Thursday, February 26, 2009

Japanese Jesus Christ Superstar

(Image borrowed from Japan Today, 2/26/09.)

Here's some visual globalization for you.

Japan Today text: The actor in the role of Jesus Christ performs at the final dress rehearsal of the kabuki version of “Jesus Christ Superstar” in Tokyo. A rickshaw, women in elaborate brocade kimonos, the echo of bamboo flutes, and Jesus of Nazareth, his face painted white with the flaring red lines, all share the stage at Gekidan Shiki, one of Japan’s best-known theater troupes, in its revival of the hit rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar“—with some very Japanese twists.

Want more information?

Link to "Jesus Christ goes kabuki in Japan 'Superstar' play" at Reuters India:

Link to Japanese Jesus Christ Superstar webpage:

And here's a YouTube clip from a previous production.

Christianity hasn't been so successful in Japan, but what about this production? The story of Jesus becomes glocalized? Comments, visual or otherwise?

Monday, February 23, 2009

"Eat Japanese!"

From Japan Focus: The Asia-Pacific Journal, 6-3-09.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture has a solution for many of Japan's (and perhaps the world's) ills: Eat Japanese. Taking a hard look at the triple whammy of Japan's 60+ percent food dependence, global warming, and bulging waistline that are the product of abandoning the nation's healthy diet of fish and tofu for beef, and depending ever more heavily on imported food, the Ministry offers a cheery nationalist broth for solving many of the nation's problems in this cartoon feature. Some readers may find the image of the idealized Japanese family and home in this feature remarkably reminiscent of Europeans and North Americans. Certainly Japanese, despite recent progress, have a long way to go to catch up with North American or European waistlines. Is it necessary to pose more probing questions such as the reasons why many of the fish that the Japanese diet depends on are disappearing, and why world food prices spiralled in recent years?

Posted on February 7, 2009. Recommended citation: Ministry of Agriculture, "Eat Japanese!"

We discuss this issue on the very first day of Globalization class as Japan's food dependency is a great example of the tension created by globalization. It is not merely an economic issue, but one based upon peoples' tastes and preferences. Should Japanese people go back to their traditional diet (whale meat anyone?)? Will it really solve all of their problems? Is it reasonable to ask Japanese people not to eat foreign food? Is it even possible to ask Japanese people to do away with McDonalds and Kentucky Fried Chicken?

It is interesting to see how the Ministry of Agriculture presents the situation in anime form. How successful do you think this film is?

Here's another film, from Apparently somebody is eating Japanese...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dick McVengeance Speaks: Some tips on how to blog

(Image borrowed from

Today VAOJ has a real treat for its loyal readers: our very first guest author. I won't introduce him myself as he does so in his article below. Needless to say I have appreciated his support for some time and his comments have made him sort of a legend around these parts. So, without any further ado...

Welcome all, to the Visual Anthropology of Japan. My name is Brad Rice, and I'm a former student of Professor Fedorowicz and the VAOJ class. Sadly, my blog has been lost to the demons of web hosting, so I'm taking up a few minutes of your time with this post on the VAOJ blog to talk about, well, blogging. Currently, I am a blogger for Modern Method, writing about video gamesanime, and figures -- things which many of you have an interest in, I would assume. I've also done work for The Escapist and Gawker Media. 

With any luck, this post will help guide you from the realm of daily livejournal updates to something a bit more professional and marketable. Blogging is one of those things that anybody can do, but it takes a certain amount of talent and ingenuity in order to make it profitable. So, without any further introductions, let's get into this.

Use spell check. Or a copy editor.

Spelling, punctuation, and grammar are things that you need to have a decent grasp on when dealing with the Internet. Sure, when you're IMing your friends, you may use truncated phrases and misspell words, because honestly, does anyone care in an IM conversation? Well, when you're presenting yourself on a professional blog, you need to have your command of the English language at hand. Albeit my posts are written by a Mr. Dick McVengeance, I still make sure to spell everything properly and use the English language to its full extent.

On that note, you really should endeavor to utilize English however you can. There are a myriad of words at your disposal, and sentences can be constructed to divulge multiple ideas and form complex arguments -- don't simply fall back on short, uninspiring sentences.

Form your own voice.

The first thing I look for when hiring writers is whether or not they have a voice. Can I clearly hear someone saying all this? That's one of my critical tests. Thankfully, telling whether or not someone has a voice is easier than defining obscenity. But not by much.

Expertise and writing style are the two biggest things that drive you having a voice. I think this might work best with some examples. My colleague and good friend Aaron Linde is one of my personal favorite writers on the Internet, so let's focus on his articles. One of the best ways that he makes his articles entertaining is his mixes humor and personal experience into the article to deal with the topic at hand. In his Psychonauts article, he draws on experiences that most of the readers have had -- a pushy, disinterested game store clerk who doesn't care about anything beyond mass-marketed titles.

I pick Aaron because for the most part, all of your writing will be based on pulling in your personal experiences, trying to reconcile your lives at home with what you're experiencing while  you're here in Japan and taking photos. You tell your friends stories about what happened over the weekend, and so you just need to put those stories and the way you tell them into words.

Watch your formatting.

It's very easy to just write your ideas in a single paragraph, because, well, you're only talking about a single idea. That's a bad idea. Perhaps if you're writing an article that's all of two or three sentences, you can do that, but it's not recommended. Rather, you should break up your paragraphs based on basic ideas.

A good rule of thumb is to write three to five sentences before switching paragraphs. Sure, you might have a 150-word requirement for each post, or however many Professor Fedorowicz has assigned, but that doesn't mean you can't go beyond those requirements and really explore the ideas stated in your posts. Sure, I'm getting off topic here, but one thing that you really need to make sure to do is not to leave your ideas unexplored. I hate that more than anything when reading your blogs. People just go through and state some facts based around the photos they've taken, and then don't follow through and question the practices, or relate it to an anecdote or whatnot.

Conclusions are nice.

It's a chance to summarize everything you've talked about in the article, and perhaps bring up something new that acts as a capstone on the whole article. So, here's mine.

Writing articles is not something you can get done within 15-20 minutes. It does take some time to generate a post, and you should really try to address whatever issue you're tackling that week -- this is a chance to create a written portfolio that you can shop around to more professional areas like Gawker, AOL Weblogs, or even Modern Method.

Writing is not easy -- it's something you need to work at in order to get better at. You could -- and I know this is a radical suggestion -- write more than what's required in order to get more experience. Also, read more blogs. They don't have to be Japan-related -- it could be The Consumerist, Lifehacker, Joystiq, or anything else that catches your interest. Much like writing fiction, you only get better the more you read.

"The Great Sasuke arrested on suspicion of assaulting man on train"

Visual anthropologists beware...

From Japan Today:

Professional wrestler and former Iwate prefectural assembly member The Great Sasuke has been arrested for allegedly assaulting a man on a train in Tokyo, police said Friday.

Sasuke, 39, whose real name is Masanori Murakawa, allegedly kicked the 36-year-old company employee, grabbed him by the collar and threw him against the door of the train late around 11:50 Thursday night. Witnesses said Sasuke got angry about having his picture taken with a cell phone camera while on a JR Joban Line train, police said.

