Street Photography – Who has the right?

What a world we live in.

Reality shows, pixellated faces in news broadcasts. Who has the right (s)?


If you ever shoot photographs on the street, you must read this . And see this film Off Limits/La Rue Zone Interdite. We’ve just ordered a couple of copies to review.

Thanks Paula for the tip.

Press Release:
The European premier of new documentary film ‘Off Limits’ took place at this year’s CEPIC Congress, held in the elegant surroundings of Zofin Palace in Prague. The film was made by French Canadian photographer and film maker Gilbert Duclos and tells the story of his legal battle to defend the future of street photography. Although the film centers on a specific court case in Quebec, the issues the film raises affects the whole photographic industry.

In 1998, Canada’s Supreme Court ruled against Duclos in a law suit filed against him ten years earlier by a young woman whose photograph he had taken in the street many years before. When the image appeared in an arts journal, she sued Duclos for damages. The ensuing legal battle raised issues which went far beyond the confines of the case itself and soon Duclos was fighting to safeguard the future of the art form he so loves.

Despite his efforts and the support of the arts and images community in Quebec, the Supreme Court found in the young woman’s favour, saying that her right to her own image had been violated. This created a precedent which effectively made it illegal to publish a photograph of an individual without their consent. As the film demonstrates, this has severe implications on street photography. At what point in a ‘magic moment’ should one ask for permission? If the subject refuses, then that is one more image of modern life that will be lost forever.

Alongside the account of the implications of this ruling, the film explores the role street photography plays in society. Duclos and the photographers he interviews examine the importance of maintaining our collective memory through truthful depictions of real life. Without these images, our perception of who we are and where we have come from will be lost or dangerously distorted as legally safe, artificially staged images will be used instead. As photographer Janine Niepce puts it, street photography is ‘not just artistic, it’s indispensable’.

The film points out that the threat of more law suits is not limited to Quebec. Already there have been similar cases in Europe and unless the photographic industry puts up a fight there will be many more, effectively stifling a vital form of artistic documentation. French photographer Guy le Querrec sees the Duclos case as the beginning of the end, as he puts it, ‘photography has hit the quicksand’.

‘Off Limits’ is a heartfelt and eloquent piece of film making. It makes its case in the defence of street photography by sensitively examining the beauty of taking a photograph, of capturing a magical moment to share with the rest of humanity. It asks if we are willing to lose the right to publish these moments, to lose the right to memory. Is it right that we should be deprived of this art form for the sake of a few individual’s thirst for money? The issue is not the right to one’s own image, but the right to access our own history and the colorful people who make it.

Think Henri Cartier-Bresson, Willy Ronis, Elliot Erwitt, Marc Riboud, Robert Doisneau.

To obtain a copy of this film please go to .

Les Productions Virage

6300 ave du Parc, bureau 605

Montréal, Québec
H2V 4H8

Tél : (514) 276-9556
Fax : (514) 276-2262

Mélanie Bhérer – Responsable à la distribution

Tél : (514) 276-9556 #42 
Fax : (514) 276-2262

‘Off Limits’ written and directed by Gilbert Duclos. Produced by Monique Simard for Production Virages. Running time 60 mins. Winner of First Prize at the FIFA International Arts Film Festival, Montreal.


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