I came across this article by a Serbian photographer who talks about awkward moments in the life of photographers. I thought I would relate my own experiences.
I always do my best to stay out of people’s way and not draw attention to myself. I like to think I do fairly well. It really isn’t that hard to do in the New York metro area. Half the people in the city are taking pictures of something else and the rest are actual New Yorkers just trying to get from A to B. I seldom find anyone staring right at me, when I look over my street candids. If anyone does approach me, it’s actually because I look like the average New Yorker and I get asked different questions about the subway and how to get around.
Most awkward moments surround my use of delayed exposures. This is where I’ll actually grab people’s attention because I’m setting up my camera in poor light with no flash ready to go. I can tell it’s confusing to them, but it’s more than I care to explain, so I just wave them on if they stop beside me.
Being asked to take a photo of someone is seldom awkward for me. I generally appreciate the show of trust. The only time it’s ever awkward is when someone hands me a camera with a prime lens (no zoom function) without telling me. The most awkward hand off was in a spot where I really had no room to back up to fit everyone in the frame. There I was, standing on a chair, leaning back as much as possible (because everyone else has to have their phones out for the same picture).
Recently, I was taking in some free music in the city. I was getting some shots of the band and some wide views of the audience, when I saw this:
I commented earlier on how I don’t like to draw attention to myself. Someone didn’t get the memo on how to do so. This was very awkward and confusing for me, especially as this person seemed to have noticed me and my camera and was usually facing this paper in my direction. This paper drew even more attention as it seems to be related to a protest about the profiling of Muslims. I’m trying to think of a good shot to get of the band and I have this woman dancing with no cares in the world (aside from the glaringly obvious one). I eventually snapped [this photo] and moved on.
When shooting these skaters zipping down hills, I’m usually just standing on the side of the road. I do my best to look not stranded. I keep my camera visible and generally ignore whoever is driving by. I’ve been doing this since March with no issues. A couple weekends ago, I was on the side of the road going uphill, setting up my phone to record video, when I see a truck going downhill stop and start backing up in the uphill lane. At this point, both frustration and concern are starting to creep in. I keep track of the timing as these guys go up and down the hill and I know someone’s coming down in less than a minute.
This person asks if everything is okay. I said yes and before I could say much more, I gestured in one direction as one of the skaters passed by. I don’t remember much else of what I said as I was frustrated about the shot being messed up. I was also worried about the skaters. They finally went on their way and thankfully, there was no accident.
This wasn’t quite as awkward as it was dangerous. These guys are generally going at a good speed and when they start their run, they expect that last vehicle to not be there when they get further down the road.
My last story is from about 6 years ago. I was attending a wedding of a family friend and decided to get some practice in, quietly shooting around the pros that were hired. The guy in charge came up to me at one point and asked who had hired me. I explained my situation and we continued shooting.
About a year later, I’m attending a party for another friend, when I ran into the same photographer, shooting video. He recognized me and we talked a bit. I eventually decided we’ve met this many times already, I’ll see if I can work with him and I got his card. Unfortunately, life had other ideas and I actually lost track of the card for a while. I came to find it a few years later and the website was no longer around and the studio has been closed.