Public Displays of Photography

Fellow photographers, have you ever been approached by strangers asking you to send them your pictures? How many times?

Can I just ask, in my best Seinfeld voice which isn’t very good, what’s up with that? When did that become culturally acceptable? It never fails; whenever I’m out with my camera, someone will ask me out of the blue.

Usually I just accept their email, without giving them mine (“oh just reply to whatever I send you…”), and throw it away later, then I have to feel bad later about not being honest. I think from now on I’ll respond with, “I also have some CDs and records at home; are you going to ask me for those? Or maybe some furniture?” Because really, I have so much time to email >1MB pictures to every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes up to me on the street.

Imagine this scene twenty or thirty years ago. A photographer is taking shots of the Picasso, or a band, or a demonstration, whatever, and someone he doesn’t know taps him on the shoulder (interrupting a shot in progress) and offers him a self-addressed stamped envelope in return for some prints of whatever he’s shooting. Would said photographer not be justified in bitch-slapping this idiot two sides to Tuesday? Or am I completely off base here?

I understand how much easier it is to share these little bits of data these days, but again, that’s only half my point. I haven’t even gone into the fact that I don’t want these strangers knowing my email address and forwarding me every damn joke email spam that comes through their inbox. Isn’t it just as easy to head over to the nearest drug store (on practically every corner) and buy your own damn disposable camera for five dollars? Or maybe you can even go to flickr, type in the tagword for the event or however that works, and find your own damn photos there?

If I know you, that’s a different story, but I’ve still spent a significant portion of the past two days sending friends selected pictures and having them rejected for being over their mailbox limit, thus wasting both my and their time.

If I don’t know you, then sod off. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable about that, though I may not be justified in using the word “sod.” You be the judge. Photographers, I’d love to hear your input or experiences with this.

2 Comments so far

  1. Fuzzy (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 5:27 pm

    I give them my card and tell them to send me an email reminding me what pictures they wanted. This a) gets my name out there (I also do photography-for-hire so I *do* want people having my email) and b) puts the responsibility on them to remember on Monday why they have that beer-stained business card.

    I do think the 30-years-ago comparison is a little off — sending 50 people a digital file is very different than sending 50 people a printed photo (I’ve done both).

    But I’m sure it matters what those picture-asking-for people represent to you. To you they’re strangers making unreasonable requests on your time (which is true and valid). To me, they’re potential customers or friends of customers — I got my last photo gig because I had given pictures away of a different event to someone who worked somewhere that hired me.

    And, hell, it’s flattering — *of course* they’re not actually validating your photography skills, they’ve just seen you + camera @ event. But still, I take pictures because I want people to look at them, so anyone asking me to look at my pictures is a little ego-stroke.

    *And* I’m suddenly realizing that I’ve blocked out of my memory all the photography-for-hire I used to do at nightclubs. I think, Tom, in relation to your rock show experiences a more general rule than “people are annoying about photography” might be “dear god, drunk people are annoying”.

  2. tom (unregistered) on March 22nd, 2005 @ 6:22 pm

    you have several good points. and since i’m considering photography-for-hire as well (the praise hasn’t fallen flat on me), i should consider giving them my card. but i’m still hard pressed to consider the random college student doing a research paper or the obnoxious tourist who just wants that shot of the bean “potential customers” or the word of mouth i may be looking for.

    then again, i’m also an idiot with no business sense whatsoever. i can see where this would be an impediment.

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