I’m saying no to taking your photo

When I first started travelling, I didn’t mind taking a few minutes out of my travel time to help someone – usually a complete stranger – document their travel experience via a photo*. I thought it was the least I could do. A community service, if you will. Good karma, even.

The I started noticing something. Not one of these people asked me if they could return the favour. It was all about them, their needs, their pictures, their travel memories. No one ever asked me if I wanted my picture taken in reciprocation (I actually take my own via selfies on my iPhone, so there is no need, but it’s the principle!).

I became acutely of this particular syndrome during my Slovenian tour, with The Princess. This woman NEVER engaged me in conversation other than ask me to take her picture. I took a really bad one, and she never asked me again. It happened with other people on tours following that one. People (usually couples) who wouldn’t bother with me other than to ask me to take their picture.

So when people ask if I’ll take their picture, I have started saying “No” or “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes” or “I don’t know how that camera works” or “I don’t understand” (to complete strangers) or “Sure! After I’ve finished taking my shots…” (to other people on my tour, and get busy taking my photos so they end up losing patience and walking away).

I still do take pictures of other people, though, but this is a conscious decision. A choice, rather than a feeling of being put upon. I’m wondering though, when did it become socially OK for complete strangers to ask other complete strangers to take their pictures, who then oblige without a hint of a complaint? Seinfeld should have tacked this particular social dilemma!

* To clear up any confusion, it’s always with their camera or iPad, not mine.

Update

When I ponder this dilemma further, asking me to take your photo is about completing a transaction, not a forging a connection. In other words: you ask me to take your photo and hand me your camera or iPad; I take it and hand your camera or iPad back; you say thank you; I say no problems; we both go our separate ways. There is no authentic connection here. It is all over in a matter of minutes. Gone. Forgotten.

So, I’ve come up with a cunning plan to connect. I will take your picture, but on two conditions. One: you tell me a bit of your story and I’ll tell you a bit of mine. And two: you let me take a picture of you for this blog, where I will tell your story. It will be interesting to see how many people will sign up for a deeper connection, when all they want is to complete a transaction!

4 Comments

  • georginabarnett October 16, 2013 at 1:04 pm

    Think of it this way, you must look friendly and approachable. That’s a good thing.
    We had the same thing last year, but not that much, more so we had people asking us if we wanted them to take a pic of us. I was always a bit worried they’d run off with my camera. 🙁

    Reply
    • dileeshus October 16, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      I think it’s more about convenience, Georgina… I happened to be the closest person to their chosen photo location at the time!

      Reply
  • melvin May 15, 2014 at 1:01 am

    I always ask strangers to take my pics because i travel alone but i always offer to take their photos in return,i even offer to take another shot

    Reply
    • dileeshus May 15, 2014 at 6:37 am

      I’ve perfected the art of the selfie!

      Reply

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