I was in Hamburg last November & I stayed in a city centre hotel. In the afternoon when I left the hotel & onto the main road right in the heart of the city, I immediately noticed a man sitting by the exit/entrance, begging for money. This man continually made a sort of howling sounds to attract attention to himself. The sounds he made were rather eerie & the sort that would & could create disturbing emotions, just like a bad nightmare & as if he didn’t have a tongue & couldn’t speak. One or two people dropped some change into his cup.
A non German family with a little boy were passing by. The beggar had obviously caught the attention of the little boy who was probably 5 or so years old. His father gave the boy a coin & the boy very very cautiously tiptoes towards the beggar whilst maintaining his eye contact. I think the boy was both curious, frightened & at the same time listening to his father who was encouraging him to approach the beggar & put the money in the cup. & so did the boy. As I passed him by, I wondered if I should have asked him to take a picture. But I didn’t. I thought about it for sometime afterwards.
The next morning, I left the hotel by the same exit & there he was again. So this time I approached him with my camera & a look & gesture that without saying a word transmitted the message that I wanted to take his picture as I held 2 Euros as an offering.
He smiled & agreed & I took two pictures. He could actually SPEAK!! When I talked to him, He said a work or two in English, a word or two in German. But I gathered that he was NOT German but from East Europe.
When I put my camera to my eye, without any form of encouragement from me, he lifted both his arms as if he knew what sort of picture I wanted! He “Posed”. I took the pictures & thanked him & he nodded in response. Once I was done, I noticed that a few girls had been standing behind me & watching the whole thing. I also noticed a few people who were passing by looking at me & looking at him. I couldn’t help but feel that some of the impressions were of disapproval & ghastly disgust. How can he take this poor man’s picture!!
I walked away.
But it all me think.
Who was taking advantage of who here!!
Who exploits who! If indeed that happens!!
Was I guilty of taking advantage of him by offering him money to take his picture? But then again, he was happy to take the money & he even posed for it!!!
Is he “not” taking advantage of the passers by appealing to their emotions in this specific way of communicating, using his disability as an aid for the cause!! Were the passers by being taken the advantage of???
May be it was a bit of both!! May be it didn’t warrant so much thinking. May be I do what I do & he does what he does. & may be that’s the way it works.
Its it & that’s that!
I wish him luck.