Street photography and you

Last post I mentioned confidence in regards to street photography. I mean, the question I think boils down to, when do you NOT take the picture? Do you follow a set of morals and photograph with a sense of dignity? Something you would be proud to show your subject? Will taking the picture put your life in serious danger? Or do you simply appreciate the person’s opinion of not wanting to be photographed? (sometimes they just need convincing hehe)

I think you need to be the judge. For me it’s intuition. It’s knowing that this particular person looks like they are in the bikie gang Notorious and I shouldn’t take his picture because I don’t have the time to go to hospital with a gun shot wound to the leg.

99% of the time a smile will put someone at ease or a small explanation that I am not photographing people in a negative way and I truly love the diverse nature of these suburbs. People recognise passion and if you are comfortable with what you are doing or trying to say, people will use their intuition and let you be.

Here’s 3 situations with 3 different reactions. The first, I smiled then proceeded to explain what I was doing and I thought they were  interesting.. I love their clothes and their hair (sometimes a compliment can go a long way). They all gave me a huge smile and nodded and let me be on my merry way.

The second and third image doesn’t need much explanation. But the 4th… After this shot they both stood up and towered over me, the shorter of the 2 still had about 3 inches on me (I’m 6’2). I tried to keep it civil and he insisted I delete the photograph, I showed him the back of the camera and showed him it was film and I cannot delete. I told him that by NSW law I have every right to take a photo of you in public, he said in a deep voice and broken English, ” What law? We are law!” At this point they were yelling at me and calling the police, one grabbed my camera strap and my arm and said lets go to the police station now! I looked around for help and noticed one of the shop keepers that I know and called him over. They kept asking “why you take photo!?” I told them, “I love Auburn, I love the people of Auburn, I am from Greece,” I pointed at the shopkeeper, “he is from Turkey, you, from Sudan, everyone different” I said, “that’s what I love about Auburn, I love all the people” He then said… “who do you think you are? God? You love everyone? Are you gay? do you love me?” They were not getting the whole concept, they just did not understand. I mean, isn’t that what we are striving to be, I am not even religious but aren’t we all trying to be like “God”?

I asked them to place take their hands off me and that we’ll go to the police station all together. They said to my shopkeeper friend, “you go back to your shop! we go alone with him!” at this point I was shitting myself. I know Auburn quite well and its just a 150m walk to the police station, I asked my shop-keeper friend to stand at the corner and watch me walk up the street. I walked very quickly ahead of the 2 guys to the police station. When we got there, the police were obviously on my side, one of the officers even recognised me and told them I work for the newspaper and I am a photographer. The 2 Sudanese guys then thought they were in on something and that this was a master plan to photograph them for something. Extreme paranoia. A lot of yelling took place, they even threatened me in front of the cops saying we know you! we see you outside! I chose not to press charges but waited in the police station for 20 mins and got one to escort me to the car.

I decided to go back to Auburn the very next day, with my camera. I’m not letting an incident like that stop me from shooting my project.

I often think about what type of situation these people have come from, born into a world of violence and war. They have every right to be paranoid, in their home country, but here? It must be so hard for them, many living in refugee camps, many victims of war for what reason? The media isn’t always on their side. Just look at the people getting beaten in Syria, Egypt,  its just horrible… and this is by people who they are meant to trust.

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