Hi Folks — Two letters I got, two days apart:
Dear Free-Range Kids: I have always wanted to have something to share about my experience as a Free-Range Kid parent, but today I don’t get to do that. My story is of how the 9 or 10-year-old girl from down the street came over and said she can only play if my wife is at home. I said “Oh, really?” and marched her home and confronted her mom and sure enough, it’s not acceptable for me to be the only parent in the house when she over. “It’s to protect both her and you” she says. I guess we live in a world where all men are perps. – T.F.
And here’s Letter #2, from Nicholas Martin, executive director of the Consumer Health Education Council, who was at the beach with his 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends.
Dear Free- Range Kids: I took my 9-year-old daughter and two of her friends to swim today at Brookville Lake, an Indiana state park. I was shooting them from the beach with a telephoto lens when I was approached by two park guides who asked if I was photographing my own kids or other people’s. I responded that I had the legal and constitutional right to photograph anyone. I asked if there was a complaint and a female guide responded that one beachgoer had motioned them over to question my picture taking.
The guide said that she was just ensuring the safety of the children. I said that it was ridiculous to think that a man shooting with a large camera and lens on an open beach was a potential threat to kids, and pointed out that probably hundreds of people on the beach had cell phone cameras that could take pictures without being noticed. The guides were unfailingly cordial and respectful and we bid each other a friendly goodbye.
Minutes later the ladies next to our beach tent pointed out the woman nearby who had made the complaint to the guides. She was with three other women, all apparently in their thirties and with no accompanying kids. Seconds later one of the four women lifted her cell phone and began taking pictures of one of her friends standing in from of the water. Or she could have been taking pictures of the children behind her for all I know. I approached the woman who had complained and asked if we should notify the guides about her friend’s picture taking. She responded by asking me if I would want a stranger taking pictures of my child at the beach. I said it would be fine with me since it presented no threat.
Later my kids heard some people in the water complaining about my picture taking. One of them said, “He better put that camera away.” It is not far-fetched to imagine a mob of people driven by a sufficient frenzy to inflict “justice” on a photographer at that beach. What if I hadn’t had any kids with me and was just shooting some beach scenes, with kids, adults, and lapping waves? The American mania regarding sexual predation is not to be toyed with. [NOTE FROM LENORE: Sure isn't. A man on the sex offender list for having sex with his younger girlfriend as a teen was murdered by a vigilante last week.]
Though they never should have approached me, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources guides deserve credit for acknowledging my rights and being pleasant in their questioning. In my view, this is another case of “guilty of being male.” Perhaps area photographers should show up at the beach for a Photo Freedom Day to publicize and defend the right to do photography. – N.M.
Lenore here: I like the idea of organizing a Photo Freedom Day. I like the idea of organizing any kind of “Return to Normalcy Day” (like my “Take Our Kids to the Park…And Leave Them There Day”) and alerting the press.
What kind of creep took this photo? I see KIDS in it!