“Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having. What Speakers’ Corner (where the law applies as fully as anywhere else) demonstrates is the tolerance which is both extended by the law to opinion of every kind and expected by the law in the conduct of those who disagree, even strongly, with what they hear.”
Lord Justice Sedley, Redmond-Bate v Director of Public Prosecutions (1999).
Speakers’ Corner, Hyde Park, 15 September, 2013.
“To photograph people is to violate them,” wrote Susan Sontag, “by seeing them as they never see themselves, by having knowledge of them that they can never have; it turns people into objects that can be symbolically possessed.” Recently, I’ve begun some crude efforts at street photography. It is something I had been interested in before, but could never bring up the courage to try. However, I find there’s something inescapably creepy about it; you find yourself lingering and following, all for a surreptitious (or rather a clumsy attempt at surreptitious) shot.
Erroneous knowledge; it makes fools of us all. I spent the weekend just outside of LA at Manhattan Beach. Up until now I knew one fact (later downgraded to factoid) about Manhattan Beach and that was that Thomas Pynchon, the camera-shy author, lived there.
I was excited at the prospect that I might capture the first public photograph of Pynchon in over fifty years. As a lepidopterist sets out with a net and killing jar, I had my mobile phone and Canon EOS 60D. On the pier I stalked each elderly gent I could find before surreptitiously shooting them. Did their picture appear to match with the few known pictures of Pynchon as a high school student and as a young sailor. Had he, in the intervening years, had his teeth fixed? Should I be looking for someone fat or thin. Of course, I just ended up indiscriminate in my choices. No old man was safe from me. . .
. . . and then I remembered Pynchon hasn’t lived in Manhattan Beach in over thirty years.
All was not wasted, however, as I now have a lovely collection of portraits of old Southern California men.