Interesting experience out in the country....

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by scootermm, Aug 10, 2004.

  1. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    I posted this photo in the critique gallery.

    I had an interesting experience after taking it and was wondering the feeling of some fellow photographers about it.
    I got up early on a sat morning to go out and take some shots near Manor, TX. A co worker had informed me of some old Country Stores and an old church in that area that I should take a look at for potential photographs. so I ended up outside the Cele Country Store at about 10am. When I drove up there were no cars around front or in back I could see. So I parked on the side off the side of the state road it was on. I spent a good 20 mins just walking around the front of the store just looking at things and seeing if anything really struck me as wnating to be photographed. I looked inside and didnt see anyone inside so I didnt bother to knock or go inside. The initial image I saw was what really seemed to strike me as worthy of shooting. so I walked back across the street and set up my 4x5 with a 14" wollensak and spent about another 15-20mins taking a few shots. as I was packing up my backpack etc an old lady came out the front door of the store. she crossed the street and I said good morning to her. she replied with "what are you doing?" (rather annoyed tone as well) I was overly polite and said I was just taking some pictures and hoped that it wasnt a problem and that I hadnt seen anyone inside etc and I was lead to believe that the store was closed by a local resident.
    she was really getting angry now and said "so you dont think you should have asked?" I kept trying to disperse the tension by being polite and offering to destroy the negatives if she would like me to or give her a copy of the resulting print if it turned out. she angrily said I had no business taking pictures. I profusely apologized as she turned her back on me and crossed the street only to reply "saying your sorry doesnt do a damn bit of good now"

    a part of me felt a huge amount of guilt but then another part of me thought to myself. Im standing on a public road taking pictures of something and had even openly offered to remedy the situation in any way she felt would be neccesary but she openly refused any of that.

    I know my rights as a photographer and Ive done alot of research in that regard. but just because legal action cant be taken against a photographer doesnt mean it is ethical etc. so Im curious what others think about situations such as this.
     
  2. 127

    127 Member

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    If some one asks you politely not to photograph them, or their personal effects, with some semblence of an explanation (and "I'm not happy about it" may be considered as a partial explanation) then it's only reasonable to try and reach some arrangement which keeps everyone happy.

    On the other hand if some mad person starts ranting at you for taking pictures in the street, and isn't prepared to enter into rational discussion then there's nothing you can do. Sounds like this woman just wanted to shout at someone, and didn't actually know what her problem was or what she wanted out of the situation. Under those circumstances I think it's resonable to tell the agressor to take a hike.

    Ian
     
  3. Les McLean

    Les McLean Subscriber

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    I think that in the eyes of the law you were perfectly within your rights to make photographs from a public place and you did make every effort to ask permission. I would have done the same as you and made my exposures. I guess the old lady saw what you were doing as an invasion of her space and property and objected.

    Your experience reminds me of a similar experience of mine. I was teaching a workshop from Salisbury State University and spent a day before it started looking for photographic locations around Salisbury and interestingly found a rather photogenic old store. Like you I looked around to ask permission and knocked on the door of the house on the same land as the store. When the door opened I was facing a man pointing a shotgun at me and was told to leave his property. I said thank you for your time SIR and left.
     
  4. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I would be curious if someone was standing in the street taking pictures of my house. I'd probably go out and question them. But this woman was unwilling to accept any explaination or more than reasonable solutions. I would say that she's just a Crank. You did all you could reasonably do. Chalk it up in the "Well, You meet all kinds" column and the next time you are in that situation, do the exact same thing. Maybe the next person will be happy that you find his place interesting and photogenic.
     
  5. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    At least you weren't arre4sted as terrorist with a canon ready to blow her place up. There are times when no matter what you do, it will be viewed as wrong. You were perfectly within your rights to take the pciture. It is a building open to the public onad viewed from a public street. Print the darn thing and send her a copy just to annoy her. (that is me thinking of the house I was trying to get a shot of one morning)
     
  6. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Chalk it up as a crank.

    Honestly, there are people who just get pissy when they see glass and metal in the right combination.

    A couple of years ago, I was walking downtown in an area teaming with....well, Dickens would have called them "Street Urchins". We call them Gutter Punks here.

    Anyway, this was on Mardi Gras. And there was going to be a parade. I'm walking along, on a VERY busy sidewalk with just my camera BAG. The camera isn't even OUT. Just the bag. I go past a group of about 6 of these kids and they start kicking up a fuss. I was somehow imposing on THEIR rights. I would have been worried had it not been for the two TPD officers across the street who immediately started coming across to see what was up.


    Point being....

    Some people just look for a fight.
     
  7. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    For some reason, I seem to be challenged most when using 4x5 on a tripod. 8x10 seems to attract the curious, as do my Speed Graphics when hand held ("That's an old camera, isn't it.") But 4x5 on a tripod brings out folks who challenge my right to photograph. I wonder if it looks commercial (i.e. money making)?
    juan
     
  8. bmac

    bmac Member

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    I can understand what the lady was thinking. I come from a slightly different point of view here. As some of you know, I own a classic Woody station wagon. And seriously, every time I park the car and go inside, it never fails, someone stops to take a picture of it. I don't mind people snapping photos of it, but most of these people go a step further and put their family on the running boards, etc. I actually came out of Herst Castle once to find a group of foreign tourists sitting inside my car wearing my vintage hat getting their photo taken. The point is, while as a photographer, I like to stop and photograph nice looking buildings, sometimes the owners are just fed up with the way other people have treated them or their property. She wasn't pissed at you as much as she was probably pissed at the other 100 people who had taken photos of her store in the past 20 years.
     
