Bin Laden is dead. People went into the street and screamed. They chanted, "USA!" But the euphoria was short-lived. By the next day the world was shutting itself in again, preparing for retaliation, preparing for the worst. The men in flack jackets are back. An eye for an eye. Does this cycle ever end? It just seems to go on and on.
In the past ten years, since the towers have fallen, everything has changed. I can remember when carrying a camera was about being an enthusiast. People used to call me a shutterbug. It was a dorky label that I didn't care for but it was, at least, benign. Carrying a camera now sometimes feels like carrying a weapon. People wonder about your motives. People used to think that you were photographing a landmark because you loved it. Now they figure you are simply gathering data so that you might blow it up. Things seemed to be calming down but—here we go again. Bid Laden might be dead but terror is alive.
Just try bringing a camera with tripod into the public lobby of a building. Count the seconds until security confronts you. You'll be asked if you've received permission to photograph and then you will be escorted out of the building and onto the street. But, don't try to photograph the building from there either. Move along. Just move along.
It's not that cameras have ever really been innocent devices. Photography has always had a murky and dubious role in espionage, voyeurism, pornography, and war. There is a dark side to every form of technology. But now most everyone has a camera with them mostly all the time. And people are getting wary of just about everything. You just don't point things at people these days, whether it be a camera or your finger. Just move along.
I've always been a shy photographer and this is making it worse for me. These days I increasingly find myself with my camera in a place of desolation and away from people. Desolation is still the one place where I can still be a photographer and an artist. I can still concentrate on my work and disappear into a creative trance. I can still enjoy myself. I can still be a shutterbug and I can still be a harmless dork.