I have the right to take strangers’ pictures in U.S. public places. But I had to get out of town to muster the guts to exercise that right. No one knows me here in Portland, Maine. Besides, the people here don’t seem as uptight as the folks back home in the D.C. area, which boasts the universe’s highest number of lawyers per capita.
It’s scary, taking pictures of strangers. My camera’s neither a phone nor one of those cute tourist cameras. It’s easily mistaken for a DSLR, something indicative of organizational backing of some sort. Suppose they don’t know or care that I have the right? All these cameras, all these ways of embarrassing people online or exploiting their images, all these ways of compromising people’s individual and collective security – I figure if I take the wrong person’s picture, he’ll bust my face or my camera or both.
Street photographers should get close to their subjects, I hear. Get their faces. I have a four-thirds telephoto zoom lens that gives me the 35mm camera equivalent of up to 400mm. With it, I put some distance between my subjects and me, and I made sure my subjects didn’t notice me, and wouldn’t notice me, while I was taking these shots.