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Photos and Wreck Beach

August 15th, 2007 @ 8:00am (PT) by Rebecca Bollwitt

Photo credit: john bollwitt on Flickr

Last summer I was mentioned in a Metro Vancouver news article about being a local blogebrity. While the story was very flattering and had good intentions at one point the writer mentioned I took photos at Wreck beach. Of everything, this disturbed me the most as I know proper beach etiquette and would never do such a thing. This afternoon while at the very same beach John and I witnessed a bit of a scuffle regarding said etiquette.

6. Get nude! Respect nudity and the privacy of others and experience the joys of naturism! Gawking, staring, or making rude comments is not appreciated! If nudity offends you, please check out Vancouver’s many other beautiful beaches instead of mocking our naturist lifestyle. Ask prior permission to photograph. No unauthorized film-making! [Wreck Beach Etiquette]

A man had come down to the beach and was taking general photos of the beach, people and scenes with what was described as a “telephoto lens”. As he made his way down the beach some regulars took notice and decided to let him know that the community does not appreciate having their picture taken.

Monday's Trip to the Beach This escalated and about 6 males from the beach confronted the man, they asked that he please delete the photos he just took since a) he didn’t have permission b) the community frowns on such things and c) he could have been taking photos of children and that’s simply unacceptable. As the man refused, the accusations that he was doing something “creepy”, “dirty” and “sleazy” especially in regards to children started to fly. He defended himself saying he was just a photographer out on the beach for a day but the men from the beach refused to accept this and repeatedly asked him to delete the photos in front of them. At no point did it get any more violent than this but from the mumurs around us up on shore, apparently this wasn’t the first time a photographer has been given a hard time.

After about 20 minutes John and I got up to play frisbee, the police had been called and we don’t really know how the rest panned out.

There are pages of Wreck Beach photos on Flickr that I can find, and 98% of them are of sunsets, sand, tidal pools and the forest. The others are direct photos of other people, e.g. if John would have just taken my photo sitting at our blanket. I can definitely see how people would get on edge and how there must be rules to help a society like this survive. Thinking about yesterday’s situation, you’d think it would have been solved if the man would have just opened up his bag, taken out the camera and deleted the pics. But it doesn’t seem as simple as that.

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12 comments

  1. Tyler Ingram says:

    I’ve actually never been to wreck beach but I’ve had similar issues while taking pictures in public. Granted I wouldn’t take my camera to wreck beach because I personal do not like taking photos where people are involved, especially without their permission. I don’t like being in other people’s photos so I try and extend the courtesy.

    Anyway I was walking by a group of people with camera in hand.. came back like 30mins later and some lady said to me:

    Lady: What are you taking pictures for?
    Me: I’m a location scout for the Vancouver Film Industry.
    Lady: You better not be taking pictures of my children!
    Me (thinking in my head): Um excuse me??!
    Me: No Ma’am I am not. (i just walk away)

    If he was not taking pictures of people on the beach then why wouldn’t he a) go through them and show them, b) delete them in case there were people in them etc? I’d say he was hiding something… unfortunately

    I’m more than happy to show people the pictures I take while I’m out with my dSLR :)

  2. Miss604 says:

    It is an amazing beach, the nicest in Vancouver by far. Almost 8kms of sandy shoreline surrounded by 200ft cliffs and forest looking straight west at the Island. You don’t have to disrobe either, you just have the option to, should you chose to do so.

    There’s the whole shooting photos in public debate as well. I mean when we were on the Gastown Photowalk I think some people had issues with passersby not wanting their photos taken but I’m pretty sure that if you’re out in a public place, you are game to be photographed.

    It’s also up to the photographer’s discretion, certainly I would ask if I wanted to take a photo of someone in particular but maybe not so much if I was just taking a shot of the street. It’s a touchy subject for sure.

