Switters’ Blog

What is and what should never be

Posted by switters on May 5, 2007

Some thoughts on the latest sayville.com controversy. For folks who don’t know what I’m talking about, you can pick up the story here. (for those not familiar with the Sayville.com forum, scroll up from that point to follow the link, when you get to the top, click previous to continue reading in order. You need to go to the bottom of each page and scroll up to follow the thread.)

For starters I certainly agree that Heath should have given it up sooner. It was pretty clear that nobody (except FishingWidwow, Heretic and eventually Eviltwin) wanted to answer the question , so why keep asking it? Obviously most of the people on the forum are not bothered by the pictures (shown and not shown). I would presume that either A: they wouldn’t mind having pictures taken of their kids in such a situation (and they won’t say that because nobody wants to envision such a thing) or B: they wouldn’t like it for their own family but they don’t care if it happens to someone else (and they won’t say that because it shows that they are hypocrites).

I don’t know if Heath is reading this, but I’ll offer my thoughts on the question. The first thing that pops into my head is that if I got that call and went to the scene of the accident I’d be a little too worried about my child’s condition to notice somebody taking a picture. Of course, as I thought about it later, I’d probably not be too happy to know that somebody had such a picture and would be concerned about what they were going to do with it. The rational part of me says that even if the photographer is some sick puppy who gets off on such things it doesn’t actually affect my kids in any way, but my gut still really is bothered by the idea.

As far as why Derf took the picture, I think the answer is obvious – he’s a photographer. Photographers take pictures. Picking up the camera and clicking the shutter is as instinctive as breathing. If he was a writer he would have pulled out his notebook and written about it.

At least that’s what I think. I would be interested to know Derf’s perspective. In fact, I’d like to know what Derf has to say about all of his pictures – not because I’m being nosy but because I think it really adds to the appreciation of a photograph to have some of the back story and maybe even the technical info. Maybe it’s just me, but when I go to an exhibition (and I visit ICP and other galleries pretty often), I look at the photograph first, then I read the caption, (Sometimes there’s a title or just the date and technical info, but often there’s a short text with some background) then I look at the photo again in another light. To relate this to Derf, as an example, a couple of the shots he took at ground zero or at the flight 800 memorial only have the resonance they do when the viewer knows the context. Based on the comments that other people have made in the past (e.g. this, this, this, this, or this). I think a lot of forum members agree and would like Derf to give us more information about his shots. In the same vein, I think that hearing Derf’s point-of-view on the global issue of the value of photographic art relative to personal privacy would be of interest, but only if he wants to share it.

But let’s be fair, strong skills in a particular medium don’t necessarily translate to an ability to be articulate and expressive about it. I mean, watching certain ball players in action is like watching poetry in motion, but listening to them try to talk about it is like torture.

Ditto on the issue of why he mentioned having the picture of the girl(?) on the stretcher. Who knows why he wrote that? Who cares? Does it seem like he was bragging or fishing for people to say he should post it? Maybe – but if he doesn’t want to elaborate then we have to deal with it. I say look at the issue like art itself. By not sharing everything, Derf allows us to apply our own interpretations. Is he creepy and opportunistic or did he have valid purpose? The viewer/reader has to decide for him/her-self.

Now to wrap this up with the what I think is the bigger issue. I think a lot of posters on the forum are confusing “what is” and “what should be.” A number of people dismissed Heath based on the idea that privacy is long gone. But while many people are ready to throw it on the corpse cart, privacy can clearly be heard calling out: “I’m not dead!“ The danger is that by treating privacy as if it were already deceased then we actively hasten its demise.

Those brave souls who’ve slogged through all of my diatribes know that I’ve written a lot on this general concept: We should not move the boundaries of what we believe is right in response to things we know are wrong. Murders, rapes, and robberies have been part of society as long as there have been societies but we don’t just accept them – we have cops, judges, and hard working dedicated (and in some cases very entertaining) corrections officers to combat crime. Bullying is a pervasive problem, but rational people know that it’s wrong to just write it off as a normal part of growing up. Teenagers will drink and experiment with drugs, but intelligent parents know that if they accept those behaviors then their kids will push the boundaries further.

If you are ok with the continued decline in personal privacy, if you have no problem with pictures of Brittany’s privates on the web, with people bringing camera phones into locker rooms, and with a potential futue where virtually every moment of your waking life is recorded for anyone’s viewing pleasure, then that’s one thing. But if you’d prefer not to see things get any worse, then it’s really wrong to just throw your hands up and say “that’s the way it is.”


19 Responses to “What is and what should never be”

  1. dakeeper said

    Switters, good post. I think I wrote it before, the guy could have averted all this nonsense if he would have just put a caption on there instead of just posting it for all of us to see. I mean, there’s a big drop off when you go from looking at main street pictures to a smashed up car. He compounded things by bringing up the ‘stretcher’ picture, which very well may go down in history as infamously as the ‘Nixon Tapes’.