Both men got off the train at nearby Minamisenju Station, where Sasuke was arrested after a bystander called police. Sasuke, who was wearing a wrestling mask at the time, denied allegations of assault.

Police quoted Murakawa as saying, “I didn’t want to be photographed when I was wearing the mask. I have the portrait right.”

Read the whole story:

Friday, February 20, 2009

Makoto Sasaki's FRAGMENT

(Image borrowed from USC East Asian Studies Center.)

Announcement from H-ASIA:

Join us for the U.S. Premiere of Makoto Sasaki's FRAGMENT, a film that explores Buddhist ritual and prayer in contemporary global society.

Sunday, February 22, 2009
2:00-3:30pm Screening of FRAGMENT (Japanese with English subtitles)
3:45-5:00pm Panel Discussion, Q&A
School of Cinematic Arts (SCA) 108, USC
Reception to follow
Please RSVP to with your name and number of guests

The screening will be followed by a Panel Discussion with Makoto Sasaki (filmmaker); Joe Parker (Pitzer College); William Whittington (USC School of Cinematic Arts); & Lori Meeks (USC College).

Film Synopsis:

Moved by the tragedy of 9/11, young entertainer Jicchoku Inoue decides to take a break from his television career so he can make offerings to those who died in New York. He becomes a Buddhist priest and commits himself to the aragyo, a 100-day ascetic practice so severe that is said to have claimed the lives of many who have attempted to complete it. Inoue survives the aragyo, a feat that earns him the right to use special ritual implements believed capable of destroying evil karma and pacifying the dead. He then takes his newly acquired ritual skills and instruments to Ground Zero, where he offers prayers, both for the dead and for world peace. Sasaki's film follows him on this ambitious journey.

About the Filmmaker

Makoto Sasaki was born in Japan in 1975. In 1997, he participated as screenwriter for a music movie called Yaips! produced by Tetsutaro Sakurai and also directed Satsuei Pochomukin, one of the segments in the anthology of films planed by Shinobu Yaguchi. The following year he signed a contract with Sony Music Entertainment as director of the image production team. He now works as a freelance image and video director for music videos and TV productions.

About the Cast

Jicchoku Inoue was born in Japan in 1977. After graduating college,he joined the film industry and appeared in several Japanese movies, dramas and TV shows. He is the senior administrative priest of Chokoji, a Nichiren temple in Tokyo, Japan.

Sponsored by the USC East Asian Studies Center; the Religion, Identity, and Global Governance Project; the Center for Visual Anthropology; the Center for Religion and Civic Culture; the Office of Religious Life; and the School of Religion.

For more information on the film (including a film clip), check out its webpage:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

"No. of HIV-infected, AIDS patients in Japan hits record high in 2008"

From today's Japan Today:

The number of people newly infected with the HIV virus and those who contracted AIDS in Japan in 2008 totaled 1,545, marking an all-time high for the sixth straight year, the health ministry said in a report released Wednesday. Of the 1,113 newly HIV-positive people and 432 AIDS patients, 1,442 were male, according to the report compiled by the AIDS Trend Committee of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

Read the whole article:

Another timely reminder as its been a while since VAOJ has addressed this serious issue. Of course the number cited in the article is low as most cases of HIV/AIDS go untested or unreported. The article also cites statistics claiming that the majority of new cases of HIV are due to male-male sexual contact. This is absolutely ridiculous and goes against the majority of research on the HIV/AIDS situation in Japan and the rest of the world. It is another example of scapegoating a particular population rather than doing anything constructive about the problem.

Japan is one of the few so-called wealthy, developed countries where HIV/AIDS continues to rise at alarming rates. Protect yourself. Spread the word, not the disease.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Google Street View in Japan

(Image borrowed from

Today in the Mainichi Daily News Online there is a short piece about Google Street View and the privacy issues it raises in Japan (Thanks, George, for the heads-up).

Link to News Navigator: What's all the fuss about Google Street View?

Here are a couple of other recent articles about the problems of Street View in Japan. See what interesting/embarrassing moments Street Views gathers...

Link to Group demands shutdown of Google Street View Japan at Japan Probe:

Link to Street View throws Japan for a loop at CNET:;title


(Image borrowed from Well Medicated)

Announcement from SSJ Forum:

A Multipart Series Devoted to Unexplored Tangents of the Japanese Film Produced by The Institute of Contemporary Japanese Studies, Temple University Japan Campus

Directed by Kon Ichikawa
Scenario by Natsuto Wada after the novel by Shohei Ooka 1959, 104 min.

Thursday, February 26 @ Super-Deluxe
Open 7pm / Start 8pm
Cost: 1500yen @ door


Introduction and Q&A by Donald Richie in English
(Film in Japanese with English subtitles)

Curator: Donald Richie

Fires on the Plain (Nobi)

One of the most powerful works from one of Japan's most versatile filmmakers, Kon Ichikawa (1915-2008), Fires on the Plain is also one of the most convincing antiwar films ever made. By making us share the brutalities and horrors of the last days of the Imperial Japanese Army, it forces us to share the miseries that man brings upon himself. Private Tamura, the protagonist, keeps on living to the end, if only (as one critic has phrased it) "to set himself apart from the solders around him who, in their desperation, have begun to regard the mortal remains of their fallen comrades
with hungry eyes."

Monday, February 16, 2009

Spring 2009: A New Semester and 30 New Student Blogs!

That's right, spring has sprung and along with it, a new semester and 30 new student blogs to read every week. We are already on week two so students have moved from sharing their initial reactions and early impressions of Japan to exploring their new neighborhoods. Students in the class are diverse in their experiences, backgrounds and opinions - I anticipate an interesting sharing and blending of perspectives in our quest to discover, observe and visually illustrate Japanese culture. Please help them (and me!) by visiting their blogs often and leaving comments. The titles of their blogs alone reveal vast potential for originality and creativity. How can you resist? Be a part of our project and see what directions we go. よろしく!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ethics of Visual Anthropology in Japan - Part Seven: The Guidelines

The Shooting Culture in Japan Project has been updated. Click here to see Part Eight of this series.

Reviewing the Project

As part of the Visual Anthropology of Japan course I teach, I send my students out to photograph "Japanese culture." Every week we have a new focus and theme, for example: early impressions, neighborhood, people, pop culture, globalization, religion, gender, sports, politics and changing impressions. Students are to take their own original photographs to illustrate the weekly theme and post at least two photos along with 200 words of text on an internet blog.

While there has never been a problem with the assignment, students have from time to time expressed concerns about taking photographs in public. Do we need to ask permission? Do we need a written consent form? Can we snipe photos from afar with our telephoto lens? What about shots of large crowds - how can we possibly get permission from everyone? Can we blur out the faces of individual we shoot to protect their privacy? How can I ask people's permission if I can't speak Japanese? Aren't all shots taken in public fair game?

These are all challenging questions that deserve more attention and explanation than "use your common sense."

With this in mind I have researched and posted information and data on several related issues here on VAOJ with the ultimate goal of establishing a set of guidelines for students of visual anthropology in Japan.

