Jan 23 2008

[Good Guys…0 | Bad Guys…1]

by andrew

Suspicious Sunset

This was the picture I was taking after bailing off my bike ride home from the metro today when a lady not-quite shouted across the road “Who are you and why are you taking pictures?” About a year ago, when I decided I was going to get serious about pursuing this photography thing that I was enjoying so much, I knew I had a LOT to learn, but I never would have imagined the persecution that would come with it. Ok, I’m being dramatic, because if I had my druthers I’d hardly interact with people… ever… well, there are a couple exceptions, but you get the idea.

I tried to inject a little excitement into my reaction this time – “The sunset! I’m a photographer and I’m just taking a picture of the sunset. Do you want to see?” I approached her and could tell she was starting to let her guard down a little. We chatted for a bit, I showed her the shot, and she explained why she was suspicious even though I had already guessed as much. Apparently that “private” neighborhood (which had the misfortune of being directly under that sunset at that moment) had seen its share of suspicious characters driving through taking pictures of people’s property. I told her I had no problem with her asking what I was doing and said I was sorry to cause her any concern. I hope I left her with the impression that people taking pictures aren’t necessarily up to no good.

It’s not just the terrorists. Other evil morons are picking away at that fabric of a reasonable society through their stupidity, selfishness, and greed. I never blame the people who challenge me when I’m taking photos in public. It’s not their fault. I might hold a grudge for two minutes if they’re rude about it, but I’m always aware that the blame really falls at the feet of those who abuse our freedoms; providing the impetus for authorities to take away (and the populous to surrender) our normal expectancy of independence and openness in our own society. How much sense does it make to give away something so that it can be protected!!!??? Hello? It’s all fine and dandy that our freedom is protected, but when it doesn’t even belong to us any more what good does it do?

I photograph in DC a lot, so these kind of challenges are something I experience often (I’m a little too interested in things other than the monuments to blend in with the tourists). I find it incredibly ironic that some people get completely bent out of shape because I like to take pictures of interesting things in public places when their picture was taken a million times that day by the bastions of security cameras peppering the city buildings and streets. Just look around some time when you’re in a big city: overhangs, street corners, building walls, every dark half-ball shaped thing the size of a grapefruit is a camera, and of course there’s the older, more obvious long brick-shaped ones. Shouldn’t we be objecting to having our picture constantly taken all the time like that? Oh, right, but it’s for our protection. And not for commercial use anyway.

Do I hate security cameras? No. I’m making a point. We are just as quick to throw the rights of others away as we are to throw our own rights away. Sometimes I’m surprised by how quickly that is, that’s all I’m saying. Then again, what if I was a bad guy and Joe Citizen never reported me? There are always so many sides to everything. I guess I just never would have thought that the steepest learning curve in photography would be the people skills (especially when people are the last thing I’m interested in photographing). I want to learn how help people see in ways they’ve never seen before. I’m getting a lot of practice anyway… one day maybe I’ll be able to turn a confrontation into another person’s excitement at opening their eyes wider to the world around them just as easily as I pointed my camera at the sky and pressed the shutter release tonight.