I think that our interpretation of a scene, or perhaps an event, are shaped by our experiences, and sometimes, probably a lot of times, by our fears.
Saturday was a perfect day as far as the light was concerned. The sun hung out behind a thin veil of clouds all day. This created a giant softbox effect. You could have shot portraits, macros, or whatever you wanted for the entire day.
Along about 3:00 PM, I called a friend of mine, Stephen, pictured here, just to chit-chat. He asked if I wanted to go shooting, to which there was only one possible answer. Yes! He said that he’d meet me at Reedy Creek in about 30 minutes. I drove down, staked out a place near the road and waited. We had forgotten to say where we would meet.
I picked a position close the main road where I was sure that he’d see me. Suddenly, I noticed that there were dozens and dozens of flowers, perhaps Daffodils, that had begun to sprout from beneath the bed of pine needs, couple that with the wonderful light that was bathing them and suddenly, waiting for Stephen was not a problem. I laid down among the pine needles and began shooting.
When Stephen arrived, he said that he had no problem finding me. It’s kind of hard to miss a guy laying down close the road taking pictures. I asked him to join me, pointing out the beautiful light and flowers. He was happy to join.
Soon, we were happily shooting pictures. There was wonderful light everywhere, sidelight, rim light, front light, you name it. It was there and all very soft and subtle. About 10 minutes into the session, a park employee drove his truck up close to us and said that he was getting complaints about:
“There are 2 black guys laying in the ditch taking pictures of people on the basketball court”.
Now, I’m a big guy and cannot possibly hide behind a flower, so there wasn’t even the slightest hint of surreptitiousness to my actions. We were in plain sight. Anyone with even a nominal bit of curiosity could have come up and seen what we were doing, but they decided to use their cell phone to contact the park office to say that we were behaving “suspiciously”. Also, we were on very level ground, slightly elevated above the basketball court and in plain sight. No ditch was involved.
I know that people carry a lot of fear with them, day to day, and that, unfortunately, anyone who carries a camera is automatically under suspicion as either a terrorist with a plot, or a pedophile on a mission, but it gets really tiring, sometimes, to be under suspicion merely because of your skin color. Mind you, this wouldn’t have even popped into my head had it not been presented as “two black guys …”.
Oh well, we didn’t let it stop us from continuing to shoot. We stayed there, in plain view, for another hour or so, refusing to run, not letting the fear of others diminish the beauty that we had sought to capture. We made a few jokes here and there, but in truth, we expected the police to show up next. Fortunately, they never did.
Lastly, I know that this post is somewhat provocative and could cause heated debate, but it is my own experience. I’m interested to know if any of you have had similar experiences with your cameras where you’ve been approached and questioned about what you were doing simply because you were holding a camera, or in any other way that you can relate.
Thinking back though, based on my experiences, I cannot help but wonder if the same things would have happened if it had been two white guys taking pictures …