January 25, 2016
The Taboos of Photography
Taboos exists around all cultures. In every culture, there are bound to be behaviors and actions that are considered to be unlucky, insensitive or offensive. Many of us like to experience local culture while travelling. Hence, to get the best of local cultures, we often travel in small group, if not alone. One off the easiest ways in which we may cross the lines unknown taboos, is through photography. For instance, in many parts of Asia, one of the many taboos is to have three people in a photograph. It is considered very unlucky and the belief is that the middle person will pass away soon. This belief is thought to have originated from cultures who saw three as an unlucky number. However, on the contrary to this belief, the Cantonese dialect group deems three to be a lucky numeral as it signifies ‘Life’, ‘参’. So for those of us who have taken countless three person photos, I choose to believe we’re still full of life! In Western cultures such as the US and UK, children photography without permission from parents are taboos as it is considered breaching one’s privacy. The photography of children without clothing is an offence. Whereas in most Islamic countries, it is strictly prohibited to photograph any sort of religious artifact or engraved images. Without valid reason, you should also not photograph the bottom of one’s feet as it is considered rude. In any case, if you have doubt about clicking that shutter, then perhaps you really shouldn’t, especially in countries where photography is a touchy subject. According to World Normads, photos taken of government related buildings in Saudi Arabia can land you in jail for espionage. In some parts of Africa, especially the tribal areas, you should always seek permission before photographing your subject. Don’t be too taken aback when your subject requests for a token in exchange for photographing them. In rural areas, it is always a good habit to seek permission before photographing one’s belongings, such as home furniture to farm animals as sometimes compensation sought by the owner may cost even more than the item/subject you had photographed! (Ouch) In Thailand, photography of religious ceremonies and political personnel are taboos as they are considered to be sacred and sensitive. It is always good to be sure that you’ve sought permission before uploading such content. Do you know of other photography taboos that have not been mentioned? Share with us on the comments section or pm us!