In Part One I provide some background into the problem, especially in the Japanese setting, along with discussion of privacy issues and portrait rights.

In Part Two I provide information on various academic codes of ethics, rules of conduct and photo posting guidelines including those from the American Anthropological Association, the Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association and Japan Today. The Right of privacy is also discussed.

In Part Three I examine regulations pertaining to terms of service of internet blogging and photo/video posting services. I also include information about Fair Use and Creative Commons.

In Part Four I provide comments from photographers and photojournalists currently working in Japan. How do they deal with taking photos in public?

Part Five examines the actual laws in Japan pertaining to photographing in public, privacy and defamation.

Part Six provides casual thoughts pertaining to this project and several scenarios where photographing in public may or may not be problematic.

Here in Part Seven I propose the following set of guidelines, not as a prime directive or final ruling, but rather as a starting point for further dialogue and development. These guidelines are for my students and not intended to dictate any rules or ethical standards on any other professionals or individuals engaged in similar activities. These guidelines are far from perfect. Personally I find some of them to be too conservative and too restraining, especially from the perspective of an artist/photographer/photojournalist (as my father was all three, I have some insight here). In the end the guidelines serve to protect my students; I cannot expect them to judge based on years of experience and/or possess Japanese cultural "common sense."

Protecting and honoring the people we study is a major theme of the guidelines. I believe this should be done while conducting research in the field and as a part of the collaboration we do with our informants/subjects. Various devices employed after a photograph has been taken to provide anonymity are problematic in that they take away from the true illustration we hope to provide in cultural description and in the end cannot fully guarantee privacy or protection. Also, they might serve to actually reinforce the difficult environment we struggle to work in. As Mark D. West writes in his Secrets, Sex, and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States (2006):

Once reserved only for truly information-sensitive cases, cheaply produced hype is used now even in cases which the legal context might not require it. The result of such "care" is often a heightened sense of sensationalism, sexiness, and mystery. As anonymous and unaccountable commentators with altered voices and hidden faces tell their stories, separating truth from lies in an already confusing system becomes even more difficult for viewers (p. 113).

Some examples:

Current advertisement for Keihan Train Line and its affiliated travel agencies; main caption reads: "travel from the usual station" (meaning you can start your journey conveniently from your local train station). Why is the woman's face cropped off? Is it to protect her privacy? What are we to focus on in the picture? A young woman sitting on her luggage? Was Keihan not able to get their usual model for this ad campaign?

Darkened image emphasizing the outline of the informant: the shadow knows...

(Image borrowed from With this new software (among other things) you can combine the faces of two individuals to disguise them both. Is this really useful for anthropology or any form of photography?

Link to "Face Swapper Privacy"

Artistic representations disguising the individual?

Other questions:

Is a street performer and the crowd he attracts fair game for photographing/filming?

How about someone dressed to attract attention? How about the people around her/him?

Does a smile or a pose indicate consent? How can the visual anthropologist judge how multiple audiences will react to the photo and the subject(s) within (are they seen in a good light or a bad light or a strange light?)? Should subjects be compensated? How?

If someone doesn't even know they are being photographed, can they really be hurt?

Can visual anthropologists in Japan get away with an in-your-face style of photography?

These are not easy questions to answer. But they are addressed in the guidelines. So, enough procrastination... Here they are... よろしくお願いします。

"Visual Anthropology of Japan" Student Guidelines for Photographing/Filming in Public (version 2009.1)

Preamble: The Environment, Intention and Practice

As visual anthropologists, the subjects of our research are of primary concern. They share their information as informants/collaborators and open their lives up for us and for the purpose of cultural description. Ensuring that our research does not harm the safety, honor and privacy of our subjects is our primary responsibility.

As visual anthropologists, we have the responsibility of sharing our research and findings with the general public as an academic exercise for educational purposes only. Our research is not a money-making endeavor. We must be especially careful in the cultural descriptions we provide, avoiding intrusion of privacy of the people we research. We strive to present honest and honorable discourse, endeavoring to avoid embarrassing our subjects and/or presenting them in a false light. Critique or critical comments must be handled in a sensitive fashion.

As visual anthropologists, we are engaged in both scientific and artistic activities. We must balance our creativity and originality with the protection of the people we study. We must also give credit where credit is due when we borrow the work, words, ideas and/or images provided by others. We work within the realm of Fair Use.

At the same time, we as visual anthropologists acknowledge the challenging environment we find ourselves in when doing our research in Japan. Japanese laws and court decisions dealing with privacy, defamation and portrait rights are obscure and ambiguous. Oftentimes the general public can be seen as over-reacting in their interpretation of current privacy laws. Not all in the public setting can be seen as fair game for photographing or filming. As such we as visual anthropologists have the responsibility to protect ourselves from lawsuits and prosecution.

As visual anthropologist working in Japan, we acknowledge the above responsibilities through our honest intentions and honorable practice.

Section 1. Students are advised to make their academic/scholarly/for educational purposes only intentions made clear on their blog through the following actions.

A. Provide an academic disclaimer: "This blog is a class project for my Visual Anthropology class; as such it is for educational purposes only. All photos posted here are taken by the blog author unless otherwise noted. If any problem with the posting of a particular photo is brought to my attention, I will earnestly review the problem and remove the photo if necessary."

B. If asked, actually remove problematic photos from the blog to avoid any legal problems.

C. License the blog with a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike License. This grants the blog owner certain rights while at the same time reinforcing the idea that the blog and its contents are being created and presented within the realm of Fair Use.

D. Refrain from adding any page elements to your layout that might result in making any money. Such an action would run counter to the noncommercial aspect of the creative commons license.

E. Give proper attribution for all work, words, ideas and/or images borrowed. This can be done through a standard academic citation and/or by providing the url of the source (or a hot link to the source).

F. Consider adding a watermark to your photographs and/or posting them in low resolution. Keep in mind that you lose some control over the images by posting them on the blog.

Section 2. Students are advised to ask permission of the people they photograph/film when at all possible. Subjects should give permission to be photographed and have their image posted on an internet blog. Oral permission is adequate as this is a not for profit, academic exercise.

A. During long term ethnographic projects, students should gain permission from their subjects/informants/collaborators. Continual negotiation of this permission is necessary as new situations arise and new people enter the research setting.

B. When photographing/filming in certain locations (temples, shrines, private property, etc.) watch for signs banning camera use. Be careful with your camera flash and any sounds your camera might make. Try to avoid getting in the way of others. Do not do anything that will interrupt the event you are researching.

C. When photographing unknown people in public, ask their permission first. However, there are instances when this is not possible, appropriate or would run counter to the goal of one's research. In such cases, ask permission after photographing/filming. If you are working with a digital camera, offer to show the image to the subject.

D. If you are photographing/filming in public at a crowded event and other people are taking photographs/filming, it is most likely acceptable to photograph/film as well without having to get permission from everyone in the crowd.

E. If you are the only one photographing/filming in public at a crowded event, it is a good idea to ask a few people around you what is going on and if it is appropriate to photograph/film. However your questions should not interfere with the event itself. Be discreet.

