Can’t We All Just Get Along?!

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Ran into an interesting situation recently.  There’s a place nearby where I go sometimes to take in a view.  It’s really the only place in town that has elevation, and so it’s been a place where I’ve taken several photos, like this one.  

On this particular day I arrived to find the VW bus pictured above pulling around in the dirt under the precise direction of who I instinctively assumed was a photographer.  Takes one to know one, right?  Sure enough, after finding the right spot, the guy giving directions went back to his car and started getting his camera together.  Meanwhile, the driver/owner of the bus got out and waited patiently.

Since I knew what was about to happen, I walked over and started chatting with the owner.  I was wearing a Rogue brewing t-shirt and he picked up on it right away asking me if I was from Oregon.  Told him I was visiting and it turned out he’s a snowbird from a small town near Mt. Hood.  As you expect of any VW bus owner, he was a pretty laid back guy.  I asked him what the photo shoot was for, and if he minded if I took a few of my own photos.  He didn’t.

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

So I went back to my car and got my camera.  Meanwhile, the other photographer had brought out his, and a step ladder for a vantage point.  And as soon as he saw me start taking pictures, he went off.  Lots of “stay outta my way”, “these are copyrighted images”,  “you better not put these on the internet”, “I’m working with light here”, “I make my living doing this”, and all said in the most asshole-ish manner possible.  I informed him that I, too, am a photographer who makes my living doing the same thing, and that I really appreciated him asking so nicely, of course with as much sarcasm as I could muster while handing him my business card.  I told him I’d stay out of his way but he was in a public place and had no right to tell me what to do with my own photos.

I started taking a few more at a distance when he started yelling “You’re in my REFLECTION!  You gotta move!!  You’re in my reflection!!!”  The guy was being a real dick.  At that point I stopped for awhile so I could observe the master at work.

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

He had the nerve to ask me to move his step ladder for him at one point since I was standing near it.  Being the sometimes all-too-nice guy I am, I did.  And at another point he walked over and tried to smooth it out with me, saying he wasn’t trying to be a “badass”, but that he’s had to deal with people shooting over his shoulder before, and that his publisher would be pissed if the images appeared on the internet before his.  I told him I understood, but that there’s not  much you can do when you’re shooting in a public space.  (And by the way, his interpretation of copyright was totally wrong, i.e.,  he owned the images in his camera, but not mine.)  So yeah, he was the “Director of Photography” for some 10-page monthly rag for the NW valley.


He took a call at some point and I chatted with the owner of the bus some more, apologizing to him for causing the trouble.  He said he didn’t think it would be a big deal, and I told him how we photographers can get uptight sometimes,  and that I understood to a point, but it’s the approach you take with problem-solving that defines you.  This knucklehead failed the test embarrassingly.

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz



Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

I guess the point of my telling the story is to provide an example of how people automatically jump to conclusions about the intent of photographers.  We see stories of police infringing on photographers’ civil rights all the time.  But even other photographers aren’t immune from knee-jerk reactions.  I just wanted a few photos of a cool bus, especially to show my buddy who has 4 or 5 of his own.  The guy could’ve talked to me respectfully.  He could’ve nicely asked me to move.  And maybe I should’ve asked him, too, if he didn’t mind me taking a few photos, though I’m betting he would’ve denied me had I done so.  You know, because they were “his copyrighted images”.  But I didn’t and he overreacted to the whole situation.

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Copyright 2014 Marc Allen Mintz

Moral of the story:  Don’t be a douche.  Especially when photographing a classic surfer-themed VW bus!


9 responses to “Can’t We All Just Get Along?!

  1. Funny story bro… love the pics…. especially those of the awkward angles the photographer waS trying to capture… Way to take tbe high road..

  2. Putting aside the rudeness of the photographer, I believe his main issue was someone sniping the images he was taking for a paid gig, and those images hitting the internet before he could close his deal with his client. Now, this isn’t all that different than a photographer sniping at a wedding he wasn’t invited to in a public place. Sure, it’s not illegal, it is a public place after all. But is it ethical to snipe images from a wedding you weren’t hired to shoot for? As a photographer, I wouldn’t do it.

    • Ted, thanks for the comment. Yeah, I understood his concern clearly. However, his poor attitude and approach to expressing those concerns were the whole point of the story. Not sure I agree about it being an issue of ethics, either, as I expressed my only intention was to show a couple snaps to a friend who collects and restores VW buses. (For the record, I published this blog post AFTER the magazine had ran his story, and only published it at all to tell my own story of dealing with a fellow photographer acting like a jerk.)

  3. Douche bag is all i can say, yeah the other guy was there to take shots but it sounds like you wanted a few shots of the van and the landscape completely different to what he wanted. The thing is these guys exist everywhere.

  4. That is one of my favorite lines that I have heard myself many times over “I make my living doing this,” usually followed by a move out of the way. When shooting events or larger shoots in public spaces it’s very common for people to walk up and ask whats going on and then pull a cell phone out and snap some photos. The correct way to go about it is to realize (A.) maybe some of those photos will give me publicity via a name drop or mention and (B.) My work should stand up on its own. This article could have gone the opposite way for the photographer and you could have said “so and so was shooting a VW bus for such and such and given him some credit and all it would have taken was human kindness. I also got a chuckle out of the whole “I’m working with light here”

  5. Hi Marc, love the post and yep… Seen many of those shooters in the 30+ years I’ve been photographing professionally. I might just say here though (in a professionally polite way) I’ve also been on the receiving end of many an angle thief. But my belief is
    1. I got the gig and the client is paying me anyhow so I’ll move on to my next project after this one and
    2. If the photographer is pinching my angle by shooting over my shoulder like an annoying gnat, it just shows the lack of creative thinking on his/her part and thus puts more pressure on them next time to perform.
    And sometimes (as in your case) the visiting photographer is just being nice and enjoying the opportunity to be with a fellow photographer on a shoot. Am I right?
    Although I must admit as a professional photographer myself, I much prefer to watch a photographer at work and leave him/her to do their job without pressure.

    • Thanks so much for your comment and insight. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve thought about it a lot since Brian Matiash’s post published and I would definitely approach it differently if it happened again. (And if he had been shooting anything else besides a cool car that a friend of mine happened to be into, I wouldn’t have even thought about getting my camera.)

      I guess what drove me to write the post was how the guy didn’t give me the benefit of the doubt and treated me like a hack from the get go, which led me to take more photos than I originally planned just in spite of him. I don’t know, maybe I acted like a hack in the first place by not checking in with him, but he really got under my skin! The crazy thing is I ended up offering to give him some BTS photos if he wanted them, but he didn’t take me up on it. 🙂

  6. Hi Marc.

    Interesting – yet pretty strange story. I totally agree with you about mutual respect that should be a standard not only among photographers, but among people in general. In many blog posts and articles I read there is a general consent that photographers are supposed to be “people persons”, used to interact properly. This wasn’t the case obviously here. I wonder how this photography handles difficult clients or insecure models…

    Best regards

    • Thanks for the comment Matt. I actually edited out a description of how he worked with the owner of the VW and the “model” that showed up for a few shots. It was a little awkward to say the least, but my going on about it was probably a bit too much. All I’ll say is our working styles are VERY different. 😉

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