A woman I don’t know just gave me the finger. The one-finger salute. She flipped me the bird. She flipped me off.
She was walking past my driveway in the alley behind my house, and the security system whistled to let her know she had been seen. In response, she made that gesture towards the camera.
She must have known that someone would see the gesture, or perhaps she hoped someone would. Perhaps her resentment is expressed toward the security system, or the camera in particular. Or, maybe she is angry at the world and chose to express that towards my camera.
The fact is, though, that I saw it. I saw her anger and resentment. She, on the other hand, could not see mine. She could not see my fear of trespassers, my anger at thieves, or my growing frustrations with miscreants who wander the neighbourhood.
What interests me now, though, is the interaction between the anonymous, solo, passer-by and the camera on my garage. Being filmed is a very self-conscious experience. I am one of those people who resists being filmed, Skyped, or Zoomed. I would just rather not look at myself on a screen and I worry about how I am perceived. I just prefer to avoid the whole process and all that self-awareness.
At the same time, if a CCTV or security camera caught my image, it wouldn’t bother me. My assumption would be that I am not of interest to anyone who might view that recording. They would be looking for illegal actions or actors, and my image would just be the equivalent of white noise.
We cannot expect privacy in a public place, but when walking down a street or alley, we may not always want anyone else to know we were there. Not because we are doing anything wrong but just because it is no-one else’s business.
In the UK now there are CCTV cameras all over the place in the cities. I suppose people have just become used to them. I’d be interested to know if the cameras have changed anyone’s behaviours or if people just forget they are there.
When there is some important event in a public street, we often see cell phone videos being used as evidence. Those videos are then often shown on television. But what happens if some innocent bystander was not where they were supposed to be? Does anyone ever ask their permission to have their image broadcast? I doubt it.
So, now I am wondering about the responsibility of the person doing the recording; about my responsibility in recording passers-by. And then I wonder about the legality of publishing those images. Maybe that is what the woman was thinking when she saluted my camera. She may have been saying, “Go ahead. Publish this. See if I care.” You never know.
If you make an obscene gesture towards a camera, you presumably want the gesture recorded. At the same time, though, the gesture itself suggests that you seriously resent being recorded. It’s a very mixed message.