Apr 21, 2007


i guess i'm surprised it doesn't happen more often. as i continued work on my series around downtown today i was questioned by a women that felt threatened by my presence in her neighborhood. this is the first time it's happened in the year or so that i've been working on this project.

most people i bump into are genuinely interested in what i'm doing i find. i'm not one to shy away from a conversation, and some have resulted in acceptable portraits, and at least good talk. i guess the question of intrusion doesn't register with me, because i don't feel the least bit uneasy about what i'm doing. i walk, from my apartment, to capture each image for the series- i feel like my destinations are extensions of my own neighborhood. it's not about drivebys. it's about connecting to this place that i'm trying to understand more intimately. this is my home, and love the photos or not, it's my subject.

this afternoon, however, one particular women was having none of it. resplendent in her robe and pointing finger she demanded to know who i was and what i was doing making photos of her neighbors private property. did i have permission? she threatened to call the cops. she raised her voice. she made accusations. she beat down her neighbors door to report me. the jig (whatever the jig was) was up it seemed.

i'm quite certain that the cops were dispatched- probably combing the streets as i write this. APB for the shifty guy with the camera! it was a good walk, and good photos were made none the less. as for the photo in question- the private property...

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irony is not lost

listening to The Tragically Hip


Anonymous said...

I was just poring over my copy of NIAGARA, which arrived the other day, and in the back, Alec has notes on the project, in which he says, "I ask couples if they'll pose nude. Most people think I'm a pervert." And then there's his description of being stopped by cops who'd heard reports of a pedophile taking pictures in the park. Or of being detained for an hour by border patrol while he "tried to explain my cameras, the list on the steering wheel and my collection of Lolita quotes."

It seems, no matter who or where you are, if you're photographing, you're suspect. Maybe being accosted is a sign that you're on to something good. In any case, keep it up, Ben.

Justin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

Good photo! Well worth the headache.

Two days ago I was working on my Times Square thing and a tourist guide saw my flash go off in his direction. In his eyes I obviously took a picture of him and he basically did everything he could to harm me other then physically touching me. This was a bummer. A sad day when a tourist (I could have been a tourist) can not even take a picture without someone being afraid for their... what? their freedom?

9/11, etc has opened up a whole new world. Not that it wasn't like that before. I have had the cops called on me in highschool for taking photos. This guy in Times Square was crazy. He followed me around the block 4 times, until I lost him. I also kinda pushed his buttons by continuing to take his photo and telling him he legal could do nothing, but I had to, he was a dick.

Anyway, stay strong! Don't let this change anything. it seems some people will always make it harder then it needs to be.

Justin said...


I assure you this will not be the last time something like this will happen. I was always surprised when I lived in Idaho that I was never accosted about what I was doing. I would have thought that if anywhere, a rural area would be where I would get questioned the most. However, as you explained with your experience, any questioning almost always resulted in a photograph. see:


It wasn't until I moved to the East Coast, where I thought everybody would be accepting of my presence, that I have encountered the most problems. I have been yelled at, in a very similar way to you, for taking pictures on streets, or of specific houses. Most recently I was in a park and saw this young girl who was eerily striking, and when I approached her I was run off by accusations of what my intentions were. It is a problem with photographing younger people, but I walked about 100 yards away and made this photograph:


So I would say that for every crazy out there, there are 10 times as many people who are genuinely interested in what you are doing, and will be nothing but supportive.

And hey, you got a great photograph out of it.

Shawn Gust said...

I know that the more we explore our world and try to connect with ideas that we find important or personal, we will experience more of these obstacles. I have had two experiences in the last few weeks similar to the ones stated. In one instance, a lady confronted me when photographing a sign (aren't signs meant to be SEEN?). She wrote down my vehicle's liscence number. Nothing has come of it. In another, I stopped to ask a young girl to photograph her and she bolted into her home. I knocked on the door and spoke with her father, explaining what I was working on. With a sincere apology to the girl, she was more than willing, and I got a great shot. The way I see it, we'll have these difficulties from time to time, but if we persist, maybe we will be better understood.

ben huff said...

you guys are all right. i thought about this a lot on a run today, and came to the conclusion that the fact that i've been working on the this series for as long as i have, and this being my first negative encounter, is a little sad.

in reality, if i was pushing myself a little more, this might be the norm. not that i want my work to be of struggle, but it's interesting to think about where that boundary is. most times, conflict leads more to reinvention than complacency. for now- getting on with it.

thanks for the comments. good stuff to chew on, as you all make great photos. a little hint as to your process is good for the soul.

Tim said...

Another good hint into my process Ben: If my subject starts giving me a problem, I usually knock them out, drag them to specific location, then wake them up. It usually works out real nice.

See 'Dixie'.

Pod said...

this is were confidence comes in and great(er) shots are taken. it is sad that there is such suspicion in the world now. it isn't so bad here in oz, not yet at least. we can still take photos of kids playing without being accused of anything unsavoury. it is interesting how and why such folk can feel threatened. misdirected anger i guess. hopefully the huff will not be overcome!!

Professor Howdy said...

Very good posting.
Thank you - Have a good day!!!

agloco ^^ said...
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