Don't take photos of Swiss.

This is a discussion on Don't take photos of Swiss. within the Photography News and Views forums, part of the PHOTO FORUM category; Preface, I am an American living in Neuchatel, Switzerland; local language, French. Today I went out riding my bike and, as I think of myself ...


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  1. #1
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    Preface, I am an American living in Neuchatel, Switzerland; local language, French.

    Today I went out riding my bike and, as I think of myself as a struuggling professional photographer, I packed my D80, a couple of lenses, and some extra memory chips into my handle bar bag . First I rode to the lakefront, took some pictures of people learning to swim, then some pictures of bees on lavender. Next I rode to a school in Auvenier and took about 200 pictures of interesting grafitti to make into a circular panorama.

    Then I rode to the beach at Cortilliod, where I pulled up under a tree, had a power beverage, and scouted around to see if there was anything of interest to photograph. I took a few shots, reviewed them, and deleted them because the sun was too strong and the shadows too deep, it was around 14:00. As I went to leave a nearby sunbather was glaring at me, and I pointed my camera at her and motioned if I could take her picture.

    This started a tirad that I did not have the right to photograph her or any one else without their persmission. I replied that this is a public place and that I am in full view and that I do have the right to take editorial photographs. Now several other bystanders decide to chimed in as well. I said that a few bad pictures were not worth the trouble but by this time they were threatning to call the police because I did not have the right to take photos in a public place without their consent. One demaned my contact information so that she could have the police come by my place and infrom me of the law.

    At this point, I decided the best thing to do was leave, so without further conversation I went on my way; away from home along the waterfront. When I got to Point du Grain, about 3 Km away, I turned around and headed back the way I came. Guess what I saw, a police cruiser headed my way with it's lights going. Drove by me, and immediately turned around (probably a police tactic to come up from behind, safer that way.) The police asked me to stop.

    I stopped, they got out of their cruiser and asked for for ID. While one was checking my ID the other asked me what I was doing. I guess he meant besid,es the obvious, I was after all riding my bike and wearing my Phonak jersey (That may have been the problem, wearing the jesrsey of Floyd Landis's former team could only mean I'm a doper ). The Police, while polite, informed me in no uncertain terms that it is illegal to take the picture of any person in Switzerland unless I have their consent. It does not matter that they are in a public place and that I was not hidden from view. When I mentioned that I often take pictures of the police he said that's ok because they're public servants. But, he reiterated that it is forbidden to take pictures of anyone, aywhere, any time , unless you have their consent.

    The policeman motioned for my camera and I gave it to him, I cannot say for sure that he asked for it. But he took the camera, put in the car, and then reviewed the contents of the chip in the camera. I took no photos that were anything objectionaable, thank goodness for that but I also didn't mentioned that I had already swapped chips and reviwed the contents just in case some one actually followed through on their threat and call the police.

    I have to say that I was such a threat that a second cruiser showed up just to make sure that they had found the guilty person. Before leaving, I asked the police to follow up and let me know specifically what I can and cannot do so that I will not run afoul of the law again. They said someone would call or send me a letter to help me become a bettere informed citizen.

    I cannot believe that you truly cannot take a picture of anyone any time, anywhere without first getting authorization. It would render nearly all photojournalism illegal. But for now, I'm afrtaid to take anymore pictures. If this truly is the law, or at least the police think it is, if I have another encounter with them, it might not be as cordial. And as a foreigner I would prefer to stay completely under the radar of the local police. I also have to admit that I was a little afraid that I would arrive home only to find the police confiscating my computer and harddrives.

    Becasue this really made me mad and because I'm now afraid to take any more street scenes I went to the local newspaper and had a long chat with one of the journalists; but it reamins to be seen wheather or not this will be interesting enough to generate a story; or perhaps the police are right. There are no images on my computer that I am ashamed of but I would rather not have the police take possesion of them.

    If what I've done is illegal, then half the contents of my hard-drive contains contreband, not to mention my editorial images on Alamy, PhotoShelter, and Photographer's Direct.

    So according to these police officers, everyone with a camcorder, cell phone or camera that takes a picture in a public place that contains people who did not authorize the photo is violating the law.

    Anyone in Switzerland know where I can find clarification on what I can and can't take a picture of?

    Charlie
    I currently spend a fair amount of time on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103236949470535942612

    my personal website (not very current I'm afraid): clupica and family
    my photogarphy : cwlupica - Photograher
    my photos on SmugMug. StudioLupica on SmugMug
    me on facebook: Charles Lupica
    My fan page on facebook: StudioLupica


  • #2

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    Does the news cameras and sports broadcasts get everyone's permission. That is not possible. I think you just upset the wrong people. Sorry about your altercation it sounded like you were having a wonderful day until that time.
    I think this could happen in any country.

    Scott
    Scott

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    Charles,
    I posted this a while ago it's an essay on photographers rights with links to some wallet cards, not one specific for Switzerland but you may find some useful links.

    http://www.photoforum.com/index.php?showtopic=25033
    Steve J

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    Follow me @sjj57 on Twitter and on Facebook and LinkedIn

  • #4
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    Wow! That must have been a scary situation. Did you think about contacting the American Embassy to see if they have clarification for you on Swiss law? I can't imagine being a tourist over there and not taking some photos of the people there either by accident or on purpose!! Like you said, how do photo journalists take any news worthy pictures???

