“My Brush with Predator Mania” – Guest Post

Hi Readers!  Just realized (it IS summer) I posted this story earlier. Sorry! Stay tuned for something new in a little bit! Or re-read and get mad all over again! L.

My Brush with Predator Mania by Nicholas Martin

I took my 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends to swim today at Brookville Lake, an Indiana state park. I was shooting pictures of them from the beach with a telephoto lens when I was approached by two park guides who asked if I was photographing my own kids or other people’s.
I responded that I had the legal and constitutional right to photograph anyone. I asked if there was a complaint and a female guide responded that one beachgoer had motioned them over to question my picture taking. The guide said that she was just ensuring the safety of the children. I said that it was ridiculous to think that a man shooting with a large camera and lens on an open beach was a potential threat to kids, and pointed out that probably hundreds of people on the beach had cell phone cameras that could take pictures without being noticed. I told the guides that they should tell the complainers that anyone had a right to take pictures at the beach. The guides were unfailingly cordial and respectful and we bid each other a friendly goodbye.
Minutes later the ladies next to our beach tent pointed out the woman nearby who had made the complaint to the guides. She was with three other women, all apparently in their thirties and with no accompanying kids. Seconds later one of the four women lifted her cell phone and began taking pictures of one of her friends standing in front of the water. Or she could have been taking pictures of the children behind her for all I know!
I approached the woman who had complained and asked if we should notify the authorities about her friend’s picture-taking. She responded by asking me if I would want a stranger taking pictures of my child at the beach. I said it would be fine with me since it presented no threat.
Later my kids heard some people in the water complaining about my picture-taking. One of them said, “He better put that camera away.” It is not far-fetched to imagine a mob of people driven by a sufficient frenzy to inflict “justice” on a photographer at that beach. What if I hadn’t had any kids with me and was just shooting some beach scenes, with kids, adults, and lapping waves? The American mania regarding sexual predation is not to be toyed with.
Perhaps area photographers should show up at the beach for a Photo Freedom Day to publicize and defend the right to do photography. – Nicolas Martin
Lenore here: I like the idea of a Photo Freedom Day. If anyone organizes one, please let us know how it goes! – L 

What kind of disgusting pervert takes a picture like this?

31 Responses

  1. Twenty years ago my husband and I had bought a few acres of land outside the city limits. I had been sick so my husband and then year old daughter drove out to take pictures of the land. After about twenty minutes and six or seven pictures the sherriff showed up. The nosey drunks from the bar across the street assumed my husband had kidnapped our daughter and was taking pictures of her for randsom. At the time it irritated me. Now I realize that if that had been the case it would have saved the “kidnapped” little girl’s life. There’s a fine line between concern for a child’s safety and just plain nosieness. We as citizens need to be aware of this.

  2. @Paula The case you describe puzzles me. Unless your husband and daughter are into bondage, what reason was there to assume he was a kidnapper? What sane kidnapper would allow his victim to roam freely?

    An unknown father and daughter alone outside the city may be a little unusual, but people on a beach photographing their kids is the epitome of normalcy.

  3. Why the hell is it that these people’s first response to being accused of doing something untoward (photographing other people’s children) is “I totally have the right to do that thing” rather than “I’m not doing that thing?” Seriously, it makes you sound suspicious and exploitative.

    “Are you staring at my ass?”

    “I have the legal and constitutional right to stare at your ass while you are in public! …but no, I’m not.”

  4. “Why the hell is it that these people’s first response to being accused of doing something untoward (photographing other people’s children)”

    ‘These people’? Oh dear. However, there are probably three main reasons for this:

    – That’s not ‘untoward’, it’s fine.
    – Even if you’re taking photos of your own children/friends, chances are that other people are going to get in the shot, so a straight denial is difficult.
    – A principled view that people going about their business shouldn’t have to account for themselves to random busy-bodies.

  5. As the previous poster said, it’s not untoward to photograph someone else’s children. It’s not untoward to photograph total strangers in public. It’s not just perfectly legal, its perfectly normal. Maybe not everyone does it every day (heck, perhaps some people only ever photograph their own children, and then only for the purposes of being able to identify to the cops what they were wearing after they’re inevitably abducted). But some of us are avid photographers and we like to perform our hobby whenever and wherever we are permitted to do so. So, basically, these folks are not doing the equivalent of going up to the guy to ask if he’s staring at their behind. They’re doing the equivalent of going up to the guy and saying, “Hey, are you looking at my flower garden,” while implying that it is somehow wrong to look at the flowers that they have planted in full public view.

