August 6, 2005

When shopkeepers object to your photography.

Yesterday, we took a photography walk on the East Side of Madison, going from Mother Fool's to Café Zoma -- a nice café hop. One of the great photo stops along the way is the St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Shop. Mesmerized by the lined-up shoes in the window, we went in the side entrance first and took many photos like this:

Madison's East Side.

No one objected.

We returned to Willy Street and noticed all the bric-a-brac in the front window and went back in again. After a few shots, a woman came over to us.
What are you doing?

We're taking photographs. We're on a photography tour. Do you object?

Yes!

Sorry.
I guess one ought to ask permission before taking a picture in someone's store. And, really, shopkeepers should object. They might feel flattered that we find their place picturesque. But they don't know whether we will make fun of them or embarrass them. Perhaps profoundly:

Madison's East Side.

50 comments:

ploopusgirl said...
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iocaste said...

A lot of shopkeepers objected when I tried to take pictures of windows in Venice. They arrange the masks and the Venetian glass very artfully there; and the masks themselves, I suppose, are the intellectual property of the artist. So they try not to let you take pics.

Ann Althouse said...

There are some situations in which an artist or designer views you as stealing their work. Somewhere in my old posts I have a description of a craftsman getting mad at me for photographing his street stall, where he sold rather ugly wind chimes or mobiles. He really thought I was going to use the photos to make the same objects and sell them. I just said I was sorry but I had to bite my tongue not to say: "But your work is completely ugly!" or "The blog post I would have done about this would have been a free advertisement for your work."

ploopusgirl said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Joan said...

I'm surprised you posted these photos after the shopkeeper objected. You recognized that the shopkeeper had a right to refuse, but you went right ahead and posted the photos you had already taken, anyway.

I'm disappointed that you found your need to post a mockable photo with witty commentary outweighs your ability to respect the shopkeeper's request.

Ann Althouse said...

Joan: It was a public place and these items were on display. In fact the display is quite offensive, and they ought to change it. I'm not obligated or even motivated to protect them. I don't think there should be such repressive rules against photography. I don't think I violated any right of the shopkeeper, because I followed the request to stop, and there was no "no photography" posting or other alert that I wasn't free to take a photograph. There was no request for me to destroy my work. Whether I would have destroyed my work if asked is another question. In the case of the craftsman with the mobiles, I did destroy my work at his request, but that was a matter of his wanting to control his designs.

ploopusgirl said...

What is offensive about that display exactly? The crucifix lying down? How is this offensive? ...

Ann Althouse said...

Ploopusgirl: I think the crucifix shouldn't be grouped with items like a pig and an apple pie -- especially in a shop named after a Catholic saint.

ploopusgirl said...

Ann Althouse: It's a plastic crucifix, not a blessed crucifix made from ancient Bethlehemian rose petals. In other words? Lighten up.

Lars said...

Ann, a little OT but your reference to East Side Madison reminded me of a few months back when you mentioned a possible high-rise on E Wash that would exceed the height limits. Is that going to happen? East Wash needs something.

MrsWhatsit said...

There can't be many expressions more smug and irritating than "lighten up." In general, the phrase seems to be used to mean something like this: "You are a hopelessly non-cool, non-ironic, non-post-modern person who fails to understand, as I do, how silly it is to care about anything." In this case, it might be specifically translated to mean: "You are a hopelessly non-cool, non-ironic, non-post-modern person who fails to understand, as I do, how silly it would be to grant some modicum of respect and sensitivity to a religious symbol, since they're all meaningless anyway." But at base, the most accurate translation is probably the simplest: "I'm cool, and you're not." If people realized how shallow and immature this expression makes them look, would anybody use it any more?

bos0x said...

