Falafel Guy on 86th

I have to admit, that sometimes I do get sick and tired of photographing in New York.  Tonight, for example, I’m walking around just looking at things that might be interesting in terms of light and shadow and I stoop to take a shot of a silvery falafel stand.  It’s true, I’m aware at the time that I’m taking my time about it, and very obvious but there’s nobody in the shot and I’m in that what the hell mood.  But as I snap the shot (which is overexposed) a young guy runs into it with his hands in front of him to block me.

You can’t take pictures of the stand, I hear a voice say.  It’s private property.  It’s not allowed.

Oh, actually it is allowed.

No, it’s not allowed.

You don’t want me to photograph your stand?  I just thought it looked very nice.

What for you want to photograph it?

My friend (we’re really all friends, aren’t we) I’m like a painter.  I’m just looking for interesting things and your stand, it has a very nice glow at night.

It’s not my stand.

It’s not yours?  Who’s is it?

It’s my uncles stand.  I’ll ask him.

So he walks back to a stout stained figure that appears suddenly in the darkness.  I show him the image on the back of the camera.

No.  You are not allowed to take pictures here! Erase that or I will call the police on you.

Blah blah blah.  More back and forth, with me trying to figure out what he’s so touchy about.

The fruit guy who has a stand next to him stops by, and people begin to gather around to see what the commotion is all about.

I look at the picture on the LCD and it really doesn’t do much for me – so I show him as I delete it.

Now the owner loosens up a bit.  He says,  I’ve had a lot of trouble with people taking pictures of this stand.

Trouble, I ask.  What kind of trouble.

And he goes into a long story which I can’t entirely follow but I think a photographer from the Daily News was doing a piece on dirty stands and published a picture of  his stand in the newspaper and that he got tickets because of that.  He kept repeating $400 over and over.

I pretend to be sympathetic with his plight.

Ah… yes.  Now I see.

The fruit guy chimes in: do you want to take pictures of my stand!  It’s very clean.  Everything spic and span.  No tickets.

No, I have a lot of shots of fruit stands – but thank you anyway.

He strolls back to his fruitstand – disappointed.

The crowd disperses.

I suppose that nature photographers have their own problems with snakes and such – and it might have been worse if my first shot had been any good because I have refused to delete images before.  But I’m in no mood for it with these guys, and we all shake hands, and as I’m walking away the owner says: bring me some of your pictures next time so I can see your work!

I don’t turn around but continue my wanderings with a sour taste in my mouth.  His stand did look pretty dirty.  His loss.  There is of course a misconception amongst the general populace that you can’t photograph anything that belongs to them without written permission.  That just ain’t true and besides, it ain’t the point.  The point is that you roam around searching for mystery, beauty, a touch of a visual hymm, and you wind up arguing with a greasy falafel guy.


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My name is Dave Beckerman. I am a fine art photographer working in New York City.

5 thoughts on “Falafel Guy on 86th”

  1. Yes, the same thing happened to me in San Francisco, photographing a building facade on Green St. This fellow came running up and said, yes, “You can’t take a photo of this building. It’s private property!”

    Same words!

    Of course, I’ve been chased out of Whole Foods and Starbucks for trying to take photos inside . . .

  2. I’ve been pretty lucky in Starbucks. I take pictures there all the time since the guys / gals know me and are used to me already. They also give me free shots of espresso sometimes. Someone want to explain what falafel is. I guess it’s ground up chick peas that are deep fried and put in a pita bread?

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