This week's story in Seven Days, "A Photographer Is 'Banned' for Taking Pictures on Church Street" has generated enormous reader interest, both here in Vermont and elsewhere. Several photography websites have jumped on the story. One, Photography Is Not A Crime, highlights the fact that the Church Street Marketplace, which endorses the Burlington Police Department's universal trespass program, has received federal funding in the past.
But what about the fallout for the subjects of the article themselves, namely, amateur photographer Dan Scott, and Brenda Vinson, owner of the Church Street coffeehouse Uncommon Grounds? They don't agree on much, but they both wish this story had never happened.
"I haven't picked up my camera since this story ran, mainly out of fear that I'm going to be assaulted," says Scott, 32, who used to spend his lunch hours twice a week shooting photos on Church Street. "I've got a real job and a family. What am I going to do, get myself beat up or killed?"
According to Scott, he's received threats in the virtual world as well, including one posted on Craigslist last week suggesting, "It'd be a real shame if your camera got smashed." Fortunately for Scott, his boss at the Social Security Administration office, where he's worked for 10 years, is supportive. As Scott puts it, "They know who I am here. I can't tell you how many background checks I had to go through just to get this job."
For her part, Vinson isn't exactly thrilled by the article's blowback, either. She says both she and her employees have fielded numerous threatening phone calls from people, including some who have shouted profanities at them. (When I called Uncommon Grounds this morning, the woman answering the phone didn't even identify the business.)
Apparently, those comments have also bled over into the virtual world, where the store's Facebook page has been inundated with angry posts.
People, people! Can't we all just get along? Besides being rude, hostile and misguided, such responses are clearly coming from people who know nothing about the business itself, which has supported local artists, including photographers, ever since it opened. (Ms. Vinson declined to comment further on this story.)
As for the letters to the editor from our readers, last Wednesday's issue generated more responses in one day than any story we've ever run. As a result, this week's issue will include an expanded letters section, where the responses have been all over the map. All of the responses will be posted online.
Incidentally, anyone interested in seeing Scott's photos can check them out here.
Photo of Dan Scott by Jordan Silverman.