NO PHOTO, NO PHOTO
“Why can't I take a photo of the gates of Tiananmen Square?”, I pondered silently to myself during a recent tourist excursion to Beijing, China. A police officer lacking any personality and devoid of emotion approached me as I hoisted my camera to my face, attempting to take a quick shot of the North gates and the enormous painting above them. He sharply told me I wasn't supposed to take pictures of the building while shaking his hand in front of my waiting lens. I quickly looked around to the left of me and then to the right and noticed two billion camera flashes fading the paint in the same exact spot of the building I was pointing my camera at. I turned back to the officer and said “Pardon?”, thinking maybe the waxy yellow buildup in my ears prevented me from hearing him properly. He repeated himself and I heard correctly... I wasn't allowed to photograph the building.
People within spitting distance away from Mr. Policeman and I were joyfully wearing out the buttons on their crappy little plastic throw-away insta-matic cameras, but I wasn't permitted. We were surrounded by zillions of clicking little silver and black boxes - absolutely everyone including tiny infants strapped into strollers had a camera - the place was plethoric with picture-producing people - the deafening roar from billions of shutters firing off made me want to shriek and claw my own eyes out! ...and the jovial masses all succeeded in capturing the same simple image I yearned to photograph. But I couldn't have my picture, noooooo, I wasn't allowed. Stupefied at what I was told, I said “OK” and lowered my camera while nervously forcing a consenting smile. I didn’t understand what was different about me and my approach to photographing architecture - other tourists weren't hindered. I walked around to the opposite side of the bridge to where the copper was standing, and took a bloody picture of the stupid building when he wasn't looking. Then I ran away.