Smile For Me, Russia

Anti-Photobomber 1
Couple kissing at hamburger restaurant. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

They hide in plain sight. When shooting street photography in Russia, odds are good you’ll encounter them. Anti-photobombers. They’re everywhere.

Let’s play “Where Are the Anti-Photobombers.” In the picture above, can you can find them?

Did you guess the smooching couple? Wrong. They’d been at it for ten minutes, hardly noticing me standing there with camera.

The anti-photobombers are here:

Anti-Photobomber 1, Arrow

The scarf-over-the-face is a classic move of the female Russian anti-photobomber.

And if a lady should find herself without a scarf, she can always pull the draped-arm routine:

Anti-Photobomber 2
Women at a butcher shop. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

Russian male anti-photobombers have their own techniques:

The “Cup In Front of Face”

Anti-Photobomber 3
Man at a fast-food restaurant. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

The “Pretend I’m a Wall”

Anti-Photobomber 4
Line cook at a steak restaurant. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

The “Turn My Back, Like I’m Not Here”

Anti-Photobomber 5
Women, dog, and security guard at a farmer’s market. PHOTOGRAPH BY RYAN BELL

So, what’s up with Russian’s camera shyness?

The earliest mention of it that I could find was from a 1947 newspaper article, published in Australia. It reported on the strange behavior of Russians in East Berlin, Germany.

A gun may make a Russian cower, freeze or bolt; but a camera makes him frantic… No one knows exactly why a Russian is camera-shy; but stroll into the Soviet sector of Berlin with a camera and your chances are about even to wind up in the secret police prison.

The article warned:

One almost sure way to raise a storm is to point your camera directly at the face of a Russian soldier. He swings his tommy-gun off his —> Read More