  3. gusgreeper says:

    that is pretty interesting, i know almost nothing about wreck beach, didn’t know about the camera etiquette, my interest in places where you aren’t supposed to take photos is sparked now i think im going to check flickr for some Riverview photos and see if anything comes up.
    glad you guys had a great day! :)

  4. Rod says:

    While I have been to Wreck, I’ve never taken a camera there (although there is a photo on the wall in my bedroom from Three Mile Beach in Penticton which is also C.O.)

    I’m divided on this for a couple of reasons.

    First, there is no expectation of privacy at a beach, so the photographer legally doesn’t need permission to take photos of anything (or anyone) in a public place. So the “you don’t have permission” argument is gone. And there is no requirement for you to delete any photos from a camera unless asked by a police officer (and even then only under certain circumstances), nor to show them to anyone to “prove” innocence.

    As for the community frowning upon such things, he was still under no obligation to do anything that a group asks him to do. But the chance that children could be photographed, then, yes, that was likely poor judgment on the photographer’s part.

    I agree with you, though, Rebecca – if you’re taking a direct photo of someone, I would ask permission. But if you happen to be in a shot at a public place, there’s nothing wrong with that.

  5. Keira-Anne says:

    I really need to get to Wreck Beach sometime. I mean, I’ve been once but it was a cloudy Sunday so I didn’t strip down (quite obviously) but this summer is dwindling so fast. Time to get on it.

    I’m glad you guys had a fantastic beachy day though. :)

    P.S. Thanks for not posting photos – hehe.

  6. Miss604 says:

    Corinna already made a comment about a mental image of John playing Frisbee… so I suppose I really didn’t need to anyway haha

  7. Tod Maffin says:

    Legally speaking, it’s grey.

    Canadian media law is set out in such a way that if people “have a reasonable expectation of privacy” in a location — even if it’s public property — the photographer would probably lose in a civil court case.

    If there are a couple of signs on the trail down stating that it’s an area where people expect privacy, that should cover it.

    Then again, it would be a civil action, not criminal (i.e. the police won’t do much about it).

  8. one of the men says:

    alright… its rather late but maybe this may still do some good…

    Tod is right… at a legally nude beach where one may be nude… it is a breach of his or her privacy to take and possess images of someones genitalia without permission… (look up voyeurism in the criminal code).

    Secondly… ANY images containing a nude child is child pornography, taking and having such pictures is criminal, and we as a society can protect our children by calling the police and having the camera taken away as evidence for a trial.

    The story with this particular man ends this way… we called the police… before the police arrived the man deleted some photos… and when the police arrived they escorted him up the trail after they got comments from some of the 6 men who reacted to the photographer.

  9. [...] how I did not include Wreck Beach (even though these were just some examples) please check out my archives for my various posts about Wreck over the years. I am very open to suggestions on new topics, or [...]

  10. Jay says:

    Back in 1975, In southern France, it was common for women to enjoy the sun, topless, at the beach. You undressed on the beach (sometimes not very discreetly) and changed into something that was skimpy. At the time I was touring Europe alone and happened to meet two young Canadian women on the Mediterranean beach at Nice, France. It was a treat to meet these two women who were from Vancouver who also gave me a newspaper written in English, very much appreciated. Both of them, wearing bikinis, however, tut tutted the immorality of the half-naked European women on the beach and then one took several photos.

    I guess I could have photographed the half-naked women also but somehow it seemed wrong to do so without their permission.

  11. wrecker says:

    The nude aspect of wreck atracts some of the creepier aspects of the community .i have been involved the wreck beach community for years and the camera issues revolve around children for the most part .anyone who sneaks shots of nude kids knows what he is doing and when confronted gives up the photos …if he doesnt we call the cops and they are more serious about the incident than we are.that behaviour and serious pedofils go hand in hand is the cops view.

  12. John says:

    Cameras should be not allowed at nude beaches as well as saunas.It’s a place where you come to relax…not beeing afraid of someone taking your picture and placing it on the net or something…

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