Um, it's a picture of a pile of shitty trinkets, crucifix included. Not only would the store owner probably not recognize it since it looks like a display from every thirft store in the world, but I don't see anything offensive there. Christians are stupider and more backwards than I thought if they feel the need to revere some mass-produced plastic doll only because it is posed like Jesus. There is so little detail that minus the cross it could be anyone with long hair and a hot skirt. Oh, and I like how someone trying to sell a pile of cheap, worthless things is so offensive and unworthy of protection, but if a greedy, suspicious craftsman trying to hold a monopoly on the ugly mobile trade asks you to delete your pictures of his work, you comply happily.

MrsWhatsit said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MrsWhatsit said...
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MrsWhatsit said...

Sorry for the messy multiple comments. Blogger seems to be misbehaving.

Jonathan said...

While some merchants' aversion to photographing seems to derive, as you pointed out, from concern about facilitating competition (perhaps also including price comparison), I don't see how any of that would apply at a thrift store. Some people just assume that a photographer must be taking advantage of them. For me it seems to work best, if there is no explicit prohibition of photography, to just take photos until I am asked to stop. I mostly regret the times when I was deferential and asked first.

Brendan said...

Ploopy's been a very naughty girl today. Go sit in the corner, sweetie.

bos0x said...

Oh MrsWhatsit, thanks for the long, paranoid dissection of the phrase "lighten up". It is wonderful that you are concerned about the respect and sensitivity granted to religious symbols, especially since I am so totally sure that the intent behind the crucifix was to show the Lord how respectful and sensitive the manufacturers are via the wonderful and dynamic medium of plastic, not to, like, make money from lots of cheap items or anything.

Also, I'm so sure that the needy people that the thrift store benefits wouldn't mind having time and money taken away from them in order to build a ceramic pig-free shrine to keep all of the donated religious symbols on, just to keep readers of the Althouse blog happy.

ploopusgirl said...

You know, MrsWhatsIt, you're right. I can't think of anything more condescending and obnoxious than telling someone to lighten up.. except for, perhaps, telling someone what they mean by what they've said. What's offensive is the manufacturer's idea that mass-producing a plastic Jesus is religiously appropriate in some way. What's offensive is that even though Althouse finds this arrangement of shitty knick-knacks offensive, she still takes a picture of the damn thing and posts it on her blog. What's offensive is you posting the same thing eight times and then blaming it on blogger, as if you were completely innocent in the multi-posting (because, you know, everyone else's posts are going up 3 times apiece too!). Placing a plastic crucifix between a pig and a glass apple is not offensive, it is not sac-religious; it's a knick-knack shop: those are usually not arranged by category, and if they were, I don't see how having a glass shelf-full of plastic Jesuses grouped together is somehow less offensive than grouping it with a pig and an apple. PARDON-FUCKING-ME.

Also, Brendon: Don't you have some gay people to be lynching? Or some black people to be mocking? Or some white babies to adopt, despite the lack of white babies to adopt because there are too many abortions, so all you poor white people can adopt is the hurtful poor Asian and African babies?? Don't speak to me, kthxsbye.

Brendan said...

"Also, Brendon: Don't you have some gay people to be lynching?"

Not this week. I'm on vacation.

"Or some black people to be mocking?"

Nah. You'll suffice.

"Or some white babies to adopt, despite the lack of white babies to adopt because there are too many abortions, so all you poor white people can adopt is the hurtful poor Asian and African babies??"

Even the CIA's best codebreakers couldn't make sense of this rambling paragraph.

Ann Althouse said...

Mrs. Whatsit and others who accidentally double (or triple) post comments: Blogger can take a few moments to show the comment on the comment page, but if you publish and it says you've published, it will go up. So just give it a minute.

As to those who think it's just fine to disrespect a crucifix, is this a special irreverence that you feel toward Christianity or would you take a similar tone about the holy things of other religions?

Ann Althouse said...

Jonathan: Thanks for the support!

It did occur to me that a thrift shop might worry that you'd unsettle other customers, who might be embarrassed to be shopping there. I don't photograph the customers though. In fact, I have a high standard for photographing a person, especially to post on the web. (My standard is: the person must consent or be making a spectacle of himself.)

