Monday, September 15, 2003

I have dreams of writing about current events in a timely fashion here, and it really hasn’t worked that way so far. By now I’ve got a backlog of subjects, and I trust you won’t mind the slight delay in posting them. Perhaps I’ll try to make up for lost time by offering up two or three entries in rapid succession.

[Cleaning Out My Closet, #1:]

Damn. National Night Out came and went this year (August 5, to be precise), and I didn’t get a chance to spread the word about it or attend any events in my area.

For those of you not familiar with the concept, NNO is an annual project (held on the first Tuesday in August, as far as I can tell) designed to encourage greater cooperation between cops and neighborhood residents in the fight against crime. In many areas, this means tours of police stations, demonstrations of equipment, cookouts, parades, you name it. A couple of years ago, I got to wander through cells, peek into offices, and otherwise get up close and personal with the men in uniform who serve and protect my neck of the woods.

Not this year, alas. Real-world obligations kept me away this time, but I still consider the day a holiday for myself and my fellow coplovers. Moreover, since police are notoriously camera-shy, NNO is one of the few opportunities (along with parades and street festivals) to photograph them head-on. In fact, there’s even a photo gallery at the national site, along with an invitation to contribute more pictures.

I still have mixed feelings about taking snapshots of hot men in uniform. It’s been a hobby of mine for a while now, and my inherent shyness keeps it pretty benign and discreet. (Which explains the high percentage of butt shots in my repertoire.) One of the more positive side effects of my preoccupation has been a greater interest in photography – I find myself inspired to learn more about the medium, which has had ramifications in my Bruce Wayne life as well.

At the same time, a part of me wrestles with the ethics of taking pictures of cops, let alone sharing them online. (I haven’t done the latter very much, though mostly for technical reasons.) I realize what I’m doing might strike some people as exploitation and/or violation of privacy, and I can’t help wondering how my subjects would feel if they knew that I and many other men collect and sometimes distribute images of them without their knowledge. My hunch is that a few particularly homophobic ones would be freaked out, while the rest would be mildly amused. Through my partner I know a handful of straight male law enforcement officers, and I find myself slightly embarrassed about my fixation on their profession (which doesn’t really extend to them in particular). My hubby himself doesn’t seem to mind – though I’ll never forget the day he described a Special Olympics style event at the place where he works and pointed out that lots of the “special” kids wanted to take his picture.

From a broader perspective, most of the qualms I have about photographing cops also apply to the mass media in general, which are rife with images used out of context or without permission. It pisses me off when the nightly news exploits everyday citizens, but that doesn’t seem to stop me from getting turned on when the camera is in my own hands.

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