camera etiquette

I should know better, really. Some people do not want their photo taken, or the photo of their house. Really I should ask. But I have had a camera around my neck so long, that when I see something that excites me or is beautiful I can’t help but inspect and often, document.

Most often this penchant means pulling the car over on the highway to photograph an abandoned house or cemetery. Grad school projects have required classmates and I to fan out across neighborhoods documenting residences and architectural features. On my own these days I’m obsessed with the restoration process, understandably. I’m always prepared for questioning and am courteous to suspicious homeowners, after all, I too would be a little perturbed to look up from my kitchen window and find someone training a camera on me, even from the street. I’d want to know what they were up to too.

My journalist mom, artsy dad, and photography classes taught me the camera was your passport to all sorts of places and spaces—getting a little closer and for a better angle—few question the camera, you look official. sometimes you are. I did learn an appropriate sense of respect for person and property that comes with the territory but I also learned to push boundaries and these days, with the ubiquity of non-photographers behind a lens, it is easy forget the power that little lightbox holds and it is also far more threatening.

All this is to say, I need to take a step back, check those boundaries, and avoid making potentially threatening gestures with the Nikon. If nothing else, it is polite to ask first.

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