Old snow has been hanging around Lansing since December, but I had been waiting for a substantial amount of fresh snow so I could photograph a few locations around town before winter ends. I have been a complete lay about this winter, but in my defense the Midwest has seen the most extreme winter since 1977 this year. It snowed about six inches on Wednesday morning, so I headed out with a fixed lens, a camera and a tripod before the sun started to set.
Often when I go around town taking photos, people think I’m up to something sinister. I believe that if I had an iPhone in my hand instead a camera and a tripod, I would be largely ignored. While I was trying to photograph a mountain of snow in Frandor Shopping Center, a couple stopped their SUV, turned on the hazards and glared at me with furrowed brows. Shortly after I set everything up in front of small engine repair shop on Cedar Avenue, a woman came out of an adjacent tattoo shop to suck down a cigarette.
“Hi,” I said.
“May I ask what you are doing?” she asked with a moderate amount of authority in her voice.
“Sure,” I said. “I’m photographing this neon sign. See how the light from the sign reflects off of the snow?”
“Oh,” she said as she took another drag.
“I’m not crazy,” I assured her.
She watched me with a careful eye. I gave her a half smile through pursed lips and nodded my head slightly while I waited 15 seconds for the shutter to close. I told her to have a good night as I collapsed the legs on the tripod and made my way back to the truck. I think I successfully convinced her that I was harmless.
At the liquor store down the road, a man stood behind me with his arms folded across his chest. He wore a befuddled look on his face as I photographed a sign from the bed of my truck. Two guys coming from Famous Taco stopped and inquired about my motives in front of a nearby payday loan and check cashing operation.
Since I needed light coming from the east to shoot some piles of snow with shopping carts sticking out of them, I returned to Frandor Shopping Center Thursday morning. The bus stop behind me was filled with people who park at the plaza and ride the 1 route to Michigan State University. I turned to see bewildered faces peering at me from the bus stop shelter. I planned to tell anyone who asked that I worked for Kroger and that I was documenting the damage to several shopping carts caused by the company hired to plow the lot all winter. We were going to hold those bastards accountable, dammit! Have you checked the cost of shopping carts lately? Sadly, I never got the chance to try out my fabrication on any of the commuters. It must have been too cold for them to talk to strangers.
I understand that it is somewhat of an oddity to see someone with a camera that does not double as phone or a tablet. Nobody tried to stop me from taking photos or seize my equipment, but I am always dumbfounded by the “hey you can’t do that” attitude from people who assume I am a shady individual. I know my rights, man. I don’t need permission to photograph people or places that are visible from a public place. I’m covered by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America.