Is it Okay to Point Your Camera at Strangers?

My dog loves looking out the window. It’s something he started doing when we he came into my home, 4-weeks curious. Two years later, it’s something he enjoys doing still.

And when he meets his girlfriend Zoe, the two do it together. It has become their thing. You know the way couples cuddle and watch television. That’s them. They sit by the window and stalk New Yorkers with their puppy eyes.

Just by looking at their backs, I can tell—there is never a dull moment in the streets below. Their necks crane right to left, their ears perk up, their tails go stiff, and relax.

They keep at it none-the-less, like they are binging their favorite Netflix show. In between, they squabble like husband and wife. Then resume their routine, munching kibble like popcorn—but keeping eyes firmly fixed on the screen.

After moving to Los Angeles, my dog just sleeps when I am away. He doesn’t have a street-side view of the world outside. Even when he does, it feels people-less in comparison.

There is a big window right next to his bed though. If I pull the blinds up, it looks into the hallways and courtyards inside the building.

One day, when I was leaving the apartment for a couple of hours, seeing my dog stare at the blank walls of my Airbnb made me sad. So, I pulled the blinds up to let him have a peek at the corridors instead.

After-all, if people-watching is his thing, why would he care if people returning home from work, greet him along the way.

At the time, I didn’t know there was an open house scheduled for an empty apartment right next to mine. I didn’t know that many people would pass by that exact window, where my dog was sitting waiting for me.

I didn’t know that I would feel violated by strangers taking a photograph of my baby while he is simply staring back at them—curious at a world so different from his own.

I only found out when I stepped out of the elevator into the corridor and stumbled upon a crowd right outside that window.

These strangers seemed to be more interested in taking a photograph of a golden-lab than the apartment they had come here to see.

And for the first time, I understood what it feels like to point the camera at someone you don’t know, to take their photograph without permission.

Dog saying something funny about street photography

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