Street photography. The candid photo. Artistic eye for architecture. This art form is dying – from fear. It almost seems like we as photographers have become the bad guy. Regularly I come across threads from online photography forums about how fellow photographers are being harassed for taking photos of bridges, architecture, and people. It saddens me that the artist has now come under a different critical eye.
Once upon a time there was never ‘fear’ when a photograph was taken. Today, modern society has been brainwashed into thinking anyone with a professional type camera that isn’t at a sporting event is some nasty lecher or potential terrorist.
I know we live in a different time now where things are no longer innocent as they once were, so naturally people should be concerned when they see suspicious activities. However when fear and suspicion begin to lead to infringing rights and false accusations, where do we draw the line of what’s acceptable?
A while back I read something about a gentleman that was at the state park photographing the scenery/landscape. Someone contacted the park ranger and falsely accused him of being a pervert for photographing little kids. From my understanding, there were no children around. He even showed the park ranger what he had photographed on his camera. Fortunately the park ranger determined the photographer was not doing anything wrong and did not give him a hard time. I’m not criticizing the park ranger or any other figures of authority when they do approach this issue. The park ranger was doing his job – someone else made that false call.
I recall that he had briefly lost motivation to continue photographing after that incident. That photographer now felt like crap due to false accusations because of someone else’s stupidity and fear.
I’d be willing to drop money on it saying that if the photographer had a small point and shoot camera – nothing would have been said. It baffles me that the general logic is big and obvious cameras/lenses = obvious pedophile/terrorist.
Lets think about this for a second. If a terrorist, pedophile, or whomever wanted to photograph a bridge, a kid, a building, or whatever – I would imagine they would want to do it as discreetly as possible. Avoid confrontation with people or authority. A camera phone or a small pocket size point and shoot camera with 10x’s zoom would be the obvious way to go. But for some reason the only cameras that get attention are the big black ‘professional’ style cameras. For some reason the idea seems to be that professional cameras are the only things capable of taking a photo good enough to do something illegal or wrong.
What sucks most is that even if the photographer has proven themself legit, they still fall under suspicious eyes. Although nothing of this nature has happened to me, I’m only sure I would feel just the same. I would feel terrible if someone had accused me of taking photos of children under the impression that I was some sort of pedophile out to plan my next kidnapping. I would feel just as terrible if I were approached and accused of photographing a bridge or a building under the impression to commit terrorism.
The subject depresses me, because I see both sides of the fence. It’s just that I feel inevitable result will be the death of a great art.