Image: Joshua Rosenthal’s Instagram feed.

Joshua Rosenthal’s Instagram feed.

Are you a street photographer?

Have you considered what might go wrong in your line of work?

Most street photographers don’t.

But maybe they should.

Joshua Rosenthal is your average street photographer. He goes out with his camera, photographs people in public places, and posts the photos on his website and Instagram. He does no harm, and nobody is bothered.

Until this past week, when Rosenthal’s actions attracted a lot of attention – and not in a good way.

Rosenthal journeyed to the Ventura County Fair in California. He walked around, taking photos of fairgoers. People noticed, became suspicious, and the police questioned Rosenthal. But doing photography in a public place is not a crime, and so nothing came of it.

According to the police department:

“The subject was contacted by police officers at the Fair on that date and has been contacted again today for questioning. No crime occurred during this incident.”

Rosenthal probably thought that being questioned at the county fair was the end of things; after all, he hadn’t broken the law.

 

So it was most likely a huge surprise when he awoke the next morning to find his name plastered all over social media alongside accusations of pedophilia and of predatory behavior.

As it turned out, a number of fairgoers took videos and photos of Rosenthal at the fair, which depicted Rosenthal snapping images of a young girl. These videos and photos were promptly distributed on social media, capturing intense attention.

One poster writes “Hey moms and dads, beware of this P.O.S. at the fair. He’s going around taking pictures of…little girls, in dresses.”

Another poster compared Rosenthal’s actions to child traffickers, while a third wondered whether he is a “perv.”

Rosenthal was questioned once again by the police but was not arrested. We can be confident that no legal action will be taken against Rosenthal.

Rosenthal has plans, however. He will be reaching out to the ACLU, which deals with civil liberty cases. He explains, “This is more about the First Amendment and doxing than it is about me.” He also apologized to the parents of the girl he was seen photographing.

For all the street photographers out there:

How would you handle this scenario? And how do you handle taking photos of children?

One way to prevent this kind of thing is to ask permission before photographing children. The parents might refuse, and that’s okay; there are plenty of people to photograph in the world!

Another way to protect yourself is to avoid photographing children entirely. As Rosenthal found out, parents are often extremely uncomfortable with their children being photographed, and for good reason. While there are plenty of harmless photographers out there, dedicated street photographers aren’t the only people taking photos of children.

What do you think? Do you have any tips for avoiding these difficult situations? Do you feel comfortable photographing children?

Leave a comment below!





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