Photo Finish at the Fair

2 min
at 11:43 PM

Arthur Drooker thought he’d go to a local fair to take some photos. What happened when he did left him deeply troubled.

Summer is a time for fun, a seasonal escape from the realities of daily life. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case when I attended the Marin County Fair.

I’m a photographer and I went to the fair to make photos with my iPhone, using its long exposure mode to capture light trails of rides in motion. All went well until three sheriff’s deputies approached.

"We had a report that someone was taking photos of children," one of them said.

I looked at them, speechless. I was shocked that a) this was a thing and b) someone thought that that was what I was doing.

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“We’re not accusing you of anything,” the officer assured me. He then asked for my ID, which I handed to him.

While that deputy checked to see if I was a registered sex offender, the other two deputies asked to see my iPhone. "Knock yourselves out,” I said. As they scrolled down, they could plainly see photo after photo of rides. The other deputy gave back my ID, saying, "Thanks Arthur. Have a nice evening." Yeah, right. It was so unsettling; I felt ashamed and angry.

As I drove home, I thought, if I were a woman, would the deputies have approached me? Or if I were black, would they have hauled me off to the Incident Report van parked outside the fair entrance? While I understand that we live in a “see something, say something” world, where do we draw the line? When does concern become paranoia? Are we so distrustful that an innocent act, such as making a photo at a fair, has become cause for suspicion?

With a Perspective, I’m Arthur Drooker.

Arthur Drooker is a photographer and author. He lives in Mill Valley.

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