For the last month and a half or so, my camera has been largely unused. I’ve had periods like this before, where I’m just lacking any and all motivation to pick up the camera, go outside, and take photos of things. But this time, I don’t know. It’s not that. I’m motivated, don’t get me wrong, but lately I’ve been apprehensive about going outside with a camera. I’m afraid that if I point the camera in a certain direction, someone will take it the wrong way and try and start something. In my head, the scenario goes something like this:
Me: Hey, that’s neat, how the light is hitting that. I want to get a photo of that.
Some Ass: Are you taking pictures of me? I don’t want my fucking picture taken.
Me: I’m not taking a picture of you, I’m..
Ass: Get the fucking camera away from me. Fucking creep.
Funny thing; this scenario, or anything like it, has never actually happened to me in real life. I’m straining trying to think of anything remotely similar to this actually happening, and…..nothing.
So where does this fear stem from? I’m not really sure, but it could come from hearing various horror stories from friends and other photographers about people getting angry when faced with a camera. People see cameras as a threat to themselves and their personal privacy, even when they are in places where they don’t really (literally and legally) have any. Added onto that, there is a sense now adays that people get hostile very easily. Point a camera at someone’s face and you just sense that it’s going to end badly.
I’m in that annoying position of liking a style of photography that I can’t really do in real life; street photography. And it really irks me. I spend lots of time combing through various archives finding old street photographs, and as soon as I get inspired to do it, I realize that I’m too afraid. Especially here in London. Downtown London is, unfortunately, home to shady characters. I hate to generalize, especially because this sounds immensely elitist in many ways, but if you walked downtown you would probably agree. A lot of wanker gangsters hang around the main Downtown cross roads and just mill about. In Britain, the name for them would be ‘chav’, but we don’t have a similar name here.
London also has quite a bad drug problem, so you spend most of your time walking around Downtown afraid that if you take a picture of somebody, they will be on some sort of drug trip and try and attack you. It’s almost happened once to me and a friend of mine. As we were walking down the street, my friend put up her camera to her eye, and tried to take a photograph of some passing pedestrians. As we continued down the street, we heard yelling behind us. The guy she took a picture of was yelling at us from half a block away. It seems he wasn’t pleased with having his photo taken, and it apparently it took him some time to catch on to that fact. His friend kept him from chasing after us luckily.
I told myself this week that I would adopt the mindset of “if someone doesn’t like it, they can fuck off” but I’m quite positive that I will be all talk and no walk. I can just imagine someone looking at me the wrong way, and in my head I will say to myself “ok, fuck that. I tried.”
I want to me like the Bruce Davidsons, and the Walker Evans, and the Arthur Leipzigs, but I just can’t find the confidence to do it. And that is terribly disappointing.
(Photo taken by myself, March 25, 2011)