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Compelling Writing Turns Controversy into Conversation

Published: December 20, 2011       Updated: May 13, 2024

2 min read


There was a time when it was enough to “get the word out.” But with today’s technologies, we can start a conversation.

That’s what happened recently on Black Star Rising, the blog the Idea Grove manages for the iconic New York photography agency, Black Star. Our relationship with Black Star is well into its sixth year, and the blog is home now to more than 1,000 posts. It has more than 16,000 followers on Twitter.

Those kinds of numbers can make for a big reaction, and that’s just what happened when regular contributor David Saxe wrote about negative reactions he’s experienced as he’s photographed people in public places. "Fearmongers Are Giving Photographers a Bad Name," the headline reads.

David wrote compellingly that, “… Every day, photographers are mistaken for perverts, terrorists, thieves, and other weirdos just because of the cameras around their necks. People seem to assume that we are ‘up to something.’”

He gave three examples before concluding that, “There is a part of me that wants to resist, to confront, to ignore these people, but it’s simply not my style. All I can do is write about it.”

Reaction Gives Way to Conversation

The online reaction was almost immediate. People who care about photography began to share the post using Twitter and writing their comments on the blog. Some expressed sadness, others frustration. There were war stories, and then, conversation.

Some commenters said protecting children from unwanted attention is paramount. Others said photographers should ask subjects first. Still others suggested that anxious police officers and others can be won over with polite conversation. Someone suggested that business cards help. Another commenter wondered about the roles of gender and ethnicity.

Words like “legal” gave way to “moral” and “ethical.” In a matter of days, the post had attracted 50 online comments and been shared more than 200 times through Twitter. In a week, it had landed on's list of The Best Photography Blog Posts of 2011.

It was the kind of reaction that reminds us of the promise of communications technologies. We no longer have to be satisfied just to get the word out.

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