I took this photo a few days ago in Toronto. It’s of the jetty and swimming area, on the Toronto foreshore.
I had been in Toronto dropping off some framed photos of the area for a local business. I was really happy with how they turned out and it was great to meet the owner and see their reaction.
They’d mentioned to me that they would like a photo from the Toronto foreshore as well and as I couldn’t find one I’d taken that I liked, I thought I’d go down and take a few shots afterwards.
It was about 4.30pm when I went down and set up near the jetty to take a few pictures. There were a few people around and a couple of kids playing in the water so I tried to find an angle I liked where no one was in the shot.
After a couple of minutes a man approached me. He immediately got in my face and demanded to know what I was doing there and what I was taking pictures of. I said I was taking landscape photos of the jetty.
This kind of thing has happened before; from time to time I get stopped by people thinking I’m taking photos of them because they’re nearby, I even had a police car stop and ask once. I always say the same thing – I’m taking landscape photos and show them what I’m trying to shoot. Usually that’s enough; if it’s not I offer to show them the last photo I took so they can visualise it.
This guy was having none of it though. He seemed convinced I was “taking photos of kids” as he put it. Seriously? Yes there were a couple of kids around but they were on the complete other side of where I was shooting and anyone should have been able to see I was shooting the jetty.
So I said again what I was shooting and showed him the back of my camera. He still didn’t believe me and asked to see the previous photos too. I showed him but he still didn’t believe me even then, kept saying there are kids here, you shouldn’t be doing it, it’s “not right, not right”.
Then another man who was walking past joined him. He was even more aggressive than the first and said I wasn’t “allowed to be here” and actually tried to take hold of my camera at one point so he could see the photos.
It went on like that for a couple of minutes and I was getting quite annoyed now. I’d been more than accomodating but nothing I said was getting through. I was also really pissed off by this idea that I wasn’t “allowed” to be there and must be some kind of creep.
Look, I do get that parents and adults are protective of children, particularly around swimming areas, but I felt like I had done everything in my power to reassure them and the only reason they were going on about it was that I had a camera.
Before they approached me I saw a number of people stop and take photos with their phones. No one assumed they were taking photos of children or weren’t allowed to be there. But because I had a camera, somehow the rules were different for me?
It felt unfair. And the thing was too, I knew I was allowed to be there. It’s a public space and, on top of that, I was doing a job. It’s not like I could just go somewhere else and just because I wasn’t dressed in a suit and tie didn’t mean I wasn’t working.
But they weren’t listening; it felt like they’d already made up their minds long before they came over and I was afraid it was going to escalate even further if things kept going like this.
So I tried to calm myself and said again that I was contracted to take a photo and had every right to be there. Then I said that I needed to get back to work and tried to ignore them as best I could.
After a minute they both started walking away, shouting back at me over their shoulders.
I took a few more photos but after that my enthusiasm was pretty much gone. So I took the above shot and then packed up.
I can’t say I’m particularly happy with the photo; it’s fine but it’s not what I was after so I will have to go back at some stage and try again. There’s usually always people around so hopefully it won’t happen again.
It was a shame as well as it ruined what had otherwise been a nice trip to Toronto. I didn’t even feel like looking at the photos for a couple of days after.
I’m sure I’ll be asked what I’m shooting again in the future so I’m going to keep a printout of the Australian laws with me in case anyone pushes me on it again. And if anyone has a major problem I’m going to ask them to call the police, for me as much as for them.
Maybe I could have handled the situation better but regardless I don’t think I deserved any of that. No photographer does.
I think sometimes people see a camera and just see red. But most of us try to respect your privacy, respect you as a person.
It just would be nice if that respect went both ways sometimes.
Photo © CJ Levinson 2023