Jonathan Byers was deemed a creep after taking photos of Nancy Wheeler and Steve Harrington without their consent in Stranger Things season 1, but there was a reason for his photography. Charlie Heaton has played the core character since the Netflix series began in 2016. Though he eventually began a romantic relationship with Nancy, the status of the pair is currently unclear. The Byers family and Eleven moved out of Hawkins at the end of season 3, and although it hasn’t been stated where Joyce and the kids moved to, it was far enough for Jonathan to bid farewell to his first serious girlfriend.
Before Jonathan and Nancy grew closer during the fallout from Will’s disappearance, the two were more like acquaintances. When Will went missing, Jonathan sought out information regarding the whereabouts of his little brother. In the second episode, “The Weirdo on Maple Street,” Jonathon searched the woods that happened to surround the Harrington house. While scouring the area, Jonathan noticed that Steve was hosting a small party, so he took photos of them from the woods without the group knowing. The teen primarily focused on Nancy, who he clearly was infatuated with. What Jonathan didn’t know was that he captured the lurking Demogorgon just before it killed Barb.
When Nancy later found out about the photos, she wasn’t concerned with Jonathan’s actions. Steve and his friends, however, called Jonathan a pervert, taking his camera before destroying it. Seeing as the group often bullied Jonathan, they believed that he was obsessed with them, specifically Nancy. Despite the fact that Nancy eventually went on to pick Jonathan over Steve, their arguments weren’t exactly justified. Technically, Jonathan took photos without their consent, but his motivations sided with his own self-perception rather than an obsession or jealousy.
To take a deeper dive into Jonathan’s actions in the woods, it was important to look at why he was there in the first place. Will disappeared without a trace, and aside from his own mother and Will’s best friends, not many people were initially concerned. Even Nancy originally brushed off the incident, claiming that the young boy was probably fine. As Jonathan searched for his brother, he happened upon a group of fellow teens having a carefree party. He was probably taken aback by their blasé attitude while he was in the midst of a tragic situation.
To the same point, it was clear that Jonathan felt like an outsider in Hawkins, especially when it came to high school. He wasn’t one of the popular kids, nor did it seem like he had many friends. As he watched fellow classmates having fun on a random school night, Jonathan couldn’t help but document the environment he wasn’t apart of. It was symbolic that the character was taking photographs from the shadows as if he was truly on the outside looking in. Rather than explain this isolated feeling to Nancy, he used the notion that he was a creep since he felt she wouldn’t understand. As Stranger Things continued, Nancy got to know the real Jonathan, as did Steve.