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Don't Take Pictures of People With Dwarfism Without Consent

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I remember the first time that someone asked if they could take a photo of me. I was about 10, and the question left me very confused. It didn’t occur to me that the reason they wanted a photo was because I had dwarfism. I wasn’t thinking about why they would need the photo or what they would do with it, but I did know it was a bit strange. I simply said “No thank you,” and carried on with my day. This was 2007, when hardly anyone had a smartphone. Most people did not always carry a camera on them, and if they did, they could not take a photo discreetly.

In 2020, it is a common occurrence for my photo to be taken in public without my permission. Sometimes people are discreet and act as if they are just on their phone, but I can see through the reflection in their sunglasses that the camera is pointed at me and they are taking my photo. Other times it is obvious and the person will walk right up to me with their phone. I can hear the person with the phone snicker as they snap my photo while I am at the grocery store or shopping with a group of friends.

There are two ways that I can handle the situation, and I know the outcome of both. The first is to confront the person with the phone and kindly ask if they just took my photograph. The person will always deny it, but when I ask to see their photos they will refuse. It is very frustrating and usually not worth the hassle. The other way to handle the situation is to just walk on and continue my day. This is the path I most often choose, not because I don’t want to stand up for myself, but because this happens just about every time I go into a public place.

I try not to let the thoughts take over my day, but when I see my photo has been snapped, I always wonder where it is going. It could be sent to one person, or posted on a social media site for many people to see. The prospect of this is overwhelming because I am aware that the conversation about the photo will probably involve poking fun at dwarfism. I really try not to think about these possibilities because they are totally out of my control. The one thing I can do is try to prevent it by speaking up now.

You may be someone who would never take a photo of a stranger without permission because you think they “look funny.” However, maybe you have done this in your past. In a world of instant gratification, it is so easy to get lost in the sea of social media and get addicted to the validation that comes from people liking something that you said or posted. Snapchats seem inconsequential because they are deleted in a few seconds, but they are not.

The community of Little People is trying to progress in our goal of equality and acceptance. It takes many articles like this, speaking out, and being heard to take a step forward. A picture of us posted for laughs pushes us a step back, and we are constantly fighting against this kind of ignorance. If you see someone taking a photo, speak up. And if you have been the one taking the picture, understand how powerful the effect is on others.

Getty image by golibtolibov.

Originally published: November 6, 2020
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