    As for the privacy issue, well, it’s sayville.com, not thesmokinggun.com. That was someone’s kid or relative whose family might come across the picture while looking for cookie recipes or the latest sidewalk crack update.

    At the end of the day, it’s really no big deal. The usual suspects chimed in with their weak arguments as well as some clueless new people. I just found it amusing that this guy derf would snipe me and then have the thread locked- amateur troll tactics, nothing more.

    Cya later….

  2. FishingWidow said

    I must commend you on writing your words in such an eloquent way, as well as trying to understand from both sides why some people were “put off”, or upset by the recent photo displayed on sayville.com.
    Disecting the rationale behind the photo is one thing….knee jerk reaction to the photo is another.

    While enjoying some of the most magnificent photos that Derf captures and shares with us, it was a bit concerning to see not only such a voyeuristic image, but also to be thrown from such beautiful images to such a tragic and vulnerable photo.
    While I agree that the last thing a parent would worry about when coming on the scene of their childs accident is some guy taking photo’s, it is chilling to see them posted along with photos of swans and seagulls down at the docks. It is a rush of emotion that swirls some of us back to sadness, envoking an emotion that I hope no one reading this should ever have to endure. The tranquility and wonder that Derf captures is truly a gift, but that photo had no beauty about it..no harmony, no solice…the only thing that photo represented was someone’s accident as well as all of the emotions that go on behind the scenes to such a thing. I hope in my life that each and every person reading this NEVER has to receive that phone call saying that your child has been in an accident. I hope that no one ever has to log on to a website that is community based…where residents make up the majority of the members…and ever has to see a photo that can whirl you back into a moment that you can never change. Looking at night shots of Main Street, and of so many other non invasive subjects that we have all enjoyed is on a different level than what Derf chose to share. I find it kind of weird that he even stopped to take pictures. Stop to help. Stop to be some sort of contributor in any way, but dont stop to start snapping pictures of a kids misfortune. She was a kid. Whether she was 18 or 19 or in her 20’s, Im sure that she was scared out of her mind, and to snap a picture like that not only leaves me thinking that there is a side of Derf that makes him an opportunist, and a bit selfish to not only snap the shot, but post it. Whats with the “I have a picture of her on the stetcher, too”? What is that? Why? Why would someone take that photo, and why would someone post it?(not that he did…but by claiming he had it makes it just as bad as far as I am concerned). Im sure that I will hear that its “art”. No, its really not. Its an opportunity to do what struck him at the moment without any care as to who it may effect. I hope and pray that each of you never has to see a photo of a car accidnent that your child was in. There are no words to describe it, and there was no reason to post it. Im sure that I have made my opinion of it clear, and being that it was posted…I dont understand that even while Derf may not comprehend why it was upsetting, instead of saying something like “I never thought of it that way, and it was never intended to be controversial but I will try to take that under consideration”, he and others made it as if it was just another photo of the seagulls.

    I have looked at it as an artistic spin on the creative eye…and while I must say that the photo is of beautiful quality, that still doesnt make it an appropriate post. I think that was the only point (atleast for me) that was trying to be made. Art should make one feel good…not sad by looking at something that evokes the emotions of other peoples tragedies.

    As far as your reference to “clueless newbies”, I sure hope that you weren’t referring to me. I have been a member for some time, but now have a new name due to a new Windows system.

    I think that had EVERYONE taken the time to see each others point of view, that maybe a bit of compassion and understanding could have been learned from this. Everyone was so hellbent on having their own point of view be the right one, and instead….Derf cried foul and the whole thread got locked. If you cant take the heat of what you post, whether it be photo’s, thoughts or snide remarks, then dont post at all.

    I will leave you with the hopes that anyone who didn’t understand why that photo was upsetting to several of us never has to understand.

    Peace out……


  3. Heath said

    pretty good post – one thing – you say i should have known when to shut up – how’s that for the pot calling the kettle black? do you get paid by the word??????????? (j/k) it seems like you’re trying to be fair to derf but I don’t know why (you even have a link to his website?! what’s that about?) That guy is the biggest crybaby i’ve ever come across in my life!!! He’s like a spolied little baby. i love how he orders everybody not to reply to heretic and then tells the moderator to close the thread – and he listens!! I showed what I wrote to my dad and after he got done laughing at how stupid some of the people on here are he suggested that i leave this alone. he said if i’m goint to waste time on the internet i should avoid things like sayville.com that will melt my brain and stick with more productive things like porn and gambling (ha-ha)

  4. vt_photo said

    Wow, one week on vacation and I miss a whole philosophical discussion on news photography, my own chosen profession. I think you said it best, Switters, when you explained that a good photographer would come across that scene and document it as best he could, which would likely include pictures of the victim. In such situations (and I’ve been there), there’s not much time to think: you follow what is going on with your camera. It’s only later, when you sit down to look at what you’ve captured, that you can start to make an editorial decision about what the best pictures are.

