It is unfortunately not unheard of for street photographers to face attacks in public. However, German photographer Robin Schimko was able to record such an incident and speak about the experience.
The assault, Schimko says, took place in Melbourne last year in what appears to be Birrarung Marr along the Yarra River.
In the video posted to his YouTube channel the_real_sir_robin, spotted by Digital Camera World, a man seems to approach the photographer from behind and asks to speak. When Schimko turns to face the man, he is told to “stand right there” before the man begins to assert that taking someone’s photo without permission is illegal. Schimko asserts that taking one’s photo while out in public, with or without permission, is legal.
“Maybe if you closely look at him, you notice that he’s not aggressive, he’s not upset or anything,” Schimko says in the video. “He’s rather nervous, and that was a little bit odd because usually if people get mad they are maybe aggressive or maybe just, ‘Ah, what the hell blah blah blah,’ But this was somewhat nervous. That was a little bit strange, so he started talking to me.”
The man proceeds to say that if you take someone’s photo without asking, then you owe the subject money. Schimko then realizes what is happening — the man is trying to get money from him. As the street photographer asserts his right to take photos on the street, the man then says he’s going to make a “citizen’s arrest.” Realizing that the encounter is likely no more than a scam, Schimko begins to walk away and seeks out a nearby security guard.
Before either man can reach the security person, however, the video shows Schimko brought to the ground.
“At this point, there are two options here. Option number one is to fight the guy, which I could. Because I’m filming everything, I think it should be very obvious that it’s self-defense. But if I swing the camera in his face and the police show up, I might be in trouble, and then he’s pressing charges on me. Option number two was let’s wait for the security guard because he was already looking at us. So I saw him walking over, and I was like, ok, he will be here in a few seconds.”
The man asks Schimko to give him his camera, saying he won’t wreck the equipment, but instead would just delete the photos from it. Unsurprisingly, Schimko is not willing to do so, saying in the video there’s “no way” he would hand over his camera. But the security guard arrives at this time.
The security guard also happened to have 30 years of experience in the police and knew Schimko’s photography was not illegal. Not only that, but if the man did not let go, the photographer could press charges, according to the unidentified security person.
“The security guard was an absolute legend,” says Schimko. “The way he’s handling the situation, he’s so calmed and collected. It’s pretty impressive. And you can easily tell he has loads of experience with guys like this dude here.”
While the video serves as a lesson on the negative possibilities of street photography and how to possibly handle such occurrences, Schimko noted that interactions such as these are the exception and should not deter people from getting into street photography.
“Situations like this can happen. I think in this case it was the best possible outcome. However, if these situations happen, it’s so rare. I’ve taken so many photos, and it’s super, super rare, so don’t let this discourage you from taking photos out in the streets. There are more people thanking me for taking a photo of them than getting upset.”
Image credits: Depositphotos