I was so happy with my library shot last weekend that I took my camera on a return visit on Tuesday. The four-story atrium is always stunning. With a wide, exposed stairway climbing the north wall, the landings afford views that can be breathtaking in beautiful light. From the second floor landing I spotted movement that looked promising, dark shapes arranging themselves against the lighted floor: I readied my camera, framing my shot, waiting for the visual forces to align. Down below, a female voice was yelling stuff: “No photos allowed!”, “You can’t photograph people’s faces!”, and “YOU NEED A PERMIT!” I remembered passing two security guards on the way in. I quickly took one premature shot, tucked the camera away, and with a friendly wave headed in to the 2nd floor. A loud male voice trailed me from below, “YOU HAVE TO DELETE THAT!”
I found my section and picked out the book I’d come for. I wondered if I’d have to dodge those guardians on the way out. Looking up just then, I saw the pair of them walking toward me. They had abandoned their posts and tracked me down, so important was it that justice should prevail! “You have to delete that picture”, the man said again, referring to a photo that neither of us had seen yet. “You can’t come into the library and start snapping away”, the woman added, “you can photograph the building but you can’t show people’s faces.” They waited expectantly, standing between me and the exit. Cornered! The two staring librarians at the service desk didn’t know what the hell was going on; nevertheless they frowned their disapproval at me. Mortified!
Wanting to be reasonable I brought my camera out and pulled up the photo on the back screen: four dark, blurred figures caught in motion, a tall black sculpted figure ignoring them, no recognizable library patrons in sight. Turning the camera so they both could see, I started to point out the anonymity of the faces. “No pictures of people!” the woman interrupted curtly, changing her story while cutting me short. “Delete the picture,” the man ordered. I looked at my photo again. Taken half a second later the arrangement of shapes would have been more balanced; even so, I liked what I’d gotten well enough.
I tucked my camera away, faced the two of them squarely, and said simply “I’m keeping it.”
What would they do? Did they have some oddball authority to hold me there and call the cops? Their over-reaction, and the lengths they were going to, suggested they were security newbies. Did they have guns? I hadn’t thought to notice.
The male guard broke the tension: “You have to leave the library now.”
Anti-climax: he was booting me! From the LIBRARY!! Maybe that’s all he was allowed to do. Without a word I passed between them and headed toward the stairs, the male guard following. On the way out he felt justified in confiding his deeper feelings about my insolence.
His parting shot: “I think what you were doing is creepy.”