Zip zip, flap flap, snap snap, and there's a bug in my shutter

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Indy Lifestyle Online
IF YOU ask me, people with cameras should be required to get them licensed, like guns. I'm sitting in Hyde Park on a gorgeous summer's day, the kind they put in tourist brochures, alongside the clotted cream, the roses, and Royals getting divorces, stuff like that, when what happens? A man attacks me.

Practically leaning on my shoulder, he points his camera at some obscure piece of park that is apparently accessible only over my right shoulder and necessitating his elbow in my lap. He snatches my space, steals my day dreams, breathes heavily in my ear and, ignoring me altogether, mutters to himself in some incomprehensible foreign language, possibly Lapp. It's at times like these I get why people are terrified of the Channel tunnel.

I hate cameras. I hate people who take pictures. I hate the pictures, the nasty shiny snaps of people you've never met and places you wouldn't be caught dead in. And why do they, these snappers of summer, always take so many pictures of the same place?

It was bad enough when you had to fork out a bundle for a camera - at least it kept a few would-be snappers off the streets. What happens? They come up with disposable cameras: Kodak alone has the Weekend camera, the Waterproof camera, the Fun camera, the Panoramic camera, all complete with film, ready to throw away.

Normally, I am fantastically tolerant; I can live with rap music, car alarms and the hole in the ozone layer. But not snapshots.

I'm not talking about photography; I love photography; I prefer it to any

of the other visual arts. Maybe that's why these amateurs put a bug in my shutter.

According to the anthropologists, it is felt by many tribes in places from Pennsylvania to Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley, that the taking of pictures is immodest, frightening or crass. To have your photograph taken is to have your soul stolen. Its lingo is violent - taking pictures, shooting film. The Mursi of the Lower Omo feel if they're giving something away, they want something back. The snappers do not respond well to any of this; they think the world belongs to them. But I know how the denizens of the Lower Omo feel: if some guy is coming into my space, I want his money.

The newest blot on the landscape is the video camera. Now everyone's a director. It was bad enough when you had to go to someone's house to look at their dreary snaps. Now you have to go to their movies.

I was on a boat on the Thames the other day. As we cruised hundreds of years of history, a man spent the entire time fiddling a switch on his video- camera; he never once looked up.

On an ascending scale of hatefulness, least loathsome is the occasional tourist, the fatty in the shell-suit whose worst work is done at Buckingham Palace, where she shoots the top of the railings instead of the guards in the big fur hats.

The fancier the equipment, the worse the offender. All those lenses. All those hunks of metal. All those sights and straps. At the top of the list is the semi-pro, the guy who maybe sold a few pictures to a provincial newspaper and thinks he's Cartier Bresson or Don McCullin. You want to shout: 'Hey, guy, Hyde Park is not a war zone.'

Of course, the semi-pro always shoots the wrong thing. Apparently those fantastically boring photography magazines - the ones guys really buy for the girly pics - don't tell you it's what you see and how you look at it that counts, not the technique or the machinery.

Find yourself in Red Square, Moscow, say, trying to drink in its marvels. The semi-pro is already there, blocking the view, busily photographing St Basil's from one more angle, failing to notice that a pair of identical midgets in polka dot pyjamas is eating sardine sandwiches outside Lenin's Tomb.

Watch the semi-pro now as slowly he saunters about, fiddling with the camera, inspecting its parts, blowing imaginary dust off each lens and each piece of the camera, then inserting each of the pieces into the appropriate flap in an unbelievably huge canvas bag with a dozen different zips and flaps and straps. He will insert the camera into the bag, then remove yet another camera, as if his dedication to his art is determined by the number of flaps on his camera bag. And by the time he's finished flapping and zipping, unpacking and snapping, the light will have gone and the view changed, and what I always think is: why doesn't he just buy a postcard?

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