F. Sniping photographs/film with a telephoto lens from afar and taking secret photos/film should be avoided. This can be considered secret research which is also to be avoided under common anthropological ethics. Blurring faces and/or adding black bars over images do not effectively guarantee that the subject will be anonymous. Also, such techniques can be seen as taking away from any the whole point of illustrating one's cultural description.

G. Anything and everything in public is NOT fair game to be photographed/filmed in Japan. Even unintentional intrusion could be harmful to people appearing in the photograph and leaves the visual anthropologist at risk for legal action. Do not assume that your status as a foreigner in Japan will protect you from any privacy or defamation laws.

H. When seeking permission to photograph/film and blog, answer any questions the subject might have. Do not force them to do anything they do not want to do. Research standards as outlined in the AAA Code of Ethics should be followed whenever possible.

I. If you have difficulty speaking Japanese, you can 1) ask a Japanese-speaking friend to assist you, or 2) prepare a written script with appropriate questions, your name and the url of your blog. You can either speak the script or show it in written form.

J. Compensating the subject/informant/collaborator really depends on the depth of the relationship between the former and the visual anthropologist. Money compensation should be avoided. Sharing the url of your blog along with a hearty "thank you" should be sufficient. However, for long term relationships you might want to consider giving the subject a copy of the photograph/film, language exchange or some other simple personal favor. We must never forget that we cannot do our work without the cooperation and generosity of others.


Comments, please.

See Part Eight of this series (September 2014):

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

'Monga' in our midst

From Japan Today, 2/11/09:

“They get into jacuzzis at onsens still covered with body soap, punch out taxi drivers and so on. Here we pursue the mode of life of the foreigners who swagger in our faces during Japan’s recession!”

This week’s issue of Spa! (Feb 17) then proceeds with a four-page polemic against foreign tourists and residents titled “Report of Monster Foreigners on the Rampage.”

Spa! employs the word “monga” for this phenomenon, a neologism of created by combining “monsutaa” (monster) and “gaikokujin” (foreigner).

And what has this to do with visual anthropology and/or the project? Read on...

...One “maid” employed by a shop at Akihabara relates her own tale of woe: While distributing flyers on the street she was pursued by a group of five or six cackling black males, exclaiming “Meido-san! Meido-san!” as they recorded her image with video cameras.

“I was terrified, fled for my life,” she shudders.

This isn't making our job any easier...

Read the whole article and comments:


Announcement from H-Japan:

International Symposium at Columbia University, March 6-7, 2009

This two-day international symposium takes both diachronic (historical) and synchronic (cross-media) approaches, seeking to bring recent research on early modern censorship into dialogue with studies of 19th and 20th century Japanese literary and visual culture. The symposium begins with Edo-period print culture and kabuki theatre, examines prewar literature, analyzes newsreels and popular visual materials from World War II through the Occupation period, and finally concentrates on Occupation-period literature, film, and popular culture.

Registration is required.
RSVP by February 27 to

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Some more thoughts before the guidelines... (Ethics Part Six)

It is this time of fear and loathing, when peoples' basic human rights are being taken away (or freely given away) in the so-called war(s) against terrorism; where information is bought, sold, shared and available to anyone with access to the internet (upload, download, Google it; Wiki it, YouTube it, Blog it, Twitter it - it's all there); how images of person and property have become commodities with rights of their own, the concept of privacy has lost any logical meaning it might have once had. The right to know. Portrait rights. Copyright rights. The right to be paid. The right of honor. The right to live a healthy, happy life. The right of mental wellness. The right to be protected. The right to be paranoid. The right to have rights. The right thing to do. Two wrongs don't make a right. A right angle. The right to privacy. Yes, we are back to privacy. Who has the right to give it to us and take it away from us? The government through laws, legislation, local ordinances and legal decisions? The media with their probing telephoto lenses and secret, protected sources? Academics in their ivory towers with lofty ethical rules of conduct? Professionals in the field who have built up an internal common sense of what is right or wrong or legitimate/excusable action? Artists for art's sake? Scientists for science's sake? Ourselves through our behavior (moral or otherwise) and physical movements through spaces and time?


A young foreigner walks up to you, and struggling to speak your language, asks you: "Is it OK that I took a picture of you engaged in a cultural activity and is it OK that I put it on my blog for a school project?"

How are you going to answer?


The overwhelming nature of this project makes it never-ending. Everyday there is more and more information - data to be consumed and pondered. Everything is related.

"AP alleges copyright infringement of Obama image"

A news organization fights an artist over the rights of an image. Who owns the image? Who should be compensated? Why in the discourse is there no word from Obama himself? Does not the individual own the rights to his/her face?

"Japan toughens up on Internet regulation" and "18 people to be prosecuted over insulting messages on comedian's blog"

Japan is watching and regulating the internet, blogs included. People get arrested for making threats and flaming. Who is it that judges what a threat is?

"Internet freedom needs responsible user behavior"

We live in an age in which everybody can transmit information. But such freedom brings with it responsibilities.

Internet users must recognize that their own actions will ultimately lead to restrictions being placed on them if they misuse the technology available to them.


Scenario One: A student has been involved with her research subjects for some time. The research subjects have some understanding what the student is researching. Student and subjects have negotiated what is appropriate and what is not appropriate to photograph. This negotiation continues as more people become subjects and the research evolves. The student shows his photographs to his subjects and respects their opinions and wishes with respect to posting photos on her blog.

Scenario Two: A student sees a person engaged in a cultural event. The student asks permission to photograph the person and post the photo on a blog.

Scenario Three: A student photographs a person engaged in a cultural event. After photographing the student asks the person if it was OK to photograph and if it is OK to post the photo on a blog. The student shows the person the photo on her digital camera.

Scenario Four: A student photographs a crowded cultural event. It is impossible to ask permission of all the people in the photograph. The setting of the photo is a public space. There are no signs prohibiting photography. Other people are taking photographs as well. The student posts the photo on her blog.

Scenario Five: Same as Scenario Four but the student is the only one taking photos.

Scenario Six: The student takes advantage of her telephoto lens. The people never know they have been photographed. The student judges the photos not to show the people in a bad light. The student posts the photo on her blog.

Scenario Seven: The student takes discreet photos of people in public. The people are not aware they are being photographed. The student judges the photos not to show the people in a bad light. The student posts the photo on her blog.

Scenario Eight: Variations of Scenarios Six and Seven. Before the student posts the photos on her blog, she blurs or alters the face(s) so that the person/people in the photograph cannot be identified.

Scenario Nine: The student photographs anything and anyone in public without asking permission. Anything and everything photographed by the student is her academic property and fair game to be posted on her blog. It is all for educational purposes only.

Which if these scenarios is appropriate conduct for a student of the visual anthropology of Japan?

Monday, February 9, 2009


(Image borrowed from Collection of Colonies of Bees web site.)

Last Saturday night I did something I haven't done in a log time - go to a live concert (I think my last concert was to see Puddle of Mudd in Traverse City, Michigan, USA a couple years ago). My student, Joe, had turned me on to this band named toe last semester. Toe reminds me of a cross between Pat Metheny and Pink Floyd. Their cds are full of instrumental jams that I imagined sounded even better in a live setting. So when Joe told me toe was coming to the Osaka, I had to go...