  6. A most timely post – during a discussion about FB this morning at work, photos of children came up. My position is that I could not care less if someone took pictures of my children at the park, beach, etc. Even in the (extremely unlikely) event the photographer was pervy, I fail to see how a photo is going to damage my kids.

  7. I might insinuate that someone is a child predator to mess with a persons head, but I would never report something like that to local authorities. Predators are cowards! They are not going to stalk their prey in the open for everyone to see. They hide in dark vehicles or use a cellphone to snap the picture pretending to text message or something. The chances of coming across one of those freaks is still slim. There are a lot of problems with America. The last article I wrote for the paper was rejected because the paper did not like me pointing out that massacres had a long train of events leading up to them. It was not just desensitizing movies causing the problem, like the paper had claimed the day after this Colorado movie massacre.

    I mentioned in the article how parents no longer know how to let kids be kids, nor do they know how to discipline their children. At first they said they would not publish it because I did not have sources. I said hold on and I sent all of my sources to them. They said okay it would go to print. They called me back 30 minutes later and said that guest columnist could only have one article published every 60 days and my last article was published 45 days ago. I have never heard that rule before. This is bull they just did not like that I sounded like a free ranger and Jesus freak. I stayed up last night writing a blog, got it posted up late too, well needed venting. I am going to work more on the article for the paper and try to make it better. Then I plan to resubmit it on the 16th of August, one day after my 60 days is up. That way they cannot pull anything else over on me. If they do they will just have to admit why they won’t do it.

  8. I’ve photographed hundreds of other people’s children (though they are kids I know), and here in Europe nobody has ever said anything to me – even when they don’t know I’m a teacher. http://www.flickr.com/photos/books_for_parents/

  9. I had a very similar thing happen to me a few years ago on a beach. I was taking shots of my kids, and other, general ‘beachy’ type shots, and some of them included others on the (public) beach. Another man approached me and started yelling at me about how I should be ashamed of what I was doing, etc, etc. It was very unsettling. Photography is a hobby of mine and I got some nice shots that day. It was very disturbing to me that the assumption had been made that I was up to no good. The mis-trust and paranoia in this country has gone too far.

  10. Actually, they do “stalk their prey” in the open for everyone to see. This year a man was on the sidelines of a 3rd grade boys little league football practice, taking cell phone pictures and cheering the boys on. Other parents did not recognize the man and a mom approached him to introduce herself and ask which child was his. He replied that he actually was not a parent of one of the players, but that he and his son just love football. When she asked how old his son was he told her 6 months. There was no child with him. When she began asking him why he was taking pictures of the boys he became uncomfortable and left. She called police, got into her car and followed him to a nearby restaurant where police arrived and confirmed he was a convicted child molester and violated orders not to be anywhere near schools, parks or certainly little league practices!

  11. I agree with pp who wrote “Why the hell is it that these people’s first response to being accused of doing something untoward (photographing other people’s children) is “I totally have the right to do that thing” rather than “I’m not doing that thing?” Seriously, it makes you sound suspicious and exploitative.”. While I understand the OPs frustration, it was incendiary to respond that way. Frankly, I would have joked it off, like “yes, I’m taking pics of my own kids – gosh, I forgot in today’s world someone might think otherwise…”. With that said, I do have another gut reaction, which is, I saw a man looking around 50-60 with a camera/better lens taking pics of pretty much anyone at the drive in movie theater we just recently found. We’re in Vermont so usually I don’t think too much about what could happen – mostly we feel safe. However, when I saw this man taking pics of pretty much everyone, it did leave me wondering what he was doing. I let it go, thinking he was either working for a newspaper or for the theater. Either way, I watched to see if he was taking pics of my children, because if he was, I would have approached him to ask him what he intended on doing with the pics. I try hard to not think of the worst case scenario, but there is a delicate balance of being aware and being careless with your children’s safety (and your own).

