In the US, photographers have the right to happily snap shots on busy city streets and in popular parks. In Slovenia, not so much. Last month, photographer and 360° panorama-maker Boštjan Burger was forced to take down 11,000 photos showing strangers’ faces in public locations or face a year in jail and a $20,000 fine. Bogus! Which reminds us: How many celebrated, exciting and important photographs feature strangers marching through the streets or iconically lunching on a suspended girder? We doubt William Eggleston or Henri Cartier-Bresson had release forms signed. What if… they had to blur out their subjects’ faces, Google Street View style? In the spirit of our last censoring spree through art history, click through some famous, variously candid scenes of people in public, “altered” for privacy concerns.
Charles C. Ebbets’ classic precarious scene with the blue-collar daredevils blurred into anonymity… Sickly appropriate since the photographer wasn’t recognized with credit for this photograph until October 2003.
In this universe, Diane Arbus can’t go plucking picturesque photo models from the streets.
William Eggleston’s subjects could be feeling anything right now.
Civil Rights Movement photographer and secret FBI informant Ernest C. Withers’ protest documentation: “I Am a Man,” but who?
Likewise, the expressive crowds of Dan Garson’s Woodstock 1969 are privacy-blurred into a faceless layer of blobs.
Robert Doisneau’s street shots, minus the magic.
John Filo’s iconic shot of the tragic Kent State protests, grief erased.
Scrubbing faces out of just one of Henri Cartier-Bresson immaculate masterpieces feels like a crime.
Boris Mikhailov’s legendary drunks. No lucidity. No emotion. No character.
Weegee aka Arthur Fellig’s unbelievable scene of children, faces glowing with hunger to see their first murder victim… or not so much.
Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother, Dust Bowl Era devastation diluted.
Garry Winogrand’s olde version of Last Night’s Party, but less exciting.
Shawn Nee’s prime capture of Hollywood Boulevard performers on a break, with lots less oomph.
Miroslav Tichý’s voyeuristic, DIY-camera-wielding antics usurped.
Lastly, Kim Phuc’s tragic, world-changing scene of young Napalm victims of the Vietnam War. The effect of a privacy-protecting blur here is profound and distancing.