I knew this day would come sooner or later. I didn't think it would be today. I guess that's what everyone says... "I didn't see it coming!" "I didn't think it would happen to me!" As a photographer, you are prepared for this eventuality. This eventuality for me was a Prada security guard stopping me from taking pictures of their product display from the sidewalk. Hopefully, by the end of this blog, you are able to agree that Prada's logic is as sound as bringing sand to the beach.
My walk around town today was an exciting one because it was SUNNY! You may not think it was a big deal, but when the rain had drenched your city every single day for the last 2 months, the sun felt like winning the Stanley Cup Finals. Wait, I take it back. I wouldn't know what it feels like winning the Stanley Cup being a Canucks fan. I visited a few locations before walking by the Prada store in Downtown Vancouver. The glass display facing the sidewalk had some shiny balls in it, and I was all about shiny balls in the last few days. You think I am joking! Please see the photos in this post as proof of my shiny ball obsession. Back to the Prada display, the security guard was standing next to the display with only the left half of his body showing. It was as if the edge of the display had perfectly sliced him in half. Combining my shiny balls obsession with this sliced, half-a-man, I was giddy with anticipation of the shot. I raised my camera and adjusted the focus and exposure. Within this time frame, the security guard must had sensed my palpable excitement, he tured around and looked right into my lens' hole. The look on his face was filled with such horror, I wondered if someone was killed right behind me. It was then I realized that I had violated the most sacred rule of photography... "You are not allowed to take pictures of anything in public". I saw him double time out of the door to intercept me. I was still pitying the missed opportunity, and I was sure that the single shot I took wouldn't turn out. Trying to quickly snap a shot, I was quite a hulk and smashed hard on the shutter hoping to catch the security guard before he became whole again. I didn't run away after; instead, I waited at the spot where the violation occurred for the security guard and his impending judgement.
"You are not allowed to take pictures!" said the security guard. I said "Why not? I can take pictures of you if I want because I am in public". The security guard again told me that I am not allowed to take any pictures because Prada does not allow it. I simply told him to call the police and I will stay and wait for the cops to get here. *Crickets* and a stunned look on his face. He did not reach for his cellphone to call the police. He just stood there. I went on to tell him that he shouldn't ask people to do things when he knew he had no authority to do so. "I didn't tell you what to do!" said the security guard. His statement took me by surprise because I didn't think he would have such a bad short-term memory. I told him to leave me alone and stop doing things when he knew it was wrong. I saw him walk inside to talk to a couple of the staffs inside. They didn't come out to talk to me, nor did they contact the police. I stayed long enough to silently mouthed "COME ON!!" to the employees inside to protest my displeasure before walking away.
I must have sounded super annoyed and I am not proud of that; however, I do not understand Prada's logic of not allowing people to take pictures of the display. First, I was not in their store and I was standing on the sidewalk. They really had no legal authority to stop me but that didn't prevent them from trying. Once they knew they couldn't convince me that I had committed a Prada offence, they did nothing further. I even offered them to contact the police. Why go through the trouble when they knew they couldn't enforce their own illegal rules? I wonder how the security guard would react if I told him that he was not allowed to make eye contact with me on the sidewalk and he had to address me as Mr. Batman. It was hard not to think that they were only enforcing their rule because they could bully most people who are unaware of the laws.
Next up in the Prada world of counter-logic is the hours between closing time and opening time for their store. I had in fact walked by the store after hours, and their store display was not taped shut at night, and nor did they have a "no pictures allowed" sign hanging out front when all the employees went home. If I really wish to do so, I could simply come back later on to take all the pictures I want. Maybe they didn't really mean no pictures allowed. Perhaps, they only meant no pictures allowed in public during regular business hours. Either way, it's an illegal and a confusing mess! Between Gucci and Prada, I am Gucci all the way! I had taken many pictures of the Gucci display without a single employee or security guard trying to make up some ridiculous Gucci rules on me.
The logic and the basis of Prada's rule escapes me, but that did not stop the company from implementing and enforcing the rule. This ultimately places the security guard in a terrible position. The security guard, who was undoubtedly underpaid and under-appreciated, by enforcing the rule, is taking on a part of the liability of the potential fallout. My cynical self highly doubt that Prada would stand behind the security guard when something goes wrong. For all the extra scrutiny that law enforcement officers are placed under for enforcing the REAL law and simply doing their jobs, it seems unbelievable that a private company is attempting to enforce an illegal rule without any accountability. A rule that is likely to put the security guard and the photographer in contempt of one another when such contempt should be directed solely at Prada.
Film used in this blog post:
- B&W Ilford HP5 Plus 400 pushed to 3200 developed in Ilford DD-X
- Kodak Portra 400 pushed to 1600 developed in C-41