On street photography, privacy in public places, and small human beings: Why I broke my golden rule

As much as I've been infatuated with street photography over the years, and I haven't shied away from shooting anything and everything, there was one self-imposed rule that I haven’t broken until now.

Ontario photography laws dictate that photographs of individuals of all ages, taken in a public space, are perfectly legal. Selling said photos is a slightly different story but, in a nutshell, there is nothing illegal with capturing people on the streets of Toronto. For the longest time however, I would not share images of children, or any person that couldn't give expressed consent, including the homeless or mentally ill. Even for the few adults that end up in front of my lens, I would--whenever possible--to get their permission when photographing and sharing, and would stop immediately at their request.

I've taken the below photo of this sleepy, fuzzy, and ridiculously fashionable tiny dancer almost a year ago in Kensington Market, and immediately fell in love with it. When I wonder the streets of Toronto aimlessly without a specific anything in mind, camera in hand and finger on the shutter, snaps like this are what I'm looking for.

As much as I loved this image, I struggled to find a justifiable reason to post it publicly. There is a real, ethical dilemma about sharing photos of children with recognizable faces for the world wide web to see, not to mention security implications. But I would like to live in a society where we don't have to wonder whether it's ok or not to share captures of passing beauty and heart-warming fleeting moments like this, because of unrealistic expectations of privacy in public spaces, in Canada, in 2018. Now that I'm the proud father of a 2 month-old baby girl, I can say that I wouldn't be bothered in the smallest, if a stranger street photographer took a similar pic of her and shared to the world with no ill-intentions. Being a street photographer is to capture snaps of real, everyday life, unposed and unplanned, and certain risks should be taken, especially when they are likely founded on our collective paranoia. And I know a thing or two about paranoia now that I have a small human being to keep alive.

That being said, legal doesn't always mean ethical, so should the parents of this little boy were to contact me asking for the photo to be removed, I will do so immediately. It would be unfair and disrespectful to him and his parents to ignore their wishes, just because I'm Ok with images of my own child to be taken in public and shared online. That is precisely how paranoia starts.