A Life in a Year – 14th August, A Camera Steals a Human Soul

In the summer of 1987 I lived and worked in Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire and on a Sunday morning I would walk with Sally, who was eighteen months old, into the town to see the river and feed the ducks.  Stratford-upon-Avon of course gets lots of overseas visitors and it always amused me that American and Chinese tourists would take our photographs of us as we threw the bread into the water as though it were some quaint local custom or a picture of local people simply amusing themselves.

Having my photograph taken in this way didn’t upset me at all but when I am away I am always conscious that local people minding their own business may not always be so keen to be captured for perpetuity through the lens of a camera so when I am taking these pictures I generally try to be a bit discreet.  Kim, on the other hand, simply points and shoots and takes the risk of upsetting people.

The only place where she had to be careful was in Marrakech in Morocco where residents don’t like it at all.  As we walked around the Red City she kept snapping away taking pictures of local people as they went about their business.  She had to be quick however and mostly secretive about what she was doing because a lot of people weren’t that happy about having their photographs taken.  This is something to do with being suspicious about having an image made of themselves and on most occasions when someone saw a camera pointed their way they would either turn away or wag a reproachful finger to say no.

Sometimes local people don’t mind having their pictures taken but they want to charge for the privilege.  In the United States in 1995 we came across these native American children at Monument Valley who were charging a dollar a snap.  I wasn’t going to pay that so I waited until we were back on the coach and took this one through the window.

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