  12. Nicole, first off, I have no idea what incident you’re talking about, but for the sake of discussion, let’s just pretend I do, it happened, and move on.

    What you’re arguing is that because this one time some guy who was a convicted sex offender got caught taking photos around kids, that now ALL men taking photos should be considered suspect? What about women? As a female photographer, I frequently go in public to take candid photos of people I don’t know… not for any creepy, psycho reason, but because candid photos of city/ country life are beautiful and a wonderful way to celebrate our culture. (See Vivian Maier for an example of this type of work: http://www.vivianmaier.com/)

    Are you insinuating that because, this one time, this guy got caught taking photos someplace he wasn’t supposed to be, now the world should never, ever have another Vivien Maier? Or another Alfred Eisenstaedt? He’s the guy who took the famous “Kiss” photo during the victory celebrations at the end of WWII, and another candid, street photographer who inspired the world with his works.

    You do know that the vast majority of sexual offenders do not go after children they don’t know? They victimize children who live with them or otherwise have a very close relationship with them. Not only that, but the overwhelming majority of people taking photos of children on the street? 99.99% of them? They’re just innocent people trying to capture a beautiful moment in time.

  13. In regards to the way this was handled, we can all argue over etiquette and diplomacy; I am sure there are certain ways that are more effective when speaking to a hysterical, paranoid mob ready to hang you by your camera strap. But what Becky said here is spot on, and should be kept in mind:

    Becky, on July 24, 2012 at 22:53 said:
    “…basically, these folks are not doing the equivalent of going up to the guy to ask if he’s staring at their behind. They’re doing the equivalent of going up to the guy and saying, “Hey, are you looking at my flower garden,” while implying that it is somehow wrong to look at the flowers that they have planted in full public view.”

  14. A friend of mine was at a local wading spot (the government centre which has a big fountain and a wading pool). Her three year old daughter wanted to go for a swim, and they didn’t have a suit, so she asked her daughter if she wanted to wear underwear. No. So the girl went in naked.

    My friend then overheard some women talking about “that naked girl” and a while later was approached by a woman who lambasted her and told her she should be worried about perverts, etc. My friend shrugged and said she wasn’t (my friend, who is a lawyer). Unfortunately, this conversation occurred in front of the child, who understands a lot, and my friend then had to explain to her child the meaning of this conversation.

    Thankfully, another parent who overheard said afterward “I think it’s great that your kid is naked.” Nice, but doesn’t take away from the stupid attitude of the busybody. Isn’t the hypersexualization of girls at an early age MUCH more dangerous to their health and welfare? Not to mention many other things.

  15. Hey, I got yelled at for taking a picture of someone’s DOG in Central Park. She made me delete the photo, terrified I was going to upload it to facebook. A dog. In a park.

  16. Adding to this: Photographing someone else’s children is probably a legitimate concern. I have a friend who is a federal prosecutor. One guy he prosecuted for child porn had stashes of photos of kids in swimming suits. It made me uncomfortable. I have NO REASON to need photos of children I do not know. And the writer’s reaction, “I have the right” was wrong. He should have just said he was taking pictures of his kids and left it at that. I am pretty liberal, but I don’t want strangers masturbating to pictures of my kids, or uploading them to porn sites, or anything else.

  17. But Stephanie, you know that that’s not going to actually hurt you or your kids, and that you won’t even know about it, right? It’s just a photo, not the actual child.

  18. Stephanie – how on earth does it harm my kids if some guy (or girl) has a picture of them in a bathing suit on his/her computer? For what it’s worth, rather than freaking about about potential perving, shouldn’t we be focusing on the people who MAKE child porn? I’m far more concerned about those kids than where some random photo(s) of my own kids are located.

  19. I just think that anymore it’s becoming an issue with sexual predators taking pictures of kids, and that law enforcement has stepped it up a little as far as trying to protect kids from being harmed. Unfortunately, parents are under the watchful eye also, because of parents that might harm their children sexually.

    Its an act of prevention and unfortunately even upstanding parents and citizens are going to be under the microscope.

  20. Stephanie – YOU may have no need for pictures of kids you don’t know. I also have no need for pictures of kids I don’t know. Heck, I barely manage to take pictures of the kid who lives in the house with me.

