Ruffling a Fisherman’s Feathers in Essaouira – On Asking Permission to Take a Photo
This gentleman, sitting at the Moroccan port of Essaouira this morning, threw a fish at me after he noticed me snapping his picture. It was a sardine, and he missed. He then stood up, directed what sounded like angry words towards me, before sitting back down. I smiled, waved and played dumb. Yes, it comes quite naturally.
I couldn’t let the background and solitary moment pass. This was taken at about noon today, when dozens, perhaps hundreds of fisherman were organizing, prepping, packing and negotiating sales of the day’s catch. The port was a flurry of activity, a raucous cacophony of sights, sounds and smells that probably hasn’t changed that much over the past half century. My thirty minute stroll among the piles of fish was the only brush with authenticity I experienced in Essaouira, a picturesque Atlantic coast city of 70,000 that these days is awash with tourists on day trips from Marrakech. That no one else appears in the frame was somewhat of a feat in itself.
I realize that expectations of privacy vary wildly among cultures and even among generations of the same culture. I oftentimes do ask before snapping a photo, but in this case my instinct told me he’d say no. In hindsight, I think the only mistake I made was that I didn’t show it to him. I think it’s a respectful image that does manage to relate at least a few things about the man. I’d like to think that he’d like it and not smack me over the head with my camera.
I’ve got lots of thoughts on the ethical implications of asking versus not asking prior to taking someone’s photo which I’ll compile for a more specific post on the topic, but generally I side towards not asking. Many of the most iconic images ever made are candid shots, moments that simply couldn’t have been captured the same way had the subjects been asked for permission or even aware that a photo was being made. In editorial or documentary photography, that one argument is enough.
What do you think? Do you think the gentleman over-reacted? Or do you wish he was a better aim?
Today’s Pic du Jour, the 250th (!!) straight, was snapped today, on 19-Sep-2014 in Essaouira, Morocco. Click on the image to view the full uncropped version.