Don't Shoot This Messenger: I Shoot Back

A small rant about the public's misinformation about photographing in public spaces.

I used to get a little bit of criticism when I first began shooting street photography in India. This was Online criticism. Some of it was from anonymous sources - people with fake names or otherwise hiding their true identities. Once in a blue moon, a "real" person would make a comment about something they didn't like that I was doing either with my photography or my captioning. Strangely, all of these things have stopped, at least for now. I haven't heard from anyone in nearly a couple years. Maybe it's because I push back, and often match their tones or exceed them in response before I block them? I just don't take shit from people Online. I dish it back at them before being booting them from my sight. It's a strategy which is both pragmatic and justifiable.


That's not to say that I haven't received constructive criticism. Maybe a local would correct my spelling or my pronunciation if I had made a video. Even now, I get feedback or a history lesson in Mumbai by residents giving me a perspective on a certain time and place. This kind of thing, is of course, fine. I'm fortunate to have a couple photographer friends who set me straight if I get something wrong. Naturally, strangers will jump all over such opportunities given the chance, especially on the Internet. But I'm not going to be ranting about the constructive contributions to me made by friends and strangers. Today, I'm addressing the trolls.


Trolls, if anyone dwelling in the vast region of Internet Comments needs reminding, are among the bottom feeders of the Digital Era. Their anonymous nature emboldens them to intimidate, bully, and otherwise put down people they encounter. Those among them who choose to let their identities be known don't get any points for being at least honest on that account: it usually just means they've got significant mental problems, like most trolls, at least according to research.

One last caveat before I begin my small rant (and you'd think it would be a long rant based on the Introduction!). This rant is on behalf of those photographers who like to take pictures in public spaces, where it is usually legal and uncannily moral if the idea of Mutual Respect is practiced. I think photographers, especially those shooting on DSLRs and mirrorless systems which "pros" may be using as opposed to phones, get a lot of needless flack from the public regarding their passion/hobby. Not to say that phone users don't receive flack.


The following rant is based on experiences and encounters I've had, mostly Online.


The Rant


Don't shoot this messenger because I shoot back. I'm a pleasant person in person. But that doesn't mean I have to be nice to you because you hold some sort of warped vision of photographers or what they do.


I shoot in public spaces routinely. I photograph people with and without their consent. This is legal in most places I work. It's legal in India and the United States, with few notable exceptions. One major reason for this is because there's an idea of freedom of press, which without, there would be no public photography which is ultimately legal. In fact, journalism is the only profession protected by the U.S. Constitution (at least on paper). This is because it's necessary for journalists to work within the public commons to do their jobs.


Whatever your notion is of privacy, you gave it up long ago. We all did. Government and Industry leaders have all our "private" information that we've fed into our phones and computers and other electronic gadgets - and they make use of it to their benefits and often use it against us. The sad truth is, odds are you probably believe this is okay as long as the government is out getting them pesky bad guys. To think that I can't photograph you or others in public spaces, where it's legal and right, is absurd. Sure, if someone doesn't want their picture taken I listen and grant their wishes 99% of the time. But that doesn't mean there aren't exceptions to this rule, especially if newsworthy or potentially important in some other way, like it would be to a documentary photographer or photojournalist. Or because I just want to.


I don't have to justify my passion and work to you.


I don't owe you an explanation for any of my photographic work.


I will photograph who and what I want with or without your understanding and approval.


I don't have to take pictures of rich and middle class people just because I often shoot street photography, in order to create "balance" in my work. You're an idiot. Buy yourself a camera and restore the great inbalance in the universe on your own time.


I know I'm a foreigner in India. I know I'm privileged (which is another issue entirely). I do what I can to be respectful to people I meet, all people. I don't steal Indian jobs - I've created my own niche as a photographer. But I'm not apologizing to you about my status, perceived or otherwise. I'm not going to feel guilty needlessly because of it. My passion for photography trumps your views on how you believe I should behave or otherwise exist in a world you've invented in your mind. I think people like you are full of shit and are comically frustrated and harbour more delusional beliefs than the worst kind of neofascist thug. Find a cliff and take that progressive step forward without me.


My pictures of people, contrary to persisting myths, don't result in stolen souls.


My camera, my rules. I don't delete stuff for you or anyone else. That's how I roll.


I like to think that I do mostly good with my camera although I accept that most of my work is likely inconsequential. That is to say, it's my work, it's my art, it's my expression, it's my world.


And if you don't like it, well...


Let's part on a positive note. I like a lot of things that Kurt Vonnegut wrote and said. But I particularly like this quote, which happens to have a lot in common with how I think of and approach my photography.


"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can't see from the center." - Kurt Vonnegut.


















© 2019-2020 By Craig Boehman

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