Nikolaides said...

I know it's a cheap shot, but it's also irresistible. Ploopy: lighten up, already.

Brendan said...

"As to those who think it's just fine to disrespect a crucifix, is this a special irreverence that you feel toward Christianity or would you take a similar tone about the holy things of other religions?"

I'm kinda torn on this one. If the crucifix had been thoughtlessly tossed in a bargain bin box with a bunch of other crap, my outrage needle would move more to the right. But this sounds more like a mistake than actual malice. And don't get me started on those Virgin Mary dashboard figurines.

Yes, you're right to suspect a double standard. I still await the day that a Koran is suspended in a jar of urine. Don't hold your breath.

peter hoh said...

Ann, in the photo of the shoes, is that Tonya's foot outside the window?

By the way, I've noticed that most of the big grocery stores have signs at the door stating that photography is not allowed within the store.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: No. I've never seen Tonya with anything laced all the way up the leg like that.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: I'll bet those grocery store signs have their origin in concerns about people photographing them doing something unsanitary. There was a famous incident of a reporter doing secret photography of something a while back. Famous, but I've forgotten all the details.

ploopusgirl said...

Fine. You can all kiss my ass, bos0x included.

peter hoh said...

ABC had producers with hidden cameras work at a Food Lion grocery store.
Read more here: http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1282/is_n2_v49/ai_19100540

As for the foot/leg in the photo, I think that what appeat to be laces are marks on the glass. I was noting that the sandal looks a lot like the sandal in the photo of the Madison blogger gathering at Mother Fool's. You, of course, would know whether or not Tonya joined you for the walk.

bos0x said...

Poopusgirl: you fucking little bitch, I hope your unborn child is adopted by Republicans.

Ann Althouse said...

Peter: You are quite the investigator! Yeah, Food Lion -- that was it! And streaks on the glass -- you are right! So that probably is her leg.

Ann Althouse said...

Focus, people.

How many think Ploopusgirl is a guy?

How many think Ploopusgirl and Bosox are the same person?

Now back to the subject of photography ethics and respecting the crucifix.

ploopusgirl said...

When did I ever give any indication to you that I'm a guy? Also, why is it that because two people happen to disagree with you they must be the same person? I thought you got emails every time someone posted something? I'm sure you have ways of checking our IP addresses as well! You MUST know we're not the same person.

I attempted to discuss what is allegedly the focus of this post and I was insulted left and right by you and your readers. I think you're a self-righteous jackass for mocking a shopkeep who asked you not to take pictures in his store. I wouldn't ever dream of even bringin a camera into a store because that's just plain rude. Of course, I wouldn't expect anything less from you because if it can help your alleged art, you have a God-given right to do whatever it is you please apparently. Also, a plastic Jesus in the middle of a pig and an apple IS NOT OFFENSIVE. It just isn't! I wouldn't be offended if it were a Star of David placed between the pig and the apple or if it were a statue of Buddha: it's just NOT OFFENSIVE. You never answered my question, however: if you're so damned offended by it, why did you take the picture in the first place and why did you upload it to your blog? Hypocrite..

Ann Althouse said...

"When did I ever give any indication to you that I'm a guy?" If you were a woman, you'd know what sorts of things trigger a woman's "guydar."

Ann Althouse said...

And you know very well how I know that you've posted under two different nicknames in the past. You once accidentally wrote in one persona under the other's nickname. You deleted it quickly, but I got the email. Whether you're doing it again or not is boring to me. I already know you're someone who'd do that.

Brendan said...

Time to up your meds, ploopusguy.

Brendan said...

"You once accidentally wrote in one persona under the other's nickname. You deleted it quickly, but I got the email."

LOL! So .. very .. lame.

bos0x said...

