To Shoot or Not To Shoot

I heard a revving engine. Then a screech. Then a crash. And then I saw a man get hit by a car. Just moments ago.

Actually, he wasn’t simply hit: I caught view of him milliseconds after he’d been struck by one car, while slammed momentarily between it and another car, this one parked. They were smashed–bumper to bumper–and as the two cars recoiled off one another, he crumpled to the ground.

I was the first on the scene along with Mikal and Kate from the studio. Mikal was on the line with 911 in seconds. The stricken man writhed on the ground grabbing his thigh, pelvis, shin. Groaning. A young driver emerged from the car, in shock, pale-faced, horrified. Hyperventilating.

The driver was the man’s 15 year old daughter.

He’d been helping her learn to parallel park. He’d gotten out of the car to direct her. She mistook the gas from the brake. And it went badly.

It was only after getting the man stable on his back, his head on a pillow with help on the way, that I was able to take a moment to think along a non-mission-critical path. I had my camera with me, as I always do. But I wasn’t about to take a photo. I couldn’t fathom it. For another brief moment, I felt dirty for even thinking about it. But some people can and some people do take photos in times like this. During war, during trama, during accidents, and sometimes these images are deeply important. Other times it’s cold and shallow to shoot. And a horrible invasion of privacy.

So how do we know when not to shoot?

[For the record, I wrote this yesterday intending to publish it immediately. Decided I needed to let it sit for a bit. This morning with some clarity, decided I’d love to hear from some others.]

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