Candid Cameraman

As a photographer, I love Hong Kong because it presents countless captivating subjects.

But the downside of shooting in this town is people; it's frustrating when they start giving me the evil eye if I so much as glance in their direction. You'd think folks working in areas frequented by tourists would be used to cameras and would make an attempt to be friendly, but by and large that's not the case.

Paranoid and surly are more apt descriptors. I've lost count of how many times people have accosted me with questions such as: "What are you doing?" or "Why are you taking pictures?", or have just said flat out: "Don't take photos."

This is not to say that all Hong Kongers act this way, but for every relaxed individual there are nine who duck and cover the moment they spot a camera.

Okay, I exaggerated: it's more like eight. If you don't believe me catch a newscast sometime; when a story is accompanied by footage shot in the streets, you'll see people spot the crew and then immediately either veer off camera or throw a hand, newspaper or shopping bag in front of their face.

During visits to the market streets of Sheung Wan I've noticed that many shops have posted a "No Photos" sign in the window, which flies in the face of Hong Kong Tourism Board ads, which would have you believe that all the shopkeepers are smiling, cheerful folks who just can't wait to welcome you with open arms, invite you into their shops, and have you pose for photos alongside their wares.

Rural Hong Kong is no better; each time I've walked gear in hand through Fong Ma Po village (home of the famous Wishing Tree) I've been harassed. They didn't want me to take photos of anything other than the tree, yet in the same breath they tried to sell lucky charms or wish-making papers to me.

Maybe next time I should buy the papers and make a wish that they'd mind their own business and leave me alone.

When I contrast local behaviour with places like Thailand, where people seem to enjoy posing, I can't help but wonder why residents of the Big Lychee are so camera-shy. I'd love to have more images of Hong Kongers because I've seen so many fascinating faces that deserve a portrait.

Not that creating portraits would help when such a hostile atmosphere dispirits visitors from recommending the place.

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