Hang on, I’m being questioned by the police

Seven minutes wait for a train is the perfect amount of time to produce one HDR photo from opening the bag to replacing the tripod on the bag when completed. You must have it scouted, though, and I hadn’t so much as noticed how broken this phone looked when this guy started talking to me. He was a street musician with a musician friend. They’d just finished. They’d done well. They told me all of this. Well, mostly he told me while his friend just said, “yessssss” to each of his declarations about conquering the night “over down the way here.” I had a “mighty nice camera, oh yes.” It could take a good picture, “maybe you could show me howda use it?”

There was no potential harm here, so I did. There were others around. Then the police came. Two of them. I can’t remember their names, but I want to say he was Alvarez and she was Pemberton. “What we got here?” Pemberton looked serious when she spoke. Alvarez just kind of looked at you all-knowing and vacant. I looked at the street musician, but he kept his head down and his friend just kind of looked the other way. Maybe this was commonplace for them. I realized suddenly that the cops weren’t worried about them. They wanted to know what I was doing, not anyone else, which was use a tripod in the subway, which is “illegal” even if there are no specific laws or guidelines about this. It’s a recommendation more than anything else, because subways are crowded and somebody could get hurt. But this is ridiculous, because there were now eight of us in the entire 100-yard tunnel including the officers, and nobody is moving until a train comes. It was just time to enforce a rule, because it’s a rule. That was the right thing to do in their minds. So, I explained my tripod is broken, which it is. I was trying to straighten it out, if possible. I couldn’t to this point. Alvarez asked questions. Pemberton was surprised I had a response. This went on for about five minutes, or until we heard the rumble of the train.

Everyone looked down the tunnel, and realizing this was my moment, I hit the button. I snapped off three photos while the distant train caused just enough din for them to miss the unmistakable sound of a shutter sliding open and crashing back together three times. When they spun back around the camera was already in my bag, the tripod breaking down to fit back on the bag. I stuck my nose in my phone and acted like I wasn’t even interested in their looks, like I had no idea this sort of thing wasn’t acceptable on some vague level. We got on the train, all six people waiting, and rolled away. We never did that photo show-and-tell.

So, this was a no-look photo taken under duress while the shot clock was winding down, literally. As for the subject, I’m not surprised these old-school pay phones still exist, but I’m certainly impressed that they haven’t gotten much updating in the past 10-15 years. Nothing’s changed. Even the box around the phone is crooked, as usual. It would seem lighter use doesn’t improve things if they’re never maintained. Oh, and cops really aren’t allowed to question a photographer about what he’s photographing in public space, but answering beats detaining. I always explain myself, even when working professionally as press. It doesn’t hurt to reply confidently and to seem understanding of their concern.
Hang on, I'm being questioned by the police
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2 Comments to “Hang on, I’m being questioned by the police”

  1. Such an adventurous life you lead! Enjoy your day. Robyn

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