The writing on the wall

The Wall

 

Painted over but still visible: celtic cross emblem, one of the most popular symbols used by individuals and organisations to represent Neo-Nazism and white pride. Valletta - Behind the Court of Law.

Painted over but still visible: celtic cross emblem, one of the most popular symbols used by individuals and organisations to represent Neo-Nazism and white pride. Valletta – Behind the Court of Law.


“And this is the writing that was inscribed: mina, mina, shekel, half-mina. This is the interpretation of the matter: mina, God has numbered the days of your kingdom and brought it to an end; shekel, you have been weighed on the scales and found wanting; half-mina, your kingdom is divided and given to the Medes and Persians.”
- Daniel 5:25-28

In the Bible, King of Babylon Belshazzar organizes a great feast. During the celebrations, his drunken minions profane vessels taken from the temple of Jerusalem. Suddenly, a dismembered hand appears out of thin air and scribbles four words on the wall. Prophet Daniel is called by the king to translate. He foresees the immediate fall of the Babylon and the rules of Persians. That very night king Belshazzar is slain and Persian troops take over Babylon.

In the course of history, many expressions from the Bible have been incorporated into the literature and became part of everyday language. The idiom “writing on the wall” is often associated with the approaching misfortune, or even doom. It signifies a warning that often comes too late. It is a danger that was there for a long time and has been ignored.

Couple passes a political graffitti adorned with a swastika emblem. It has been painted over but still visible. It has been scribbled on the walls of a church. Balluta Bay

Couple passes a political graffitti adorned with a swastika emblem. It has been painted over but still visible. It has been scribbled on the walls of a church. Balluta Bay

Swastika symbol at Manoel Island Marina

Swastika symbol at Manoel Island Marina

Swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany in 1920, who used it as a symbol of the Aryan race. Santa Venera - Triq Il-Kapillan Mifsud

Swastika was adopted as a symbol of the Nazi Party of Germany in 1920, who used it as a symbol of the Aryan race. Santa Venera – Triq Il-Kapillan Mifsud

Swastika carved onto the stone wall in front of MCCA, Valletta.

Swastika carved onto the stone wall in front of MCCA, Valletta.

I have decided to use the biblical story to illustrate this small and ever growing photographic project. For several reasons, in fact. In 2010 my sister and her fiance visited me on the island of Malta and like real culture-vultures we visited all the hot spots on the rock.  I have moved to Malta from Poland in 2006 and have always been amazed with the rich cultural heritage of such a small island. It would have been a fantastic short holidays with the relatives, however everywhere we went, we have noticed Nazi emblems or swastikas either scribbled on the walls or carved into them. It saddened and embarrassed me in a way. Here I was trying to give the best impression of my second home, and some little and swallow coward was ruining the experience for my family.

Since that episode I decided to document the racist messages on the walls of Malta. I don’t look for them on purpose, but when I come across one, I will photograph it.

Carving in stone at the Selmun Barracks. It reads "SAS" and the lettering is a direct reference to The Schutzstaffel ("Defence Corps"), often abbreviated as "SS" with the use of Armanen sig runes "ᛋᛋ" ). SS was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and was outlawed after 1945.

Carving in stone at the Selmun Barracks. It reads “SAS” and the lettering is a direct reference to The Schutzstaffel (“Defence Corps”), often abbreviated as “SS” with the use of Armanen sig runes “ᛋᛋ” ). SS was a major paramilitary organization under Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) and was outlawed after 1945.

Swastika carved onto the stone wall in front of MCCA, Valletta.

Swastika and a graffitti of Adolf Hitler at Selmun Barracks

Swastika emblem carved into the sidewalk on the way to Valletta Waterfront

Swastika emblem carved into the sidewalk on the way to Valletta Waterfront

Don’t get me wrong. Such messages appear through out of Europe. It’s nothing shocking.  What does seem absurd is the fact that Maltese should be heavily averse to fascism or Nazism in any form. During WWII, Valletta (Malta’s capital) was one of the most bombed sites. Malta’s closer neighbour – Italy was under fascist rule which posed a significant risk for the island (which was then part of Alliance alongside US and UK). It is really hard to understand how come the general public ignores the graffiti sometimes in really prominent places.

