I’ve had a credible death threat but it was so extreme that I couldn’t do much about it. A guy just walked up to me and calmly announced that he didn’t like me taking pictures and he was going to stick a knife in me. It was a busy street with lots of tourists shooting pictures, but he singled me out. The funny part was that I never even took a picture of him, he just thought I did. It’s a long story but essentially the guy may have been mentally unstable and involved in some kind of criminal activity. In the end he didn’t really care what I had to say so I couldn’t talk my way out of it. There was nothing left to do but walk away and hope for the best. He let me go and I never stopped shooting street.
My advice is that there are no easy answers when you’re threatened. Each situation is unique. The cops will take forever to arrive so you’re on your own and you have to do whatever it takes to survive. As a rule, on the street or with life in general, the only real law is attitude. It’s the only thing that gets respect. So don’t be weak and don’t give up. Most people don’t care if you take their picture, especially if you shoot like you own the place and you belong here. The people who threaten you for taking their picture, think they own the place. They don’t care about the law, their reputation, or what you think of them. So take a cue from the haters and stand your ground.
No matter who you are or what you’re doing, it’s important to believe in what you’re doing or no one takes you seriously. You can’t just take pictures because the law says you can. You have to believe in the law and in photography. I believe in communication and the arts and how important they are for democracy, freedom, tolerance, and serving as a pressure release valve to avoid physical violence. It’s essential for a healthy society to have as much communication as possible and photography/video do it the best. So we all need to keep shooting no matter what. Especially in this day and age when freedom of speech is under attack and security issues are placed ahead of all else and anything we don’t like is called fake news. The battle for freedom and democracy is not fought in a war zone half way around the world, it starts at home. In your neighborhood where someone tries to shut you up because they think they own the place and their rights are more important than yours.