Eating oranges requires care, especially when they’re juicy and you’ve stopped to rest, and are sitting perched on the top of the battlements of the castle you are visiting. You don’t want to fall and end up fifty feet below in the moat, but you don’t want to drip orange juice all down your clean linen shirt so you twist, and lean over, and spit the pips over the edge when you think no one is looking. Except of course you don’t realise it, but in fact you are being observed, and not captured on camera but recorded nevertheless.
It’s strange how often people are oblivious to being drawn, either because they assume they’re not the subject of the drawing or perhaps because they simply don’t notice, being much more conscious of a camera. I’ve sketched people in all sorts of public places, including playgrounds with children accompanied by adults, where if you took out a camera and started to take pictures you’d cause a commotion. I’ve learnt to be very careful about this and to respect people’s concerns, but it saddens me more than I can say, that taking photographs can feel dangerous and threatening.
But in general nobody seems to mind being drawn, even if they notice, which very often they don’t. Perhaps drawing is still understood in a different way. Perhaps the interest being shown feels more respectful, that nothing is stolen, that no harm is intended. Or perhaps it’s simply a question of identity and anonymity; drawings are not like snapshot identifications. It’s not like being caught on a cctv camera. There’s no real sense of violation of privacy. I don’t know.
However fast you draw, it’s a lot slower than pressing the camera shutter. Drawing is like a gentle exploration, a process of getting acquainted. The very best photographers are able to do this too, but for me it’s never quite the same – which is why I carry a sketchbook as well as a camera. Given the chance, and giving myself enough time, I’d rather look a bit more closely, understand more, and get acquainted.