  9. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    To quote from a Farley Mowat story (The Boat Who Wouldn't Float)..
    Use your best Russian accent, take a deep breath and say "In Soviet Union old vermin like you we put to sleep"
     
  10. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    Nice to hear others thoughts on the experience. I dont feel so "out of line" anymore.

    Oddly enough, I printed an 8x10 of that shot last night and I printed one extra copy and I have it in a manila (sp?) envelope with a business card that Im going to drop off today at her store for her to have. so hopefully she will know the intention was purely aesthetic and due to my admiration for the beauty of the storefront.
     
  11. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    I couldn't agree more with the above statement, Scooter. When one thinks of how laws are made, and how absurd some laws are, the legality of an action means next to nothing, ethically speaking.

    So the real question remains: Was it ethical?

    Well, that depends on your ethics. What are your ideals?

    I have been struggling with this for a while, and I am starting to get some direction in this regard.

    What I am doing is this: drop all your notions of right and wrong, legal and illegal, holy and sacrilegious, and start from scratch. Unfortunately, that ultimately results in questioning everything (and I do mean everything, existence and such).

    I know... I have no life. Or rather, I live a very confused life.

    But anyway, here is where I stand right now. I take anything harmful and consider it negative, or unethical.

    So, if your photograph in anyway harms, or insults (and insults are indeed harmful) the owner of the store, I'd forget about it. In the end, we do not know what drove the woman to act as she did, and nothing good can come out of insulting her.

    This reminds me of a quote by Albert Camus (I've been reading a lot of his work lately):

    "The evil that is in the world always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence, if they lack understanding." The Plague by Albert Camus.

    In the end, we may be (and probably are) as ignorant as the old lady, and the best solution would be a mutual understanding, which in turn can only come out of humbleness (for you have to be able to admit that you are in the wrong, as must she).

    I hope that this helps you sort it out some, instead of just confusing the matter further.

    good luck,

    André Rosenbaum de Avillez.
     
  12. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    I had a similar experience, but mine turned out oddly well! The picture I posted in the Critiques Gallery of the Twin Silos was taken at a farm close to where I live. I stopped down there one day and talked to a woman probably in her early 60s. I told her I took photos as a hobby and developed them in my own darkroom. She was VERY concerned that I was going to sell the pictures I took or that I was working for a realtor. I promised her this was not the case and said I would bring her prints of what I took pictures of. She begrudgingly let me take the pictures. She was NOT happy, and it was touch & go as to whether I was going to get to take those pictures.
    Well, I went down there last night & took them an 8x10 of the silos & 2 5x7s of some other shots I got. You would have thought I was a long lost friend! They collect & restore old cars (Kaiser-Frazer???... always wondered what was in that barn) and they asked if I'd want to come & take pictures of the cars sometime. They also told me I could come back & take pictures any time I wanted to...now, I am like family! :D
    So, Scooter, take the old lady a nice glossy print. See if that works.
    Jeanette
     
  13. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

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    take her the print but don't leave the business card.. she might send Jim-Bob around!

    This reminds me I've got to print a couple of shots of an old building and petrol bowser (gas pump) to send to the owner. I pulled up across the road from this place as the old bowser was just next to the road. It was missing the front cover which showed the internal workings. I saw a guy in a workshop just near by so I wandered over to saw hello 1st and to formalise me taking pics of his bowser. :smile: He was working on something and I asked a few questions before asking it it was ok to take some pics of the bowser. He insisted on going down to the back shed and bringing up the front cover for me... He said he removed it cause otherwise someone would pinch it, which sadly, was probably right!
     
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  15. mikewhi

    mikewhi Member

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    I've run into the same stuff a few times.

    The most dangerous are when you're out at night, that's when peoples' fears really get wound up. I've veen out shooting old buildings at night and have had people come out to run me off, treaten to call the cops, etc. I just go ahead and take my picture and move on. One night in Mexico I was charged by a guy with a 3-foot machete painted red on the end. I passed up that photo.

    Once in a county fair during the day, I was shooting crowd pictures (got a few intereting ones, too) and as a group of people were going by, I snapped the shutter (with a Leica M6, of all things). A guy somehow heard it and charged back at me accusing me of taking a picture of his girlfriend's rear-end. I was getting ready to get in a fight - I don't run unless you have a machete, that's my policy.

    So, you run into all types who have all sorts of different fears and points of view, etc. You'll get over it.

    I agree you shouldn't take be business card. You don't know who she has hiding in the attic.

