Sunday, September 17, 2006

The evil eye in Times Square


Walk the streets of any major city and you're bound to run into some folks who might charitably be classified as living on the fringe. Walk the streets of New York and that truth is amplified somewhat. Not that there's anything (Seinfeldianly) wrong with that, of course. Running into folks from all across the human spectrum is what makes the urban environment as rich and frenetic as it is. I wouldn't change a thing.

So as I walked through Times Square on my way back to the hotel following my interview at the NASDAQ, I crossed paths with this individual. Now, I wasn't about to get into a protracted theological discussion with him. On a quieter day, I might have. But I was rushing back to the conference. Still, I didn't want to forget this moment: he looked so forlorn, standing in the middle of the sidewalk while masses of pedestrians did their utmost to avoid him - even turning their heads so they wouldn't catch his eye.

I wanted to ask his permission to shoot him. But the street corner was just too busy, and I didn't want to ruin the spontaneous nature of the moment. I just wanted to snap and run. I know, it was chicken and immoral of me, and I still feel somewhat guilty for throwing caution to the wind. I lifted the camera, prefocused on a nearby element so as not to draw his attention, then shifted my composition toward him and tripped the shutter. Just as I did, he spotted me and his gaze changed. As you can see, he didn't seem to be very pleased with my invasion of his privacy.

Your turn: Would you have taken the shot? Why/why not? What story does this image tell?

37 comments:

srp said...

Here from Michele this time.

Oh, that is an angry look there. Do you think all those prize winning photographers that have famous photos of wrinkled elderly women from Siberia in National Geographic and such, actually asked permission to take pictures? But, I'm like you, uncomfortable to aim "obviously". I felt this most keenly on the subways, thus my clandestine shots from seat level. It's much easier if there is a famous landmark in the background; you can use the zoom and no one else is the wiser.

Great portrait!!!

Thumper said...

I don't know if I would have taken the shot or not...part of me would be worried about getting my butt kicked by an angry phot subject...

The photo itself..to me it's conflicting images. He looks angry, but that message is one of fear. And I have to wonder, who is he speaking to? The people around him (is he trying to warn the masses?) or himself (is he trying to remind himself there's somethings he needs to get right...?)

kenju said...

He does look mad. I doubt that photographers get permission from every subject, Carmi. "The end is near" is a subject that I have seen on signs or being written about since I was a child (and I suspect for centuries before). A pessimistic viewpoint and one that does not merit much energy given to it, I think.

Michele sent me this time.

kenju said...

P.S. I think if people do not want to be recorded doing something - then they should stay at home and out of the public eye.

Roger said...

Interesting question.

Now to be fair, I might have snapped first and asked permission second. I understand your not wanting to lose the mood of the photo, and the subject might not have been as genuine in his demeanour if he had known you were shooting.

Besides, it's not like you're publishing the photo in the newspaper, right?

Even if you were... people, especially living in suburban sprawl, have to expect to lose some of thier anonymity, and even rights to privacy to some extend, given the masses of surveillance cameras around.

-E said...

I've snapped photos that I just had to have before, without requesting permission. I took one found here by hiding behind a wall. It's definitely a good image you caught though, even if it did change from what you were initially trying to capture.

Here through Michele.

Theo said...

it may be wrong, but i've dome my share of 'click and run.' what is that saying? "sometimes it is better to ask for forgiveness than permission."

Michele sent me.

Moogie said...

I'm not sure if I would have taken the shot or not. He looks, how shall we say, a bit angry. I'm not so very brave like you. :) He certainly does not seem to be a happy man, that is for sure. I have always tried to avoid people such as these because they make me supremely uncomfortable. Granted, it is their right to believe and act as they do, but that does not mean I want to be a part of it. This is a great shot. Maybe you should give us all photographic assignments to do, with various themes. :) Except of course, approaching scary mean with sour puss faces.

daisy said...

I particularly like the skull in the background of the picture.

Paul Sveda said...

