One of the risks of appearing in public is the likelihood of being photographed.
In my short experience of taking photographs in the street, I have noticed that people respond in one of three ways when they see my lens peering at them. The ‘terribly sorry’ who apologise for spoiling my picture, having made the assumption that I am taking some wonderful shot that did not require their presence; the ‘terribly extrovert’ who immediately jump in front of the lens and insist I take their picture sometimes even removing articles of their clothing with the aim of tempting me; and the ‘terribly aggressive’ who, as a minimum, put on a face that could frighten rhino into a stampede and as a maximum wave a fist in the air and swear loudly about ‘bloody photographers’. The latter bring out the worst in me. If I know someone doesn’t want me to photograph them, even if I hadn’t set out to take their picture in the first place, I suddenly become determined to grab a shot, and so it was, in Berlin last year.
I was sitting in an open bar with a group of people enjoying a beer, when I noticed two feet. They were filthy and rather well-defined in the light. Behind the feet were two very suspicious looking characters, one of whom saw my camera and raised his hand to shield his face. I immediately became extremely interested in him. As I fiddled with my camera he glared at me as if to say, “You just dare lady!” I smiled sweetly and looked down at my camera. I pretended I was just reviewing the day’s photographs but all the time I was adjusting the camera and trying to tilt it so I could grab a shot. His friend managed to obscure his face with one of his feet but the man I was interested in just glared at me. Unfortunately, the camera I had then, had quite a loud shutter click and it was clear he had heard it go off. I didn’t dare make any more eye contact, I turned around very quickly and began a conversation with the other photographers who had no idea what had just occurred.
Later that evening when we were sharing our pictures there was great surprise when one of our tutors recognised the man in the photograph. She couldn’t believe I had actually got a picture of him as he is a local celebrity and bar owner, often pursued unsuccessfully by the press. He is well-known for hating the camera and going out of his way to ensure no-one captures him in the lens. I just love the expression on his face and the dirty feet!
Even when people love to be photographed it doesn’t always make them anymore savoury! I was just inside the Red Light district in Amsterdam when I heard someone shouting and promising, ‘ The most extraordinary show on earth, full of colour, excitement, joy, spectacle and copious amounts of sex and sleeze. Yes it’s the sleeziest show in Europe!” Once again as I took this picture he shouted, “Sleeze!” There are three letters missing from the top of the board behind him, ‘POR’.
Sometimes the unexpected happens. Earlier this year I was in Brick Lane with my friend. We had just finished our sticky buns and coffee and were heading out to capture some shots of people walking past the wonderful graffiti. Suddenly the traffic was brought to a stand still by a cab driver. He wound down his window and beckoned me over. ” Take me picture darlin’. No-one ever takes no notice of me. Go on take me picture. No-one has paid me any attention for years darlin’, please take me picture!” How could I possibly refuse when he had such a wonderfully cheeky grin!
Taking pictures in the street exposes the photographer to many different types of adult behaviour and I have learned that there are times when I need to ask permission, or honour a request, but the most exciting times are definitely presented by those with secrets to hide!