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Jeffrey Byrnes Photographer Fashion + Portraits + Travel

Thee Inappropriate Photographer

A few years ago I had a clever title for a blog that would be centered around war stories from photographers. I began asking around for stories. I asked a few photographers if they had any negative of inappropriate stories they could share. To my surprise I found 2 things. Either people weren't honest and really didn't have any to share or they weren't going to be truthful and tell stories that they deemed inappropriate. I disbanded the idea of the blog and let that go. 

I am going to share my story from this past evening. I encountered a very rude, very inappropriate photographer, that caused a public scene and was acting very rudely during a performance I was hired to be at. I will not share the name of this photographer as I feel that it would be beneath me to do so. I will however describe the manner in which he conducted himself that warranted the staff to step in and say something to him. 

At the beginning of the the show, during the reception, I observed an older gentle man setting up his cameras. He had two bodies mounted with a wider lens and one mounted with a 70-200mm f2.8. I assumed he was there for one of two reasons, to photograph a specific piece because he was related to someone or because one of the dance companies asked him to be present. At the start of the first piece I observed him sitting on the ground. While I had one camera set to capture a certain angle, wirelessly, I approached my friend whom was running the event. I asked who he was and what he was there for. I asked expecting to hear "media." Something along the lines of a dance publication, news paper, something. She responded with, "we don't know. He just showed up and said he photographs dance and sat down and began doing so." I found that to be odd as one had to pay a ticket price to get it. I was the primary that was there to capture the event for them. They had no idea who he was. 

During the intermission he re-positioned himself at a different perspective in the venue. He was asked to kindly stop making photos, even more so when it was discovered he was there to do so for a "book" that he was working on. His goal was to not "sell the photos," rather solicit to the dance companies following the show that he was working on a "book" in the hopes they would agree to be a part of it.

Within a minute the older, not very pleasant looking gentle man made his way from the balcony and directed his focus on where I was standing, talking to a group of people. He approached in a very unpleasant manner and with a very unwelcoming tone said he would like to talk to me. I looked at him and said, "me?" His response, "yea, you," as if I was guilty for doing something. He motioned for me to step aside, essentially asking me to abruptly end my conversation with no notice and give him the attention he was demanding. I obliged out of kindness. 

He introduced himself. I shook his hand. Following that he said, "I would like to give you a piece of professional advice." Now I was getting annoyed. Here I was face to face with someone who entered an event with the expectation that they could come and do as they please without asking permission and without knowing who I was, wanted to give me a piece of advice. If it is anything I have learned from watching television shows that rely heavily on drama it is this: If someone wants to "offer advice," they are about to insult you, correct you, or tell you they think they are better than you by explaining something to you that you other wise did not need to know or already knew. I was shocked that someone I didn't know felt the need to approach me, publicly, and express distain when they were in the wrong. 

I responded with, "you want to give me advice?"

"Well yea, if you want."

"Sure, go ahead."

His tone changed drastically as he began to point his finger at me. "Next time you are at an event and you have a problem with another photographer you go to them with it and say something. You'd be surprised how easily things would go." I turned red with anger. Not only did he have the audacity to come to me and say this, but to assume that I had an issue. To assume is to make an 'ass" out of 'u' and 'me.'  a s s u me...

I responded with, "before you piss me off, please walk away." 

"That will only embarrass you," he said.

"You have approached me and accosted me in a public setting and I do not appreciate that. Please kindly walk away." Were the last words that I said to him. His behavior was ill timed, inappropriate, and confrontational. I do not like being put on the spot in such a tone, especially when I was rightfully there, doing my job. 

He thought he was a bigger person by approaching me. What he was not aware of, what he did not know, was that the chair of the organization did not want to hear a single camera during the show. My inquiry as to who he was, was to merely ask if he was media, why he was sitting there, and to state my intent that if he was there shooting in that spot then I wanted to be situated in a more ideal location as well. I did not care to be next to him or near him, but to have a better location to capture the show more clearly. I was after all there to capture the performance for the organization.

Having realized that he was not going to get his way, win this round, he attempted to take his frustrations out of me. I was insulted. I was more insulted that he felt the need to act so unprofessionally and accuse me of being the one to have his right to make photos taken away. As one of the other staff members stated, "he didn't even ask if it was ok. He showed up and just started shooting." The moral of the story, the point that I want to convey is this: There is a place and time, a manner in which one can and should say something. There are professional manners that can be displayed. Picking and choosing the correct time exhibits your level of professionalism. Do not show up unannounced with the expectation that you have the right to do anything. Be courteous, respectful, polite, and you will see that things can be granted to you when you act in a more professional manner.