The violation of the human right to a private protected life
According to current laws, taking pictures of people in their home environment when they do not know that, is illegal, depending on who is taking the pictures. Aiming to a person with a camera objective and taking a picture means capturing the most private part of that person. If a person being photographed knew that someone has been taking a picture of him/her, he/she could have forbidden that. And the photographer would have to respect the request. The photographs are taken at home, personal environment so a person can decide what is allowed and what is not. However, in practice there is a problem people face. The majority of such pictures are done secretly, so a person cannot require a photographer to stop. A person cannot prevent of what he/she is not aware of. Actually, the law is violated only when the pictures are shown to the public. The photographer then becomes responsible for the invasion of the person’s in the picture personal life. In the European convention of human rights and freedoms protection, article No. 8 states that “Every person has a right to the regard of their personal and family life, their home and correspondence”. This convention is included in Lithuania Constitution as a law so we, Lithuanians, as well as other countries, which accepted the convention, are obligated to keep the law.

We know that famous people are often the victims of those secretly taking pictures. They often appear in the popular press so we can find out about celebrities, tanning somewhere in an island, with a new partner or talking to their friends in a restaurant. But even famous and well known people have a right to personal space, which cannot be violated.

We could say that our personal space is broader when compared to those who are well known. It is harder to invade the space of the ordinary people so we do not have to suffer from photographers as much as if we were official people. The pictures of famous people grab the general attention therefore this stimulates publication. In such cases, the personal immunity and the protection of personal life are sacrificed due to society’s interest and wish to know, what is going on in the life of the person in a photo, at least, in that public place where the person’s picture is taken. However, a recent verdict of the European court shows that there might be a different approach as well. If the general interest is considered to be not large enough, then a secretly made picture even in public places, could be treated as a violation of a personal life. We, ordinary people, probably have always been in that situation because no one is really interested in publishing pictures of us in a variety of situations.

There is one sphere where all people are equal, regardless of the fact if we are famous or not. At home all of us have a right to protect personal life. The laws state that the need for a total privacy at home is higher than the society’s interests. Home is a place where we have to be sure that our personal life is respected. The same minute we enter our home, we can uncover our bodies and souls, without any fear that somebody will take a picture of us against our will. In other cases this is unjustifiable morally and legally. The majority of Sweden’s juridical resolutions, related to personal immunity, consider defamation or offence as a crime. This helped to protect a lot of paparazzi victims. However, there is a juristic dilemma, when the information in the secretly made and published pictures, does not contain any humiliating facts. The humiliating fact is a condition when a person can be accused of defamation. But what could be humiliating in a picture of me watching TV. If a picture is taken through my kitchen when I am preparing dinner, the photographer cannot be accused of defamation or insult. But in both cases my right to protect the private life has been violated. Or in other words, it is a crime against the convention of human rights and freedoms.

Documentary material that shows people, who are not aware about it, usually charms and interests those people, who never experienced it themselves. It is interesting, how we would react, when looking at the art project of Mikael Lundberg we would find there ourselves. We might feel delighted and pleasantly surprised. Or we might feel offended and start looking for juristic help. Our personal and safe bubble suddenly exploded despite all the laws and rules protecting personal life. We realize that while we live in houses with windows, we can never bee sure that nobody will come with their photo camera and secretly take a picture.

Catharina Ekdahl
The lawyer of the union Swedish Union of Photography

© Mikael Lundberg