none of that ladies business in the first place. What a world.

lapin said...

stilling portraits in the metro, a train or a plane are far to precious, and asking permission would be not fun at all - keep doing it!

Maike Bohlen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chuster said...

When I looked into the train bylaws in Canada it stated that because the train is run by a private business it is not considered a public space and so I could justifiably be tossed off the train for drawing people. Inow try to be very inconspicuous and pick my moments. Also I was remiss in my previous post in not saying how much I enjoy your drawings, Lynne.

Maike Bohlen said...

According to german law, you are permitted to put people in the background of a sketch without permission. But if you are sketching one person in particular this person has the right to decide whether this sketch is to be published or not. And, yes, we have the duty to ask their permission to be sketched.
That is why painters are paying their models.
We call it: "das Recht am eigenen Bild" It is does not matter whether it is a photo or a sketch.
But, as long as most people are unaware of this, we can keep on sketching as we like.
To photograph someone with the aim to publish this photo afterwards - especially when you mention where you took the photo -without permission is illegal.
And - thinking about it - it is reasonable.

omar said...

Lynne keep doing it!
I will probably only avoid taking pictures without asking them first. But drawing people nooo. My point of view is that they got into my drawing.

Lynne the Pencil said...

It is interesting: it sounds as though the law is different in different countries, as well as the potential for local rules, like specific train companies.

I'm going to work on the basis that I continue to sketch who I like and continue to post the drawings on blogs etc, until I get specific complaints from the indiviual I have drawn, at which time I will take their drawing down from the net.

Photos seems more trouble than it's worth and a bit of a minefield!