Creepshot or Not?

Paleo Retiree writes:

A pic I fired off last summer in NYC’s Washington Square Park:

ne_nyc_2013_06_creepshot004The case, as far as I can tell, for this snap being deemed a Creepshot: 1) Skin. 2) I didn’t ask my subjects for permission, either to take the shot or to post the shot online. 3) I definitely sneaked the shot off. 4) OK, I admit it, part — a big part — of what moved me to take the snap was, “Hey, girls, er, young women in bikinis!” And creating-from-lust is no longer permissable … Except in pop music … fashion … advertising … and porn. But whatever. It’s not like these things have to make sense, let alone be consistent.

The case, as far as I can tell, for this snap NOT being considered a Creepshot: 1) You can’t really tell who the girls, er, young women are, so who cares? 2) The galz have chosen, of their own free will, to display themselves in a very public spot. (This being a busy park in a huge city, there’s no question that thousands of people passed by during their sunbathing session.) And let’s be real: If/when you’re in public, you’re gonna get looked at — and possibly be photographed — by strangers. Deal with it.

But I’m an oldguy. What do I know about today’s mores, assumptions and sensitivities?

Your thoughts, hunches and verdicts?


  • My original posting about Creepshots lays out my general thoughts about the topic. Don’t skip the comments, where many visitors offer up sharp observations and reflections.
  • I’m no lawyer, but this strikes me as a good guide to the legalities of taking photographs in public. “Legal” doesn’t automatically mean “admirable” and/or “desirable,” of course.
  • Fenster turned up a provocative interview with a news photographer who’s also a lawyer. “If you’re in public, you have no reasonable expectation of privacy,” he says. “That’s the difference between what is public and what is private. It’s the reason that all those security cameras that are on every city street are allowed to photograph us, because when we’re out in public we have no reasonable expectation of privacy.”

About Paleo Retiree

Onetime media flunky and movie buff and very glad to have left that mess behind. Formerly Michael Blowhard of the cultureblog Now a rootless parasite and bon vivant on a quest to find the perfectly-crafted artisanal cocktail.
This entry was posted in Personal reflections, Photography and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to Creepshot or Not?

  1. agnostic says:

    I think the puzzle can be summarized by the typical reaction to a shot like this:

    “Cuh-reepy — why is there no security camera to capture this guy photographing me?!”

    It’s watching vs. watching-over. If this were snapped and posted online, there wouldn’t be much controversy. It’d be “random shots of park life, provided by security cameras.” Those cameras are programmed to mindlessly swing back and forth, or be an inert eye-in-the-sky. They’re there to provide protection.

    So, if they happened to capture an image of people enjoying the sun in the park during summer, why not post it online at The intent of the poster / distributor seems to matter less than the intent of the photographer. “I just happened to find this shot on security camera footage, it looks nice and lively, so what can you blame me for?”

    All the other points to be made for this being a creepshot would also apply to the same shot captured by a security camera: skin (or whatever the scene shows — a couple arguing, etc.), no permission, and little/no awareness of the camera by subjects.

    It all comes down to the photographer’s motive. And showing a red-blooded male libido these days is tantamount to confessing to witchcraft. So you have to go through some elaborate public display of proving your pure motives for photographing strangers — and snapping pics of skin-baring chicks is a pretty hard case to make, outside of the obvious and suspect motive.


    • So my pic qualifies as a Creepshot these days …

      Smart and funny thinking, btw.


      • Toddy Cat says:

        It’s a creepshot unless the girls like it, in which case it’s ok…. or something.

        If I were you, I’d quit worrying about the twisted things that go on inside young women’s heads these days, and just snap pictures when you feel like it. Legally, Fenster’s photographer link has got it right, so I wouldn’t worry about it.