If photojournalists waited around or asked permission to take a photo a lot of the great pictures we admire and a lot history would be left to be passed on by word of mouth. Oddly enough I posted a quote from a well known photographer who shot "The Kiss" in NYC after Germany surrendered in WWII.

Regardless, shoot first and ask permission to re-print later.

Michele says hi.

Cheers,

P.

P.S. He put himself out there, he was proclaiming a message to the public and the public, baring violence, threats or harm, has the right in my opinion to respond as it wishes.

panthergirl said...

I don't see it as an invasion of privacy. If you had stuck your lens through his living room window, maybe. But he was out there, making a public statement, and you captured it.

I think you'd only need permission if you were going to run it in your newspaper, but even then...not sure.

Great shot, either way, and hope you enjoyed NYC!!

Here via michele!

carli said...

In Times Square, there is no assumption of privacy.

These guys annoy the heck out of me, not necessarily because of their ridiculous apocolyptic rants, but moreso because they take up precious room in a very crowded area. Once, after seeing REVENGE OF THE SITH at a theater near Times Square, I walked through the area pretending I had the Jedi ability to outstretch my hands and move everyone out of my way with my mind.

Michele didn't send me. I don't play that game anymore.

jsdaughter said...

Yes, Carmi- I would've taken the shot..
The thing that puzzles me is the angry look. After all, he is trying to get his message to the public, and you just immortalized it.. Maybe he is just truly an angry individual, and that is his surprised look?

Maverick said...

I don't think I would have taken the picture without asking him...which would have ensured a very lengthy & challenging religious conversation. But, I think it would be safe to say that he really has no right to complain about anyone taking his picture because it only furthers his message to the people who see it.

Of course, my one question to him if I had the chance, would be if "God is Love", why do you look so pissed?

Azgreeneyes said...

Here from Michele's today

I would have taken the picture as well. I remember that guy from when I was in NYC, he seems to be a small sort of fixture there. He seems dedicated to his beliefs, willing to deal with crowds of people shuning him.

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Here is what's kind of bizarre about this man and his sign. Over 50 years ago, I use to see his father---or somebody's father, carrying this same sign on the streets of New York....So the "end may be near"...but, not that near! (lol) Though....I do think it is closer than it used to be....I'm sorry to say...

Thanks Carmi for your very kind words...but truthfully I don't hink I could teach anybody anything about 'macro' photography except bring the wonder to your work...LOVE what you are photographing....And remember, if you can't see it, nobody e;se can either!
You could give classes too, you know!

T. said...

You bet I would have snapped the pic. It is too interesting not to. Besides, the man is standing on a busy street corner, spouting his religious beliefs for the world hear.

Does that not imply some sort of complicit permission to give up his privacy to some degree?

Great shot Karmi.

surcie said...

Hey, Carmi--I was in Times Square week before last and I posted a picture of a guy I saw there, too! (He was more scantily clad than your guy, though.)The hotel where I always stay is probably a few feet from NASDAQ. Hope you did something fun!

utenzi said...

Michele sent me over again, Carmi.

I probably wouldn't have taken the shot but that's just because I rarely have people in my pictures. I guess I'm just not oriented towards humans. I'm often surprised at how few pictures I have with people in them even at celebratory events. Somehow I find subjects to photo that avoid human presense. Odd.

Let's hope that fellow isn't onto something, eh? What if the end is near? *gulp*

Erin said...

Hi Carmi, I love coming to see you.

And yes, I would have taken it, as sneakily as possible. You didn't do anything to invade his privacy. If he's making a spectacle of himself on a public street, of course you can take his photograph.

Brenda said...

I just zoomed in on the pamphlet in his shirt pocket - "Where will you spend eternity?" is the entire title, I think.

I'm sure that you aren't the first to take his picture, but I'm guessing that there aren't many that have taken him by surprise, as you did.

Not me. I would have chickened out. That's why we have the Carmi's of the world to push the envelope, so that the timid among us don't miss out on everything.

