The truth is out there | Joe Zammit-Lucia

Photographer Joe Zammit-Lucia fills us in on ‘Private Art – Exploring the relationship between art and privacy’ – an exhibition at St James Cavalier that explores some of the more uncomfortable aspects of the art of photography, incorporating an exhibition, a photographer’s ‘live-in’ and a round table discussion.

‘Clash of Civilisations’ by David Attard.
‘Clash of Civilisations’ by David Attard.

What inspired the exhibition?

The immediate inspiration was the fact that photographers in Malta were uncertain as to where they stood regarding their images and data protection legislation while the Office of Information and Data Protection Commissioner were trying to formulate reasonable and balanced interpretation of the rules in a very complex area.

Issues of privacy related to street art, street photography and photojournalism have been the subject of much debate and many legal challenges in many countries for a number of years.

The debate has never been properly engaged in Malta leading to uncertainty and confusion. Both data protection legislation and the widespread practice of street photography are relatively new in Malta so it is now time to start addressing these issues.

Do you think that issues related to privacy (justified though they may be) are killing the immediacy of street photography?

No. It is uncertainty that causes issues. Once things are clear, then everyone can work well within reasonable regulations. What we are trying to achieve here is to bring some clarity in an area which is complicated. Things will never be black and white but having the open debate will make everyone feel more comfortable.

What emerges from the comparison of historical photos when compared to the current scenario?

Every viewer will interpret that for themselves according to their own perspectives. Current photos are our future historical record. The juxtaposition of the two causes us to reflect on our present in the context of our past - and maybe imaging our futures.

How do you think these issues will come to the fore during the round table discussions? Do you have a sense of how local photographers feel about issues related to privacy, and any other matters related to street photography?

As mentioned above, the biggest issue currently is uncertainty because there is a lot of talk and speculation, but the debate has not been engaged in the open. I think that following the discussion we will all understand better everyone's different perspectives and we will also understand that these issues are complex and nuanced and that it is almost impossible - and maybe foolish - to try to draw up precise rules which are expected to cover all situations, some of which we probably cannot even imagine.

Describe what a photographer's 'live-in' entails. Were you basing this concept on similar events you saw abroad? How do you hope it will bolster the overall scope of the exhibition in general?

The aim of the live-in is to encourage interest in street photography by photographers and others who may have an interest in photography but may not have taken it up. We hope to provide a forum where people can engage in a shared event and learn from each other. It also offers an opportunity for the public to come in and see people at work creating their images, editing them, and so on. This fits in with St James's aim of being a living centre of creativity, not simply an exhibition space.

For details on the live-in and round-table discussion log on to the St James Cavalier website.