Most street photographers have probably heard some form of the title of this post while out and about with camera in hand. Recently I was on the receiving end of a verbal lashing that seemed to be scripted by the likes of Quentin Tarantino. I won’t tell this story in his style though. I will start at the beginning!
While visiting the Southern Oregon coast (the area I grew up in) word of a man with his dog pushing a huge world down the highway traveled fast. Sightings of him popped up on Facebook friends pages and in local newspapers. On Sunday, the 22nd my sister, her boyfriend and I were travelling north toward Bandon, Oregon on Highway 101. We had seen him on our trip down towards Port Orford and had planned to stop on the way back north.
About 6 miles from Bandon we saw him stopped, taking a water break. I introduced myself, and asked if I could ask him some questions and take a few pictures. He agreed, so I began to ask him the basics. Eric Bendl has walked all over the United States with his dog and the huge world. He does it because he lost his Mom to diabetes and it’s his way to raise awareness for the disease. This trip started in Seattle and will end in San Francisco. He is a very polite and humble man, with a great sense of humor. He told me a few of his stories from his recent trip through Coos Bay/North Bend and explained the story of the world and it’s construction. Canvas, a water bed mattress and a ton of paint.
His dog, the aptly named “Nice” is one of the most well behaved animals I have come across. I began to shoot pictures of Eric, his dog and the world when a woman drove up in a minivan. I attempted to move out of her way but she stopped right in front of us. She got out of the car and asked what we were doing trespassing on her property. Initially I thought she was kidding. Boy, was I wrong. She then started to walk towards Eric and started screaming obscenities of all sorts. She threatened to call the Sheriff and get us thrown in jail, and then went back to the obscenities.
Let me take a moment to give a quick little background of myself if this is the first time you have read my blog. I am a former United States Marine and I spent my enlistment as a Military Policeman. That job gave me the opportunity to interact with a wide variety of types of people. I have a pretty solid grasp on local and state laws. I also know my rights as a photographer, and I always say I have a pretty good amount of common sense. I tried to explain to her that we were indeed on public property because we were standing on the shoulder of Highway 101, but we would move. This only infuriated her more and caused her to switch her tirade upon me.
At this point I shook Eric’s hand, wished him safe travels and thanked him for his time. He turned, and continued on down the road. She began to walk towards me and call me every name under the sun. I was using my Sony a77 and was holding it in my right hand. I then moved the camera to my chest with both hands. When she finally noticed the camera that’s when she used the quote in the subject line. I was raised to treat people how I wanted to be treated, and I find this to be a very good way to live. I also try to put myself in someones shoes and decide if the way they are reacting makes sense. I blame my parents for that. That being said, some people were not raised that way and this woman was a shining example of this. I can’t speak for what was going through her mind, but she was treating two total strangers in the most ugly way she could.
I switched the camera to burst mode, raised it to my eye and held down the shutter. The Sony a77 is capable of something very amazing. Twelve full resolution, 25″ x 16″, 24.3 megapixel raw shots in a second. Inside the camera a dizzying whir of technology occurs and the photographer is greeted with the very satisfying sound of the shutter going to work so fast it is amazing.
Yes, she told me not to take her picture. My usual reaction when someone says this to me is to comply with their wishes. I don’t have to, but I do usually. In this case, I felt that I needed to document her. To document her ugliness, and I don’t mean how she looks. It wouldn’t have mattered if she was a bikini model straight off the pages of the SI Swimsuit issue. There was no reason for her to treat us that way and I wasn’t going to give her a pass. After I took the photos I told her to have a wonderful day and we left. I will be mailing her a print of the photograph and will thank her for the experience.
I was amazed that I was able to meet two people that were on the complete opposite of what I would call the “Humanity Spectrum”. That woman is a perfect example of the completely wrong way to treat another human being. I could come up with reasons for why she would get to this mindset, but I think the story and image of her does a good enough job.
Eric Bendl is a fine example of a great person. He has experienced tragedy and is using it to fuel his passion for life. What he is doing is something that I consider very inspirational. The short meeting we had has caused me to think about the things in my life and how I would try and raise awareness for them. I have been in email contact with Eric and the advice he has given me and his experiences are helping to give new meaning to these ideas.
That is all it takes to take the inspiration you get and turn it into your passion.
Connect with people. Listen to their experiences. Treat them how you wish to be treated.