Dear “Mr. Guardian,” It was “nice” to meet you, today.
November 29, 2016
We met under unique and ultimately uncomfortable circumstances. I was enjoying my ride uptown on the number one train when I noticed a strange muteness coming from a significant section of the compartment. Across from me was a highly unusual but exhilarating sight: There sat 12 to 15 young people, presumably high schoolers, all intensely engaged with books! And these books weren’t electronic books, nor remarkably were they cell phones. The kids were reading books! Comics, pamphlets, novels. Boys and girls alike, instead of being consumed with the usual adolescent twittering and chatter, were quietly consuming words and literature, on paper no less.
I found this sight so uncanny and extraordinary that I thought to capture the moment on my phone camera, possibly as a small notation of something positive in New York City. I carefully took three shots: one to my left one in front of me and one to the right. Not long after, you, Mr. Guardian, a handsome, red-haired and bearded gentleman, asked if I was taking pictures. Your accusatory tone would make the average person lie defensively about their actions. For better or worse, I still attempt to maintain a high level of integrity and truth in my daily dealings, so I answered in the affirmative. Yes, I was taking pictures of the young people across from me. I did, however, assure you that the pictures were for my personal use.
Unfortunately, this was not a satisfactory answer, and it wasn’t long before I gathered that you were some sort of guide or guardian for these young people. Fair enough. But I chafed at the suggestion that I delete the pictures.
We are living in an increasingly mediated world. Cameras, microphones, and video recorders are ubiquitous in our modern age. Especially in a crowded and busy city like New York. In your insistence, you noted that taking pictures of minors was illegal. Any person with common sense would know that that could not possibly be true, unless, of course, the young people were disrobed, which they were not.
I noted to you that as a student at Columbia University, I am very sensitive to issues of privacy, as it pertains to pictures and photography. If you are reading this blog, I encourage you to note the manner in which I blur out the faces of all of my faculty and student colleagues at the University. If faces are blurred out, it proves difficult to ascertain the identity of the subjects, and I feel that this tactic is perfectly appropriate to protect the identity of others.
I particularly dislike confrontation, but given the many years of uncomfortable situations in which I have found myself, I can most certainly stand my ground. I often think of myself as likened to a peach. I am sweet and fuzzy on the outside but if one insists on biting all the way through they will reach and potentially break their teeth on my hard brown core.
As is often the case in life, I went more out of my way to be ethical with you, than you were to me, in return. What gave you the authority to demand that I delete pictures on my personal phone? Still, I searched through my bag and found my new business card which features my contact information. I stood up from my seat, and handed it to you, to assure you that if I had done anything that was untoward, you could pursue it by reaching out to me. I also asked you, Mr. Guardian, if you would supply your contact information to me, which you refused to do. If you were serious about my supposed unlawfulness, you would allow me to reach out to you as well to prove what I needed to.
In any case, Mr. Guardian, I will respect your wishes to the extent that I care to, but you can be assured that I will not divulge the appearance or identity of any of the people whose photos I took. I appreciate your hard work and diligence in your job, but if you truly want to protect the identity of your students, perhaps the New York City Subway is not in the mode of transportation you should use.