A strange thing happened to me on Thursday afternoon.
I was at the V&A Waterfront, walking around with my camera; shooting my usual mix of people and objects. As it began to get dark I bought a drink and snack and sat on a bench to eat them. When I was done I got up and was walking towards a dustbin when I was approached by a young guy; perhaps 17 years old.
He said that his mother had noticed that I was photographing her; she was uncomfortable with this and he asked that I stop. He wanted me to delete any photographs of her from my camera so I scrolled through the images showing to them so he could identify the relevant photo or photos. I must have had at least a hundred photos on my card so this took a while. He eventually spotted just one in which he said you could see her back. I remembered the shot and was doubtful that the subject was what he thought it was but deleted it anyway, knowing that I could undelete it later if I wanted.
And undelete it I did, to find the main subject of the photograph was four young women leaning over a bridge railing, photographing the seals below. In the background were two men and half the back of a black woman. Of the females in the photograph, four were too young to have a child of the age of the guy that approached me; the other was black while the guy that approached me was white so she probably wasn’t his mother either. Rather odd then that he wanted me to delete the image. Perhaps after flipping through many images he began to realise that I may not have photographed his mother after all and picked a random image rather than admitting error. Or maybe the LCD on the back of a camera is just too small to positively identify the subjects of a photograph.
Besides the son who approached me, it seems the woman had also complained to a security guard. He approached us just as we were about to part company and wanted to know why I was taking photographs. I told him it was a hobby, that I belong to a photography club and had already deleted the photograph that was pointed out to me. He was happy with this, saying that I was allowed to photograph there, it’s a major tourist spot after all, but that he had to take heed of complaints from customers.
Some days later, as I write this I wonder what prompted this. Clearly the son could not identify his mother in any of the photographs on my card. What made his mother think I was photographing her then? Did I perhaps photograph something near her causing her to mistake where my lens was pointing? Is she simply paranoid? Perhaps the strangest question of all; why didn’t she approach me when she thought I was photographing her, or even just wave and shout “Please don’t take my photo”? Why have both her son and a security guard approach me some thirty minutes after I took my last photo and a good distance away from the spot I took it? It’s all rather odd.