You haven't caught me posting with any other usernames but you think that I am ploopusgirl anyway? Is this because we tend to agree with each other or because she told me to kiss her ass (in real life, I'm always telling my various personas to kiss my ass.. well)? Anyway, I want to out Sloanasaurus, Brendan and Dirty Harry as being the exact same person, since they're all dirty conservative twats with the exact same obnoxious opinions and they all think that it is okay to use unsubtle toilet humor.

Finn Kristiansen said...

Wow (Lots of "stuff" going on).

Though I would be considered pretty religious, it all seems very thrift store to me; I doubt the shop clerk had malicious intent. For me, intent is a big factor. However, I think some other religious people might see more there than I do, so I can understand some being offended.

I think the photo itself is just the type of photo that should spark some interesting questions. Perhaps:

-Where does Jesus belong in the world? Does he belong among the broken things?

-Will some soul look into the window, and see the happy piggy bank, and see Jesus laying down his life, and suddenly have an ephiphany, perhaps, that Jesus saves? Can God speak in unusual ways?

-What is the bigger offense, mishandling an image of one's deity (as though mishandling the flag), or never talking to, praying to, or reading the theoretical known words of that deity, and following his ways? Or, in non-religious terms, is the image or the ideal more important?

-Where does privacy end and public consumption begin in a world filled with blogs and mini-cameras on cell phones?

-Can a non-Jew or non-Christian really know what offends a religious person?

One never knows just how Christ might speak to people (if he can speak at all). Just the other day, my niece who is coming across country to begin college, and who has been a slacker for the past year, suddenly shocked her mother and began studying. She had had a dream and actor Colin Farrell appeared and told her to study, and thus inspired, she began her preparations. My sister had been praying about this for some time, and was quite happy, and assumed it was God in there somewhere.

Anyway, we shouldn't all go to names, life is short. Everyone here is capable of making some interesting points I think.

Dean said...

Just tonight, I saw a sign in a store front forbidding all manner of photography. It was a body piercing/tattoo place so it was completely logical to me. I would probably avoid taking pictures of art galleries also.

I am not an easily offended person so I thought nothing of the crucifix placed there. Thrift stores, at least the ones I've been to, usually have more product than shelf space.

Jonathan said...

I think what grocery stores are mainly trying to prevent via "no photography" notices is people checking prices on behalf of competitors. A couple of times in stores I've seen people photographing goods on shelves, and by their body language it didn't look like they were doing it for fun.

Ann Althouse said...

Jonathan:: Maybe St. Vincent de Paul's thought I was a spy for Goodwill.

Jonathan said...

Or the manager used to work at a tatoo parlor?

ploopusgirl said...

Or he simply didn't want you loitering around his store taking pictures when he knew damn well you wouldn't be buying anything? I think that's the point here. And no, you shouldn't have the right to loiter in someone's store with no intention of shopping there. If nothing else, you're taking up space.

Ann Althouse said...

Yeah, stores hate browsers. I find, when I'm in a store, and the shopkeeper says "May I help you?" and I say "I'm just browsing" they usually say "Get the hell out of here!"

ploopusgirl said...

Standing there taking pictures and browsing are two entirely different things. If you weren't so wrapped up in yourself you might be able to recognize that.

Mary said...

