As a photographer, I like to go around and take pictures. Just as a hungry person looks for food, I look for snaps.
Yesterday, the sky was full of clouds and the threat of an impending storm.
I drove over to the Van Nuys Airport area where the sky is open, wide and there is a clear view across the west.
Along its eastern border, an industrial park borders the airport, and a road off of Woodley leads into a viewing area where one can watch the planes take off.
Trucks, painted with signs advertising a nutritional supplement, were parked in a lot next to a golden building.
Around me were tall grasses and debris, acres of land, and a field of cats jumping across piles of trash, mounds of dirt, and stacks of discarded lumber.
I parked my car and looked back at the blue sky, the edge of the golden building, and a row of tall, wooden, high-voltage crosses.
A middle-aged man came out of the loading area and walked over to me.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
It is the monitoring, censoring, homeland security question aimed at every photographer who carries a camera in a public place.
“Can I help you?” I asked him.
“Are you taking a photo of my building?” he asked.
“No. I am shooting the sky,” I answered.
“OK. Just checking,” he said. And then he walked away.
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, in a country where almost every single telephone is now a camera, somehow the presence of a DSLR camera strikes fear into other people.
There is nothing illegal about taking photos in public.
The law states that a photographer is allowed to take photos of anyone or anything in a public place.
I can, if I want to, go up to a playground next to a grammar school and shoot pictures of children playing.
I can, if I want to, photograph industrial buildings and empty grassland near the Van Nuys Airport.
I can, if I want to, shoot a post office, the exterior of the Federal Building, the entrance ramp to the 405 Freeway, and the outside of the Sherman Oaks Car Wash on Ventura Bl.
I am not violating any law, and frankly it is nobody’s business, what I am doing with my camera.
People, who normally walk past homeless men begging for money on the sidewalk, think it perfectly normal to come up to me and ask me what I am doing when I am carrying a camera.
Is it normal to walk up to a stranger and ask them who they are talking to on their mobile phone?
Is it polite to walk up to a married couple seated at a restaurant table and ask them what they are discussing?
Then why is it somehow anyone’s business when I am on public property photographing?