I don’t go out with the intention of photographing the homeless, the down trodden, the misfortunate, dispossessed, the alcoholic or drug dependents. Poverty tourism doesn’t particularly appeal to me even though there’s always a story to tell. There are plenty of photographers out there who do that kind of work and probably better then would. I am interested though in photographing my hometown ( glory ) warts and all in as many facets as I can. In so doing I hope that my hometown represents the wider England somewhat, a microcosm of the country if you like. The homeless man above was with a group of men, one of whom asked me what I was photographing, “are you taking pics of the Spire he asked me?” We talked for a few moments. He was homeless because he’d split up from his wife and it was either him out the house or his wife and child. There is a shelter in the town it seems but it’s capacity is 15 people and as he slept there last night it wasn’t his turn tonight. We can deduce then that there are more many more than 15 people homeless in Chesterfield. He was friendly and erudite and so I made some images.
I’ve had one of those daft altercations. I was on the Thursday market and there was three elderly men in a huddle. I noticed one of them had a bag of knives he was showing his mates. I raised my camera and one of them noticed me, asked “what tha doin?”
Me : “tha looks like tha up to no good !”
Him : “if I were up to no good I’d stick one on thee” he replied.
Me: “that’s not a very nice thing to say”
He started to getting a bit aggressive so I told him I was only joking and to calm down but he was having none of it and of course he started to question why I was taking photographs. I told him while it wasn’t illegal to take photographs in a public place, carrying offensive weapons most certainly was. He then started to tell me this little story, “well let me tell thee something” he said. “There was a chap over here from Germany and he was down there” he pointed down the street to the shops “and Security Guards told him for takin photos on his phone and made him delete em and do ya know why ? Because they said he might be a paedophile!”. During this conversation he told me his son was a policeman.
Me: “I don’t give a shit what the Security Guards did, taking photographs in a public place is not illegal and what’s more those Security had no right to demand that person delete his images. If you knew as much about carrying knives, offensive weapons, as you seem to know about photography in a public place then you might actually know something. Now what really makes me angry is when people like you start talking to me about paedophiles when I’ve got a camera around my neck.”
Update – A week later: Back in town I got into conversation with three Community Support Police Officers and told them of the incident last week and the bag of knives. ‘I should have reported it’ they told me.