I am the OP. I want to say first that I wasn't being trying to be insensitive when I said he was dirty. This was a fall harvest festival in the boonies. There were hundreds and hundreds of people there and they were overwhelmingly "country folk." We weren't dressed to the nines by any means. These types of festivals in the rural areas around here draw EVERYONE.
Also, my son and I go to a farmer's market that is near a homeless shelter that I volunteered at for many years. We encounter physically dirty but otherwise great people all the time. I am not dismissing him because of the way he looked but like another poster said, all the factors added up to a nonsensical and upsetting picture.
He also was NOT conspicuous. He'd been there photographing for over an HOUR (my father had noticed him the whole time... he's an intuitive and an observer) before the other parents started to pick up on him and the ONLY reason is that when my dad made eye contact, he moved so quickly and carelessly that he drew a few parent's attention.
It was really a bizarre experience and I sort of resent feeling like I'm being told that I was being mean to a poor person or something. I'm not wealthy or even middle class. I am a photographer and I know what the equipment costs. Even if he'd gotten it used, he was toting $9000 worth of camera. I can understand spending money on your art and not your appearance because we do that but this guy was really off.
Oh, and I don't think fear was coloring my feelings as I wasn't afraid until he ran off after eye-contact. I was just ignoring him and my dad's suspicions but when we got shifty, my guard went up quickly.
Originally Posted by ollyoxenfree
Since your instincts alerted you that something was not right, I think you took most of the steps you could in the situation. In a non-performance situation, I think you can also tell someone that you don't want photos or film taken of you or your child. I don't think there's much more you can do though if it's a public performance.
If your instincts are only alerted by poor dress or messy hair or questionable hygiene, I suggest you reconsider. A lot of pedophiles blend into the crowd. They look like dads and friendly neighbours and teachers and scoutmasters - because they are. It's quite possible that one of the "nice-looking" guys taking photos that day was doing it for not-nice reasons.
Elsethread, someone recommended Gavin deBecker's book, Protecting the Gift, about protecting children and teaching them safety - in part by listening to instinct but also by being educated about identifying threats and risks and evaluating them. It's a good read. Instincts are useful, but they need to be informed.
Yeah, I just find it upsetting that the steps I took are all I could do and I'm still feeling creepy about all of it.
I know that pedophiles blend in. My mother's neighbor that looked totally nice, has 2 school-aged kids of his own, and was highly regarded in the community was recently sentenced after the best buy geek squad that was fixing his hard drive found a MASSIVE amount of kiddy porn. The guy had always creeped us out, for no specific reason, and we'd always steered clear.
I have read both of DeBecker's books. I think some of his theories are weird and off but some are right on. Anyway, this guys had Access, Cover, and Escape (ACE) to tons of kids. This place was CROWDED and LOUD (the music was super loud) and everyone was distracted by the festivities.
Originally Posted by Grylliade
It amazes me how people on this message board are always so quick to dismiss a person's intuitive feelings or write off a creepy situation as "no big deal". The OP was right to be concerned and suspicious. It seems that if the guy had pure motives then he would NOT have ran away EVERY time he noticed someone watching him. That alone says a lot.
It is not just the guy's clothes. It is not just about him taking pictures. It is ALL of those things taken into account along with his suspicious actions and how he did not want to be approached.
Originally Posted by noobmom
Let's remember here that the man in OP's original post was not some dirty (in the literal sense) mentally ill homeless man minding his own business in a city park. He was out of place (he has money for a camera with a telephoto lens and no money for clean, unripped clothes?) and doing something that I think most of us would think is at least unusual. And he left when the police arrived. It wasn't the mere appearance of the man, it was his actions and demeanor that created a total picture. That's a lot of specifics, not just a general creepy feeling.
EXACTLY. That is it, spot-on.
Today, a day later, I'm still feeling really really ANGRY about this incident. It makes me sick that people can act like this and it's just fine because they didn't "do anything."