Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Crossing the Line

I read a blog entry by another photographer the other day and it really bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on why. It was about a man who had the police called on him while he was taking some photos of his niece at a playground. The blogger thinks that's just fine. There are dangerous people out there and we should endure a bit of harmless discomfort in order to keep our children safe. What she said sounded sort of reasonable! I'm all for safe children. The following day, my wife mentioned the name of someone and the blog and a bunch of memories came flooding back. Wait! Something very similar had happened to me once! I was at a school camp-out at a nearby beach with my family. I don't think I was even taking photos (though I may have been) but just sort of hanging out on the beach while the kids played and my wife socialized. Then she comes over to me and says that someone reported me to the principle as "a creepy guy watching the kids". My wife works at the school, so the principle knew exactly who I was and put their concerns to rest, but suppose the principle hadn't been there and they had called the police? Then the police show up and start questioning me in front of parents and kids that I have to interact with on a regular basis. Then someone hears or mentions the word 'stalker' or 'pedophile' and I am pretty much done in that community. I've been labeled and there is no amount of explaining that will take away those words and images from people's minds. I am forever 'that guy the police were questioning in relation to pedophilia'. Maybe that is a tiny bit of hyperbole, but maybe not.

So here's my point in response to the blog I linked above. Don't knee-jerk your way into a 911 call. Walk up to the person you are concerned about. If they are a bad person, they will most likely leave once they figure out they have been noticed. If they are not a bad person, they will probably talk to you about their child and the playground and why they are taking photos. Frankly, the bad guys don't even need to get out of their cars these days with digital SLRs and long lenses. I doubt one would risk walking around the playground in the first place. Always be aware of the people around you (wherever you are), but be very careful about making or implying accusations of improper behavior toward children. That is a witch hunt that can't be undone. I for one will continue to enjoy photographing my kids as they grow up and I pray that people will talk to me before notifying the authorities.

Give me a push