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John Palcewski's Journal

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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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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!!

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