The Wait for the Novice Photographer


Photograph/Gabriel Fuchs

This story was originally published in October 2011.

What can be more “interesting” than a professional photographer? An amateur photographer? Nope. But a novice photographer can be. Some time ago I went to London, a big city according to European standards. This means it is a little bigger than a Mumbai suburb, but roughly with the same efficiency when it comes to driving. The traffic is actually so bad in London that on average, a car cannot move faster in central London than a horse carriage did some 100 years ago. If one wants to be positive here, one can claim that this is just a charming example of the English sticking to their traditions, no matter what the real world looks like.

London is also a place full of tourists, most of them carrying cameras. For some reason, many of these manifestly novice photographers wait for what seems to be an eternity before actually clicking and taking the shot of their friends or family or some monument. They just stand there looking at the screen on the back of their point-and-shoot camera waiting for who-knows-what.

Being polite—after all, London is a place where Londoners may excuse themselves in the Underground when remarking that you are standing on their feet—I waited passing in front of the camera until the tourist had been able to photograph the family or friends in front of some landmark. But there are limits to this politeness… How long shall one have to wait? After all, the people being shot are also waiting. And that monument behind is not moving at all. So why this waiting?

Then there are the tourists who wave you off with big gestures while shouting at you in some inexplicable language. They want a clear view and they do not hesitate to be rude in order to get that view. Everyone has to move away as fast as possible. Just so that the shouting novice can then wait looking at the screen for ages before actually taking the photo.

On top of this, there are the novices wanting to look like a pro. These “pros” are usually the father of the family telling the rest of them to move a step forward, backward, or to the side. What is certain is that the only person not moving an inch is the father holding the camera. Why he cannot move instead of the rest of the family I do not know. After all, he is the only one who knows what he wants – or at least pretends to do. And once the family is where it should be, the photographer waits a little. That waiting in front of the screen seems important for these novices.

What are they waiting for? Are they waiting for better times? That the spouse will turn into someone better looking? That the whole place will turn into Rome with its better food and weather than London offers? That all that English beer that has been had will let go of its after-effects?

These were questions I asked myself while politely waiting for the photo to be taken before I moved on, getting between the photographer and his/her family or friends. And then I could move on for a total of a few meters before I politely waited for someone else to take his or her photo of some friends/family. And I waited. By this time I also begun to understand one reason for the slow traffic in London; tourists with cameras in combination with polite bystanders…

Come afternoon and I had lost patience and I was therefore less inclined to be polite. The result was that whoever needed more than five seconds to move the index finger 0.5 millimetres when pushing the camera button was likely to get me on the photo as I had by then moved on into the frame. God knows how many tourist photos I am on by now, standing in front of someone’s friends or family. With my behaviour, I got to be more photographed in an afternoon than the London Bridge. Not even Angelina Jolie gets that photographed in an afternoon.

And if Angelina Jolie would be in front of the lens, I might actually wait a bit myself to take the photo and thus savour the moment. Maybe I am beginning to understand why so many of these tourists take their time; they are savouring the moment. Or they are all pretending to be photographing Angelina Jolie.

Tags: march 2011, Gabriel Fuchs, waiting, novice, tourists, angelina jolie, column, opinion