Grafitti reading "Blacks out" and adorned with a swastika emblem on the Regional Road Bridge in St. Julians. This exactly how the grafitti can be seen from the passing car.

Grafitti reading “Blacks out” and adorned with a swastika emblem on the Regional Road Bridge in St. Julians. This is exactly how the graffitti can be seen from the passing cars.

Grafitti reading "Suwed" ("Niggers" in Maltese) under the Regional Road Bridge in St. Julians. This exactly how the grafitti can be seen from a passing car.

Grafitti reading “Suwed” (“Niggers” in Maltese) under the Regional Road Bridge in St. Julians. This is exactly how the grafitti can be seen from the passing cars.

Perhaps this post will offer some sort of awareness for the authorities and local councils.

Malicia

Maltese Carnival

Dear readers,

Little Prince

Little Prince

I don’t know why I sometimes do not edit my photos for weeks on end. Perhaps I am scared that my images are not good enough. Like every starting photographer there is a degree of shyness when it comes down to one’s work. You never know when you caught the moment and when you really blew it…

I hope that two months overdue is not that much…

I have promised to write more about the place I reside – Republic of Malta. One of world’s smallest states (316 km2 or 122 sq miles) divided between three islands and one of the most populated places on the globe (with 500 000 residents and 3 mln of tourists throughout the year, density reaches 1,306.8/km2 or 3,413.9/sq m – that’s more than Hong Kong or Gaza Strip).

Indian Princess

Indian Princess

Lost in thoughts

Lost in thoughts

Columbine  from Commedia Dell`arte, popular female carnival character

Columbine from Commedia Dell`arte, popular female carnival character

Malta is maybe a small place but extremely colourful and occasionally loud. Nothing captures the spirit of the island like the week before Ash Wednesday – The Carnival.

Il-Karnival ta`Malta holds a special position among all festas and public holidays on the island. It is celebrated annually since 1535 (that’s two-hundred years longer than Rio!) and is regarded as a major tourist attraction. The daily celebrations take place in the capital – Valletta, the nightly celebrations move to Nadur in the island of Gozo. Each year sees a street parade, band marches and floats competition. It is also a fantastic opportunity for any photographer – hand made costumes of the revellers take months to prepare and the results are astonishing. Maltese are also protective of children, taking photos of youngsters is frowned upon; the Carnival is probably the only time when a photographer can snap away photos of anybody without being yelled at.

Emerald Lady

Emerald Lady

To serve and protect

To serve and protect

Isabella (or Innamorata)  from Commedia Dell`arte, popular female carnival character

Isabella (or Innamorata) from Commedia Dell`arte, popular female carnival character

Through – out its history, the carnival was a source of entertainment and controversy. The Knights of Malta, who brought the tradition to the island, had to reprimand residents numerous times over costumes or lavish celebrations. In 1969 a ban was issued by Grand Master Giovanni Paolo Lascaris to keep women away from the Knights` celebrations. It also forbade masks – those who would resist faced penalty of being publicly whipped. Maltese public answered in a typical Mediterranean fashion – regular riots erupted, a Jesuit church was destroyed and Grand Master Lascaris had to evacuate himself from St James Cavalier building in Valletta.

Goddess

Goddess

Entangled

Entangled

Mother and son

Mother and son

This story constitutes my favourite anecdote – today St James Cavalier hosts art centre, cinema and a popular restaurant. This year, I have been photographing the Carnival all weekend (9-10 February 2013) and had my lunches at St James. I was wondering what Grand Master Lascaris would say. Let’s hope my choice of local ricotta pie would be approved…

I want to meet her agai. She was beautiful.

I want to meet her again. She was beautiful.

Lady Butterfly

Lady Butterfly

The show girl

The show girl

Carnival can stir up controversy even in this day and age. In 2009 revellers were arrested in Nadur for dressing up as Jesus and nuns. One person was handed a month – long prison sentence, the rest were acquitted.

The weather this year was really harsh and windy. I dressed myself up like I was taking part in Trans-Siberian expedition and tried to keep myself warm and hydrated at all times. Yet still became violently sick in the end.

