Street Photography and Unexpected Reactions
One of our regular editorial/photo contributors does Urban or "Street" photography for a (sort-of) living (ie. he makes some $ off it by using his street photography slideshows in live and online exhibitions which, in-turn, draws more people to his more profitable work). Yesterday, he shared a story that made me wonder about just how safe this aspect of his occupation has become.
First of all, let me set the record straight - his street photography work is amazing! Candid, authentic, gritty and rich in expression. If everyone on the earth disappeared in an instant and a million years later an alien landed on this orb and happened upon his work, it would provide a very vivid and heartfelt representation of humanity.
Back to his experience...
This particular pair of shoppers strolling along the boulevard seemed oblivious to the photog, along with just about everyone else. These days, most people in busy urban environments either don't notice or just don't care about people taking pictures of other people on busy street corners. There are just too many cameras, cell phones, i-devices, etc., everywhere you look and chances are that the busier the "everyday America" location you're in, the more likely it is that your mug is part of the binary ones and zeros on complete strangers' memory cards.
But this day was different. The pair of shoppers mentioned earlier suddenly became very much aware of the photographer's existence and seemed more than just annoyed that their picture had been snapped. Their response was quite unexpected. This street photographer has rather thick skin and is quite accustomed to the odd person asking what he's doing or occasionally explaining that they'd rather he not do anything with their image which, of course, he honors. Usually, when he explains why he does street photography and how it preserves important moments in time from a cultural perspective, people warm-up to the idea.
Not this couple. No, in fact, they confronted him very rudely and agressively, firmly believing that he was breaking the law and demanding loudly that he delete their pictures. He explained that what he was doing was very much legal in the U.S., in Canada, in Germany (he went on...) and that when someone is in a busy public area, they necessarily lose a certain degree of their right to their privacy.
The couple persisted, yelling at the photographer in a threatening manner. (Many of the things we take for granted in the free world are not universal and visitors unaccustomed with our way of life may be quite unnerved by it all.) Had this couple simply asked politely if he was taking their picture he would have explained what he was doing and if they were uncomfortable, he would have deleted their images. Didn't happen that way.
But here's an interesting thought. Maybe, just maybe, another street photographer caught the entire confrontation on his or her camera! Wouldn't that be a slice of urban life (and a bit of karma too)?!!
Moral of this story? Lighten-up! There are camera lenses everywhere you look and even more in places you don't. Just because someone's pointing a camera in your direction doesn't mean you are even in the frame (have you ever heard of a zoom lens??). If your picture is taken in a busy place, be honored that you have become part of a very small attempt to preserve a moment of time of the cultural landscape that is our society.
A bit preachy? Oh well, so be it!
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