Randy McDonald (rfmcdpei) wrote,
Randy McDonald
rfmcdpei

[LINK] Two links on the ethics of photographing sex workers

The Torontoist post I linked to earlier, featuring photos of strippers on the rooftop of the Zanzibar strip club downtown, had an interesting genesis.

Brian Cameron is a Digital Initiatives Librarian at Ryerson University, who works across the street and several storeys up from Zanzibar's rooftop at 359 Yonge Street. By email, he told us that for years it has been common knowledge among library staff that Zanzibar's dancers and servers routinely venture onto the strip club's rooftop. After moving offices a year ago, Cameron glanced out his window to discover his new work station afforded him a (slightly obstructed) view overlooking O’Keefe Lane and the rear of the strip club. Cameron, who is also a talented photographer, is continuously on the lookout for unique cityscape scenes; staff of the Zanzibar in repose fits this genre nicely. Over the course of a few months, Cameron photographed employees soaking up rays, catching up with co-workers, making calls, having a smoke, or just enjoying a break.


It turns out to have been morally quite sketchy.

Women working at the Zanzibar Tavern, a strip club in Toronto, believed no one could see them when they popped out for a cigarette or cellphone call while still in their work attire.

But a Ryerson University librarian, Brian Cameron, took photos of the women from his office window in August and September. They were published Wednesday on Torontoist, a local news blog that interviewed Cameron and did a story on the pictures.

The images were previously posted on Flickr, an online photography site.

The club's owner, Allen Cooper, says the women feel their privacy has been violated. Many dancers try to keep their occupation under wraps, something they won't be able to do because the photos show their faces, he said.

Norma-Jean Anderson, a bartender and waitress at Zanzibar, said two women quit over the photos and many left the club in tears Thursday morning.

One of the girls who was photographed is a Ryerson student, Anderson said.

"How is she going to feel the next time she has to go to the library or if she's going to class? I mean, everyone has seen these pictures and they've seen their faces."

Cameron "was stunned and embarrassed" by the article that ran in the Torontoist, he said in an email Thursday. The librarian said he was not paid for the photos, but would not comment further.


Torontoist has apologized.

While Zanzibar's owner, Allen Cooper, mentioned to Torontoist that he didn't think the roof was visible from nearby buildings, several other employees we'd interviewed for the article said otherwise. ("Who complained?" one male employee asked, half-jokingly, when it came up.) In short, we never thought that the women who were being photographed thought, themselves, that the roof—with buildings like Ryerson's library overlooking it, and Yonge Street surrounding it—was private. But we don't know for sure: we made a mistake, and didn't speak directly to those women before featuring photos of them in which they could potentially, against their wishes, be identified. If we had spoken to them, and they had objected, this article would have been very different, if it was written at all.


No word from Cameron.
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