Is it dooms day for street photography?

May 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment



25th May is this the end of street photography?


Let us start off by saying I’m not a lawyer or person with great knowledge of the law. This is my view on the new data protection act. I have been hearing many conversations about the new data protection act, this has got photographers worrying about the future of their craft that they won’t be able to create street projects. 


Personal data is defined as information relating to an identifiable natural person, in computing world this includes IP addresses and the use of cookies if they are capable of being linked back to the data subject. This also includes physical & physiological, cultural or social identity.


So does this mean I can not create street photography any more!


You still can create street photography as a freedom of self expression as an art form basically the rules haven’t changed within street and creating candid images without permission, for example: if I took a photograph of  someone in the street and sold it for advertising that would be a not be advisable due  a breach of data, you have not got consent to have the image sold commercially without permission of the subject, this still applies now. 


When your managing data for a photography business, I think it’s similar to how businesses handle their databases for clients now, contact details etc., plus archived client images. Most businesses should have been aware of previous data protection laws, basically, GDPR which covers data security and how you keep data safe from hackers, issues around deleting records, backups etc. if the data subject requests it, plus the use of facial recognition technology. Law around data project is to tightening up but also to keep up with evolving technology for this the law needs to change. 




Let’s try and figure this out the fact for a fact!

The face is a biometric information or data. The GDPR defines biometric data as “personal data resulting from specific technical processing relating to the physical, physiological or behavioural characteristics of a natural person, which allow or confirm the unique identification of that natural person”.  It is called  “special categories of personal data” that can only be if:

• The subject has given explicit consent; this were the model realise form comes into use but we are alreadyusing this system now.


But I’m a street photographer this GDPR won’t effect me!


If your a photographer that is creating small Individual projects you might not be so concerned, e.g. consider a street photographer that has creating imagery for a new photobook. Now, do they stop every subject and ask for a model releases forms from every subject? Well no they don’t  because if the images are for the purpose of art and If the book is made and sold in UK, there’s freedom to take images in public places. 

So is my work Art?


The Data Protection Act in place now, exemptions exist for photographers for images taken as art and for journalism.

With the new GDPR allows member states to introduce exemptions. These were not in the Data Protection Bill – it could be likely there will be a similar exemption for personal data processed for the purposes of “journalism, literature and art but the GDPR has not yet been approved and agreed by Parliament.


“Journalistic, academic, artistic and literary purposes

24 (1) In this paragraph, “the special purposes” means one or more of the


(a) the purposes of journalism;

(b) academic purposes;

(c) artistic purposes;

(d) literary purposes.



If your an amateur street photographer taking candid shots in the street you  will be exempt from the GDPR regulation. The arts are free to create, according to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

If I am reading the law correctly, and remember I’ am not a lawyer, photographs would only be able to be used without the law applying if used for journalistic/academic/artistic or literary purposes.

So, if I took a photograph of you on the street and published it as art, then this  would be okay because it’s freedom of expression.



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