Artists: You Know What Else Would be “Memorable”? A Punch In The Nose

Artists: You Know What Else Would be “Memorable”? A Punch In The Nose

Calico is a big believer in the idea that artists have to be given freedom to pursue their vision, including the freedom to touch on subjects that are taboo, or create their art using controversial methods, mediums and messages.

There is a limit to how much slack we should cut artists, however, as Calico sees it — some bright red lines between “a provocative creative approach” and “obnoxious shit for which you should get your dumb ass kicked.”

One of those bright red lines, at least for Calico, is invading the privacy of others. And while she recognizes that a person who is out in public may not have a legal right to privacy regarding their public conduct, there is such a thing as artists going too far in examining that public conduct.

Which artist crossed one of those lines this time around? Should texts displayed on someone’s phone be fair game for nosy, camera-toting dweebs in search of compelling images to put in their upcoming book? Is it a good idea to try to snap a picture of Calico’s screen without asking her permission, first? These and other questions are answered in Calico’s new post, “You Know What Else Would be ‘Memorable’? A Punch In The Nose”     

artists banksy

by Calico Rudasill, Porn with a Punch for Women!

Read on…

Despite being someone who occasionally relates some very personal things in her blog posts, I’m a very private person for the most part. I’m not on social media, I don’t make public appearances or grant interviews to the media or do much of anything, really, to draw widescale attention to myself.

I’m also a big advocate for photographers, musicians, painters and all other manner of artists plenty of slack when it comes to how and where they create their work.

This week, however, I’ve come across an item which has put these two sides of my self-coin into a bit of turmoil.

Nice Pics – But WTF?

Jeff Mermelstein
NYC Photographer Jeff Mermelstein

Jeff Mermelstein is a photographer based in New York. I’d never heard of him until this week, which is not a big surprise because I’m not a part of the New York art scene and it’s not like my rolodex is filled with contact information for photographers from New York.

Based on just a quick glance at his work though, I can tell Mermelstein has talent and real eye for compelling visuals that are just waiting to be captured, especially on the streets of the Big Apple.


Reading about his latest project, however, I find myself being rubbed in very much the wrong way.

“I saw a woman sitting outside a cafe on her phone,” Mermelstein said of the flash of inspiration that led to his latest collection, entitled #nyc. “I was just curious and I made a picture of her screen, of her hand on it.”

Later the photographer looked at the image he captured, zooming in on the screen itself, where he could now see what was displayed thereon. The woman “had been searching for information about wills,” The Guardian reports.

“I remember a line about her father having left $6,000 in in attic,” Mermelstein said. “It was this little short story. That brought my attention into a new territory.”

Yes, Jeff – it’s a whole new, exciting territory called “None of your goddam business.”

Get Consent? But That Would Spoil the Fun!

Further detailing Mermelstein’s creative process in making this new series, The Guardian notes that in “pretty much every case, he did not ask permission to shoot a subject’s screen.”

Look, I’m happy for Mermelstein that he’s found new fuel for his creative fire and everything, but when that fuel is distilled by invading the privacy of the people around you, then publishing their private conversations in a fucking book, you may be crossing that thin line between compelling artistry and outright douchebaggery.

To be fair, Mermelstein says he takes precautions to “to ensure any identifying information is obscured.” But that fact doesn’t change that the people who sent and received these messages probably would recognize them, particularly where some of the more unusual exchanges are concerned –nor does it change the fact that in order to get these pictures, Mermelstein is straight-up snooping on people. Having a camera in your hand and taking pictures while spying on people doesn’t transform what you’re doing into making art; lots of creepers use cameras. Just ask any of the far-too-many women whose upskirt images have been captured by shutterbugs just a few steps creepier than Mermelstein.

Pro Tip: Carry an Ice Pack and Band-Aids in Your Camera Bag

If you’re wondering how Mermelstein wound up on the radar of a blogger who mostly writes silly posts about sex and porn, it’s because some of his subjects/victims were sexting at the time Mermelstein snapped pictures of their phones.

“There’s a lot of sex on the street in texting, but I wasn’t looking for that specifically,” Mermelstein says. “Ordinarily, I didn’t read the texts before I took them.”

‘Ordinarily’ you didn’t read the messages before taking the pictures, eh? How nice. But you did read them sometimes, I take it?

At one point in talking about #nyc, Mermelstein notes that it’s “extraordinarily difficult to make a street photograph that’s memorable.”

Tell you what, Jeff – come on down to Arizona and try taking a picture over my shoulder and I’ll do my level best to give you an image you’ll never forget… along with one hell of a nosebleed, you glorified paparazzo stalker jagoff.

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