Link to toe web page:

The venue was Fandango, a live house set among bars, izakayas, pachinko parlours, love hotels, host bars, hostess clubs and other sex shops in the Juso area of Osaka. The place is kind of hard to find as it does not have a flashing neon sign and its door looks more like a back entrance. There was a short line to get in. Once inside we (I was accompanied by my care-taker) received many flyers and a complimentary sampler promotional cd (from Contrarede). The place was packed. We were obliged to buy a mandatory drink along with the ticket so we made our way to the bar and ordered a couple of beers. I was surprised to receive my beer in a real glass. They were serving drinks in glass bottles and cans as well. Again, the place was packed as we tried to make our way towards the stage. The best we could do was about 10 meters from the stage. Waves of people were in front of us so it was impossible to get a clear view. Of course the tallest of the Japanese people had to be in front of me. Luckily there were three video monitors set up in the middle of the room on the left side, providing a better view of the band, when the camera was in focus, that is.

There were lots of young people, in their twenties, mostly males with medium length hair and black horn-rimmed glasses. There were only 4 other foreigners in the crowd of some 200-plus people as I could see. Joe was one of them, appearing in the front, very close to the stage. We were able to exchange greetings between people and somehow he managed to get a shot of me with his camera (me beer glass raised hand, other hand giving the peace sign). I was easily the oldest person there. Even before the first band began, I was struggling between flashbacks of my college and San Francisco days and observations of the sheer differences of this Japanese live house event.

No moshing, so no worry of broken glass. Bartenders squeezed through the crowd to gather bottles, cans and glasses when people finished their beverages. A few people were smoking cigarettes, but other substances seemed to be missing. When the band started there was polite applause. Most gently swayed with the beat of the music - there were no crazy dancers.

The place was incredibly hot and the air stale. Standing for such a long time was proving to be difficult. So glad to have my caretaker with me I thought. Just then a young woman stumbled towards us, ultimately collapsing against the sound engineer's booth. My caretaker rushed to help her. Soon bartenders were there to escort her to a bar stool at the back of the room.

The first band was Collection of Colonies of Bees. After the first loud crash of the drum I stuck tissue in my ears for protection (a colleague told me how he had punctured his ear at a concert and while it has recovered, he still hears ringing sounds; I am not afraid to lose my hearing as I can do sign language but I can do without the ringing...). They jammed with guitars, a bass, drums, keyboards and at least two Mac computers. Sort of an electronic Brian Eno meets Pink Floyd sound - all instrumentals. The musician in the rear (playing keyboards, a guitar at times and one of the Macs was a large man sporting a full beard - he looked like my cousin from Minnesota (turns out the band is from Wisconsin...).

I really liked this band and hope to hear more of their stuff.

Link to Collections of Colonies of Bees web page:

The first band finished, more polite applause and then toe began setting up. It was at this time that my caretaker began to feel ill. She excused herself to the back of the bar and told me to stay where I was. By this time I had maneuvered into a space so I could lean against the sound booth; there was no way I could stand unsupported much longer. I wondered if I could really enjoy the show without my companion. And besides, she was supposed to take care of me...

The band started and toe was as great as I suspected they would be. Very tight jams. I enjoyed the music. I also took out my camera for the first time and began to take some shots. I wasn't sure if photographing was allowed. There were no signs and no warnings on my ticket stub. I didn't see other people in the audience with cameras. There were people associated with the bars taking photos. I snapped a few but as you can see I wasn't able to get much due to my position, distance and the lighting.

I took a photo of one of the video monitors so maybe you can get a better idea of the set-up.

But most of my photographs turned out like this.

But it really seemed to match the experience - trippy music and light dancing here and there...

I also shot a few seconds of video a couple times. This clip should give you a better idea of the scene.

After the show I gathered my caretaker (who had recovered and became friends with the young woman who passed out earlier) and we headed to the door and fresher air. On the way we encountered Joe, who looked extremely happy. And why not? Imagine being in the front row, less than a meter away from your favorite band. He spoke to me as I struggled to remove the tissue buried deep in my ears. I asked him if he took any photos and he gave me this look like I just failed him on a school assignment. "No... I was listening to the music..." Relax, Joe. You're not in my class this semester...

Anyway, despite all the health problems encountered, it was a good night and a great show. My caretaker, however, was still a little confused by the music. She had never heard of the bands before. I tried to explain who they were and what they were doing by offering a comparison with Pink Floyd. She claimed not to know Pink Floyd as well. Now it was my turn to get ill... The rest of the evening was spent trying to educate her on such important matters.

I realized that night, I might be too old to be hip again, but I'll always be the visual anthropologist struggling to discover Japan... Can one take photos/video at Japanese live shows?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Historical Photos of China and Korea

From 2 recent H-ASIA announcements...

1. Historical Photographs of China

About the project (Project's self description)

A collaboration between scholars at the University of Bristol, University of Lincoln, and the Institut d'Asie Orientale, this project aims to locate, archive, and disseminate photographs from the substantial holdings of images of modern China held mostly in private hands overseas. These are often of even greater historic interest than might ordinarily be the case, as the destruction of materials inside China in war and revolution in the twentieth century, and especially during the 1966-69 Cultural Revolutio, means that there is a relative dearth today of accessible photographic records in China itself...

The photographs archived here come from the collections of a Chinese diplomat, foreign businessmen, staff of the administrations in the Chinese treaty ports, missionaries, and officials of the Chinese Maritime Customs Service. They shed light on political events such as the 1925 May Thirtieth incident, on working and social life, on treaty port architecture, commercial history, the history of dress and fashion, and of course the history of photography in China. They were taken by talented amateur photographers, by foreign snap-shotters, professional studio photographers, and others. These images were taken, acquired or bought by those living or visiting China.

Link to Historical Photographs of China:

2. Korean War Historical Images (Not much of a description is offered; thumbnails are set up on a Flickr page - photos have short captions.)

IMCOM-Korea Photo Collections, The Installation Management Command-Korea Region (IMCOM), US Army Korea... Cleared for public release. This image is generally considered in the public domain - Not for commercial use. U.S. Army Korea - Installation Management Command.

Link to Korean War Historical Images:

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ethics of Visual Anthropology in Japan - Part Five

The Law in Japan

Continuing on...

It seems there are laws relating to photographing in public in Japan (mostly applied to the media) within the areas of privacy and defamation. Here I am borrowing and quoting the fine works of

Lawrence Ward Beer (1984 Freedom of Expression in Japan: A Study in Comparative law, Politics, and Society. Tokyo, New York and San Francisco: Kodansha International LTD. Chapter 9 "Defamation, Privacy, and Press Freedom" pp. 314-334.)


Mark D. West
. (2006 Secrets, Sex and Spectacle: The Rules of Scandal in Japan and the United States. Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press. Chapter 3 "Privacy and Honor" pp. 58-113.)

I will begin with Beer's interpretation of Japan's Civil Code and Criminal Code and interject some of West's more recent comments and examples.

