Look Out, It’s The Ugandan Handbag Saleswoman !!! . . .

. . . 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.

black woman in hat says no photography allowed in public edinburgh fringe festival 2014 street photography uk photographer kevin shelley prints for sale fuji x-e1 xe1 xf35

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 :-

Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the Fuji X-E1 & XF35 f/1.4

Edinburgh Fringe Festival with the Leica M6 & Voigtlander 50 f/1.5 LTM Lens

Leica M6 & Voigtlander 50 f/1.5 LTM Lens Review

Author: Kevin Shelley

Street Photography. Narrow Boat Documentaries. eBooks. Blog. Reviews cameras. Develops film.

4 thoughts on “Look Out, It’s The Ugandan Handbag Saleswoman !!! . . .”

  1. Couldn’t of put it better myself Kevin, I thought she made a complete and utter fool of herself, but the best thing is you came away with what I think is a better shot than the one you had in mind.You can’t beat a bit of confrontation to stir things up, at the end of the day no harm done she went away quite happy thinking she got one over on you little did she know, god help the bloke who ends up with her domineering and opinionated to say the least.




    1. Cheers Mick. Had a great day shooting the Fringe with yourself and the gang and thanks for the roll of Tri-X, much appreciated.

      I had intended going home the morning after, but with the extra roll of film in the camera, thought it would be a wasted opportunity if I didn’t jump back on the train to Edinburgh and see what else I could find to photograph. It was raining but think it was worth it and arrived home late at night. 🙂

      Just finished processing the film about an hour ago (including your roll) and now hanging up to dry in the darkroom.

      Digital and film articles coming soon.

      Cheers, Kev


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