Goodbye Folsom Street

After a two year hiatus, I was mentally and physically “gearing-up” this week in preparation of attending Sunday’s Folsom Street Fair .  I’ve decided not to go.

With over 250,000 attendees, this San Francisco leather and fetish festival is packed into about 13 blocks. It is a photographic goldmine, especially for portrait photographers. As a street and documentary photographer, my images from past fairs show quirky moments that I specialize in. Unfortunately, many of those images are too risqué to be shown to a general audience.

According to local media, in addition to regular warnings of not bringing kids and/or stay away from the area if the nudity is not your cup-of tea, there will be warnings of getting consent before you touch anyone or take a picture. Flyers say “Gear is not consent. Nudity is not consent. Ask first before photographing or touching someone. No means no.”

Due to the nature of the event, I acknowledge that there were serious incidents of touching at past fairs (years ago, a drunk woman gabbed my butt and ran away…and that happened before I even went through the admission gate!). And I acknowledge current events such as the “me too” movement are driving needed awareness.  But I, and many other photographers, don’t attend Folsom Street because we need to touch someone or collect pictures for porn collections. We pack our gear to get great images. The below photograph was taken about 7 years ago and hangs in my home office. It’s part of my San Francisco collection. When kids ask me who it is, I tell them it’s Bane, from Batman. ! 🙂

I’m not here to debate the First Amendment. Anyone can legally photography on a public street but these “warnings” create a hostile environment for photographers with camera gear while those photographing with the ubiquitous smartphone are not branded as perverts.

What am I gonna do about it? It’s Not Complicated. I’ll just save the admission fee and film and photograph places that are not criminalizing photography.

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jtolbertjr

A former event photographer, I became an early adopter of, advocate for, and then a digital camera addict. After half-a-million frames taken and thousands of dollars spent, I no longer stress over the camera brand or worry about the number of megapixels. I ignore the marketing of the camera manufacturers that promote technology over the eyes of the photographer. I’ve returned to simple film cameras with the understanding that one should not have to be a Ph.D. in physics to operate a camera. Photography doesn’t have to be complicated. Visualizing the moment and finding the light is more important. Just point, shoot, and preserve your memories, create your art. After 15 years of being an “unofficial” camera engineer for Nikon, Canon, Leica, Fuji, and Ricoh, I’m still on a journey of recovery. Along the way, I’ll share how I adapt to a more considered photographic practice that promotes a more contemplative way of life.

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