Guilty of Possession (Of a Camera)
Music to read by: “Cameras in California” — Kirk Wheeler
“Thanks for nothing,” I say to the editor who writes headlines like “Photog Allegedly Assaulted 3 Aspiring Models“ This salacious story of a man arrested for allegedly luring girls to motel rooms under the premise of photographing them to make them stars — only to then sexually assault them — has been all over the local news and Web the past few days. It’s abominable on many levels.
Foremost, of course, sympathy goes out to victims of such an act. That anyone, especially females, need to fear for their physical safety in any human interaction suggests we’re not as evolved a species, all of us, as we think we are.
I have no idea if the charges are true. But, I do know that true or false, this guy is toast. The nature of this sort of story is a complete presumption of guilt on the part of the media and the consumers of the story. That’s it. There’s no “until.” The vast majority of people who will consume this story will assume the guy’s guilty, and they’ll move on. The smaller group who actually follow the story will likely assume his guilt even if he is not convicted. It’s just too juicy a story to doubt.
Beyond the impacted lives of the victims and the accused is an issue of lesser importance, but perhaps one of broader effect. It affects me as a hobbyist photographer who can occasionally be seen walking down the street with a camera in my hand. The above events are alleged to have taken place down the street from where I live. I’m pissed. The way the story is presented will plant yet another seed of a subliminal idea that will grow in the minds of everyday people: The idea that photographers are a threat. Increasingly, people with cameras are portrayed as a threat to public transportation, as a threat to national security, and now we’re to automatically assume they’re a threat to young girls. Some attention may eventually be paid to the psychology of the suspected perpetrator of these crimes, what factors were at work in his impulses or urges. The same criminal could have used other tactics: dinner with a non-existent movie exec, a meeting with a fake lawyer. But, almost nobody will ever pay attention to that. The story here is that a “photog” did a terrible thing, and that’s all anyone will remember.
I’m already terrified of asking strangers if I can take their picture out in public on the street. There’s a Flickr group dedicated to taking portraits of strangers that should be fun. I see faces every day I wish I could take a photograph of. Stories like this only make approaching strangers harder. The next person I ask while I’m holding a camera could well scream for the cops. And, then in the eyes of the police, and then the media, I’d be guilty; Guilty of having a camera.
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This entry was posted on Friday, August 22nd, 2008 at 7:11 pm
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