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Save The Children

“Excuse me. Excuse me, but why are you taking these children's picture?”

I rose from a kneeling position, startled by the intensity of the woman’s voice, which was in a British accent.

“Because I’m a photographer,” I said. “Do you find that odd?”
“I’ve asked you a question very politely, so there's absolutely no reason for you to react so strongly. You have to understand that these children are my responsibility.”
“Exactly what is your concern? There’s a security guard posted every two feet in this plaza and it’s under constant live TV surveillance, so this is a safe place. Your implicit suggestion is that you question my integrity or my motives. What leads you to that conclusion?”
“Don’t you understand we have to protect our young people? Especially these days?”
“I’m entirely in sympathy with you on that issue. But you have no evidence I pose your children any harm.”

A stocky man with a reddish face suddenly appeared at my interrogator's side. He looked grim and suspicious, and aggressively moved in close to me, in the manner of a man who feels a great need to give aid to a woman in a potentially dangerous situation.

“You ought to know,” he said, “that it’s a violation of privacy laws to take pictures without people’s permission.” He, too, spoke in a British accent.

“That’s certainly the case in England,” I said, “But here in America photographing people in a public place requires no permission.”
“Well, then, I’m simply asking you, if you’re willing to extend a friendly gesture, not to take any more pictures of them.”
I paused a moment. “Very well, then,” I said. “I won’t.”

Thank you very much indeed, he might have said, but he didn’t. Nor did she.

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wow. those poor underage, vulnerable teenagers children.

Now that I think of it, those exuberant rowdies were likely more of a threat to me than I was to them!!!

"You have to understand that these children are my responsibility.”

This one always pushes my buttons.

"Pardon me, miss, but I am not obligated to understand anything."

If you are responsible for these children, and consequently don't want them to be vulnerable to the dark evils of public photography, what the fuck are you doing with them in New York?

I couldn't have said it any better! Thanks..

i would love to take photograph of people in public places like restaurants, bar lounges, foyers, streets, underground and surface trains, and so on. but i've always refrained because the reaction will probably be the same. the world is going crazy and the terrorism is winning anyway. how? because people are getting progressively afraid of everything and everyone, and this is not always healthy.

on an unrelated note, i must wholeheartedly apologise to you John. i am very sorry to have been unhelpful regarding the translation of your work into italian. these past months have been and are very dense for me, and my energies all go to work (it's in a very overwhelming moment) and all the things i need to do for my relocation, which will happen in about 2 months. but i am always willing to help and i leave the communications open. only, i am in a bad need of time as of late.

again, apologies.

In Forio d'Ischia I photographed a man walking along the quay and he got very angry and insisted I go with him to the Carabinnieri headquarters a few blocks away.

An officer told me extremely politely that in Italy taking pictures of people in public was against the law, and he said that was the reason why banks may not put their cameras on people who use outside ATMs. The angry man obviously considered what happened a crime for some reason, but the officer didn't seem at all concerned, but nevertheless asked me to delete the images. I did so, and he winked. The angry man now calmed looked as if he'd won something of importance.

Now regarding the translations, not to worry, Rick! When you get comfortably settled into your new location and get some time we can discuss this...no rush.

Like t_pot above, I've always wanted to take pictures of people in public too .. like this.. but am always afraid of the reaction --- as you got here. I don't like confrontation much and it seems like the reaction you got is the 'norm' nowadays. It's rather sad.

I do a lot of street photography and I've learned over the years that if you are discreet, and you show respect, you don't usually get into a hassle like I did the other day. I square the ethical problem--right to privacy vs. right of an artist to make images--by never taking a picture that would belittle or embarrass or otherwise make my subjects look bad. Sometimes when I'm in doubt, I go up and ask directly for permission.

Just five minutes ago, here in Starbucks on 1st Avenue at 60th St., a man came out and offered free samples of deserts and hot chocolate, and I said I needed to take a picture of this unusual customer relations gambit! He smiled, said of course. Starbucks ROCKS! Plus they have wireless for my laptop!!

i photograph in the nyc streets frequently. this has never happened to me, there. in fact, it's rare anyone acknowledges that i'm even photographing them.

lucky, i guess.

i think you handled it well -- respectful without backing down.

i have a lot of trouble taking pictures in new york city. i've had my film confiscated once (it was later given back), i've been followed by the police, and have been told that under the patriot act i could be thrown in jail immediately (which is completely untrue). each time the police got involved because of an angry tourist. the first time it happened, i was actually taking a photograph of an abandoned building, and someone in a crowd across the street (part of a tour group with cameras around their necks) felt the need to report me for criminal activity. the police officer politely told me that while the members of the group had standard cameras, mine was clearly a professional camera for which i needed a permit to use. ridiculous. the 120 film really threw him off, and he asked why i needed such a big camera if i was just out taking picures in the city in which i lived. some of the tour group, having made their way across the street, suggested that it was blatent criminal activity. someone else suggested that i was performing surveillance and wanted to know for whom i worked. while i was being accused of doing ridiculous things, flashes went off. someone went so far as to offer the officer the picture he had taken of me so that my face would be on file. it just makes no sense.

i'll never understand why people are so afraid of cameras.

that's amazing. was this recently or closer to 9/11, when everyone in nyc was so (understandably) paranoid?

it all began about a year ago, and i've been having trouble ever since.

Where does one go in NYC to get a permit to use a medium-format camera? Is that the same place that issues licenses for the use of an 8 x 10 view camera? Well, scary as all this is my reaction is that we just have to learn to get around the craziness, and just keep shooting.

The other day an investment banker told me yes, all this alleged "homeland security" BS is getting nearly out of hand, but then these things reach a high point on the pendulum's arc and start swinging in the other direction. As for instance how all the anti-communist paranoia of the McCarthy era eventually ceased. My question was, how long do we have to wait for it to swing back? And at what cost?

it has gotten extremely out of hand, but i do think it will subside. things will never be the same again of course, but i don't think that the paranoia will continue to be the norm. i wish i had an idea of when that might be happening, though. i can't even begin to speculate.

it's against the law in england? oh my.. now i don't know whether to bring my camera or not. i love taking street photography but if it's not possible, i'm not going to waste my time and lug around my SLR and stick to a touristy digicam instead.

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ooh thanks for the clarification and the link :)

voyeur issues perhaps.

some kids have been exploited this way and you'd be surprised what turns some pervs. on regarding children...it is not always nakedness.
just something to think about when you are shooting. i was very protective of my boys being photographed by my father for some not so obvious reasons

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