Monday, January 28, 2013

Stranger Danger

Hola, Amigos. Yes, we're back from our mini-vacay in Colorado. It was amazing. Short, but worth it. 

I was browsing Twitter last night and ran across an article that struck my fancy. It just so happened that I ran into this dilemma during our time in CO. 

In short, the article poses this question: How far is too far when taking someone's picture? 

We went to Boulder on Saturday because we wanted to watch the game in a fun, college town. Boulder's a gorgeous place. I would describe it as "Lawrence-on-crack." And if you've been to both places, you know what I'm talking about. Lawrence is awesome, and filled with a plethora of different types of people. Boulder takes that description to a whole new level. 

As we were walking down the main drag, we ran across a person dressed as a dog, countless guitarists, and a dude who had apparently hauled his freaking full-sized piano across town.
All the while, I was carrying my camera - in my backpack. Matt turns to me and says, "what the hell? Get out your camera!" And, after yelling back at him for talking to me like a dog, I calmly explained that I am not fond of taking pictures of strangers.
It feels...wrong in some way.

To me, it's like going up to a random person and rubbing their back. Sounds weird, but that's how it feels to me. Taking someone's photo is literally capturing a moment in their life. It's incredibly personal, powerful, and somewhat invasive.

The article told a story of a lady who was photographed at a candlelight vigil after the Newton massacre. 
street cred
It is a gorgeous picture - one that I'm sure was tricky to catch from a technical standpoint. The issue, however, was that this lady was in a moment of pure emotion, and all of a sudden she hears "clickclickclickclick" from the bushes around her.
Creepy, right? And no one even asked for her name, or introduced themselves, or said what paper they were from. They just left. 

I'm not a professional photographer, but I do consider it art. The reason I love photography is because I'm essentially capturing time. It doesn't have to be a relevant event, or a pretty person, it doesn't even have to be an interesting subject; if I can capture an emotion in that moment, the person becomes less of a subject and more of a feeling.
And the best moments to capture are the ones that weren't planned.
An old couple holding hands, a little girl skipping down the street, or someone crying at a grave - they're all moments in time that we've experienced in one way or another, and it's something we can relate to.

I am always observing situations in "photographer" mode. Driving for me isn't driving. It's a constant assessment of my environment, looking for things that catch my eye. Walking around the mall has become more of a game to find the most intriguing person. 
But, sometimes - no matter how fascinating a subject may be - I can't bring myself to photograph a random stranger. In that situation, I may as well go give them a big 'ole hug and call it a day. 

I take pictures at every family event. I take pictures of food [#noidon'tpostitonline]. I take pictures of my dog. I've had multiple people make fun of me because I find it necessary capture every event I attend. 
But I don't care. I'm not the type to think I'm missing out because I'm taking too many photos. 
I'll have those pictures for later. I'll have that smile on my precious nephew's face until I'm old and he's old and we can't remember what he looked like when he was 9 months old. I'll have proof of how awesome Mass Street was after the 2008 Championship. And I'll have that moment my little brother walked across a stage and graduated high school. 

I love taking pictures. And I love having permanent memories.
But I'm really struggling to find the moral balance when it comes to capturing the lives of people I don't know. I feel like, until I figure that out, my photography will go no where. I will stay stagnant, and boring, and not progress in any way. So I need help from you guys. Have you struggled with this in the past? Has someone taking a photo of you made you uncomfortable? Please, share your wisdom.


  1. Couple at Freedom Towers. That's all I can say...

    1. hahahaha...oh my God, I totally forgot about that.

  2. That is an interesting question. I'd say I wouldn't take a picture of a stranger unless they were "promoting" themselves, like the performers in Boulder. (Is the main drag called P street, or am I making that up?). I also feel better taking pictures of a group of people versus an individual, or if it is just one or two people taking the picture from a distance/from behind/at an angle, so their identity is someone hidden. Like a silhouette of a couple sitting on a bench in front of a lake would be cute, but walking by them and snapping a picture of their faces would be weird.


Thoughts? Love to hear 'em.