One thing that I learnt last year was, that you should never shoot without scouting the location first! That goes particularly when you are using equipment like a large format view camera. I learnt that the hard way when I found myself lugging a heavy Cambo plus even heavier tripod to remote lighthouses at the end of a pier or on the tip of an isolated, rocky promontory last semester. Never mind finding a shopping trolley or long unused baby buggy to wheel your equipment around (more entertaining option, by the way, is a human assistant whom you can laden down with the 5kg tripod *hehe* also found that out last semester… Thanks A___!), checking the space and environment and taking a few testshots – even with a fifferent camera from the one you are using) is imperative!
Thus I found myself in the distinguished surroundings of a local institution recently, scouting my location for a project shoot. Permissions all sorted, I thought I had nothing to fear. I wanted to introduce myself to the manager in charge of the particular facility I was shooting but missed him, due to lunch. Anyhow, with a general go-ahead I proceeded to snap away in my chosen location. I was nearly wrapping up when a member of the public came up to me and said “You better not take pictures here!” at first I didn’t get what he meant. Did he think the location was not worth my attention? Was he a photography head himself and thus had noticed the light was not ideal for taking pictures? It turned out he did not want to be photographed and find his picture “plastered all over the papers”. I assured him that this was a college project and not a press call and that I had received permission from the relevant people. But after that I felt stifled and awkward and wrapped up asap.
Now, that is probably just me – taking reprimands and rejections very personally. But the whole experience kept wallowing around in my head for the rest of the day. I totally respect the right of privacy of an individual and would never publish something that I have no right to show. But the sensitivity of some people when it comes to photographing I find very hard to deal with.
A lot of it stems, of course, from non-photographers’ lack of understanding how it all works. If I am standing in a large space and am taking a wide-angled shot of the room (as I did in the above mentioned scenario), I am not featuring any of the people present particularly big in the shot. They are merely accessories in the composition but not the main focus. People cannot judge the hardware and simply assume that my (24 – 105 mm) lens is big enough to shoot a macro of their pimples. How this man assumed I was taking pictures of him while I was standing over a table across the way from him, focussing on the salt and pepper shakers and pointing away from him, I have no idea! Inflated sense of self-importance?
I do not mind being observed as a photographer. I have no problem with people asking what I am doing. But I do not like it when people automatically assume that I am a paparazza just because they happen to be near my lens. I am a photographer, not a terrorist!