It is interesting how my comfort level with public photography changes from time to time and location to location. I am usually not a person for public photography, just because it seems like it is viewed negatively. I carry my camera when I go places, therefore, I am a photographer, but what do others see? Do others seem me simply as an artistic photographer, or perhaps they think I might be interested in photo journalism? The worst possible thing is that I think a lot of people may just feel as though they are in danger when a photographer is near. When I stopped for gas today I pulled my camera out after filling up, simply because the building across the street from the gas station was interesting to me (see exhibit A below). I was not aware of it, but apparently 2 people changed from being “normal” to being “alert” as soon as I pulled out my camera for the shot. It isn’t even that great of a shot and I only tried 2 exposures (I was parked at the pump and didn’t want to be rude). That “alert” paranoia feeling is not healthy. It is a feeling that makes me, as a photographer, a little nervous about taking pictures in public, just because there is a fear there, and I really don’t like making people uncomfortable. I personally do not get the reason for the fear. Some people say it’s because of a terrorist threat. What threat? First, what good does it do someone to take photographs from places that the Google Bot Car is allowed to travel? Is it really helpful to have pictures of the outside of places? Also, when was the last time you saw a terrorist wielding a Nikon D90 (or similar)? Terrorists are much more likely to use something small and discreet, like the D90’s capable cousin, the Nikon Coolpix P90 (624mm reach, I’d say that’s a threat) [oh come on Chris, laugh].
Anyway, despite the two rednecks who either perceived me as a threat or thought I was simply crazy, I wasn’t afraid of taking the picture, and honestly why should I be? The actual destination of my trip for the day was UNC Charlotte, where I don’t have a lot of fear at all in carrying my D90 openly. It is a college campus, and no one seems to have a problem with photography. In fact, if anything is odd about college student response to a camera being somewhere, its that they are too respectful and accommodating. On several occasions Chris and I have shot from the sidewalk and people have gone behind us, on the grass, just to make sure they do not interfere with our shot, or in some cases, they will attempt to wait until we are finished. Chris and I joked today that a sign above our cameras stating our apparent focal length might be useful in letting people know that they aren’t in the way (somehow I doubt many people would get that 70mm+ out means they won’t bother us passing 2 feet in front of us). I like carrying my camera everywhere, and I want to keep doing it, I just have to feel like I am not offending anyone by doing so. The worst part of how I feel at the moment is that I don’t care if it offends people or not. As long as I am on public ground and not trying to circumvent anyone’s privacy, then I have no reason to not do what I enjoy.