My favourite shot. Taken at the Native Indian stand.

My favourite shot. Taken at the Native Indian stand.

Maiko (Geisha in training)

Maiko (Geisha in training)

This person was an actor, his costume was professionally made.

This person was an actor, his costume was professionally made.

I don’t usually plan how I will execute a topic when I shoot. However this time around I wanted to copycat a great idea. Perhaps you are familiar with `Humans of New York` project (www.facebook.com/humansofnewyork) where one very clever photographer roams the streets of his home town and takes portraits of random strangers. I wanted to capture the essence of what Brandon Standon is doing with HONY but on a smaller scale, hence nineteen portraits in this blog entry. Think of it as one roll of film…

101 dalmatians

101 dalmatians

Warrior Princess

Warrior Princess

She was really hungry.

She was really hungry.

What I wanted to portray were not just stunning costumes or cute kids. I wanted to show the diversity of people you can meet on Maltese streets, all dressed up and celebrating in their own ways.

I hope you like it.

Malicia.

Derelict project II – Old petrol station

Hi again,

This is second post in the series that I call Derelict. Its purpose is to show vacant properties around Malta – in details and old fashioned monochrome photography.

Side street shot

Side street shot

Old petrol station is used as a car park nowadays

Old petrol station is used as a car park nowadays

My favourite shot.

My favourite shot.

In November 2012, I have been to Paola to fix my banking issues (photographer at the bank is a good theme for a blog entry!) and came upon a petrol station that has been closed for more than a decade now. The old filling pumps are still there, but the place is used as an impromptu car park nowadays.

The place is filled with garbage

The place is filled with garbage

And old broken pipes

And old broken pipes

Old poster

Old sign

And tape

And tape

I wasn’t able to gather many details about this place. Right in front of the old station, state prison – Corrodino – is located, and the whole scene looks surreal, like a ghost town in the Wild West.

The station is located in front of Corrodino prison, which is still in use.

The station is located in front of Corrodino prison, which is still in use.

Devil in the detail

Devil in the detail

Gas has always been expensive

Gas has always been expensive

The old pump

The old pump

I don’t want to write a lot this time, because I am hoping that the photos will speak for themselves. Well at least that is the goal of a photo blog.

This station used to house a garage and a car wash  as well

This station used to house a garage and a car wash as well

Cars parked outside of the station

Cars parked outside of the station

Offices that remind now of a ghost town

Offices that remind now of a ghost town

Reflections

Reflections

Critique and comments are welcomed.

//Mal

Derelict: Dreamland Bedding

Hi,

The building in colour

The building in colour

It’s a new year and new projects on the agenda. I have been working very hard on two sets in the past week. Both form a part of my new project called “Derelict” (Thank you Annika for a suitable name!)

Close up

Close up

Malta has 70 000 vacant properties (both un-habited houses and abandoned shops). There are many reasons for it: legal quarrels, families moving out of the area, tenants dying, and business going bankrupt. However Malta is very small (316 square km) and new building sites take away the very little open space that we are left with.

Part of the logo

Part of the logo

From a different angle

From a different angle

I wanted to portray some of the devastated, forgotten sites that now remind of a ghost town. They are beautiful yet haunting in the same time.

Playing abstract

Playing abstract

Lines and arrows

Lines and arrows

This is an old furniture shop in Birkirkara named Dreamland Bedding. I have no idea why they went bust but they seemed to be quite a large business between 1997 and 2001. Since 2002 the shop is in disrepair.

My favourite shot

My favourite shot

How can you go out of business with such a logo? Is it up for grabs?

The logo is really magnificent.

The logo is really magnificent.

Please let me know what you think.

Malicia

Fire, camera and action!

Fire, camera and action!

Exercice fire

Exercice fire

It became obvious to me, that most of the posts on the blog so far, show me working in a rather slow way – observing, documenting those who seem to be out of public eye. I call those people “The Invisibles”. I want to bring their stories or their struggles to light. I hope I have been making progress on that front. But you know something; photographers also have a wild side! Today I’d like to tackle that aspect instead.

