Carrying a camera changes everything
By morning I'm the web designer for the construction office at my university. About twice a month I take the office golf cart out on campus along with the trusty digital camera to take pictures of new construction projects in progress. Most of the time I take pictures of a building's skeleton: framework, girders, and cranes hoisting things into the air. When a building is complete and ready for use I go inside and walk the halls to take pictures of finished hallways, offices, classrooms, and other facilities. I dress in my casual street clothes - jeans, collared pullover shirt, sneakers - and present myself as a friendly guy just out doing his job. My interest is structural, not personal. And yet people always freak out when they see me coming down the hall with my camera.
I was sent out to the Greek Park section of campus (which houses all the fraternity and sorority houses on campus) to take pictures of the existing houses for an animated map I was creating. The idea was to click on the overhead map and see a picture of the house as well as its vital details (age, size, etc.). So there I am at 9:30am walking from yard to yard with my camera and taking pictures of the various houses. Due to the hard partying that goes on in these houses overnight, the residents were just beginning to stir at this time of day. It occured to me that I was a 22 year old male student with a zoom-lense-enabled camera taking pictures of the sorority houses with the big windows with no curtains during the time of day when the ladies therein are just getting up and getting dressed. I finished my photo project and took off back to the office before some half-naked girl by a window called the police to report a camera-toting pervert.
The new sports complex had just opened for habitation and I drove the golf cart to the north end of campus to take some pictures of the interior of the building. I was taking some nice shots of the hallways when a nebbish middle-aged man approached me and, putting on his best "tough guy" act, asked me just what I thought I was doing. I explained who I was and why I was there and he told me to carry on, although I did notice him discreetly tailing me all the way through the building. He eventually lost interest, thankfully. Before long I came to the last room in the building: the weight room. Imagine a gymnasium-sized room with high ceilings and full of exercise equipment and you'll have a good idea of the place I was about to enter. I had my hand on the door handle when I looked through the window and saw who was inside: the female athletic teams were working out in their skimpy athletic wear, and here I was about to go inside with a camera in my hand. Convinced there was some downside to being beaten down by one hundred scantily-clad women that I wasn't seeing, I decided not to go inside and vowed to return another day.
On this particular day I took a ride out to the new teaching academy building to take pictures of the inside of the about-to-open complex. Actually it was already open unoffically, as about a dozen students were milling around checking the place out and about three classrooms were in use. A number of office staff were also in the process of setting up shop. The first room I went to photograph was a playroom-type area for upcoming elementary school teachers to work with little children. I'm snapping pictures when a staffer comes in and asks the questions I'm so familiar with: who am I and what am I doing there. I explain all of this and she tells me that I really should speak with the woman in charge of the building, because the building isn't ready to be seen yet and I really shouldn't be taking pictures like this. Well 1) I'm looking for pictures of the unfinished sections and 2) if it's not ready, then why are all these people in here? There were no easy answers, so I went on about my photographing. As I moved through the four story building I found that everyone I encountered became very anxious whenever I raised my camera. People would shove whatever they were doing into a cabinet, drawer, or backpack. They close doors and scurry into restrooms. I eventually encountered the building manager who wanted to spruce up the conference room before I took the picture, and even still she wouldn't let me near it if it wasn't organized to her satisfaction. There were still other places she insisted I not go because they were "too messy" - in short, storing things that she didn't want seen by the public.
It's occured to me that people fear being caught on camera doing something they feel they shouldn't be doing. These things look pretty mundane to me: reading, writing, or the act of just being in the room. I try to crop the people from my pictures anyways, but even when I'm not pointing a camera in someone's direction, they run off. Since they fear being seen doing things on film, I know what to say when they ask me why I'm in the building with a camera...
I've come to capture your sins.