I’ll be at an event and doing my thing, which usually involves sneaking to a corner with a huge plate of food. If it’s a food event and I’m not attending as media, I’m really only there to nom.
And yet, inevitably, I’ll get caught mid-chew by a photographer – who wants a picture of me about to eat. With a smile, of course, maybe even an exaggerated wink. I’m standing there, displaying the body language of “leave me alone with this burger; we’re about to have a moment,” and yet they’ll still want that picture.
This is creepy. This is ridiculously creepy. And many times, in the past, I complied.
Image by Alex, and one of the least sexually suggestive photos I could find.
Why? Because there is a metric ton of pressure to not be the party killer, especially if you’re a young woman. Combine that with the social standard that if a woman speaks out, she’s generally treated as if she’s in the wrong, even by well-meaning friends. It’s harder to say “no” with that knowledge in the back of your head. And even if you say no politely, they’ll probably push, mock, tease you more. Or worse, ask someone else to join in. So, do you smile and comply, or do you rock the boat?
I was sitting at home thinking about this when I realized how often I’d fallen to this before. Then I realized it was really only against women. Mainly young women, and usually from male photographers.
I’ve had photographers come up to me at events, with no concept of personal space, only for these photos. Yet it’s okay since they’re there to shoot. They’re professionals. As a professional photographer now, this is the kind of behavior I’d only do after I checked with a client. Twice. Ideally with a signed model agreement.
We’re at an event to enjoy it, not to be someone’s stock image. Because, to be brutally honest, that someone will most likely make money off of that photo of you about to bite into a sandwich – and then show it to others.
Now, if you want to have your photo taken, great! But never feel you should be in an image because someone else wants you to. Please speak up, let someone know, walk away, but don’t ever feel pressured.
And this means we all have a part, not just the person being photographed.
First, I think we should be encouraging more silly photos. I’m all for my series of things balanced on heads, and photojournalism is great as well.
Tom Douglas is a ridiculously patient human being.
Next, everyone can help others not be part of a picture they’re uncomfortable with. Friends can help those who are nervous. From the event itself, event planners can hire photographers who are known for not interrupting guests except to ask if they want a picture. You can have ‘photo free’ zones, or only use a photobooth. There are tons of ways out there to make this less of an issue.
And photographers: please, if someone’s at an event and they’re eating, they most likely want to be left alone to eat. You’ll have plenty of photo options, from bad dancing to happy smiles. Pick the shots people are actually interested in being in and are confident about. Those are the best anyway.