  2. Definitely not a creepshot – unless you’re masturbating to them and tellings us about it – then it’s a creep shot 😉


  3. Fenster says:

    interesting that your comments here and in the last post break out into two types: those focused, so to speak, on photo etiquette and those focused on gender relations. My comments dealt with photo etiquette. I can see, though, that the gender issue is another overlay altogether, having to do with whether there is an age limit to the male gaze, photo or not.


  4. Callowman says:

    The concept of the “creepshot” is intimately related to the concept of the “creep”, who is a perv stalker … unless, of course, he is welcome. How are you supposed to tell without having a go? No can do. Sure, you’ll get the idea sooner or later, either way.


  5. Heavens, I don’t take this “creepshot” thing seriously. Putting up photos and inviting conversation about them is just a way to get people (me included) yakking and thinking about contempo mores and standards — what they are, where they come from, what the explanation for them is, etc.


  6. AJ says:

    In terms of expectations of privacy while in public, there’s surely a difference between young women being ok temporarily exposing themselves to the people walking through a park on a sunny afternoon, and having a photo made of that exposure which can be seen by millions all over the world for as long as there is electricity and a screen.

    When we do something in public we are, to some extent, aware of the kind of people in our potential audience. That awareness evaporates when the moment is translated into an image without our permission. Just because you’re ok with, say, fifty people seeing you do something, doesn’t mean you’re ok with a million people seeing it. Legally, there’s probably not much difference. But morally … .


    • Toddy Cat says:

      Moral of the story; if you’re not comfortable with having people see you do it, don’t do it in public. Everyone used to understand this. That’s what “public” means. What we have now is a bunch of people trying to use the internet as an excuse to turn public space into an odd form of semi-private space that they control, and this will, in the end, mean the death of public space.


      • Will S. says:

        Hear, hear! It’s as absurd as sexual harassment charges for ‘leering’, and ‘staring’; not that I think that staring isn’t rude, but it shouldn’t be grounds for legal punishment.


  7. Will S. says:

    Not creepy; you were obviously merely documenting how even in the act of sunbathing, some modern young women can’t put down their fucking iPhones! 😉

    At least the other one is doing what one’s supposed to do when sunbathing – lie still, and relax.

    Kids today…


  8. AJ: “In terms of expectations of privacy while in public, there’s surely a difference between young women being ok temporarily exposing themselves to the people walking through a park on a sunny afternoon, and having a photo made of that exposure which can be seen by millions all over the world for as long as there is electricity and a screen.”

    I don’t disagree … But doesn’t that seem a bit yesterday? If young people today, who ALL use smartphones, aren’t aware that other smartphones might get trained on them, then who is? They go to parties and dinners and broadcast the events in real time. Shouldn’t the rest of us be allowed to suppose that the Instagram generation knows the chances they’re taking when they disrobe in public?


    • Toddy Cat says:

      The attitude among lots of young people today seems to bethat they should be free to disport themselves in public in any way that they want, and at the same time be free of any consequences stemming from their behavior. Sure, we’d all like that, but I don’t think that’s very reasonable. Saying that you want attention from the public, but only certain members of the public, and in a certain way, to be decided by you on an ad hoc basis isn’t really a very defensible position.


      • Will S. says:


        It’s absurd.

        But that’s young women for ya.


      • AJ says:

        Sure, all ‘young people’ you may encounter are a homogeneous mass with identical views on privacy. They spend every day posting sexually explicit selfies on the internet. They tweet every second of their lives to strangers. They wantonly sunbathe in bikinis knowing it will cause old men to take secret photographs. All of them.

        And even if they do, isn’t the whole point of age the gaining of wisdom? Doing something because ‘young people’ do it isn’t much of an argument, legal or otherwise, for anyone over 25.


  9. Fenster says:

    Paleo’s photo in the park? No, I don’t think it is a creepshot, don’t think it is ill-mannered (the women are not really identifiable) and of course it shouldn’t be illegal. But I don’t buy the notion that what happens in public is now fair game for wherever technology wants to take us. That’s too passive about how technology might undermine liberty.