Civil Code

Article 723 ...Defamation (Meiyo kison) is an "unlawful Act" (Fukokoi) for which pecuniary compensation and/or other "suitable measures" such as public apology my be required: If a person has injured the reputation of another, the Court may, on the application of the latter, make an order requiring the former to take suitable measures for the restoration of the latter's reputation either in lieu of or together with compensation for damages.

Article 709. A person who violates intentionally or negligently the right of another is bound to make compensation for damage arising therefrom.

Article 710
. A person who is liable in compensation for damages in accordance with the provisions of the preceding Article shall make compensation therefore even in respect of a non-pecuniary damage, irrespective of whether such injury was to the person, liberty or reputation of another or to his property rights.

Criminal Code

Article 230. A person who defames another by publicly alleging facts, shall, regardless of whether such facts are true or false, be punished with imprisonment at or without forced labor for not more than three years or a fine of not more than 1,000 yen. (Beer 1984: 319)

In both civil and criminal cases in Japan, injurious statements about matters of private concern are actionable regardless of their truth. Injurious statements made about matters of public concern must be truthful or the speaker must have a good-faith belief in their truth (West 2006: 75).

In Japanese, then, defemation/meiyo kison is not about damage to mere reputation (hyoban)... it's about damage to honor (meiyo)... Reputation/hyoban is the view from the outside, how others see you... Honor/meiyo has several definitions... [I]t also includes... internal feelings that can be variously described as pride, personal integrity, dignity, or awareness of the worth of one's character. It's this concept of honor as both internal feelings and external reputation that illuminates the Japanese defamation law regime. (West 2006: 79)

West describes one example of this playing out in the courts. Well known baseball player Kazuhiro Kiyohara was reported by one publication to have visited strip joints in Seattle when he was supposed to be training. Kiyohara denied it and sued for defamation. Noting psychological injury to Kiyohara when he was supposed to be training as well as the weekly's continued publication of such stories even after suit was filed, the Tokyo District Court awarded damages of $100,000 (West 2006 80).

Here's another example: Masumi Hayashi was sentenced to death for murdering four people and sickening 63 others with poisoned curry in Wakayama in 1998... [T]he publisher and others have been ordered to pay ¥2.2 million in compensation after the Supreme Court also ruled that a photograph of Hayashi they published had infringed on her reputation and well-being. The high court originally ruled against the publisher and others after they published a photograph of Hayashi wearing handcuffs and a rope around her waist and three illustrations of her in court that [she]... claimed had infringed on her portrait rights. In the Supreme Court ruling, presiding Justice Niro Shimada said the photograph was illegal but that the illustrations - except for one also depicting a handcuffed Hayashi with a rope around her waist - were not inappropriate... In his ruling, Shimada said, "The defendant is responsible for paying compensation if the portrait exceeds the permission given by the person pictured after his or her social status and activities and the place, purpose or necessity of taking the photograph are taken into account." (The Daily Yomiuri, November 11, 2005, page 1)

...[A] Grand Bench decision in late 1969 recognized the Right of a Person to His Own Likeness (Shozoken; e.g., a right not to be photographed without consent) as an aspect of the right of privacy ultimately guaranteed by Article 13 of the Constitution, which provides that "All of the people shall be respected as individuals" with the "right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness." Although relatively few citizens were initially aware of it, local governments began around 1975 to pass ordinances designed to protect citizens' privacy rights. Finally in 1980 and 1981, the national government conducted a Cabinet-level study of the effects on privacy rights of the increasing and ever-more-sophisticated administrative use of personal data in computers. A privacy Protection Law was expected to follow. (Beer 1984: 325)

To protect personal information from exploitation by both private and public sources, the Japanese legislature in 2003 passed the Personal Data Protection Law, the key provisions of which became effective in 2005... The law protects as "personal information" not only health, financial, and social-status issues but also such basic information as names and birth dates. (West 2006: 61)

The National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan reported 3,238 inquiries on the law in the six months following its enactment; the Center found the formal, strict legal interpretations that were being used on a daily basis to be "an overreaction." (West 2006: 62)

[T]hree major legislative initiatives - Juki Net, the Information Disclosure Law, and the Personal Data Protection Law - suggest a Japanese society in which dynamics of the debate about secrecy and information flow have shifted significantly in recent years toward an open government and protection of citizens' privacy. (West 2006: 62)

...[W]hen a photographer illegally snapped photos of Aum Supreme Truth cult leader Shoko Asahara in Tokyo District Court, he was challenged by eltie reporters not for his clear violation of court rules, but with the question, Are you not thinking at all of Asahara's right to privacy?" ...The publication, the criticism, and the debate show not only the ways that the Japanese concept of privacy rights differs from the American, but also the lack of social consensus. (West 2006: 68)

Both Beer and West provide many more examples of lawsuits pertaining to privacy rights in Japan. Consistency in court decisions does not seem to be a pattern. With such seemingly ambiguous laws and interpretations of them, how should visual anthropologists go about their research and still protect the people they study and themselves as well? Stay tuned to VAOJ... Guidelines to follow. 本当に!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Ethics of Visual Anthropology in Japan - Part Four

Photographing in Public in Japan: What Professional Photographers Have To Say

More monster text...

I contacted several photographers and photojournalists via e-mail and asked them questions about photographing in public in Japan. I received responses from 6 individuals. All are foreigners who have been working in photography for at least several years. One of the photographers reproduced my questions in his own blog and received more comments; I reproduce comments from 4 people in his blog here.

I am grateful to those who took the time and energy to answer my questions. There are some very interesting answers below that are helpful in my goal of establishing a set of guidelines for students of Visual Anthropology of Japan to follow when doing their research. I would have liked to receive responses from Japanese photographers; hopefully I will in the future. I present my questions followed by the answers I received. All respondents remain anonymous. I do not supply any of my own comments or analysis yet. My next move is a draft of guidelines for my students based on all the recent monster blog posts where I have dumped various data to be digested and pondered. After my students are set and working on their assignment I will continue with this project with the hopes of gaining more data and ultimately publishing a polished version in an anthropological journal. I am sharing my raw data here in the spirit of collaboration as all of the photographers who responded seemed very interested in this project and requested further information.

In addition, here are two additional sources that are valuable for this dialogue. The first is a web page with advice on how to conduct street photography.

Link to - Techniques:

The second is a YouTube video about American street photographer Bruce Gilden.

I will comment here while I enjoy Gilden's approach (although I wonder how he can get away with it, even in America...), such a technique would probably not go over so well here in Japan...

OK, so here is the Q&A with photographers currently working in Japan:

1) How do you go about taking photographs in public?

A-さん: The organization to ask is the 日本新聞協会 (Nihon Shinbun Kyoukai; The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association). I went to their office in Hibiya and a one of their staff very patiently explained the rules to me. They are also printed in a handbook published by the organization called 取材と報道.

B-さん: So far I have just been shooting anything and anybody without worrying about anything.

C-さん: Generally, photographing in public spaces with a tripod often needs a permit (that depends from area to area), without a tripod is easy. If you use images of several people in the frame for non commercial like art or journalistic purpose, internationally this is fine without permission, but if these photographs ever show up in an advertising, you MUST have a written consent. And if you do portraits etc, asking is generally better. If you shoot a religious or cultural event, it is better to get a permission, too.

