Street Photography: A Funny Thing

The beginnings of a happily ever after. Photo by Erica Sherman

I received an email the other day from a gentleman wanting to know: “did you take this photo of us on the sheepshead blog,” with the link to this post pasted below the query.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I panicked and immediately consulted with my handy-dandy Attorney-At-Law Bert P. Krages IIs’ “Photographer’s Right” [PDF] pamphlet to make sure I hadn’t broken any laws by shooting a photo of a loving couple, in a public place, unbeknownst to them, and then posting it on a public news site.

For all you photographers out there, the “General Rule” in the United States avows that “anyone may take photographs of whatever they want when they are in a public place or places where they have permission to take photograph.”

Still, there is something about carrying a camera — particularly a Single Lens Reflex camera — that makes people act funny around you.

If you are a photographer shooting a black-tie event in a catering hall, people clamor in front of or around you in hordes, oftentimes grabbing you while they try to assemble their cluster of friends, family or colleagues for a posed shot. It’s all in good fun, and if you truly love what you do, you won’t be thinking, “Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!” You will gladly acquiesce.

However, if those same people were on the street, sporting their civvies, and they noticed some stealth photographer pointing their zoom lens at them from across the street… oy. If you’re not careful, you’ll either get chased 10 blocks, whereupon the fatuous cave-dwelling mouth-breather will either smash your $1,200 livelihood to a million pieces in a godless rage, or demonize you, much like what happened to blogger Daniel Cavanagh, who was called “a jobless loser and a pedophile.” You might get off easy with them flashing you the Evil Eye as a stern warning.

Cavanagh — like Weegee, Adam Lerner, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Matt Weber, Dave Beckerman, and to a lesser extent, myself — is a street photographer. It’s an art, one that we all aspire to be somewhat decent at. While his forte is more event photography, we still all want to capture beautiful, or compelling (and if we’re lucky, both) images, and show them to people.

I thought the couple walking along the Bay, holding hands, with a sea gull flying overhead was beautiful. There is a certain grace about capturing people looking unposed and natural. We have no intentions (that I am aware of) of wanting to prey upon on anyone…

…which is why I breathed a heavy sigh of relief at the response I received after I confessed, very begrudgingly that, yes, I was the person who shot the photo you see above:

We were a little concerned that our picture was floating around without our knowledge, but all in all it made us smile. We had just started dating when that picture was taken! [Ed – The photo was shot on March 21, 2010] (And we just got married two weeks prior to its publication!) [Ed – The story ran June 28, 2011]

We at Sheepshead Bites love when stories have positive outcomes. At least I do. A belated congratulations and best wishes to the happy couple — we wish you an eternity of happiness and wedded bliss with one another. And thanks for not hunting me down to break my camera and my kneecaps!