Is it just me or are we getting paranoid about photography and kids in the Western world. Whenever I travel overseas I find photographing kids to be no hassle whatsoever. The kids themselves love the game and their parents seem to love it too. Or maybe it's the way I approach it.
Being a father of two young boys myself I can understand the sensitivity around having a stranger point a camera at the people in this world you most want to protect.
But honestly, some photographers just aren't helping their own cause. I was at a birthday party down on the Cairns foreshore the other day. My 4 year old was playing with a couple of his mates down on the beach and I was keeping half an eye on them from a distance. All of a sudden an elderly lady who was walking away from me comes jogging back to tell me that some pervert is taking photos of my son. Here we go again, I thought, public paranoia about photographers. But although her suspicions were mis-directed in my opinion she was just trying to look out for the safety of young children in a world where the media loves to jump on us 'dodgy photographers'.
Sure enough down the way a bit I could see a young backpacker-type with a long zoom lens pointing in the general direction of my kids. He saw her talking to me and then quickly walked away. Now seriously, I'm a professional travel photographer and understand the joy of photographing kids when you're travelling. There's an unbridled joy in their play that is great to capture in an image and makes a great memory of your trip. But if you don't get permission from the parents beforehand what are they supposed to think?
Now I don't know if paedophiles carry zoom lenses. Everything I've read says that they seem to have camera phones held low but how the hell would I know? If you want to photograph children (and why not I say?) then find out who's looking after them, go up and explain what you want to do and get their permission. Offer to show them the pictures afterwards and send them some copies. Give them a card with your details on it so they can email you for copies.
The world is ganging up against photographers for no sensible reason whatsoever. Don't contribute to the problem by making us all seem suspicious. Be open and proud of what you do as a hobby. Take joy in the art of photography. But, most importantly, go and find their guardian and get permission. If that guy down the beach the other day had just come up to me and asked I wouldn't have minded whatsoever and I'm betting that many parents will be just as cool about it if they know what you're doing.