In the eye of the storm

In the eye of the storm

Some of our photographers are giving the hobby a bad name with their offensive behaviour

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Taking pictures is a healthy, artistic activity, but some local photographers can upset girls by focusing too much on their bodies.
Taking pictures is a healthy, artistic activity, but some local photographers can upset girls by focusing too much on their bodies.
Photo: Edward Wong
Hong Kong people love to take photos - they could be of a family having a delicious meal at a restaurant or a famous tourist attraction. Most of the time, these photos are inoffensive. But sometimes photographers can go too far, and upset others with their hobby.

Young female models are often employed to promote products or provide entertainment at exhibitions and fairs. Dressed in eye-catching costumes, these girls attract a lot of attention - and a lot of male photographers. While these men are often simply doing their job, sometimes their behaviour is unacceptable.

Jocelyn Wong, 18, knows first-hand what it's like to have her photo taken by a group of men and not feel comfortable about it.

Last year, she was part of a dance troupe that performed at the Anime Convention. She was stunned by the number of camera flashes once the show began.

'At first I was honoured by the attention - I thought they were blown away by our dance. But after the show, another dancer's parent, who had been watching, came up to me and told me that my top was riding really low. I was shocked when I realised the guys were taking pictures of my body instead of admiring the dance moves.'

Wong says the men's actions left her feeling disturbed. 'After the show, a few of the photographers came up to me to present me with little gifts which I quickly turned down. I wanted to get away from them as soon as possible,' she says.

It's not only the girls who feel uncomfortable.

Electronic products lover and regular expo visitor Dennis Yeung has often noticed a number of photographers focusing on models and felt their attitude was disturbing. 'Those guys are kind of creepy. I once heard one photographer telling another: 'Look, I've got a perfect shot of the model's belly button.' What were those guys thinking?'

Yeung adds that the problem is not only moral. "They're also always blocking the passageway to take pictures - this prevents other visitors who are not interested in promotion girls from enjoying the exhibition," he says.

Grace Lee Ming-ying, education officer-in-charge at the Family Planning Association of Hong Kong, sees taking pictures as a healthy, artistic activity, but the photographers who act in such a way give the hobby a bad name.

'In ordinary social contexts, it is inappropriate for men to stare at the bodies of women, but when they're taking photos, men are able to argue this is reasonable behaviour,' she says. 'But there have been cases of photographers using professional equipment to take very close-up shots of girls and of inappropriate areas such as below their skirts. It is very hard for girls to spot this kind of assault.'

Lee admits it's difficult to define what's right or wrong when it comes to taking pictures. The key is keeping young people informed of the pros and cons of their actions.

Lee says: 'I strongly suggest parents discuss the matter with their children. For girls, parents should let them know the different situations they may face and let them decide how to react. With boys, parents may want to ask them why they are interested in taking such pictures, and how they feel about their actions.'

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