I have mentioned before that cameras took me to some interesting places. I may not be the most prolific shooter out there but I have been around the block and I’ve seen a thing or two. From being an impromptu wedding photographer to a lucky voyeur at concerts, from photographing a vigil to marching at night though a bad neighbourhood with a small compact Sony in hand and an “escort” of half a dozen neo-Nazis. I could go on for hours and some of the things I went through with my cameras can be classified as “unreasonable behaviour” as Don McCullin would put it.

Sometimes photography is not for the faint of heart. You have probably seen dedicated individuals who would lie on the ground or climb high to get their shot. Been there, done that and walked an extra mile. I had run towards situations that others run from, like miners demonstration where pieces of sidewalk were flying in the air. I have photographed a state funeral for 9 hours straight in the scorching sun and fainted of dehydration afterwards. I have been dragged around by six police officers and threatened with an arrest (for taking photos). Although I see myself as a balanced shooter, I will not shy from a potentially crazy situation if I believe I can get some powerful shots out of it. I’m not an adrenaline junkie, but there is something alluring in running alongside a street demonstration and being in action.  That doesn’t mean I can’t wait to get a right shot. On one occasion I nearly came down with pneumonia, after spending two hours in a freezing rain, trying to take one particular shot of a fountain!

Briefing

Briefing

My Canon goes with me even into situations where I have to take an active part. Then I pull a double duty (that of an observer and participant) and the crazy-o-meter goes high.  Add some unlikely accessories like work gloves or unfitting uniforms or crash helmets or smoke goggles and you will have the idea of my usual shooting spree. When I mean action, it is often stranger than fiction.

Let me tell you about a day when I underwent fire prevention training and came back with “reportage”. And yes, full protection gear was in place.

In October 2009, my company decided that volunteers were needed to be trained in fire protection since we were rapidly growing and our offices became bigger and bigger. One person wanted to go by herself, the rest was convinced to sign up after facing a threat of having their quarterly bonus confiscated.  In the end five of us were transported to Marsa Industrial Estate just outside of a detention centre for irregular migrants. I won’t deny that it was additional incentive for me; I planned to see if I could sneak in and photograph. Once there, I quickly realized that there would be no time to sneak away. We were rushed into the building and given the worst set of clothes I have ever seen: something that looked like a cross over between acid house baggy pants (a la early East 17) and a horror Halloween costume. Crash helmet, smoke goggles, loose military boots and workman’s gloves completed the outfit. When we emerged from the toilet (our “dressing room”) we looked like Village People. Defiantly, I put a camera round my neck, if I had to be a clown for a day, at least I’d take photos.

Elysia before changing

Elysia before changing

Pierre capturing the moment

Pierre capturing the moment

Darlene keeping her humor

Darlene keeping up good mood

Ludovic posing in a dramatic setting

Ludovic posing in a dramatic setting

My shoes were three sizes too big and the gloves were so thick that I could hardly operate anything, but our instructor hardly had mercy. We had been running around with horse pipes, spraying water on the fires and on each other, carrying heavy blankets to put out fire on mechanical appliances and using different sizes of fire extinguishers.  When I say running, I don’t mean kidding around. After four hours of military drill, we were soaked in sweat, bruised in all possible places and our lungs were filled with smoke.

Darlene ready for action

Darlene ready for action

Blanket demonstration

Blanket demonstration

Putting out small fires with a blanket

Putting out small fires with a blanket

If my colleagues were just concentrating on the practice, I was circling around, to get a shot. I crawled when I had to, jumped on old barrels, and was coming so close that my eyes were watering, despite wearing goggles. When it was my turn to practice, I was going in with a camera dangling from my neck. The instructor joked I was training to become a photographer in a fire department.

Darlene using foam to put out a fire

Darlene using foam to put out a fire

Foam demonstration

Foam demonstration

Pierre means business

Pierre means business

From left: Pierre, Ludovic, our instructir, Darlene and Elysia

From left: Pierre, Ludovic, our instructor, Darlene and Elysia

At some point, it became very windy and it started to rain. We had to stop the training but I was on the roll, taking portraits of my colleagues. No rest for the wicked. When it was hailing, we went inside to have a short lecture, before finishing.

