She weighed less than 100 pounds, but that didn’t stop her from aggressively grabbing my lens when I tried to photograph her.
And the only reason I even tried to photograph her was because she had threatened to call the cops on me after I refused to hand over my driver license.
At the time, I had figured I might as well capture this surreal moment as nobody would believe me if I did not have photographic evidence.
It all started last Wednesday when I was working on an article for Miami Beach 411 about the strip of computer stores just north of Miami International Airport.
I had walked into several stores, interviewing various store clerks and customers about how one can find better deals on computer parts and other electronic equipment at these locations that are tucked away in a warehouse district off of Milan Dairy Road.
There was one store that was busier than the rest. I won’t even mention the name of the store because the woman’s husband has already apologized for her aggressive behavior during a phone conversation on Friday (thanks to the Californian diplomacy of Miami Beach 411 editor, Gus Moore, who smoothed the situation out after I informed him of what happened ).
I stopped into the store twice but both times they were swamped with customers and I really did not want to interrupt business for a few basic questions. I had just started working on the article, so I figured I would get back to them later.
I stepped back outside and snapped a few shots, trying to capture the outside as well as the bustling business inside. This is a tricky shot because you need to properly expose the inside as well as the outside. It’s easy to overexpose the outside as it is to underexpose the inside of the store.
When I started walking back to my car, a young Asian woman called after me. I was a little surprised because I had just seen her inside the store and she appeared to have had her hands full dealing with various customers.
She asked the usual question, “why are you taking photos of my business”.
And I responded in a professional, even cheerful, manner by informing her of my article.
“The reason I didn’t say anything was because you were so busy,” I said. “I was going to call you later”.
I gave her my business card, which states my name and company and describes me as a “writer, reporter and photojournalist”.
At this point, a young Asian man had stepped outside and stood behind her. I repeated my story to him in the hopes he would understand the situation. He nodded, but didn’t seem to have authority over the woman.
The woman scanned my business card and informed me that I had no legal right to photograph her business, even if I was standing outside.
Then she demanded to see my driver license.
That is when my cheerfulness began to subside.
I flatly refused to give her my license and I informed her that I had every right to photograph her business.
“In fact, I have every legal right to photograph you,” I said as I reached up with my camera to snap a photo of her (this just infuriates the hell out of people). Update: I did not take her photo with the intent to piss her off. I took her photo knowing it was going to piss her off. I took her photo for the purpose of documenting the altercation for this blog.
I managed to get one shot off before she had her hands wrapped around my Canon 24-7-L f/2.8, a $1,200 lens attached to a $3,000 Canon 5D body.
I pulled the camera out of her hand and raised my left finger, telling her in a very serious tone, “don’t ever do that again.”
Even the Asian guy behind her told her to back off.
She responded by telling him to “call 911″ for the umpteenth time, but he didn’t seem to eager to call the cops.
I informed her I was leaving and started walking to my car, which prompted her to proclaim that I was not allowed to leave the area because the cops were on their way.
Perhaps she was under the impression that the Asian guy had already called 911. Either way, I was not going to stand around waiting for the cops to arrive.
In a normal world, I might have done just that, just to gain the satisfaction of watching the cops inform the store owner that I had every legal right to photograph her business from the outside.
But this is South Florida, where police are just as clueless about photographers’ rights as this store owner.
So as I walked to my car with her yapping at my heels, yelling at me that I was not allowed to leave. I told her to write my license plate number down to give to the cops when they arrive.
This being Miami-Dade Police jurisdiction, that could have been another two hours.
Even after I photographed her as she wrote my license plate number down, we continued to debate about the legalities of photographing her business from the outside.
Finally, she walked away, but not before flicking me off.