Photos of strippers on break causes furor
TORONTO - A group of strippers and their waitress colleagues who met on the roof for their breaks are finding out their hideaway isn't as private as they thought.
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 now 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.
The images have sparked a heated debate over privacy and consent when it comes to photographing people in public places.
In most of the country, "you have no privacy rights when you're in public," says Gil Zvulony, a privacy and copyright lawyer in Toronto.
In Quebec, however, photographers cannot publish photos without the subject's consent, unless it's for news or in the public interest.
It all comes down to how secluded the rooftop is from onlookers and whether the women had a reasonable expectation of privacy, he said.
The club's location makes it hard to argue the roof was hidden, Zvulony said.
"If you're outside in the middle of downtown Toronto, I don't see how you can have a reasonable expectation of privacy."
Cooper disagrees, noting there's a wall separating the roof and the university. Still, he installed two signs Thursday -- one inside, one outside -- warning employees they can be seen from the roof. He also plans to buy robes so the women can enjoy rooftop breaks "in more modesty," he said.
Even if it's not against the law to photograph the women, "morally, I think it's wrong that this happened," said Anderson.
Janet Mowat, a spokesperson for Ryerson, said the university has no policy on public photography and won't intervene.
An editor's note on the Torontoist website said the writer had not realized the women objected to the pictures. The images were published "because they were compelling and unexpected, even beautiful, portraits" for a bigger story on the club.
Most of them were removed from the site Thursday.