Bistro Vivienne (at mig cover) , 2006
It’s funny. There are places I know not to be casual about taking pictures, or at least not to be conspicuous when taking pictures. You don’t get close to or take close-up pictures of U.S. Navy ships. Airports security people are touchy, too. Some museums don’t allow the taking of pictures. You don’t take pictures inside retail stores.
The military stuff is defense-related. I figure the museums are just trying to get you to buy art cards in the gift shop. The retail stores, on the other hand, are concerned about industrial espionage, which is a fancy way of saying that retailers don’t want their competitors taking pictures of their store layout, displays, merchandise, prices, employees and all the other kinds of “intellectual property” that make up the art of their retailing. This might seem inconsequential. After all, you’re not photographing something that isn’t already being viewed by thousands of shoppers every day. But seeing something and making a photographic record of it are two different things.
You get the picture; you have to be mindful not just of what there is to photograph, but where you’re doing the photographing. It never occurs to a lot of people who are new to photography that a lot of the places where you might see things you want to photograph are private property.
Most businesses are pretty reasonable if they realize you’re not trying to be unlawful. But some are. A friend who recently carried his camera into a local mall was asked to leave because, so the security guy said, “our store managers are complaining.” There’s an antiques shop in Smithfield, Virginia, that asked me to leave after I tried to take a picture of a window display I’d admired. Last summer a private security guard intercepted me on a public street in front of the New York headquarters of JP Morgan Chase and told me I couldn’t take pictures of the building.
I mention all of this because there are other places, many of them commercial, where I don’t think twice about taking pictures. It almost never occurs to me to give a second’s thought to taking pictures in restaurants, though when you think about it they ought to be just as concerned as retailers are about their competitors coping them. The picture above, for example, was taken in a restaurant in Paris.
This past Saturday I had lunch in a pizza place in Portsmouth, Virginia. It’s a small place. There were other people dining when we walked in. I saw a few interesting photo angles and started taking pictures without it occurring to me that anyone would have a problem with it. (The other diners wondered what I was doing, but didn’t object and weren’t, in any event, in view.) It was the old guy with the gray hair who wouldn’t get out of the way.
Portsmouth 42, 2012
Portsmouth 54, 2012