Cameras: The Ugly

Ugly, Part 1

I once took a very dangerous photograph. So dangerous, I can’t even show it to you. But I can tell you about it.

I took it a couple of years ago. I was on my bike and I stopped because I saw a ginkgo tree in glorious fall gold. I took a few photos and noticed an ornamental detail on the building that was just out my frame. So I moved to get it in the background of the cascading leaves. Snapping away, I was startled when a man in a certain kind of uniform (but not a man in uniform) came up to me and said I wasn’t allowed to take photos of the building. I told him I was taking photos of the leaves. I can’t take photos with the building in it, he said. “Why?” I asked. Seems I was photographing a building owned by Consolidated Edison, NYC’s power company. In a post 9/11 America, taking photos of such buildings makes you a suspect.

This kind of thing has happened to me outside of a bus station in Montgomery, Alabama, outside an apartment building in Manhattan, and in a parking lot in Connecticut. In each case, I was on public property, just me and a little camera. In Connecticut I was escorted into an office and asked a series of questions (one might say I was interrogated).  All of the people who stopped me were employees of companies, not police and not security guards. The citizenry has become suspicious of people with cameras, and this motivates individuals to act ugly toward people with cameras. Dislike.

[It’s ironic, really, when there are more photos taken in a single day than have been taken in the history of the world prior to digital camera technology. How you stop that, I don’t know, but some people are determined to try. {Okay, I made up that statistic, but I’ll bet it’s close to true. Also, the photo of the ginkgo, I could show it to you, if I could find it. It’s either been deleted or is on a hard drive or disc somewhere.}]

Ugly, Part 2

12,480 films were submitted to the Sundance Film Festival this year. About 4,500 of those were features. There is no way all of those films are watched and judged by a jury. Put that in the back of your mind for a second.

I am all about people embracing their creativity. I believe everyone is creative in some way and that it’s an enriching part of an individual’s life — and those around that individual — if they can express that creativity in some way. When people say, “I’m not creative,” I don’t believe them. I think they are either being self-effacing or they haven’t tapped their creativity.

But when I read that 12,480 films were submitted to a festival, some ugly thoughts begin to worm their way into my mind. Such as just because you have a camera (and a laptop) does not mean you’re a filmmaker, so why are you making your piece of crap film and overwhelming the gatekeepers to such a degree that they will toss potentially good films out without even looking because they haven’t been suggested by an insider or they don’t recognize the filmmaker’s name? Why don’t you just put that “film” of yours up on YouTube or Vimeo and send the links to your friends and family?

I don’t like thinking these ugly thoughts, it’s a part of me I try to shut down because it does no one any good.

Related: Cameras: The Good; Cameras: The Bad.


2 Replies to “Cameras: The Ugly”

  1. Eep! Ugly thoughts!

    Here’s happy thoughts. When you will complete A Life’s Work and it shatters the competition, it will be the best of over 12,000 other movies.

    They don’t stop you, they just try to stop you by scaring you. Because they’re scared. So don’t stop! Your pictures are great!

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