D-さん: As a general motto it is of utmost importance to be open and frank about what you do and then assess the reaction of people towards your taking photos of them. That will determine whether to go ahead with the shot or just move on to the next opportunity. We never compensate monetarily and when publishing (on the web) we never blur the face or similar. I have lately observed blurred number plates of cars as well in published photos, but I am unaware of the motivations behind it. I have no hard info on the legalities, but given the strong history of photography in public in Japan and the many exhibitions of photographers featuring strangers there does not seem to be any reason to be overly concerned, although as always the consultation of a lawyer may be advisable.

E-さん: As a photographer the anthropological aspect to what we are doing is never far from my mind. We notice the differences and similarities of the people and cultures we photograph, that is our job. The golden rule is also ALWAYS research. You can get much better pictures if you understand and respect, or even not in some cases, the people you wish to have in your images.

I try to blend in, to be unnoticed if possible. Sometimes though getting noticed in important for eye contact to fix an image in the viewers eye. Japanese people, I have noticed, have an understanding of the needs of many of the Japanese cameramen, particularly the retired enthusiasts with professional aesthetics that shoot everything, everywhere. Indeed at times they seem to be almost invisible to their subjects which is somewhat gall inducing when I try, without success, to do that. The annoying peace sign is the flip side of that knowledge and is mostly to me a wasted shot though it can have ironic impact like a nationalist burning a Chinese flag at Yasukuni flipping the peace sign as happened to me last year. It is harder to get the people to act down but be aware of you sometimes so I just hang around longer until they get used to you. Other times I just shoot from the hip and move on quickly.

F-さん: I just go out, walk about, and shoot that which interests me, which is usually people. I don't have any method, other than travel light in terms of cameras carried, small discreet camera is preferable. I walk and I shoot at random when something perks my interest. I'll criss-cross streets, back and forth, up and down, follow the action, or just loiter in somewhere where there are groups of people, or it looks like there might be pictures to be had. If you were to plot my movements you would concur that you were following a mad man.

2) Do you get permission from the people you photograph in public? How? Oral permission? Written permission?

A-さん: For photojournalists the rule tends to be "shoot first, ask permission later". Generally speaking, I only ask permission if people have noticed I am there.

B-さん: Usually I don't. Most people I shoot from a distance so they are not aware that I took their picture. When you ask people if you can take their pictures, they always start posing and put the peace sign up - totally useless images are the result. If you want to catch life on the streets you have to do it without the people knowing. Occasionally, I might ask somebody to take a series of pictures so then of course, the subject is posing and that shows in the images.

C-さん: That depends. If you need candid street shots, I don' t ask for permission. Otherwise, a simple smile for approval is fine. For a photo of posing people, a written model release is best.

E-さん: Sometimes I ask if it is okay to take their picture. I use the very polite keigo version for older people or right-wingers. Sometimes I need to isolate a person or people from a crowd as the shot is too messy or move them into a specific position that they had been before or someone else had been before and would have made a great shot if less busy. In that case I am quite business like and tell them my motivation and my intent. Since digital it has been easier to show people what you just did too and they trust you more when they can see you are not intent on exploiting them. I have rarely used model releases but if a shot will be used in advertising I do. The main journalistic rule however is shoot first apologise or seek permission after (if they notice) that is.

F-さん: No, I don't. I work on the premise that it is ok to shoot until told not to. I shoot and don't ask permission (usually, there are of course sometimes exceptions). Generally I shoot and don't ask permission. If someone deliberately moves away, or turns their back, or tells me not to shoot then I generally abide by that and don't shoot. Of course there are always exceptions, sometimes I will ask, but usually that would be if I was shooting more of a considered portrait as opposed to a fleeting moment, where if I was to ask permission the moment would be gone. (Oral permission?) Yes, if I ask people. (Written permission?) I don't think I've ever done that.

H-さん: I am a photo-journalist and also shoot for my sites. As a photo-journalist I never ask permission as my images are published as news stories in newspapers and magazines, mostly abroad. But for photos that go on my site... I have each person that I shoot sign a Japanese language release of rights. It is a lot of extra work, but it helps as the people in the images know exactly how the images will be used.

3) What do you know about the laws and regulations in this matter, especially dealing with privacy laws and portrait rights in Japan?

A-さん: You need to ask the Shimbun Kyoukai about this. As I understand it, there are no restrictions on taking photos in public places in Japan. But if the picture is published and you have infringed someone's right to privacy, they can sue you and have a good chance of winning. The example I was given was taking a picture of Shibuya crossing, publishing it in a Japanese magazine, and then being sued because a couple in the photo were having an affair. If you harmed their marriages by infringing their right to privacy you can lose in court. That's very different to say the UK where pretty much anyone is fair game as long as they are in a public place.

The Shimbun Kyoukai did tell me though that no foreign journalist has been sued in this situation. It's probably because if the picture is published outside Japan its less of an infringement of privacy.

B-さん: To be honest, nothing at all. I didn't even know there were such laws. Portrait rights?? Must be something new. Never heard about it before.

C-さん: I do not know much here. But, as Japanese generally are photo crazy themselves, photographing people here never has been a problem. Social documentary type of photography, like homeless people etc, there I always ask out of respect.

E-さん: As far as I understand there is no right to privacy in Japan if you are not a celebrity. Portrait rights are only to protect the product of a talento though there seems to be some call for these rights to be extended. I know that if an image is published in Japan and causes someone harm by exposing a secret that they could realistically hoped to have kept the photographer can lose badly in the courts. This doesn’t affect images published overseas though so am not too worried. The internet is another issue here as it is global but the English language barrier should stop any images accidently causing problems even in Japan.

F-さん: In the UK from where I come , I know the rules (although post 9-11 terrorism incidents these rules are becoming harder to work by and live with/ be protected by). In Japan I'm not so sure of the exact rules regarding privacy/portrait rights, but I work to the same rules as I would in UK. If I'm in the street then I'm on public property and everything is fair game. If I'm within private property, on the grounds of a company, in a building, bar/ hotel etc then obviously the rules are different, you should have permission, but this isn't to say I don't still shoot without asking- but legally if I was later challenged I'd be on thin ice. As for portrait rights, I wouldn't do a picture and then be able to use it in advertising or to generate money through adding it to promote a product etc, without having rights granted. I can understand that but it isn't something which usually I have to worry about. I do of course take portraits of celebrities through my newspaper work, and then I will resell those images, but only in an editorial sense, not to use in advertising in anyway.

G-さん: There is a law – I’ve been assured by Japanese nationals - requiring faces to be obscured in published photos. License plate numbers also seem to be regularly obscured. Don’t know about the face- obscuring issue. Seems very few faces are mosaic’ed in photos of all kinds on the Japanese websites and blogs. There also seems to be a gray area regarding photos of the girls at the beach. Cops forever seem to be arresting photographers for…taking pictures in a public place. Would be nice to know the rules about that scenario. Also, the Google Streetview images - seems to be a controversy also about photos snapped from public places.

