. . . There can’t be a devoted Street Photographer either past or present, that hasn’t experienced a sudden sinking feeling when faced with the likes of the Ugandan Handbag Saleswoman that I was (ahem), privileged to meet at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.
Somewhat refreshingly though, I was on this occasion able to turn the experience around (in my mind), and come away from it feeling both rejuvenated and somewhat jollied.
Looking back on events, I believe there were three key ‘ingredients’ that made this possible.
Firstly was the fact that I wasn’t (for the very first time) shooting alone, as on this day I had the great honour of walking the streets with the fine folk from the ‘Xisforfuji’ collective, of which I’m proud to be a member. The old adage of ‘strength in numbers’ certainly rang true and helped to remove that awful feeling of isolation you often get in confrontational situations. Cheers Mick and gang. 🙂
The second reason I would simply put down to practice. As I devote more and more time to actively taking pictures, writing about my experiences on the blog and giving interviews etc, I can appreciably feel my self-confidence improve, both in the act of photographing strangers and in my standing as a Street Photographer.
Finally and beyond any reasonable doubt, was the peculiar and ‘other-worldly’ attitude of the lady in question towards the taking of photographs in public.
As Mick, Dave and myself strolled and fought our way through the surprisingly huge crowds that had gathered throughout Edinburgh for the Fringe, we came to a small ‘square’ with two rows of marquee-style tents. Inside of each were small makeshift shops, selling everything from handmade jewellery to (as it turned out) Ugandan Handbags – ‘Designed in Africa, Made in the UK’ (?)
Standing now outside said tent, we became interested in the tall and rather slender saleswoman, wearing a well-fitted blue jacket and trousers with matching Trilby hat. She also sported fantastically large and brilliantly white teeth. We could also hear her strong, deep and loud East African accent. Further and hanging inside the tent were a heart shaped mirror, colorful drapes and of course, many handbags of widely varying colors. We all sensed a picture in the offing.
Now I did mention my newfound and growing confidence when it comes to taking people shots in close proximity, so without hesitation and with only the thought of getting ‘the picture’ uppermost in my mind, I walked up to the ‘shop’ entrance and clicked the shutter. However just as I took the second shot (the picture above), a hand appeared, itself not unlike that of a Policeman stopping traffic. The booming voice that followed signalled game-over.
“No photographs allowed in public !!!”
Honestly, I was too suprised to say anything and she must have taken my silence as a cue to move in for the kill ?
“Where I come from, we do not take photographs of strangers, because we have good manners and you obviously do not.”
To be quite frank, I was slightly aggrieved by her blatant and misfounded assumption.
“Well I can assure you that you are quite wrong. I have very good manners.”
This was lost on her and she continued unabated.
“In this country, you require a signed model release for every photograph you take of strangers !!!”
This was news to myself (and to Mick & Dave) and we couldn’t help but have a quiet chuckle and shake of heads at her blatant ignorance of the law. Did she truly believe this to be the case, or did she in fact imagine the UK had now adopted the laws of her homeland ?
“With all due respect that is complete rubbish. In this country you are able to photograph anyone you like in a public space.”
Clearly, her grasp of UK statutory law was on shaky ground as she then demanded that I delete the pictures !
Now my photographs (both good and bad) are important to me and I resolved to firmly stand my ground.
“I’m sorry but I do not delete my pictures for anyone, but I’m happy to show them to you.”
This she agreed to, but bearing in mind that the first picture was just ‘kitty litter’, I neglected to mention that one.
Upon showing her the picture above, her attitude changed to one of apparent relief. After all, her face was covered by her hand and almost instantly she left and went back to her tent, muttering something about ‘good manners’. Also the fact may not have been lost on her, that the potential customer she had been showing handbags to, had since left.
From my point of view however, I couldn’t have been happier as I came away with a (in my opinion) better picture because of ‘the hand’.
As it turned out, during the two days spent in Edinburgh and after taking approximately 240 exposures, this was the only objection I received from anyone.
Posts, pictures and a camera & lens review from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival below :-