Thursday, August 09, 2007

From a View to a Stabbing

Yesterday I was waiting for Mrs Thought Experiments outside a shop in the Chapelfield centre in Norwich. And old man in a bright red top standing in front of a bright red sign tried to sell me something. He did so with a slight laugh. I laughed back. We both new I was no buyer. I was struck by his funny, self-deprecating face. I retreated about ten yards and surreptitiously unbagged my trusty D200. I was adjusting the settings by pointing the lens at a nearby shop when a young security man appeared in front of me and told me that this was private property and I was not allowed to take pictures without permission. Musing that, if Cartier-Bresson were around today, he'd be questioned every time he slipped his Leica out from under his overcoat and we'd be denied some very great photographs, I obediently put my camera away. This was not enough for the security man and he demanded to know why I was taking pictures. For fun, I told him, it's a hobby. He wouldn't accept this, asked why I was taking pictures of the shop. I wasn't, I explained, I was adjusting the settings prior to taking a picture of that old man. He kept demanding why I was taking pictures. Realising that getting angry and asking him why he had his hair cut in that peculiarly unpleasant way would be unwise, I took out my press ID and asked him what, exactly, was going on here. He had, after all, pounced on me within seconds of the camera unbagging. He faltered a little, relaxed and then explained that, at Christmas, one of his colleagues had stopped a man - 'a drug dealer up from London' - in the HMV shop opposite. The man stabbed him in the neck. 'He bled out in two minutes.' The day before the killer had been sentenced to 24 years. The Chapelfield security men were, as a result, a bit jumpy. This was not an entirely rational excuse for my grilling. But, I suppose, these days, taking pictures of anything other than a nice view or famous building, makes you a possible stalker, paedophile or burglar casing the joint, maybe even a knife-carrying drug-dealer. What an edgy, frightened little world we have made for ourselves. But it's polite. 'Nice talking to you,' said the security man as we parted.


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  2. How the dickens did he know that you are up from Town. You do not walk around with tower bridge stamped on or prominently about your person. And aren't drug dealers to have an emaciated feral look about them.

  3. I too was in Norwich yesterday but missed you, alas. I don't think I'll be going again in a hurry though. Actually the going was OK, it was the escaping that took all the trouble; dear old railways...

    You do have to be dedicated to go to Norwich don't you?

  4. I wonder, Bryan, if the old man's slight laugh was from recognition of the bloke in Tuesday's caption contest? Interesting, perhaps, that while you innocently adjusted your settings, there were probably ten surveillance cameras adjusting theirs as they focussed on you.

    I've become slightly edgy walking the streets of Manchester, stopping occasionally to photograph some Victorian gem, and wondering if I have time before an irritated Mancunian enters shot and threatens to permanently adjust my settings. Ah, those days, long past, when, without asking, you could point your Nikon at a man in a bright red top and he would say "Which profile, left or right?"