"Counting Change"....and a Common Photogs Story.

Submitted to Economics
Uploaded 18 Nov 2008 — 8 favorites
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© Ahmed Roberson
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Photo license: © All rights reserved

On a typical Sunday here in Downtown Long Beach [Sunny, slightly crowded, and generally friendly], I was out on my trusty bike, with my trusty Nikon D80, and 85mm f/1.8 lens looking for something or someone interesting to shoot, when I happened upon this gentleman, counting his small handfull of change, and preparing himself to sit, and see if someone near would lend a hand.

Me, being the compassionate and inquisitive person that I am ;-), I decided to take a shot, then approach the man, and offer him a dollar for his story (as I normally do), when I was abruptly broadsided by Long Beach's finest "Official" city guides/officers.

Out of the corner of my Nikon viewfinder, I saw three Black and Red uniforms approaching me. I then lowered my camera to smile and say hello, when I was asked "Excuse me Sir, but do you have a permit to shoot"?

I replied "No, but I have gotten previous permissions to shoot from the local police and the city"

That's when they hit me with the bombshell!!!

Although they were very professional, they firmly told me that I can no longer shoot on this corner because some lady has called and said that I was taking perverted pictures of the women walking by!!!

WHAT!?!

I was in shock!!!

I could not believe what I was hearing!!

I have been shooting in Long Beach for years now, and there are even some police officers and local businesses that easily recognize me, as I am ALWAYS out there, in the same places.

This was clearly a mistake!

I quickly showed the city guides my camera (to clear myself of any wrongdoing...not one voyeuristic shot on my card), and explained that EVERY police officer on patrol has seen me here more than once today and didn't say a word, and the City has actually told me it was ok to shoot...but since some woman unknowingly thought I was some pervert, I was forced to leave.

The City guides believed me, but they still had to do their jobs, so I could not be upset with them. I was more in shock than anything else.

What bothered my more than that however was the fact that 1. If I was some pervert, would I be sitting on a public corner in my BRIGHT ORANGE sweatshirt...?, and 2. I was not able to do my good deed for the day (pay my dollar), and get my story to match my photograph.

Anyway, I know this is not one of my better "Street" photographs, but I think the story explains why.

I've been asked 'not to shoot' by many, and chased off many private properties, but I have NEVER been labeled a pervert!

Honestly, I am still in shock...a little.

18 responses

  • A F

    A F said (18 Nov 2008):

    I haven't had one of these types of stories yet. I am sure someday I will. I have got a few evil eyes... Street photographers are a brave bunch.

  • Muhammad Jibreel

    Muhammad Jibreel said (18 Nov 2008):

    Very interesting story and I think it is a good shot. I have been shooting less than a year and I have yet to have this sort of encounter (as far as asking if I have a permit to shoot). The laws may be a little different where I live. As I venture out more, gain more confidence, and take more risk I can see where I might have some run-ins. I love street photography but I don't want to invade anyone's privacy or rights.
    How do people respond to a dollar? Do they ask for more? Do they turn it down and thank you for the gesture. I was wondering if I should pay someone to photograph them on the street.

  • Lynn H

    Lynn H (Deleted) gave props (18 Nov 2008):

    Bless your heart! I am so sorry. That is just horrible! Some old busy body had to go ruin it.......grrrrrr.

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece   said (18 Nov 2008):

    I am so unhappy about what happened to you!!!!!! Unfortunately all it takes is for some busy body to get a false take on a situation then go and ruin something for someone else. I just hate that this happened to you, you are one of the good guys!!! I hope that you can get the necessary permits and go on with your photo work on the street. I think that it helps to lift a street person up to be asked to tell his or her story, to be recognized as a person, not just a street person. My heart is sad for your experience.

  • Ann Reece

    Ann Reece   gave props (18 Nov 2008):

    PS - I forgot to add that I think that your photo of the man counting his change is excellent!!!