Foam demonstration

Foam demonstration

Nearly done

Nearly done

Pierre to the rescue

Pierre to the rescue

Demonstration

Demonstration

Back in the changing room I discovered that my feet were covered with blisters and were bleeding (due to the bad shoes). It was a discomfort to walk around for a week. Also, once safely at home, I have slept eleven hours straight.

Although I have painted rather a bleak picture of the training, it was a very safe environment. Our instructor knew what he was doing and would not push us to the extreme.

More exercices

More exercices

Elysia examines her water pipe work

Elysia examines her water pipe work

Professional at work

Professional at work

Ludovic following up on the fire

Ludovic following up on the fire

The photos were done with a Canon 450D and 18-35 mm lens, the camera was on sport mode with automatic AF mode. ISO was around 400, I believe at that time, with images taken at aperture between f3.5 -5.6. I won’t say what the shutter speed was at that moment, surely over 1/250. Photos were edited in Photoshop with the high pass/overlay of 40 stops.

My favourite shot

My favourite shot

This post is actually also a proof that sometimes it is good to look though your old photos and surely you will find something interesting. I am quite proud of this set, actually. I have some good shots here.

All in all it was a crazy day.

//Malicia

Deja-vu

Deja – vu

In July, I have written about a man named Mirko. I have met him outside a shopping center, quote close to my office. He had lost an arm in a car crash and was asking passers -by for donations. We had spoken on several occasions, until he was arrested by police and possibly deported. Begging is illegal in Malta. Mirko was Romanian by citizenship but belonged to a minority known as Roma (also referred to as Gypsy), he travelled the Europe to support his family of five.  You can see the post below:

http://ontestinggrounds.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/mirko/

I often thought what have happened to Mirko, if he was safe and reunited with his family. But to be very honest, I thought that his story was off my radar for ever.

I was wrong. Mirko`s story returned to me in a strange twist of deja-vu and now it is much, much different. You see, to put it bluntly, Mirko was lying.

Photo I took of Mirko back in July.

Photo I took of Mirko back in July.

Fast forward to November 30, 2012. Its been raining since morning, temperature is just above 10 degrees, cold wind makes you dream of a cup of hot chocolate and a warm blanket. Another lunch break, the same street corner, the same shopping complex. People rushed by doing late shopping. Nobody noticed a man sitting with his trousers rolled up and bare feet. Or rather what were once human feet. A paper cup was held tightly in his hand.

I rushed towards him, within minutes I was kneeling next to him trying to talk to him. He wasn’t Mirko, but there were so many similarities I could barely control myself. He spoke Romanian, very limited Italian and had no knowledge of English. He was also a Roma. He sat in the same place, silently showing his wounded body and asking for donations into a paper cup.

He was thin, hungry, shaking with cold, having just trousers and a shirt and a small polar jacket on. He had no shoes, ho socks; there were no crutches anywhere near him and judging from his condition, he could barely walk.  He said his name was Vlad, other that that he only replied “Si” to my every question. When I asked him where he was staying he just uttered “casa”. The use of Italian words was again, similar to Mirko.

Vlad sitting in the same place as Mirko used to months ago.

Vlad sitting in the same place as Mirko used to months ago.

I have brought him food and tea and took a photo of him despite his weak protests. As you can see, it is slightly moved, because I have been shaking with rage. This is not uncommon in mainland Europe for organized groups to bring disabled people from one country to another and to force them to beg. Roma are known to be involved in such a scheme, from both ends: as the profit makers and as the victims.  Seeing Vlad, I have understood why Mirko was really in Malta for. His whole story being just a cover up.

Vlad was scared, traumatized, constantly looking around himself as if he was looking for somebody. I would not take a photo of him in other circumstances, but considered it of importance. I wanted to document his plight, the situation he was in, his bare feet in the cold.

