Portland, Maine 2013
An interesting thing happened to me over the weekend. I was in Portland, Maine for a Drive-by-Truckers show, but spent a few hours on Saturday shopping with my beautiful wife in Freeport.
And by shopping with my wife, I mean that I spent quite a bit of time just sort of hanging out by outlet store doorways and sitting on benches while Julie shopped. That’s not a complaint, I was thrilled we were both able to get away for a weekend, and it was a beautiful, warm day.
While waiting around to go in a store, 2 different people took my photograph. As a big fan of street photography, I guess I know my size and the fact I’m just standing around looking puzzled most of the time may make me a bit of a character or something, I dunno. Or maybe my fly was down or I had a big juice stain mustache or something.
The point is, I don’t care. What bothered me was the way they went about it. They were sneaky.
One guy was leaning against a wall a little ways away from me with some kind of Canon DSLR with a long lens. He was pretending to look at photos on the back of the camera, and then every once in awhile he would point it up into the sky and as he lowered the camera to be eye level with passers by he would click the shutter. The sound, even from 15 feet away, made it unmistakable as to when he was taking a photograph. He probably stood in one place for a half an hour or more doing this.
The second “street photographer” took my photo with an iPhone. He held it up like he was looking at it and clicked a picture of my face from just a couple of feet away, then he quickly looked away and shoved the phone in his pocket. I watched him do this a couple of more times to other people before I went on my way.
All of this to say this to anyone who wants to shoot candid photos in public places. Stop sneaking around.
Just stop. You’re not doing anything wrong, and by sneaking photos and pretending like you didn’t take them you’re only making the whole situation seem more creepy and weird for people who don’t “get” street photography. You might avoid some confrontation, although I doubt it.
With only 1 exception that I know of in North America, Quebec, you can freely take photos of people in public places. What you can and cannot do with those photos is another issue, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking photos in public and you need to stop acting like there is.
I know it’s not easy. I know it can seem confrontational. I struggled a lot. I still do sometimes if I’m out of practice or in a familiar place. But it’s not helping matters at all to be sneaky.
You don’t have to ask permission. I usually don’t. I want to capture what is really happening, not what is necessarily happening when someone knows they’re being photographed.
But when someone notices you capturing a photo, acknowledge them back. Smile. Say thank-you. Compliment them on their nice hat, or hair, or whatever drew you to them in the first place. You’re not doing anything wrong.
You’ll have confrontations. I have. But 99.9% of the time it’s no big deal if you just act like you’re out doing what you do.
Keep moving and keep shooting and stop sneaking.
Photos are from Becky’s Diner in Portland, Maine. Try the fruit bowl if you go for breakfast. Huge and tasty.
Also, we had a supper at a vegetarian place called The Green Elephant across from the State Theater in Portland. Fantastic food and service.