No Photos, Please

Cameras everywhere, but we’re so shy

By R.E. Graswich
December 2021

People in Pocket are becoming shy. I don’t know the reason for this, but I know it’s happening because part of my job is to ask people to pose for photographs. About half say no.

It wasn’t always this way. When I started writing for Inside eight years ago, my success rate with asking people to pose was close to 90 percent. I would interview someone for a story and explain that our photographer would call for a quick photo session. People were generally agreeable. The published photos were always flattering.

Things began to change two or three years ago. I would interview someone, mention the photo session, and encounter hesitation. Eventually the person would come to the point and say they preferred not to be photographed.

I would ask why, anticipating a story about an abusive ex-spouse or vengeful creditors. But the reasons were never so obvious or explicit. Instead, they involved a vague fear of attracting unwanted attention.

Some time ago, I interviewed a woman named Cassandra Fong who loved the Sacramento River Parkway and wanted to make sure the fences that blocked access to the levee were torn down.

She was concerned that a few property owners near the levee might sneak up and rebuild their illegal fences. She wanted volunteers to walk the levee and make sure the fences never returned.

“Perhaps we need to set up a committee or group of people who will continue to police the area so that these people don’t start building new privately owned encroachments,” she said.

Great idea, I thought, and told Cassandra our photographer would soon be in touch.

Cassandra hesitated. She said, “I feel our world is so unsafe. I am a single senior who lives alone, and am just not willing to take any chances with the lunatics out there, and there are many even in this so-called nice neighborhood of Pocket and Greenhaven.”

Soon after my story about Cassandra’s citizen patrol idea was published—without her photo, of course—I learned Cassie had died from natural causes. Her demise made me think about life’s tenuous grip and how we worry about the wrong things. I wish Cassandra had posed for that picture.

More recently, Inside’s editor received a note from a reader asking us to feature his home in our Open House spread. The guy’s place sounded interesting. We asked one of our favorite writers to check it out.

When the writer told the homeowner about our need for photographs—Open House is pointless without pictures—the guy demanded to know what sort of photos we wanted. He said he would rather supply his own pictures. And he wanted to review the story before it was published.

The writer told him those demands were impossible. For one thing, Inside only publishes professional photos with Open House. And letting someone preview an article about themselves or their house is a great way to have a big argument.

When the writer explained all this, the owner got angry and accused the writer of being a thief more interested in casing the joint than writing about it. He threatened to call the police.

Needless to say, we found another Open House. But the magazine continued to receive emails from the rejected homeowner, asking for a second chance, saying he was misunderstood, claiming the rules about photos and story previews were never explained.

Moving forward, he said our photographer could take any pictures she wanted.

None of that mattered. The window on his Open House was nailed shut.

The whole mess could have been avoided if the guy had let the writer and photographer do their jobs. But as Cassandra Fong suggested, something’s changed. Cameras are everywhere, but people are afraid of photos. They worry about lunatics.

Years ago, I would try to talk reluctant people into letting us take their photos. Not any more. Now I just say I understand, even if I really don’t.

R.E. Graswich can be reached at Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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