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  1. #1

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    street response?

    Was wondering how others respond to questions while you are shooting street scenes? I shoot a lot with a 4x5(tripod) and some handheld(35mm).
    If I say I'm a photographer they (person asking) want to know why if I'm doing it if I'n not getting paid, i.e commercial work is understandable. Trying to explain it's for an artistic endeavor always seems to come out stuffy or fake. I realize I'm not a verbal outgoing person, but would still like to shoot.

    Living in the DC area compounds the problem and everyone either thinks that I'm working for a terrorist organization (from Indiana) or that their work (human office slave) is actually top secret & my camera can see into their briefcase to see their yogurt leaking on their copy of "people". I get a lot of 'photography is illegal here' (I know it's not) etc...

    Any advice or personal examples of how to respond to inquiring passerby's would be very appreciated. Or how to deal with rent-a-cops that truly have no jurisdiction on the sidewalk outside their building. Thanks jeff

  2. #2
    Jim Moore's Avatar
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    I have only had three people approach me while photographing Downtown in my area.

    The first one was, to put it nicely, not the sharpest stick in the pile. I answered his questions politely and he moved on.

    The second one was an employee of one of the buildings that I was photographing. The building happened to be a restaurant and he thought that I was from the state health department gathering evidence to close them down. I explained to him that my hobby was photography and I was not out to close down the restaurant. Simply taking black & white "art" style photographs.

    The third person was a cleaning lady at one of the buildings. She was coming to work while I was photographing. When see got out of her car she saw me standing there and noticed the where she parked would be in my way. She got back in her car and move it out of the way. After finding another parking spot she came over to me and started talking. She made a comment about my beautiful camera (Zone VI 4x5) and asked a few other questions and finished by saying that she would love to see the photographs when finished. I told her that I would be happy to send her a print, so she gave me her bosses business card and ask me to send it there.

    I have found that most people just ignore me while photographing. But then again I live in Des Moines, Iowa

  3. #3
    Sjixxxy's Avatar
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    With 35mm, I don't get much comments. I use old cheap rangefinders and am quick about taking the photos, so most people don't notice. The only ones who seem to say anything are old Navy Vets who used to use the same gear when they where in the service.

    4x5 is a different beast though. Most people just ask "Can you still get film for that thing?" (Course not! I'm just setting this big camera up to look cool) Using a Speed Graphic though, people usually just assume I'm doing what I'm doing for a very important reason and just stand a ways off and gawk. Those who do ask why I'm shooting whatever it is I'm shooting, I just tell them its for the town's historical record.

    A 4x5 or larger seems to be able to wield a lot of control over bystanders as well. Many uses.

  4. #4

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    If truly inquisitive, I invite them to have a peak under the hood. That usually silences them as they cannot quite get over how large the view screen is or the left is right - up is down confusion. If all else fails, I just say "non parlo inglese".
    Francesco

  5. #5

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    Jan 2004
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    When I lived in Riverside I used to go downtown to an old (somewhat famous in this area) hotel trying to get my chops down at night. Most people are courteous, some I have to keep an eye on till they go away. The hotel has a bridal window display that I like to shoot. If you'd like to see a bad pic do let me know. Security (guys in suits with wires in their ears) usually come out to "get a feel for me". When they or anyone askes what I'm doing (?) it never occurred to me to reply 'artistic endevour'. I just say it's my hobby and that seems to satisfy. But if someone asked me to move along then I'd move along. What do I care? I would guess if you don't seem suspicious (looking around like you just shoplifted something), are of middle eastern descent, or photographing a federal building you're probably safe.
    The Rat

  6. #6
    Andy K's Avatar
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    Here in England the answer depends on my location.

    If in a residential area I say I'm working for an Estate Agent (thats a Realtor in American ) and getting 'area' shots for prospective buyers. If in the centre of town I say I work for a big chain store looking for locations and if elsewhere I say I work for the Tourist Board.

    All seem to satisfy any curiosity!

    Andy


    -----------My Flickr-----------
    Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.

  7. #7
    Adrian Twiss's Avatar
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    Street photography is getting more difficult these days. I was photographing in an Orchid House in Edinburgh (OK not, strictly speaking street photography) and a lady came up to me and asked me to stop photographing the children. I explained politely that I was, in fact, photographing the orchids and showed her my permit that the botanical gardens issue to prove it. She was not entirely satisfied and continued to give me suspicious looks. I will not pull out a camera with a long lens on the street now unless it is obvious what I'm photographing. Sadly the times we live in make street photography much more difficult. Even the most polite reasoning can't break down the barriers of suspicion. Sad but true.