    -Mike

    -Mike
     
  16. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    My previous post on this thread notwithstanding, I have never been turned down when asking to take a picture. I am polite (hard to believe, I know), friendly and non-threatening. I was rebuffed once by a night watchman, when I had actually been given permission by the owners of the facility. The watchman told me he didn't know if I was a spy, or perhaps a terrorist, who wanted to sabotage the facility. The next week I told his boss about the conversation and was told to just come back again. I ended up getting the shots I wanted and gave copies to both the owner and the night watchman. Everyone was pleased.

    One thing I have found to be very effective is reflective listening (I know, even harder to believe coming from me). Try using "Gee, it sounds like you are really......" and then prepare to get a long story by way of an explanation. It does help a lot and you may find out a great deal about someone's life and some things of value to go along with the picture you will get. It works for me.
     
  17. Andre R. de Avillez

    Andre R. de Avillez Member

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    right on...
     
  18. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Several tears ago, I made a photograph of a scene (with house(s)) near my home after a snowstorm. Later, in the spring, I mounted a print and carried it around in the car for over a week before I found anyone home at the residence of issue. When I did, the woman said (essentially), “You made a photograph of my house without my knowledge? It’s not even all my house. Some of the neighbor’s house is in it too.” I told her to keep it, destroy it, or whatever she wanted. It wouldn’t be in National Geographic or Time magazine, so frankly Scarlet….

    ONTOH, the abandoned farmhouse in my gallery was first made without the knowledge or permission of the landowner. However, when I visited them, they welcomed me with much warmth and made me feel very appreciated. They now have a 16x20 print over their new mantle in a house they recently renovated. They are the Lyons family and they are probably one of the last family farmers in the east – very nice people.

    I also photograph Amish in southern Md. This is somewhat sensitive, as they are very private. However, I have never been chastised for photographing their farms or equipment. I have yet to try their children, as I believe they would resist. I try to respect personal privacy as much as possible. Sometimes this doesn’t work either if someone is begging for a conflict.
     
  19. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    I gotta say that you are lucky to have that experience. I would love to shoot the Amish world. Mostly because I think they get an unfair rap in our modern society. People think of them as backwards and freakish, when in reality they are just following certain religious principles. I'd love to be able to show the humanity that is behind the "tourist image."
     
  20. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Robert, it sounds like you are already half way there. If you were to approach a family with the intention of showing the dignity and respect they deserve in their everyday lives, I would bet that they might say yes. Try to find an activity where you would not be in the way (harvest time is busy but full of life, a roadside stand, etc.) and ask if you can take a few pictures. Use a simple camera (35mm?) with a long enough lens to stay out of the way and you may be accepted. It might take more than one attempt, but it would certainly be worth the effort.

    They get a bad rap because of their looks and strong core beliefs. For all of their austerity, they have a wonderful sense of humor and candor. It's too bad they are judged as a "group" without knowing anything about them as people and the values they cling so strongly to. Perhaps if more people lived as they do the world would be a safer, simpler, more civil place in which to live.
     
  21. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Robert it would be a perfect project with those dry plates you want to do. The old cameras, and plate holders are not pretentious in todays world. They are basic and non electrical. Who knows you may inspire a few to try wet or dry plate photography.
     
  22. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    Scooter, it is absolutely ethical for you to shoot a public storefront. Good grief.
     
  23. anyte

    anyte Member

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    Perhaps I should post this as a question outside this thread ...

    I often see mention of gifting people with images after having been allowed to photograph something on their property. That works pretty well if you have your own darkroom and even better if you take great photos. What about the amateurs? I'm not sure it would be worth the effort and expense for me to have the lab make up an 8 x 10 of some less than great photo. I'm not sure it would be appreciated.

    I haven't ever photographed anything on private/personal property. It seems very awkward to do and I can't imagine where I would park my car to do so. I live in a rural area - all highways and county roads. I see beautiful structures all the time that I wish I could photograph but ... I just keep going.
     
  24. scootermm

    scootermm Subscriber

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    anyte
    The only time I would consider actually printing an 8x10 and giving it to the owner of a building or land that I photographed would be if I felt the negative/print was worthy of being given to them. so its really up to your own personal judgement.

    in regards to taking pictures of private property. I live in Texas (one of the largest states and bigger than alot of countries) and about 98% of the land in texas is private property (last time I checked). so the concept of needing to ask permission is very real. Just be assertive. Im a very introverted person who like to keep to himself, but when I have my 4x5 over my shoulder I will openly and assertively knock on doors to ask permission to photograph old barns, silos, etc.
    Just be assertive and I think you will be suprised how open alot of people are to it if you just tell them upfront that you are merely a hobbyist who is interested in photography on their land for your own personal enjoyment (and perhaps even theirs when they get a print)
     
  25. anyte

    anyte Member

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    scootermm

    Thank you for the input. I'm rather introverted myself but I guess that's something that can be overcome.
     
  26. rogueish

    rogueish Member

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    You should deal with some of the laws up here in Canada!
    Photographers being sued for taking a picture of a guy in public on the street. And it looks like the photographer is going to lose!!
    One in particular, is a photo published in a newspaper of a guy coming out of a court house. This guy is sueing the photographer, the editor and the newspaper because "the photograph makes me look bad".
    If you don't want to look bad, get a haircut and stay on the right side of the law. Works for me.