I left him to enjoy his hot drink and cam back 30 minutes later. A police car was there and Vlad was being packed into the car, arrested. He looked through the window and gave me a look of pure hatred. He thought I was the one who called the police. I went down on my hands and knees and begged police to give him protection and psychological help. I told them about Mirko, asked them to wait for those who put Vlad on the street to come. After all Vlad was just a pawn and those who profited from it all were somewhere in the area. They had done the same to Mirko back in July; they would surely do it in the future.

Police told me they knew about Mirko and just drove away. They however promised they would call Romanian consulate.

Every year thousands people share the fate of Vlad and Mirko.

The Trafficking Protocol defines human trafficking as:

“the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of persons, by means of the threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation shall include, at a minimum, the exploitation of the prostitution of others or other forms of sexual exploitation, forced labour or services, slavery or practices similar to slavery, servitude or the removal of organs.”

//Mal

Edit 23/02/2013

I do not like recent news at all. I am unsure if this is related but something tells me (call it a hunch) that we are here looking at the same story. We had again Romanian Roma appearing on the streets in the same area Gzira – Msida – Sliema – St Julians. But this time around people begging are not disabled. They are women. And small kids are involved.

Just in spite of two days:

On February 23, 2013 a woman was arrested in Gzira for defrauding several shops. She carried a small baby with her. A photo of her was circulated on Facebook in the last few days.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130223/local/romanian-woman-arrested.458881

http://www.di-ve.com/news/police-arrest-romanian-woman

On February 22, 2013, two other Roma have been arraigned in court for begging outside of Mother Dei hospital. They had flyers with them in broken English stating they were collecting money for a sick child.

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20130222/local/suspended-jail-term-for-romanian-beggars.458742

I am not police so I may be wrong. But I have been raised in a country that seen similiar tactics before. And the patterns as worrying – speaking as a risk analyst – every 2-3 months we have Romanian Roma appearing in the streets of the same area (Gzira-Msida-Sliema-St. Julians are in a straight line along a very busy seaside promenade frequented by tourists and locals alike), they also appear in places that are known to be full of people – Valletta in the morning or Mater Dei hospital. Thing is the people who come they are from outside, they speak a bit of Italian and have no command of English (at least Mirco and Vlad shared that trait). Judging from the articles the women from outside Mather Dei had no command of English either. If they are new to the island, how are they able to know the busiest spots? Where do they stay and why they always frequent the same areas? Why are they always the most vulnerable: disabled, women with small children? How are they managing to survive here if they don’t know the language and need help?

Who is taking care of them? Why are they always Romanian Roma and not Roma from other European countries?

Who, what, where, when, why and how?

I have seen the tactics before. Disabled people, the wrong change trick, collecting money for operation of a child – you can call them traditional ways to raise money. Methods tested over many countries, over many years. The issue here is – people at their weakest are used and trained to do it, they are transported to places that are not yet accustomed with these tactics.

As I said, I may be wrong and I will stand happily corrected. But I believe that somewhere out there, there is someone or a group of people who benefit from this procedure now for months (at least from July last year when Mirko first came). And they will not stop until apprehended.

/m

Hail to the thief and bug the photographer

[Note: Please excuse the poor photos in this entry. I have completely failed to capture what was happening, but its rather hard when you are dragged around by six police officers.  I have tried my best to have ANY shot in these circumstances - Mal]

I don’t go looking for troubles. They usually find me. And they catch up with me in all sort of bizarre places, even if I go out of the office for an hour during my lunch break.

All I wanted was some peace and quiet (that’s our family credo because we never seem to get some!). It turned out to be chasing, running and risking arrest.

I should have known something was up when I left the office. I forgot the camera. It is very rarely that I go anywhere without it. It is a bad sign actually, I wanted to turn back but convinced myself that I was just leaving for a coffee and I would be back in no time. Plus what could go wrong on the Sliema strand full of coffee shops and lazy Italian tourists.

It was ten to 15:00 and we just paid our bill.  Suddenly a man in a red shirt started fighting with a group of taxi drivers just meters away from our table. They tried to get hold of him but he was like a wild animal- twisting punching, kicking and biting. A group of six men could not hold him down. He broke out finally and raced down the street, shirtless. His red shirt was now a piece of cloth lying on the street. Another man came running – he was a security guard dressed in white. He started to speak with the drivers and then continued his pursue of the shirtless man.