    Please keep us posted on what you find out on this!!!!

    Elaine

    www.elaineobrienphotography.com


    My Favorite number of the alphabet is Purple!!!

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    Please keep us posted, Charles.
    Admin

  • #6
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    ^'ve gotten some other advice and the link to a site in french that explains Swiss law. The bottom line is that the police were all wrong, as we all thought. But that doesn't keep them from expressing the common mis-beliefs. With 10'000 laws on the books, they can't possibly know them all.

    In Switzerland I can take all the pictures I want, I just have to erase them all afterwards. No just kidding, mostly. I can take them, but they can only be used for totally private use. Posting to a website of any kind is not consistent with private use. In other words, I can take them, I can put them in a photo albumn or a slidshow, but if I share them in any way, I am violating the rights of the person whose image I have taken. Whether or not this is a criminal offense or a civil offense is based on the how the image was used. There are several excceptions to this, but not many.

    The following can be published:
    1. Photos taken at a public event
    2. Photos of people in public places carrying out their job, eg: police, fire, parks and rec, ...
    3. Possibly a crowd scene where no individual is the subject of the photo

    What can't be published
    1. Pictures that put a person in a negative light
    2. bodies or accident scenes
    3. images of people where they are the principle subject of the photo (ie nearly all of my market shots)
    4. pictures containing children. (ie. children at the beach, children in a playground, ... )
    I've been taking mostly street portraits lately and this means that I have to stop. SO I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Become a hermit crosses my mind.
    I currently spend a fair amount of time on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103236949470535942612

    my personal website (not very current I'm afraid): clupica and family
    my photogarphy : cwlupica - Photograher
    my photos on SmugMug. StudioLupica on SmugMug
    me on facebook: Charles Lupica
    My fan page on facebook: StudioLupica

  • #7

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    ^'ve gotten some other advice and the link to a site in french that explains Swiss law. The bottom line is that the police were all wrong, as we all thought. But that doesn't keep them from expressing the common mis-beliefs. With 10'000 laws on the books, they can't possibly know them all.

    In Switzerland I can take all the pictures I want, I just have to erase them all afterwards. No just kidding, mostly. I can take them, but they can only be used for totally private use. Posting to a website of any kind is not consistent with private use. In other words, I can take them, I can put them in a photo albumn or a slidshow, but if I share them in any way, I am violating the rights of the person whose image I have taken. Whether or not this is a criminal offense or a civil offense is based on the how the image was used. There are several excceptions to this, but not many.

    The following can be published:
    1. Photos taken at a public event
    2. Photos of people in public places carrying out their job, eg: police, fire, parks and rec, ...
    3. Possibly a crowd scene where no individual is the subject of the photo
    What can't be published
    1. Pictures that put a person in a negative light
    2. bodies or accident scenes
    3. images of people where they are the principle subject of the photo (ie nearly all of my market shots)
    4. pictures containing children. (ie. children at the beach, children in a playground, ... )
    I've been taking mostly street portraits lately and this means that I have to stop. SO I'm not sure what I'm going to do. Become a hermit crosses my mind.
    I guess my question is do you need to stop or just be more aggressive in getting the subject to sign a model release?
    Steve J

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    Photographer

    Follow me @sjj57 on Twitter and on Facebook and LinkedIn

  • #8
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    Steve,

    A model release says I can use your image any way I want to. And what's more, it requires a name and address as well as a telephone number.

    SO I take your picture, then tell you I took it (which might start a scene right there). Then I ask for your name, address, and telephone number. And some stock agencies want a witness to the signature.

    So how many strangers with a camera are you going to give full rights to use your image along wiht full contact information?

    Oh, and did I mention, that my wife might take exception to this process if the subject in question is a rather attractive female )
    I currently spend a fair amount of time on Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/103236949470535942612

    my personal website (not very current I'm afraid): clupica and family
    my photogarphy : cwlupica - Photograher
    my photos on SmugMug. StudioLupica on SmugMug
    me on facebook: Charles Lupica
    My fan page on facebook: StudioLupica

  • #9
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    Amazing story, Charlie. Thanks for the update.

    I guess that's one of the reasons I like landscapes and nature so much. Never once had a tree complain.



    “Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that,
    behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable.
    Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion.”
    (Albert Einstein)


  • #10

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    Steve,

    A model release says I can use your image any way I want to. And what's more, it requires a name and address as well as a telephone number.

    SO I take your picture, then tell you I took it (which might start a scene right there). Then I ask for your name, address, and telephone number. And some stock agencies want a witness to the signature.

    So how many strangers with a camera are you going to give full rights to use your image along wiht full contact information?

    Oh, and did I mention, that my wife might take exception to this process if the subject in question is a rather attractive female )
    I agree model releases are a pain, but I guess you need to weigh the picture vs the work it takes to get it published, if it's too hard, then I guess it's time to find other subjects unfortunately. Everything I've read says that unless it's editorial then a release is needed even for some buildings and even if the subject can't read or write and has no prospect of ever seeing the image. I'm fortunate, I don't take alot of people shots other than editorial and don't plan on it.


    As for the wife thing, your right pick your subjects carefully they don't seem to like us looking too much...

    Hope everything works out for you, you do some great work.
    Steve J

    Network Engineer,
    Web Master and
    Photographer

    Follow me @sjj57 on Twitter and on Facebook and LinkedIn


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