His head turned to look at me just as I snapped the shutter. “Jesus Christ! It’s not supposed to happen this way” I thought. I did not make eye contact. He stared at me for a while and then he exchanged a few words with his girlfriend (the blur on the right). Sharon had gone into the grocery store to buy a chocolate bar and I walked toward it to make my escape but he intercepted me.
“Did you take my picture?” He asked me sharply in French.
“No” I replied (in my mediocre French), “I took a picture of your dog.”
“You should ask me for permission to take a picture of my dog” he said.
Oh shit! here we go again, I thought. This has been happening a lot lately. Just recently in Montreal, a heavily bearded man approached me and asked if I took a picture of his kids. Of course I lied and looked at him with contempt and he walked away but this really has been happening a lot lately. I even wrote about it in a previous blog about this horrible woman I met in an antique store in Florida. I wonder if Henri Cartier Bresson ever had to deal with these schmucks. I mean, why would anybody object if they happened to be in the way of someone’s photograph? It’s not like visiting the dentist. It really does not hurt. And of course, they will never ever see the picture. I mean NEVER!
Of course this did not apply to the mysterious Montague. He was a golf hustler in the 30’s who is semi-famous (among golf aficionados) for once winning a bet with Bing Crosby that he could beat him using only a baseball bat, a shovel and a rake. This guy did not want his picture taken either but he had a good reason. He was wanted for bank robbery back east— but I digress.
Anyhow, Sharon and I were walking in the old town one evening in Tours, France. We had just finished dinner and were walking around enjoying the sites. I usually enjoy taking pictures at night even though I rarely come up with anything interesting. Usually I take pictures of people sitting in cafe’s and just generally hanging out. Europe is a good place to do this because there are always people sitting in cafe’s and hanging out and for the most part they are really cool. (think Cartier Bresson again. This was his stomping ground. There is history and tradition here.) So that’s it! I just take my camera around with me when we go our for dinner.
“You should have asked me” He repeated.
“I didn’t think the dog cared” I answered. “Dogs aren’t usually uptight about having their pictures taken.”
He rolled his eyes in disgust, blew out some air through his mouth (a typical French move showing contempt.) and turned away. I retreated into the grocery store where Sharon was making her chocolate bar selection.
“You should have asked my permission to take our dog’s picture.”
I turned around to see the guy’s girlfriend who had followed me into the store. She was visibly angry.
“You should have asked my permission to take our dog’s picture.” she repeated.
I am sorry. I did not think the dog spoke French.” I said. By this time I was getting annoyed and really did not want to deal with them any longer Unfortunately I did not know the correct way of telling people to fuck off in French so I excused myself and turned away. They finally gave up. As I watched them walking up the street, I turned to Sharon and told her that what they really probably wanted was a handout but they handled it wrong. We stepped outside the store and back into the street when this other guy approached me.
” Excuse me, why did you take a picture of me sitting in the cafe with my friends a few moments ago?”
” I didn’t take a picture of you,” I said. “I took a picture of the street”
He excused himself and walked away.
” I think this might be a good time to exit” Sharon said.
“Schmucks!” I thought.