Photographer and downtown reflected in giant windows.
It's been too long since I just put the office computer to sleep and headed downtown to take a walk and see what's new. After I retouched some portraits this morning and got a bid on getting the house painted I grabbed the favorite camera of the last few weeks (the Nikon D610 and Tamron 20-40mm) and escaped from the clutches of responsibility. I always tell myself that I'm walking to exercise my body, my mind and my eyes and that it's not important even to bring the camera to my eye. The camera is just coming along for the ride. It's there in case I see something that desperately needs to be photographed. By me.
There was lots of context floating around downtown just not a lot of new, visual content. I was on the return leg of my usual loop when I came back to a big set of windows on a building called the Colorado Tower that I had first photographed earlier in the year. I can't see through the windows with the bright daylight outside and, frankly, I really don't want to. I use the windows a a giant, multi-dimensional reflector that shows everything around me and behind me as I shoot into it. I like the confluence of the blue sky, a green tinted wall somewhere off to the right and the repeating vertical lines. I snapped a sequence of handheld shots and then ambled off to the opposite corner of the intersection to see what the building would look shot at the widest setting of my lens.
That's about the time the happy photo buzz I was enjoying got blindsided by the idea that the wealthy in America enjoy special privileges and can interfere with our joyous rights to freedom of expression and the freedom to take photographs on the streets (indeed, any public place) with impunity. A tall, wide man in an ill-fitting black suit ventured out of the building I was photographing into the 100(f) degree temperatures andmade his way to where I was standing, across the intersection from the building he serves.
In all honesty his manner was not very confrontational but when he started asking questions I immediately suggested that, if he thought I was doing anything illegal, he should immediately call the Austin Police Department and we could have them settle the issue. He stated that he didn't want to get confrontational and didn't need to call the police but that "some people in the building might be concerned if I photographed the building and he wanted to....." I stopped him right there and told him I owed him no explanation and was finished talking to him. If he wanted to escalate he should immediately call the police or I would call the police and file a complaint for harassment. I turned and walked away a few feet and then continued to photograph the building. He shrugged his shoulders and lumbered back to his air conditioned lobby.
While I appreciate that he didn't become confrontational or really escalate his attempted intimidation I walked on trying to grapple with why I felt so angry and frustrated by the exchange. I finally decided that the thing that set me off was the implication that property owners have some special dispensation when it comes to interfering with the constitutional rights of other citizens. That their emotional comfort in their relative anonymity superseded the rights of the general public. That, and the fact that any confrontation while trying to work and make art blunts the process and interrupts the flow you work hard to create.
The paranoid and privileged control freaks in our culture shouldn't build buildings that are visible from public spaces if they don't want their edifices immortalized by a Sony sensor... We need to always push back and stand up for our rights......if we want to keep them. Knuckling under to intimidation just encourages them to continue hacking away at our freedoms.
The antidote to the feeling of freedom when pursuing your art.