Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Evil = Man With Camera

Hassled once again for photographing an inanimate object.

As I walked along I knew I was running behind schedule. The library was going to close in less than an hour. At least it wasn’t raining so that wouldn’t slow me down. In fact, the sky was clearing for the moment.

Shortcut through the schoolyard. I don’t take it that often. Some new playground equipment had been installed, colorful plastic. Kids were playing on the on the slides and other stuff. I walked around the activity, noticing a piece of equipment off to the side backlit by the setting sun, its translucent parts lit up.

According to my Google search, it’s called a fun hoop, a construct atop a metal pole with a hole on top and three holes around its sides. If you toss a basketball or similar sized ball through the top hoop, it can bounce out from any side.

I had a bit of time to spare. The light was just right. I didn’t know if I would ever get chance to catch this image again: a hovering carnival UFO.

I took out my camera, shot three images of the fun hoop, and then left.

As I walked to the public library, I quickly shot other objects that caught my eye. Before I arrived to my destination, some kids – middle school age – came up behind me.

“Excuse me,” said one girl. “Excuse me.”

I turned around. A girl on a bike asked me why I was photographing the children at the schoolyard.

I did a double take. No, I wasn’t photographing any kids.

“Well,” she replied, “it’s been in the news that someone who looks like you has been doing that.”

And where did you hear that? I asked. The TV news?

She didn’t say. Another kid chimed in, saying that she also heard about it.

Since I had nothing to hide, I put on digital camera on review mode and showed them what I had been photographing, including the backlit playground equipment. No kids.

A few feet away one girl was aiming her cellphone camera at me while holding a stick in her hand. I asked her if she was taking my picture.

“No, I’m just photographing this stick.”

Well, I replied, I don’t mind if you take my picture.

So two girls took out their cellphones and took close-ups of my mug. But they wouldn’t let me take their pictures when I asked – not that I was surprised by their response.

That wrapped up the encounter. The kids just drifted away.

So what brought that on? Is there a story in the news about a stalking pedophile photographer on the loose? Or did this originate from the kids or their parents? I remember when I walked through the schoolyard two mothers were watching over the kids.

I can appreciate concern but not bullshit paranoia.

Especially when I’m just shooting a hunk of plastic backlit against the sky.


TourPro said...

I'm thinking about installing one of those Google Street View cameras on my car. (When they become available or if they give me one.)

For you Luke, I'd have them design a wearable one for you to strap on during your walks.

In all seriousness, there is a balance between vigilance and vigilantism. Recent events do point to a temporary need to increase both. If the story going around is true, I don't think it is considered a crime unless the imagery is used in some illegal way.

Wasn't there some talk also of downtown surveillance cameras?

Luke T. Bush said...


There's always a lot of talk in Plattsburgh. Downtown surveillance cameras, hotel-conference center by the lake, the Seven Points project - the list goes on and on. This talk involves speaking through a hat.

I wouldn't mind my own personal spy eye to keep track of me - just to prove that I'm doing nothing wrong. Apparently God is supposed to serve that function, but if stuff hits the fan, He's not easy to bring into court to speak on your behalf.

Thanks for your comment.


Anonymous said...

Luke, so you getting hassled by school kids now! It seems that a little publicity in the national media, the mention of "Plattsburgh" (I count 11 times) on Law & Order has the town on edge. Just remind everyone, or those who can comprehend it, that reality is not always at the base of public opinion. There is rich literature in criminology about "crime waves," in that most of them are artificial, started by rumor and media, and that they precipitate real panics among people. Remember the Red Summer of 1919, which triggered a lynch-fest in the South (as if they needed a reason) and gave way to the Palmer Raids. Police historically in these circumstances tend to be more enabling of the panics than resistant to them, so don't look to the cops for objectivity. They end up in a surprising number of cases as part of the mob, or at least aloof, when somebody is falsely accused. So beware.

Luke T. Bush said...


I'm aware of how unfounded rumors can screw the innocent. And since this blog doesn't act as the Chamber of Commerce for Plattsburgh, I can imagine there are those who would like to see me forced into silence by legal problems. But every time an incident happens like this latest one, I'm going to document it for all the world to see.

Call me stupid, but the truth still counts for something.


Anonymous said...

I keep a business card with me, and if a parent or someone concerned with my photography asks questions, I identify myself and give them a card. I'm not in the photography business, but it does allay fears if they have contact info for me.

Mind you, i wouldn't do this for an officious security guard, or someone asserting imaginary "authority" but concerned parents, or older children? Sure.

Luke T. Bush said...


I've started to carry a card with me, even thought my photography is a hobby, not a business.
Someone suggested I should get a lookalike press ID but I think that might be asking for trouble. Then again, if some people saw it, maybe I would be treated differently. I don't think there's a law against looking like a so-called professional journalist. Citizen journalism is journalism, just as good or as bad as the person doing it.