Police speaking to the taxi drivers

I went over to taxi drivers to ask what happened. They were confused. Said a man came running and asked for a taxi. Once in the car, he changed his mind, got out and started to kick the car. The drivers went to prevent him doing any damage; this is when the brawl started. My friend in the meantime, acting like a professional journalist, went to interview the waitress. She was told the rest of the story. Apparently the man in red shirt stole some things from a Zara shop nearby. He ran away from a guard who spotted him. He tried to escape in a taxi but then changed his mind.

Police officer came and spoke to the taxi drivers. The red shirt and other items dropped by the escaped man hanged from iron construction next to the taxi drivers post. The drivers were agitated. I was pretty much upset that I didn’t have my Canon, but took mobile phone and snapped some photos. Then out of nowhere the security guard in white uniform came back shouting for the police officer that the escaped man was in underground parking just meters away. They both sprinted and I followed in seconds hoping that I would get a shot of the thief being arrested, since I completely missed to document the fight with the taxi drivers. I ran after the police  and the security guard with my mobile phone ready into the garage to see how they both searched in vain for the man. He was nowhere to be found.

Another call came up that the shirtless man was seen up the street next to Tower Supermarket car-park. Just outside of my office. I turned around and ran again after the police officer and the guard.

When I arrived at the Tower Supermarket there was a huge crowd of passers -by and a few police cars. Six officers marched back and front talking to supermarket security. How quickly it escalated into a real size -chase. I snapped some more photos with my phone and went to the office (climbing three stories) to get my camera. I entered the office panting and running silently for the gear. My colleagues are now pretty comfortable with that. They have seen me doing that at least dozens of time. My manager didn’t even finch as well. Malicia was on the chase and it was pointless to stop her.

Police cars in front of my office building

I came down and started to shot with my Canon. I kept my distance; I was about 30-40 meters away from the police blocking the car park entrance and on the side so I didn’t disturb anybody. I know where to stand and where to shot.

By standers gathering around the police to observe what was going on

Officers going into Tower Super-market

Yet it seemed that the thief ran out again and the officers were looking for somebody to get their anger out. And there was a girl 5`2 with a Canon camera. Just the right target. I managed to take maybe 15 frames in all when it started. One of the police officers was especially blunt telling me that if I didn’t stop taking photos, he would get me arrested. The usual set of excuses followed: you can’t take pictures of the police, you are not media, and you are not licensed journalist. We will take your memory card away. I tried to politely explain that I was in the open, public place that I was not disturbing and that I had right to shot as this was something that happened in front of me and I wanted to see this though.

Shot outside my office

People observe police looking for the thief

It only escalated the matter and at some I was dragged away to get my ID card. I marched into the office and loudly informed my manager that I could be arrested for taking photos. I came down and they took my particulars, trying to intimidate me. They called a sergeant and asked if I had the right to be there taking photos. Finally I was told I was no menace to them, that I was in the right but should have shot in secret – so I don’t have troubles. I should also apply for a license to photograph police because I may take photos to embarrass them. And best of all mobile phones were allowed, Canon cameras not.

Police officers trying their best to intimidate me

I tried to explain that my old Canon took worse photos than a smart phone and if I had one Id shot on digital zoom and it would be on YouTube in seconds. But police officer I spoke to had no idea about technical issues and tried to turn the whole case around that I was the trouble – maker and I was causing them issues. Yes standing on the side walk meters away from them. I was also asked “Why do you risk being arrested for a bunch of photos”. I replied that it was what photographers were doing. The police officer replied “She has balls” and let me go. Soon after that they just folded the whole thing and drove away.

A photo you take when they drag you away

My friend found me and told me that during the entire 30 minutes when they were trying to intimidate me, many cars went out unchecked form the car park. The person they wanted to catch was possibly in one of the cars, hidden. But they already had somebody to punch around.

After the police cars were gone, I realized that it was raining heavily, my clothes were soaked. I retreated to the office.

The thief remained at large. All was fine as long as a photographer got disturbed.

I know this happens to other photographers as well but it is unnerving.

//Mal

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