Got approached by an irrate bystander today

Joined
Dec 27, 2010
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897
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Vermont
Just thought I would post my experience that I had this morning while I was waiting for a local jewelry store to open.

First a little background to lead up to the incident. This occurred in Burlington, VT. I currently am employed as a security officer, and I had just got off work at 8AM this morning as I work third shift. I was still in uniform, but I had on a blue fleece jacket to cover my shirt as I was off duty.

I had some time to kill as I was waiting for a jeweler to open so I could pick up my watch from them, and the place didn't open until 9:15AM and it was only about 8:30AM so I happened to have both my D3100, and my N80 film body with me so I took them out to try some street shooting on the local downtown strip. The "strip" is a street called Church Street, and is better known to local's as "The Church Street Market Place" It's a brick street in the downtown Burlington area that is a hangout area for a very diverse group of people. Near the south end of the street on the west side of the street is Burlington's City Hall. There is a small alley that goes around the building to a town green on the other side known as "City Hall Park".

I decided that I would go in to the park to see what I could photograph there, and when I emerged from the alley I was greeted to an "Occupy Burlington" protest with dozens of tents set up in the park. So I walked the sidewalk around the outside most area of the park down to the far southeast corner, and then I saw this sign from across the park, but I couldn't quite read it from my current vantage point so I pulled up my N80 with the Tamron 28-200 on it, to see what the sign said. All it said was dish washing station on it, so I put the camera back down. A few moments later I see this stocky guy with a beard approaching me with a little girl who couldn't have been more than 4-5 years old, and he starts accusing me of being a pedophile, and demanding that I show him the pictures I took of his daughter, and that I delete them immediately or he would smash my camera's.

He kept inching closer to me, and moving his face closer to mine, and I stepped back, and calmly told him that was close enough, and he responds with "What the hell are you going to do about it you pervert?" I then politely responded to him that I had not taken any pictures, and had only used my lens to read a sign. He didn't buy it, and got even more angry. He then stepped quickly towards me attempting to grab one of the cameras around my neck. I side stepped him, and put my arm out between him and I, and at that point I sternly said to him "Sir, if you continue to pursue this, I will call the police and have you arrested". He responds with a more or less "yeah right" kinda remark, and then I pulled my jacket open exposing my badge, and he stopped dead in his tracks with this dear in the headlights look on his face. He stood like that for a couple of seconds, and I then said "You have two choices. You can go back over there (pointing to the tent that he came from), or you can continue to pursue this issue, and I will have you arrested. I then told him "I am currently off duty, but I know the names of every police officer in this city, and not one of them would question my phone call to have you removed". Needless to say, he didn't want to pursue the conversation any further at that point. The nerve of some people. :rolleyes:
 
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Joined
Sep 17, 2006
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Ashburton , New Zealand
Kinda makes me think you should have had him arrested - his aggressive attack was based on assumptions and false accusations - if it had been someone else and not you an innocent person could have been hurt by his actions .
I can understand people being concerned about the wrong type of people but that doesn't give them the right to take action based on jumping to the wrong conclusion .
 

McQ

Just your average, everyday moderator.
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While I'm disgusted that this happened to you, I commend you for handling the situation so well. You did that perfectly! As well as I think I would have handled it, I probably wouldn't have kept my head as well as you did.

Way to go, Gary!
 
Joined
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Vermont
While I'm disgusted that this happened to you, I commend you for handling the situation so well. You did that perfectly! As well as I think I would have handled it, I probably wouldn't have kept my head as well as you did.

Way to go, Gary!

Had I not been in uniform, and just out of work and still in the work mindset, I don't think things would have gone the way they did. Even though I was off duty, I had the uniform on, and I have a company's image, and reputation to uphold, but it wasn't easy I tell ya.
 
Joined
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San Jose, CA
Good for you.

I fear for the day I'm shooting candids and the next thing I know some dude is threatening to stab me for taking pictures of some random kid I wasn't even pointing my camera at.
 
Joined
Jul 22, 2008
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Denver, Colorado
Good for you.

I fear for the day I'm shooting candids and the next thing I know some dude is threatening to stab me for taking pictures of some random kid I wasn't even pointing my camera at.

I completely agree with you Mike. I can only hope to keep my head like Gary did. I am however a little bit less of a threat as I don't have an official looking badge and i am not the biggest and strongest person on the street. But keeping a level head is definitely the best thing to have. That keeps your actions and abilities sharp and alert. As soon as you start having to much emotion, thats what things go wrong.
 