Very deep subject - the sign, his expression, the whole thing!

Erin said...

P.S. How cool that you're on TV. :) Thanks for the links - I watched one of your clips - you sound quite nice and intelligent, Carmi! Nice seein you again!

jeremy said...

Well, he is Standing on a street corner with the book in his hands with that sign as well. He may be angry that you took that shot, but he invites whatever comes in his direction because of his desire to stand out there and proclaim the end of the world is at hand.

He forgoes any rights of privacy if he is standing out there inviting anyone to either debunk, rebuke or discuss the apocalypse.

"Is he foreshadowing the coming of the Messiah or the end of the world? They say the end is at hand but nobody has spoken about the Messiah!"

That's another discussion for another day. Do you feel guilty for taking the shot? And what privacy did you invade, if he was standing there making that statement?

Jeremy

David said...

people doing public art should always expecte to be stared at and photographed, hi message, wether true or not just got to more people, wouldn't he have wanted that?
good shot carmi!
oh, and turn or burn!

zorak163 said...

I don't feel that you in any way invaded his privacy. He gave away his privacy when he decided to hold his beliefs up on a sign for all to see. If anything he was the one invading others by trying to push his beliefs on others. If he really wants his message to get out there then he should have been thrilled that you were caught in the moment enough to photograph him - regardless of your perception of his beliefs.

amanda said...

Yeah, I would have taken the picture. I take random pictures all the time, even some ones that I probably shouldn't have taken. (Although I *do* try to keep things surreptitious with a camera phone.)

I like the photo. I think that it captures his true nature, and it makes him look like he's angry at everyone around him.

*Here from Michele.*

Grins said...

Oh he wasn't pleased at all huh? I'd be a chicken...wouldn't have taken the shot. Michele says hi today.

Thumper said...

Since people brought up the whole privacy issue:

In the U.S., we really don't have a specific Right To Privacy. What we have are reasonable expectations of privacy, and if you're wandering around in public, drawing attention to yourself, you have no reasonable expectations of privacy...so you're fair game.

Taking this guy's picture was in no way an invasion of his privacy...

Shephard said...

In this particular situation, I would take the shot (and it's a great shot). How do I say this nicely... anyone who considers it their personal mission to warn the public of The Apocalypse isn't too worried about what is and isn't sacred/respectful. If the shot isn't being used to hurt the person, I think it's okay. But I can definitely see the fine line.

~S

Azgreeneyes said...

Back again...And did you get to see the Naked Cowboy? That guy threw me off a little!

Via Michele's again...

Suzanne said...

He's obviously trying to get a message across to the masses. He should be glad that you've just helped him, no? -ha ha
I don't think in his particular instance he's concerned with privacy. cool shot nonetheless.

Jennifer said...

Well from the fact that he was out there for all to see to make his point. I for sure would have taken the picture.

Annabelle said...

Great shot. I have never been good at taking candid "street" pictures, I always felt I was being sneaky and invasive. However, on that note, I always admired my peers capacity to do so, because some shots (like the one you took) are well worth it.

Killired said...

it's just eerie... with what is written on the paper and his mean look and then the skull in the background... just all too weird for me...

L said...

I kind of like his cocked eyebrow there....

Sandy said...

I always find it odd that a person brazen enough to admonish large numbers of absolute strangers in such a public way would get so very ticked off about an "invansion of privacy" via a camera.

Oh, and I have always loved New York for it's collection of eccentric New Yorkers. (Which is not to say the 'unique' invidiuals of the world are sequestered just to the five boroughs...they just seem easier to find there.)

Blond Girl said...

I would have taken the photo.

Though I don't think his expression is one of ire that you invaded his privacy. When I look at it, the emotion that I see on his face is possibly exasperation. He takes his message seriously and, from the looks of it, felt that you didn't understand the seriousness of his mission. He looks piqued because he thinks you saw him as a novelty, not a prophet.

At least, that's what I saw in the photo....

great shot, by the way. He makes me think of Sean Connery...