I-さん: There is a portrait right regarding celebrities where all images of Japanese “talentos” have to be authorized by them or their management before being published (in Japan at least as I understand it). This is nominally to stop unofficial endorsements in advertizing, though this seems an unneeded protection to me and is, I believe, a way to stop scandal stories developing much publicity in the picture led gossip mags. Also apparently all images of the royal family are property of the Imperial Household Agency.

4) Do you do anything to protect the people who appear in your photographs (like blurring out their face, etc.)?

A-さん: No I don't, basically because I'm not worried about being sued (see above). Also, it wouldn't be acceptable in a foreign publication.

B-さん: No, I don't blur people's faces because what is the point of taking candid pictures if you blur the faces?? I do take care not to make people look stupid and I don't make fun of them.

C-さん: Never.

E-さん: No! It isn’t ethical to me to do so and aside from France where I believe minors are protected this way in print journalism, the face is most important to telling the story most of the time. I have tried to protect dignity of people who may not want their picture seen due to poor circumstances such as poverty in Japan, but the dehumanising blur or pixalation is unneeded where I sell my work mostly.

F-さん: No, unless it is specifically asked for, i.e. recently I did an assignment about "private investigators" etc., and I blurred the faces of some people they were following, as they had no idea I was taking their pics and those pics were appearing in a magazine.

I-さん: [T]he media here have a fear of maybe we’ll get in trouble so blur out any identifying features just in case. The courts have invariably come down against the photographer in any cases that have been brought and damages are high so it perhaps better to be safe. What I don’t like is the way that ordinary people have gotten this fear too though the trickle down effects of rumour and misinformation even though there is really no cause for a blogger for example to pixalate faces, and there is a growing false understanding, as in my own country of England, that it is illegal to take pictures of people in the street.

5) Do you ever compensate people you photograph in public (either money or other considerations)?

A-さん: Never money. I will send them a copy of the photo if they ask.

B-さん: Occasionally I give some money to homeless people when I take their picture but I don't think of that as compensation for taking the picture, just because I feel sorry for them.

C-さん: If I photograph people portrait- style, I would give them a nice print, otherwise I never compensate.

E-さん: I have given homeless people money and food and not photographed them after initially wanting to but I have never paid someone for a photograph. Usually spending a bit of time talking to them helps ease the way to shoot. One thing to remember is you are there with a camera and if you tell them why you are there and spend a bit of time explaining yourself and learning about them they will basically expect you to do your job and ask to take their picture. If they like you most will say yes.

F-さん: I say no, generally I don't, it changes the situation if you start paying for pictures..... But yesterday I did give a homeless guy some yen after I’d shot his portrait, but that was an incredibly rare event, that I do a portrait like that, and he was half naked in the cold, he needed some help and a friendly moment.

6) If you have published your work in print, how do book publishers deal with these issues? Is it up to the photographer or the publisher to gain permission for all photos published?

A-さん: This is about the difference between editorial and other photography. If you want to use the photo in an advertisement, company brochure etc you will need a "photo release" for any people or property in the photo. The photographer normally has the subject sign the release just after the photo is taken.

It is very important for stock photography as you never know where the photo might be used. In the US its necessary to make a small payment to make the contract legal I think. (There's a lot of info about this on the internet). Photo releases have become common in Japan too.

C-さん: Yes, the publishers always delegate this responsibility to you, the photographer. But as I said above, you needn’ t worry really. In the US, privacy rights are meanwhile very strict. Many photo contests now demand a written consent from everybody in the picture, even the images were taken overseas. That of course, is unpractical and nonsense. But in Japan generally things are smoother, and lots of contracts are done handshake-style, so a friendly smile asking for permission would be fine for most situations.

E-さん: Model releases are the photographers responsibility. Publishers have larger legal teams that would be able to assess the potential damages of any suspect photo and would I leave it up to them to run or not run such an image if I ever took one!

F-さん: I'd say it's up to both, it really depends on the work that would be published. How much it could be regarded as an intrusion of privacy, or defamatory etc. It would really depend on the pictures and situation, and if it were being used in an editorial way or advertising.

7) What about posting pictures you have taken in public on the internet? Are there any special considerations here? Do you do anything to protect your posted photos?

A-さん: I watermark my photos…

B-さん: The pictures I put on my web site are low resolution, small size and not suitable to be printed out. I don't think that anyone else would want to print them out and use them for evil purposes. My pictures never show people in a bad light.

C-さん: I suggest watermarking them and putting your copyright next to them or on them.

E-さん: I should watermark my blog pics but I don’t. I watermark my website pics. must really get onto watermaking my blog pics.

F-さん: I post pics on the internet, I don't hide identities etc of anyone in them.

8) Any other comments?

B-さん: It's really sad that more and more rules and regulations are being made that limit creative expression and spontaneity in photography. Do you think that famous street photographers such Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Doisneau, Eisenstaedt, Lartigue and others, ever asked their subject if they could take their pictures?? The reason why these photographers are famous is just because their pictures grabbed life on the streets first hand, raw, unposed and beautiful.

That is why do street photography, to catch life as it is in all its aspects.

E-さん: Photography is being attacked on all sides by the current fashion for control in the name of security and photographers need to be fully and intelligently aware of the rights they have. I’m from the UK where the general population, private security and even many policemen think that public photography is an illegal act. They are wrong and everyone with a camera should know that so that ignorance cannot take away out right as photographers to enjoy our hobby or undertake our business. I hope that this sort of intimidation does not come to Japan but rather fear it will. Like England also I fear that the subjects of street candids will begin take violent umbrage to having their picture taken first. A few assaults and such rules will be brought in soon after to "protect" subjects and photographers, nib the problem in the bud as it were much as has happened in France where I’m told that in an effort to stop the craze of "happy slapping" photographing strangers is more or less illegal. I am happy to be corrected though.

F-さん: I think when you are a professional photographer doing this type of work a lot, day in day out for 20 years, then you get a good sense of when it is ok to shoot, and when it isn't, and also, although this may sound crazy, even when it is ok to shoot even though you've been told not to (- and those moments depend on why you're shooting what you're shooting, what the end purpose is for etc.) My skill and professionalism tells me how far I can push a situation, how to read peoples body language etc, how much I can shoot before I'd better leave or move on. Being a Westerner in Japan also affords you a bit of extra leeway, people are less likely to challenge me. Although it can also work against you occasionally.

(I’m not sure if the following person is a photographer, but his comments are still interesting.)

J-さん: Regardless of whether there are laws that allow one to take photos in public, I confess that I’ve found it a very easy matter to get police cooperation to threaten photographers into ‘compliance’. In my case, I was irked by what appeared to be a team of Japanese professional photographers taking shots of us as I was walking my son to school. I indicated a firm “no! bugger off!” and they put down the camera but being a foul mood, I dropped by the police box further down in the road. In no time at all, the policeman was on them and forcing them to pack up their gear. Sorry - I know you guys have a right to your livelihood and everything. However, regardless whether you might have a legal right or not, I will be damned if anyone takes photographs of my kids.

A-さん’s response: Have been on exactly the other end of that situation! I was taking photos of schoolchildren for a story on the shrinking birthrate. Two policeman hauled me into a koban, checked my gaijin card, give me a ticking off, and told me to go away and take photos of Fuji-san instead.


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