Disturbing situation...

Started Dec 6, 2005 | Discussions thread
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Numfar Senior Member • Posts: 1,259
Disturbing situation...

I had an odd and frustrating experience the other day. I know this is a long post, but please, bear with me - as a photographer, I'm wondering what you think of this...

I had a photoshoot in the morning, and right after, I had to run downtown, pick up my wife and take her to a dentist appointment. When we got to the dentist, I knew my wife was going to be a while, so I just parked in the dentist's parking lot and rather than go in and get caught in boring conversation with the receptionist, I figured I'd wait in the car.

I sat around for a few minutes, kinda bored, then remembered I had my camera gear in the back. I just received the new Canon 70-300 IS two days before (mail order) and hadn't had a chance to use it yet, so I put it on the camera and fiddled around. It was grey, and the area was very bland, so I absent mindedly fired off a couple shots of a red 'SALE' sign that was hung on the bright-green roof siding of the grocery store across the road, trying out the zoom ring. Next, Itried the panning mode of the IS on a couple cars driving by.

As I'm doing this, a woman walks by. I know enough to know that folks don't like to be photographed, so I lowered the lens and smiled as she walked by. After she was passed, I lined up another panning shot of whatever the next car coming by would be, when all of a sudden someone is banging on my car's roof.

"I have to ask, what are you doing!" says the woman who'd walked by moments before.

Well, normally I'd be polite, but this woman was being very aggressive in tone, had just slapped my car's paint (it's only 5 months old!) with her ring-hand, and was sticking her head into my vehicle.

I intended to reply "No, you don't have to ask, but if you must know, I'm waiting for my wife to come out of the dentist's office". I only got out "No, you don't have to ask...." when she interupts me, and says very assertively, "Tell me you're working, or you're doing something illegal"...

"No, I'm not working, I just got a new lens and I'm bored," I start to say, but as I say "No, I'm not working" she turns on her heel, and storms off. As she does, she mutters "I'll take care of you." At the same time, I see that on the back of her jacket it says "St. John's Ambulance". She didn't ID herself as a St. John's employee, and I hadn't recognized the jacket from front on - though I'm not sure what difference it would have made if I had...

She makes a show of making a call on her cell phone. At this point, I'm kind of upset, but also kind of amused. I mean, are people really that paranoid?

Anyway, she disapears into a building and a moment later a burly guy comes out wearing a simlilar jacket. He eyes me menacingly, walks around my car at about 10 feet, and then stands there staring at me for about 10 minutes. Either he got cold or bored or something, but he headed back in the builiding where she'd come from.

10 minutes later, my wife comes out from her appointment, and we head off. I told her what happened, and we both thought it odd, but didn't think that much more about it.

The next evening, at 11pm, a pair of police officers show up at my house. Seems a complaint was registered against me by a woman who spotted me "with a camera", and the police (claimed) they were obliged to investigate.

I am a writer/photographer. I've only been doing the photography side of things for a few years, (I was an editor previously), but still, I have taken litterally thousands of pictures of events with people in them. As part of the hobby, I've photographed people in all sorts of activities - playing in the park, kids jumping in puddles, marching bands, softball games, new automobile releases, sporting events, couples sitting on park benches - all the typical cliche stuff photographers find interestng. And all instances where it was a lot more likely that people might take issue with being photographed - b/c I was actually photographing people.

Here, I was sitting in my car, it was about 3'C (37'F), and there were very few people out on the street. I am near a dentist's office, a grocery store and a fairly fast-moving main street. I was shooting random cars - and then only managed to shoot about 6 frames - and a roof with a nice green colour. And suddenly I am getting people slapping my car, goons trying to intimidate me and police officers visiting my house at 11pm??

Does this seem a bit odd?

To their credit, the officers walked in, saw about 20 of my shots hanging framed on the wall, and said "Obviously you're a photographer". After a couple minutes of discussion, that was that. But I mean - are we all at risk of getting hassled like this now, on occassion, simply b/c we have a camera? Is a guy with a camera in 2005 the equivalent scare-factor of a guy with a gun in 1985?

Anyway, I am not too pleased about this, and thought I'd share my experience.

A picture's worth a thousand dollars (if you're shooting with L glass).

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