  • Talon

    Talon said (19 Nov 2008):

    Sorry that you were wrongfully accused. I can only begin to imagine how upsetting that experience was for you. The photo is good, though the story behind it is a sad one of someone obviously misreading a situation. I haven't done any "street photography" because, frankly, I'm too shy, but I do appreciate those that do and it would be sad if you didn't share those wonderful photos anymore.

  • Regenia Brabham

    Regenia Brabham (Deleted) said (19 Nov 2008):

    I got ran out of Bond's swamp once for not having a permit. You do not need a permit unless you are doing a commercial shoot. The police were misinformed but much bigger than I. I will go back in the spring. Sorry this happened to you. Street photography is perfectly legal. Just a lot of quacks to deal with. Great shot!

  • Jüri Vissak

    Jüri Vissak gave props (20 Nov 2008):

    Interesting story and very nice shot!

  • Zerina Phillip

    Zerina Phillip gave props (23 Nov 2008):

    Well written. Well compose photograph.

  • david ong

    david ong gave props (24 Nov 2008):

    Bad things happen to good people. Great story n photo.

  • Oregon Curly

    Oregon Curly (Deleted) gave props (1 Dec 2008):

    Great photo. I find it incomprehensable that anyone would need a permit to wander around in public and take photos! Permission from the individuals/groups yes, but a $#$@#**$)( @@ permit from Big Brother!! Work to get that law changed and the idiots that thought it up kick out of office. Take back your state, you own it, not Big Brother. Subject matter aside, excellent story to go with the great photo. now where are my Tums....

  • Ahmed Roberson

    Ahmed Roberson said (1 Dec 2008):

    Thanks for that Oregon Curly!! I was dumb-founded, but what could I do???
    Trust me, it SUCKS!!!

  • Arla Ruggles

    Arla Ruggles gave props (11 Dec 2008):

    I like the photograph, and your story is well-written. Seems like every other day, some new regulations curtail the photographers' art. And urbanites don't have the exclusive challenge. I have recently learned that it is also "illegal" to photograph pets or livestock without the owner's permission.

  • Andrea Cobler

    Andrea Cobler said (21 Dec 2008):

    I believe the laws are different in each state. In Idaho, you have a right to shoot on public property. You can't go onto private property to get the shot but if it can be seen from a public area, you have the right to shoot it. I know this more from my job as a Paramedic than as a photographer- we can not stop someone from taking pictures if we are in the public eye. We can ask them to step back or leave the immediate scene if they are interfering with patient care, a crime scene, etc. I have never had to do that. I think that most people are very respectful of others.
    I, recently, had an encounter with a property owner. I was on a public access road, taking some shots of an old silo. A lady drove up the road and rudely asked what I was doing. (I thought about Bill Engval's "Here's Your Sign" as I was standing there with a camera on a tripod!!! ) She tried to tell me that I couldn't take pictures of her property. I, politely, informed her of my rights as a photographer. She finally relented but told me that I should probably get permission from the property owner first. I assured her that I would not go on anyone's private property without permission. She left and so did I. She ruined my zen.

  • Ahmed Roberson

    Ahmed Roberson said (21 Dec 2008):

    Tell me about it Andrea!! I was not too happy that I was labeled that way, especially considering that I was on a very crowded public corner, with myself, and all of my gear in plain view. Like Lynn said, it was probably some busy body thinking she was doing her duty to inform the authorities, but as I also stated to the "authorities", the Cops were right across the street, and they said NOTHING about what I was doing!! That was the real kicker for me!!
    Thanks for the support..all of you!

  • Alex Preiss

    Alex Preiss said (8 Jul 2009):

    Not hard to believe! Did you go back there later to shoot?

  • Mark Schneiders

    Mark Schneiders   said (13 Jul 2009):

    you little pervert ;-) paying the man a dollar:-) next time just tell them there is a surveillance camera hanging a few yards way;-)

  • Judy Wanamaker

    Judy Wanamaker (Deleted) gave props (28 Jan 2010):

    Somehow I missed this one, Ahmed. It makes me angry to think the police, on the word on one person, hassled you for being a "pervert". That is outrageous! I think this shot is excellent and tells enough of a story on its own. Too bad the poor guy didn't get your dollar though. Great candid. voted

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