Wick Communications

How dare you promote that!

In Photography on 19 Mar 2015 at 1:31 pm


Last week, I got what I took to be a most unusual complaint – except that it really isn’t all that unusual at all.

Half Moon Bay Review photographer Dean Coppola happened upon two young men digging holes at a local beach. He thought it would make a nice feature shot, a slice of life in a tourist’s beach town. I did too. You see it above.

We posted it on our website and again on Facebook and we soon began to hear from grumps who thought we were “promoting” the behavior seen in the photo. To understand why that would concern readers, see the photo of the emergency crews at the beach at the top of this post. Last June, a young, healthy man attempted to dig a tunnel in the sand. I’m sure it seemed like a harmless way to while away an afternoon at the beach. Except the tunnel collapsed and the man died under a ton of sand. I know, it sounds incredible.

So now some would tell us we shouldn’t ever picture anyone digging at the beach again.

I don’t agree. In fact, I don’t even really understand the complaint. …

First of all, thousands of people dig at the world’s beaches every year without incident. Folks have also been swept off their feet and washed to sea while walking in ankle-deep water, yet no one has suggested we never again show people strolling on the beach. Why should we outlaw photos of digging when there are all these other potentially dangerous activities in the world?

Furthermore, we are merely chroniclers, not promoters. If we take photos of kids riding their skateboards off rails at the library, or shooting fireworks in the street, or playing tackle football in the dirt lot we aren’t “promoting” these sometimes dangerous activities. We are serving as the eyes and ears of the community and trying to present a full picture of life in our here. If it’s dangerous, let’s have that conversation.

So incredulous was I that I might have appeared a bit snippy in my Facebook explanation. I’ll try to be more pleasant the next time this kind of complaint comes around, and come around it will. (By the way, our photographer did warn the kids about the earlier incident in the sand. They kept digging anyway.)

I guess my point here is to suggest you not shrink from photos just because you think someone won’t approve. I’m not saying you should seek controversy and God forbid you put someone in harm’s way yourself just for the photograph.

Don’t be afraid to gently defend your position as a chronicler of all events in your community. I’m sure you will do that better than I did.



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