Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 at
4:09 pm by Tom Mulroe
A little more than a year ago I took up the habit of walking through Monona in the mornings. During these walks I started taking photos of the surrounding area life often caused me to take for granted. It has brought me a great deal of pleasure. That pleasure has been extended this year. I began to share my photography on Facebook. There lies the problem.
A ‘friend’ on Facebook enjoys holiday decorations. I snapped a few shots of local trees and bushes wearing holiday lights, then posted them. They were a hit with many ‘friends’ on facebook as the holidays were drawing near.
That very week I took an alternate route because time did not allow that morning for my usual view of the lake. As I rushed my walk I noticed the lake was visible from one of the circles near my home. Lake Monona on an early winter morning captured my attention. As I turned onto the circle I realized I had not been on that particular circle since I moved to Monona more than a dozen years ago. At the time I had been returning from Frost Woods Beach with a stroller full of my five children. We turned on the circle to explore our new neighborhood. As we turned onto the circle a man stopped us, telling me the drive along the lake was a private drive. I nodded that we were just going to stay on the circle. This made him unhappy. He stood frowning with arms folded until we left.
Because the majority of my experiences with people here in Monona are so positive, I had forgotten about this encounter until that morning whenI stepped onto that circle once more.
With the ‘private drive’ in mind I took care to stand only on the cirlce as I took a few photos of the lake. As I was leaving I was stopped. I was asked what I was taking photos of. What was I going to do with the photos. When I said the photos were of the lake for my own pleasure I was told I was not telling the truth. Suddenly, I did feel a pang of guilt because I had taken photos of holiday decorations and posted them to Facebook. I have posted photos of the lake on Facebook. I offered to delete the photos. I was told I could not be trusted to delete them–my word meant nothing. I was told what I was doing was not normal. I was told I was not normal or proper. The encounter changed how I felt about myself.
Things in life do not happen without a reason. Ever since I have been taking photos I have lived by a set of guidelines. I do not photograph people or homes. I do not go onto anyone’s property to get a shot. But I had shared photos of the lake on facebook. Worse yet, I had taken photos of holiday decorations and posted them on Facebook too. When i thought about it I realized I had taken photos of homes at various times. Despite the fact that I had not taken photos of people, did not take photos of homes that might be identified or of an address– did not name a street or area where the lake or decorations were– I had to admit that I had crossed the line. I had made something priovate public. As rude as the encounter seemed to be at first, I have to say it reminded me that I was starting to swim in a pond I do not care to swim in again.
for a time I considered not walking or taking photos in the future. That didn’t seem to be the answer. Many people tried to convince me that the person who I had encountered had too strong a reaction. That didn’t seem quite right either. In the end I decided to keep walking and shooting, but never again to forget the reminder that encounter was–to stick to the rules I had set up for myself when I first discovered the pleasure of walking through Monona with a camera. No people, no property and no posting of anything that might be considered private onto facebook.
But what is private? If I take photos of the lake are homes across the lake private, or nearby along the shore in the shot? What about the photos of chairs on a pier at sunset everyone on Facebook loved? What if a boat should enter the shot? It gets complicated.
A road I am learning to travel with care.
My abnormal behavior in Monona continues. Rest assured my camera will once again be aimed only at the water of the lake, the tops of trees and the wide open sky above. I will post some of those photos to Facebook, but no homes or decorations or people–I promise.
In the end I have come to realize that the pleasure living in Monona gives me, sharing it and photographing it, means so much more to me than being proper or normal.