Lmao @ "May I help you?" "No thanks, I'm just browsing" "Well, get the hell out of here!!" What a funny thread; I can imagine you responding this way to commenters who have nothing to add and are just looking on. (You would have to be that direct with me, for example, since I'm not always good with subtle hints. Still, I would not want to go where I wasn't wanted.) I'm glad you spelled out your thoughts behind the picture in the comments since I too thought it was kind of offensive to have the religious things mixed with other bric a brac. (Really, it wouldn't take much to have a separate shelf for those things, but maybe they don't get a lot of religious or patriotic type stuff here in Madison.) I was wondering, before I read the comments, if you posed the stuff that way, and if so, what it meant. I am personally wary of pig symbolism, ever since this one Florida newspaper I read always used to run green pig photos on St. Patrick's day. Apparently this was their idea of that holiday celebration, and after the third year of a photo of live pig dyed green and wearing a bowler, I was getting semi-offended. As for your (more serious) commenters who said the plastic crucifix in itself is cheap, or cheapens the religious sentiment behind it, I would say it's all in the eyes of the beholder, and the behavior of the owner, and maybe you're unconsciously discriminating via socioeconomics. If it's treated with respect, why is that item any less respectful than a gold or gold-plated crucifix of heavier materials? Those long votive candles with an saint icon are now sold in grocery stores rather inexpensively, next to the Goya food products, in neighborhoods with a Mexican immigrant population. Is that so wrong? Same with the little plastic saints that people, often immigrants, keep close. It might be a way of surviving in a new culture, but keeping some of the familiar cutural touchstones in their daily lives. If these things are treated respectfully by the owners, why look down on that? Finally, am I the only one who is thinking Cool Hand Luke with this post? (everybody now:) "I don't care if it rains or freezes, long as I got my plastic Jesus, setting on the dashboard of my car. Comes in colors, pink and pleasant, glows in the dark cause it's iridescent, take it with you when you travel far... Get yourself a sweet Madonna, dressed in rhinestone and setting on a, pedestal of abalone shell. Going 90 I ain't scaredy, cause I got the virgin Mary, assuring me that I won't go to hell." The scene in that movie, to me, Luke was definitely not being disrespectful in those lyrics. His mom had just died and that was all he had, or the only song he knew to play, at that moment to grieve her religiously. It seemed very sincere, even if it was more "low art." (I know, it was just a movie.) Still, I wish sometimes the more religious good people would not be so judgmental, but then I am guilty of judging others too, it's just things like misspelling and perhaps wrong conclusions that set me off. We all have quirks like that, I suppose, and hold different things sacred. Oh, and posting photos of children in public, without asking permission of the adult with them. Even if it's done in a positive light, that seems very wrong to me, even if they are in public and the faces are slightly obscured. I personally don't like the idea of being photographed unknowingly in public, even in a crowd scene, but that's more understandable since I'm in public and an adult; I would definitely turn away or object if I saw what was going on. Bloggers who photograph people without telling them and then post with offensive remarks probably don't realize their humor is more sad than funny and says more about them then their subject. Again, this hits on a socioeconomic thing, since many more people at the bottom end do more things in public places than the private places that more wealth and access allows. Sorry to get off topic, but I commend your stance. Also, my return key does not seem to be working, so sorry too for this one jumbo paragraph.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think that's really odd that a thrift store didn't want you taking pictures. The crucifix thing was a bit strange too, but probably just a gauche moment.

Poopus is in rare form. Yikes.

Steven Taylor said...

The comments section at my site never get this interesting...

At any rate (and I thought I posted this the other day): I was once told I could not take photos of wildflowers on the grounds (and the outer-grounds at that--beyond the main parking area) of a mall in Austin, TX. A mallcop scooted up in a golf cart and told me I had to get permission from management to take pictures of the blue bonnets and such.

Since I was basically done, I just left.

That seemed a bit odd, if you ask me.

Kezza said...

Those who objected to the plastic crucifix on the grounds that it's made from an inexpensive material are perhaps not aware that Catholics (and perhaps other Christians as well) are encouraged to have around them symbols of their faith, especially the crucifix. While most practicing Catholics would dearly love to glorify God with a crucifix of gold, few can afford it. Cheap plastic crucifixes (rosaries, holy water fonts, etc.) might not be as aesthetically pleasing, they serve their purpose.

Personally I wasn't offended by the store display. I agree that religious items should be treated with respect, but I also agree with Finn Kristiansen in that the intent should be considered. The other items on display with the crucifix aren't religious, but also aren't offensive. It looks more like a random display than an intentional juxtoposition.

On the other hand, I can also see how someone might be saddened to see the image of Our Lord lying abandoned in a thrift shop surrounded by mudane things.