  8. #8
    FrankB's Avatar
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    There are generally a few curious souls that come over and ask what I'm taking pictures of and whether I work for a magazine or something. I simply tell them no, I'm just an amateur. There have been a few more memorable occasions, though...


    Quite recently, during a frustrating attempt (hot day, lots of people about) to get some waterfall shots the icing on the cake was when one knuckle-dragger with a cheap compact digi-gizmo came up while I changing lenses and prodded at the F80 body on the 'pod saying, "That digital?" I said, "No" and he turned in disgust, stomped off and, in doing so, kicked the 'pod leg and nearly sent it (and the Nikon) down a fifty-foot drop! I, er... remonstrated with him at some length...!


    Last year while I was taking pictures in Wigan station (for the APUG anniversary, as it happens!) I got quite a lot of attention. Apart from a drunken Scot (is it the same one at every station (The Flying Scotsman?!) or do Network Rail have a large staff of them?) and several people wanting to know from where their train was leaving (man in casual clothes with camera, tripod and several lenses = station staff?! :rolleyes: I must have an aura...!) there was one slightly odd encounter.

    I'd set up the 'pod with the camera looking down a tunnel that ran under the tracks. The idea was to have everything in the shot pin sharp with one or more blurred figures passing through (one of my rare "artistic" moments!). To keep the action of taking a shot inconspicuous I ran a cable release down the 'pod leg and busied myself cleaning my gear as if I was still setting up, tripping the release as people passed by.

    During one of the gaps in the flow of people, a (let's be polite) 'large' woman walking slowly down an adjoining tunnel behind me stopped and called something out, a bit aggressively. I didn't quite catch it but put on my best polite enquiring face and got her to repeat it.

    "What are you filming?"

    'Filming?!' Not wanting to split hairs I pointed in the same direction as the camera and said I was taking a picture of the tunnel.

    "Have you got permission?"

    Actually, as it was technically private property, I'd had a word with the station master before I started. With it being a Sunday morning and not exactly rush hour he didn't give a damn as long as I didn't play on the tracks! I told her that yes, I did have permission, and she stomped off with a disappointed air.

    It wasn't until later that I wondered about it. She definitely wasn't station staff, she was behind the camera and I wasn't taking a picture of her, I wasn't blocking the tunnel or delaying anybody (indeed, I think several people only caught their trains because of my directions! I should have got a commission! )... So what was her problem?! I suppose some people aren't happy unless they're disapproving of (and, if possible, interfering with) other people's enjoyment...


    The final occasion was when I was taking some shots of a fountain near where I work at the Pier Head in Liverpool. I'd been shooting from a 'pod (as usual!) for a while when I decided to pop-up the flash and use some weak fill to try and add a bit of sparkle to the water. A few minutes later I looked round to see a security guard shoulder-surfing me.

    "What are you doing?"

    Never afraid of stating the obvious, I told him I was taking photographs. He mulled this over for a while...

    "What of?"

    We were standing in a courtyard with nothing around but very boring office buildings and one fairly spectacular twenty-five foot fountain at which the camera was conspicuously aimed... I told him I was taking pictures of the fountain for my photography evening class. Another pause...

    "Can you prove who you are?"

    By this time I was getting more than a bit cheesed-off with this. I was in a public place taking pictures of a fountain during my lunch hour and, apart from anything else, didn't need the interruption. I considered telling him to go forth and multiply but instead smiled politely and dug out my student library card. While he scrutinised it (brow furrowed, running his finger under the words and moving his lips) I asked him if there was a problem.

    He then pointed out that the building *behind* the fountain belonged to the Ministry of Defence...

    Ah. Oh.

    He gave the card back and I carried on taking shots for another 15 minutes or so... ...but I'm quite glad I kept that encounter on an amicable footing!

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by tilt-shift
    Living in the DC area compounds the problem and everyone either thinks that I'm working for a terrorist organization (from Indiana) or that their work (human office slave) is actually top secret & my camera can see into their briefcase to see their yogurt leaking on their copy of "people". I get a lot of 'photography is illegal here' (I know it's not) etc...
    I was once arrested in a parking garage at The City Centre in Århus, Denmark while shooting pix for a CD cover. They thought I was a terrorist investigating the resort :rolleyes:

    But I was let go after 15 min. of explanation and it was ok for me to shoot on

    Morten

  10. #10
    Aggie's Avatar
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    I have had a bit of fun being thought of as a terrorist with a cannon. I've decided the next time someone comes up and asks what I am doing, I am going to get excited and tell them to strip down quickly. the modeling agency was supposed to send them out sooner for the nude layout. If they stammer I will just get impatient and offer to help them get out of their clothes. Time to turn the scenrio around and make them uncomfortable.

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