    That said, many photographers – professional, artistic and hobby – DO have a desire to take pictures of kids they don’t know. It is not a crime. They are doing nothing wrong.

  21. @ Nicole – Taking pictures of kids playing sports is not the same as “stalking victims.” There is no indication that this man intended to do anything other than take pictures. Creepy and uncomfortable in light of him being a convicted child molester? Yes. But at the same time, it would be an extremely rare event for him to take those pictures, try to identify the kids, track down their homes, and kidnap them. Could that have been his agenda? Possibly, but I highly doubt it.

    If I discovered the fact that a pedophile had pictures of my child, I would not be amused. But the odds of me ever finding out that a pedophile has pictures of my child are extremely low. It is not like they advertise it. An unknown pedophile masturbating to my child’s picture without mine or her knowledge does not actually effect my child even a little bit so I’m not sure what the obsession over pictures is about.

  22. @Christina – amen to that! Sometimes we get so caught up in what just might remotely happen to our own kith and kin that we forget that hideous things really are happening to kids much poorer and more vulnerable than our own. Those are the kids we really need to worry about….

    Few of them live in our nice neighbourhoods, and very few of them are stolen. Most of them are probably kids like the younger siblings of the 12 to 14 year old prostitutes on display in hotels in Southern Thailand and the like….

    Personally I would rather some sicko took secret pictures of my kids in bathing suits and masturbated to those, while we all knew nothing about it, than that they engaged in the kind of horrific child abuse they do with actual children, in places where kids are so much more vulnerable than mine are.

  23. I am a photographer and whilst I haven’t come across this problem myself, the Australian forum I take part in is inundated with similar tales! Most togs nowadays take a copy of the law as it pertains to photography with them shooting as all manner of security guards, patrol officers and even police officers don’t seem to have a clue.

    One poor woman got so attacked photographing strangers (adults not kids) at a public open air concert that it terrified her into only taking landscapes for a good 6 months. She was followed home by the complainer and all sorts. Now THAT’s disturbing 😦

  24. hineata – I’ve seen some of the kiddie porn circulating the Internet (work related and viewed legally) and I agree whole-heartedly. You all really have no idea what is out there and what some kids have had to endure.

  25. It would hardly seem likely that the capturing of the visible spectrum of light reflecting off the children could cause any harm. Photography is not a crime. Americans watch far to much TV they no longer have any concept of reality,these people are mentally ill and should seek treatment.

  26. I agree 100% with Becky. I am a hobbyist photographer, a male in my case, & I have the right to photograph what is in front of me, and I do so. These paranoid types need to get a grip.

    The perfect response, which I’ve done: when someone goes “don’t photography my kids,” reply as I did: “don’t worry, I only photograph things which look good.” (In other words, your kid is UGLY, ha ha.)


  27. My issue with photographers is that, when they’re everywhere, no space is free from scrutiny. I’m a college student, and if I see someone taking pictures of me in public, I am immediately terrified they’ll end up on the Internet. Why? I’m not sure yet. But I’ve heard that the net is forever, and I’d like to be able to go to the beach without having to worry about twelve thousand unfortunate pictures of me in my particularly unflattering swimsuit, posted and tagged on Facebook. I think this isn’t necessarily a paranoia-about-sexual-predators issue; it’s a paranoia-about-getting-fired-for-something-someone-posted sort of thing.

  28. (Iggy) The issue, if that applies, isn’t with photographers, it’s with employers who think it’s any of their business what you do with your life outside of the 9-5 realm. Besides, subjects are not going to be “tagged on Facebook” unless someone associates them with YOU (typically a friend), and besides you can easily have tags removed anyway. Further, if people would get it out of their head that Facebook is where ALL photos exist (has no one heard of Flickr, PBase, Zenfolio, and a zillion others?) and realize that in such places people aren’t so readily identified as to whom they are, that they’re all “just a face in the crowd” as it were–then none of this would be an issue. Don’t expect us hobbyist photographers pursuing our totally normal & legitimate passion to put our cameras down because of these mixed-up ways of thinking and operating.

  29. Iggy, seriously; I think you have a pretty inflated opinion of yourself if you think you being at the beach will generate 12,000 photos.

  30. Mmm, ad hominem attacks. Nom nom nom.

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