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What’s wrong with this picture?

Submitted by on Tuesday, 3 August 2010 No Comment

I was standing by the pool with my camera Sunday when a voice drew me away from Big Guy’s birthday festivities.

“Excuse me,” she said. “But just who are you taking pictures of?”

“My kids,” I replied.

“Well, my kid is over there, too, and I don’t want you to photograph him,” she insisted, pointing to a boy diving into the pool next to Big Guy.

“It’s my kid’s birthday party, and I’m taking pictures of him and his friends,” I replied calmly, then turned away. About 10 minutes later, she beckoned to the boy and they left. I’m not sure what took her so long. Maybe she was waiting on me to apologetically pack my gear.

I’ll be nice and speculate that maybe she’s in a nasty custody situation and fears something being disseminated that could tip off the father to her son’s whereabouts. It’s a much more charitable assumption than guessing that she’s afraid the camera will steal her son’s soul.

Still, two things puzzle me: The assumption that because a camera’s around her kid is the focal point, and the notion that she can simply order someone to quit taking pictures at a pool because she has a thing about her kid being photographed.

Make that three things. It also chafes me that, rather than quietly and discreetly convincing her son to play at the other end of the pool while the camera was out, she felt like she needed to make a fuss .

As a long-time working journalist I’m well aware of my rights to photograph anyone who’s occupying public space. Even here, on a military post, we’re permitted to take pictures of purely social functions. I think a birthday party falls into that category. if I were taking pictures of her kid because I think he’s cute or because I’ve been sent on a mission to find the next Greg Louganis, I certainly would have told her.

I get that the Internet makes people uncomfortable – the stalker down the street can find your kid easier online! I also understand that among some there’s a rampant fear that every stranger is a pedophile. But suddenly that translates to the right to scold a parent at the pool? I can’t fathom being so paranoid about your kid’s “safety” that  you feel you have to do that.

It’s no secret that I’m a photobug, probably moreso since Dad deployed but it’s hardly a new habit. I seldom go anywhere without at least one camera. Except for indoor soccer last winter, where my anemic gear at the time wasn’t workable with the poor light in the gym, I’ve photographed or videoed virtually every game the guys have ever played. Same with  school concerts and birthdays.

I used to post soccer game “coverage” on this site, and numerous parents thanked me for it. It helped them keep far-flung relatives up to date, they said. I photographed every kid on the guys’ baseball teams this spring, compiling the shots into a post-season slide show and giving an extra DVD to families with deployed parents.

But these days, I rarely post pictures of anyone’s kids but my own without express permission – I got the jitters when I read about an incident involving in a parent in Chicago who’s afraid to even take a camera to school after his YouTube video caused such a stir.

It never occurred to me until a few days ago that taking pictures at my own kid’s birthday party also would cause a stir.

Copyright Debra Legg 2010. All rights reserved.

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