During my last visit to Hamburg, I stayed at a city centre hotel. In the afternoon, I left the hotel & wondered onto the main road right in the heart of the city for some Street Photography. I immediately noticed a man sitting by the exit/entrance, begging for money. This man continually made a sort of howling sounds attracting attention to himself. The sounds he made were rather eerie & of the sort that would & could create disturbing emotions, just like a bad nightmare & as if he didn’t have a tongue & couldn’t speak. One or two people dropped some change into his cup. A non German family with a little boy were passing by. The beggar had obviously caught the attention of the little boy who was probably 5 or so years old. His father gave the boy a coin & the boy very very cautiously tiptoes towards the beggar whilst maintaining his eye contact. I think the boy was both curious, frightened & at the same time listening to his father who was encouraging him to approach the beggar & drop the money into the cup. And so did the boy. As I passed him by, I wondered if I should have asked him to take a picture. But I didn’t. I thought about it for sometime afterwards.
The nest morning, I left the hotel by the same exit & there he was again. So this time I approached him with my camera, a look & a gesture that without saying a word transmitted the message that I wanted to take his picture as I held 2 Euros as an offering.
He smiled & agreed & I took two pictures. He could actually SPEAK!! When I talked to him, He could actually say a word or two in English AND a word or two in German. But I gathered that he was NOT German but from East Europe.
When I put my camera to my eye, without any form of encouragement from me, he lifted both his arms as if he knew what sort of picture I wanted! He “Posed”. I took the pictures, thanked him & he nodded in response. Once I was done, I noticed that a few girls had been standing behind me & watching the whole thing. I also noticed a few people who were passing by looking at me & looking at him. I couldn’t help but feel that some of the impressions were of disapproval & a ghastly disgust. How can he take this poor man’s picture!!
I walked away.
But it all me think.
Who was taking advantage of whom here!!
Who exploits who! If that indeed happens!!
Was I guilty of taking advantage of him by offering him money to take his picture? But then again, he was happy to take the money & he even posed for it!!!
Is he “not” indeed taking advantage of the passers-by? Appealing to their “Emotions” in this specific way of communicating, using his disability as an “Aid” for the cause!! Were the passers by being taken the advantage of???
Maybe it was a bit of both!! Maybe it didn’t warrant so much thinking. Maybe I do what I do & he does what he does. & may be that’s the way it works.
It’s it & that’s that!
I wish him luck.