    Sure, everyone “used to” understand that public means public, but that was under the old rules of what constituted “public”. You walk down the street and people see you. OK. Your dress funny and people look at you and comment. OK. But the old rules are changing.

    It is one thing to be observed and commented on. How about when your one on one conversations are recorded without your knowledge by Google ContactLens, and put up on the internet? What about when a technical connection is made between your individual identity and the web of surveillance cameras, GPS tracking and surreptitious recording now coming into place, with the result that someone can track and observe you everywhere you go, noting what you do, who you meet and sometimes even what you say? That is the emerging meaning of public, and I for one am not enthused.

    Initially is was a Kodak camera that got Louis Brandeis riled up about privacy. That seems quaint now, and we’ve developed laws and protocols and manners that have handled the photo question fairly well. But things keep changing, and changing fast. And while things keep changing, Brandeis’ core concern remains worth worrying about. Just because we figured out how to handle Kodak cameras does not mean it will be easy to handle the rest of the freight train. And I don’t buy the notion that hey, it’s technically possible so we are all now supposed to roll over and accept it.

    When I am “in public”, I accept that I am able to be seen and that I should act accordingly. I nonetheless expect that a fair amount of privacy and anonymity is part of what it means to be “in public”. That has also been long understood.


    • Toddy Cat says:

      “I nonetheless expect that a fair amount of privacy and anonymity is part of what it means to be “in public”.

      We obviously go to different “public” places. But maybe I’m just so used to watching my speech and demenor due to political correctness, I’ve become desensitized. And I still stand by what I said earlier: Saying that you want attention from the public, and acting in a way that will get attention from the public, but only certain members of the public, and in a certain way, to be decided by you on a case-by case basis in a public place isn’t a defensible position, which is what is occurring with most of the “creepshot” business. I agree, Fenster, that there’s a line out there, and we need to be careful about crossing it, and we certainly need to have a discussion about where that line is, but 99% of the so called “creepshot” photos are not even close to this line. This is about demanding selective privacy in a public place, and that’s just unreasonable.


    • agnostic says:

      I don’t think people expect much privacy when it comes to the visual signals they’re sending out. Those can be observed at quite a distance.

      Speech is different because it decays quickly and is easily distorted by overlapping many other sound streams.

      Recording conversations falls more squarely in the questionable area, in a way that snapping ordinary photographs does not.


  10. Miss Conduct says:

    I had not heard the term “creepshot” before this post but MAN, am I glad that smartphone cameras didn’t exist when I was a young lady (80s). I suspect that I might have enjoyed that particular form of attention a great deal if it were from an attractive young guy, been tolerant of it if it came from an attractive older (which meant 30+ to me then) guy, repulsed and angry if it came from an unattractive, desperate-seeming older guy, and terrified if it were done by guys of any age in a pack. The thought that it would be wank fodder for the photographer wouldn’t have bothered me as much as the thought of it existing in permanent form for all to see. Needless to say no one but my husband and GFs point a camera at me anymore.

    Public photo etiquette is one thing, but a couple of people have brought up indignation that young women don’t seem sufficiently interested in horny non-alpha old guys. It’s well known that women don’t feel harassed by the attentions of high-status alpha men. Young women not viewing old guys as sexually viable is not a new thing. I was always surprised in those days that old guys expected me to reciprocate their lust, and were quite butthurt that I didn’t. At the time, however, it was just the Way of Things that old guys were going to try to get you to shag them. However gracelessly, they (eventually) took no for an answer and that was that. Perhaps what upsets people is that women now have the ability to put a stop to the attention of men they don’t find desirable. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think this is a good thing. Women won’t use this newfound power responsibly and it won’t lead anywhere good. I suppose that when this power was exercised by fathers and brothers and uncles on young ladies’ behalf it was more acceptable to the men being enjoined from their amorous behavior.

    Women wouldn’t have this power if it weren’t given to them. Who gave it to them, and why did they do that?


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