If I see this sign one more time when I’m out taking photos in Hong Kong, I fear something unsavoury could very well occur.
They were at it again the other night down at the tourist trap that is Temple Street: “Hey, no photo’; “Sir, no photo”; “You stop take photo now.” Well, if you can give me a legitimate reason why I can’t take a photo of that novelty gentleman’s posing pouch, your fine selection of ‘majestic double dongs’, or your so-called ‘comedy’ magnets, I’d gladly comply; but be aware that of the few good reasons you could possibly give, “because I said so”, “because you can’t”, or simply pointing at your ‘no photo’ sign, do not count amongst them.
Particularly at markets it seems, and particularly at those markets tourists love to go to, I’m seeing this phenomenon more and more. It’s as if by sticking a ‘no photo’ sign on anything for sale the law is then magically made to comply with your wishes; or as if not being able to take a photo of that ‘don’t look at me like a potato’ sign would really make me buy it instead. I’ve even started going out of my way to purposefully photograph things with ‘no photo’ signs on them simply because I find the whole concept so ridiculous.
I did this at the Ladies Market in Mong Kok a couple of months back and almost got in a fight with a 50 year old woman because of it. As soon as I lifted my camera to take the picture below, I could hear someone shrieking ‘no photo, no photo.’ I was fine with that, but when she came over and started trying to grab my camera telling me to delete said photo, a volley of Mancunian verbal abuse was the least she could expect to get back.
As it happened, in the heat of the moment I forgot to ask her the question that later seemed so obvious, namely, ‘Why?’ Not so much why couldn’t I take a photo of her very tasteful merchandise, but why she thought she could prevent people from taking photos in the first place.
The law regarding what you can and cannot photograph is actually pretty simple. Essentially, if you are in a public place – like, for instance, a market – you can photograph anything and anybody you wish to photograph. So unless you are one of those guys that goes around with cameras on the ends of their shoes taking photographs up pretty ladies’ skirts, whether there is a sign forbidding you to do so or not, you can snap away quite happily in the knowledge that it is your right as a free citizen to do so.
Obviously the law doesn’t protect you from ‘no photo’ vigilantes and various other nutters from trying to enforce their own version of a police state within the bounds of their own market stall. You need to use your own judgement as to what is fair game and what is not. But it seems to me that taking a photograph of an individual without their permission and taking a photo of an inanimate object which is on public display anyway, are two totally different issues. And if someone says to you, as this woman said to me, that they will call the police if you don’t delete your photos, they’re talking horseshit and you are well within your rights to laugh in their face and invite them to do so. It’s the law.