Joined
Feb 10, 2009
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St. Paul, MN
This is why image number 1 on any person's camera that does street shooting should be an image that displays the default message it gives right after it has been formatted. That way you can just show them that, and they won't be the wiser. Not that it will solve all the crazy antics of some people who think they are more important to the word than they really are, but at least it could be a start.
 
Joined
Jun 13, 2011
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Norwell,MA
Were this guy and his daughter the only people in the general area of where you pointed your camera? I'm assuming not and wondering how self important this guy thinks he is. It really does scare me that someone could be like that. Then again, maybe he (his daughter) has been in a situation where inappropriate photos were taken, but still.....
As I started reading this post I was thinking to myself that I should print my rights as a photographer (as linked here and there on the Cafe) and carry copies with me and hand them out to people like this. I agree that in this particular situation it wouldn't have helped much if at all but it could be handy to have. I certainly would not have been as calm as you and not been able to handle the situation as "properly" as you did. If it had been me I'd probably be the one arrested because if someone attacks me I'm going to come back swinging... in this case it would have been a D7000 with a 70 - 200 2.8 lens swinging. So sue me. If I'm pushed to the point of swinging $3000 worth of camera at someone I'm feeling like my life is in danger. In this case I think it would have been a VERY fine line between running away and feeling safe enough to call cops and feeling I had to defend myself. Had I run I'm sure he'd have chased and then cameras would be swinging anyway. Honestly I'm a big chicken. When the "fight or flight" response kicks in I'm almost ALWAYS a flight kind of guy. I avoid conflict like the plague. I Still feel a LOT of anger after reading that post.....
 
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Jan 26, 2005
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San Jose, CA
I don't wear a uniform, and despite being a big guy, I'm not interested in a confrontation over street photography. In similar circumstances, I'd just show him the pics on my camera. And if I had taken a picture of his little girl, I'd erase it. I don't see this as an issue about photographer's rights. The guy in your scenario was misguided, but his primary interest was in protecting his little girl. Nothing wrong with that at all. I want to enjoy taking pictures, but not at the expense of making someone else uncomfortable.
 
Joined
Jun 13, 2011
Messages
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Norwell,MA
I don't wear a uniform, and despite being a big guy, I'm not interested in a confrontation over street photography. In similar circumstances, I'd just show him the pics on my camera. And if I had taken a picture of his little girl, I'd erase it. I don't see this as an issue about photographer's rights. The guy in your scenario was misguided, but his primary interest was in protecting his little girl. Nothing wrong with that at all. I want to enjoy taking pictures, but not at the expense of making someone else uncomfortable.

I agree, nothing wrong at all with protecting your little girl. The way things unfolded was all wrong. If you have a problem, be nice. Nice gets you further. If nice doesn't work use your phone to call 911. If the guy takes off, follow safely if possible but give a description while on the phone. There are too many crazies in the world, next post about this could read something like... "RIP Bob, someone shot him because he took a photograph of xyz..."
 
Joined
Jan 3, 2006
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Upstate New York
Some people are just itching for a fight, I guess. This summer I happened to take lots of photos of children. Mostly they were at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, where I was participating in a photo workshop, and then at an event put on by my town the day before Hurricane Irene came to town. In both places I got a lot of cute pix of kids and, where I thought it was appropriate, I asked a parent or other adult who seemed to be with the child if it was OK to take photos. I had no problems. And sometimes I was also using a fairly big piece of glass, a 70-200 f/2.8, usually with lens shade.

Maybe because the guy you encountered was part of a protest he was in a confrontational frame of mind. Hard to know. But it was good you kept your cool.
 
Joined
Mar 4, 2005
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Los Angeles, USA
I've never been in such a scenario. People are more scared of me, than I am of them. I've usually been mistaken for some sort of undercover or secret agent! LOL! :tongue:
 
Joined
Nov 21, 2009
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Baton Rouge, La.
I've never been in such a scenario. People are more scared of me, than I am of them. I've usually been mistaken for some sort of undercover or secret agent! LOL! :tongue:


You don't take a lot of shots of "protestors" living with their 5yo daughters in a tent either. You shoot a diferent kind of crazy. :biggrin:

The only eventful thing that happened while I was at "Occupy NOLA" was that one of the dopers yelled "No Pictures!". Then he laid back down on the ground (read:passed back out.:rolleyes::biggrin:)
 
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