    In his defense, derf only mentioned the victim pictures as a response to criticism, in that he was trying to show some good judgment in what he posted. He recognized that Sayville.com is not the right place for such photos. To me, the context was probably all wrong, if not the execution. A separate thread, along the lines of “Accident on Montauk Highway” would separate his bucolic images from something very ‘newsy’ like a car accident. Yes, Heath has a good point that people who were directly effected by the accident would not appreciate seeing pictures of it. But many of us in this area knew 9/11 victims, and are reminded every time a newspaper, magazine or TV program shows images of the burning towers. We’ve all known tragedy, and yet we all walk out of our front doors every day and face the world. Even when it’s not as pretty as a sunrise over the Great South Bay.

  5. switters said

    Excellent comment Vt_photo – I agree with everything you wrote. Your defense of Derf makes sense but it still begs the question of why, if the explanation is so simple, did he not just say that? He could have nipped the whole thing in the bud right away and prevented a lot of nonsense. It may just be, as I said, that he’s just not as articulate as you clearly are about his chosen medium. I think Heath is being a bit critical to say Derf is a “crybaby,” but he certainly does seem to be a bit reactive. Not sure I’d want to get in a plane with him behind the controls if he’s having a bad day ;).

    FW, I’m pretty sure Heretic didn’t mean you. You were one of the few who clearly articulated your point-of-view. But I must know… who were you before???

    Heretic, What’s with not commenting on the Monty Python reference – I put that in there just for you for crying out loud. (along with the other obvious reference TO YOU).

    Heath, Father knows best (wink, wink). And try THIS SITE if you want something really hot!

  6. LK said

    Everytime I visit Sayville.com I feel like leaving Sayville asap.

    It was a simple picture by a guy who likes to take pictures, what’s the big deal?
    Don’t like the picture, then skip the clearly labeled pic threads.

    But to carry on like a 5 year old about it like Heath did is just pathetic.

  7. Sayville said

    Yeah this Heath guy has to go.

  8. sayvilleGuy said

    “Everytime I visit Sayville.com I feel like leaving Sayville asap.”

    What’s stopping you?

  9. dakeeper said

    Switters, I did see that but I ain’t sayin’ nuthin ’bout dat’!! Let’s keep that to ourselves for the time being….and I always do like Monty Python references…

    I never said anything about FishingWidow.

    Heath haters, much like Heretic haters, just don’t get it. The issue was not the quality of the photo, I mean, who cares. The point was, like the story I related, here we are looking at pictures of uh….uh….well,,,local stuff and then all of a sudden we’re looking at this wreck. I mean, it’s a f*cking car in which someone got hurt, not a tractor pulling pumpkins or something. It’s a forum, not the AP wires. The guy tripped up and then, to borrow a phrase I hear often, he ‘bitched up’ when they brought the heat. Pathetic. Just stick to the Robert Moses bridge at sunset and Johnson Avenue at midnight pics. Lol- overhead wires ‘look like spiperwebs’…huh? I’d love to spend an afternoon with these art critics at the MMOA or the Cooper-Hewitt.

    As for you people ripping Heath I think you’re all a bunch of snivelling hypocrites, of which Saville seems to have an endless supply.

  10. MOM2GIRLS said

    Yes, Switters, Sayville does indeed have an endless supply of snivelling hypocrites. I cannot agree with you more. Sayvillites also have an an endless supply of cell phones with cameras (I will never understand the concept of this by the way…if you own a camera and a phone…then why combine the two?)…people take photos every moment…because they CAN!

    On Sunday, a man was arrested for taking a photo of a 15 year old girl, with his cell phone, underneath her skirt, while she shopped at the mall with her mom! There have been incidents where men have been arrested for taking photos of kids playing on beaches with ‘hidden’ cell phones while the kids’ parents kept a close eye on them.

    Let’s face reality: “It could be worse”….

  11. dakeeper said

    As heinous as those examples are, at least we don’t have to view them on a community forum….

  12. switters said


    Any normal person will agree that a person who takes “upskirt” pictures of little girls (or adult women for that matter) is a pervert. But think this through in relation to what started this thread.

    Imagine that a photographer is taking pictures around town and in one of his pictures he accidentally catches a little girl sitting on a bench in an unladylike position. He now has, effectively, the same picture as the pervert (assuming the pervert wasn’t caught). The event is the same: an inappropriate picture has been taken of a young girl without her knowledge or permission and the result is the same: a man is in possession of an inappropriate picture. But the subject of the picture cannot been said to have been harmed in any way since she doesn’t even know about it. Yet in one case we want to (and should) throw the guy who took the picture in prison and in the other case we don’t think anything of it… as long as we believe it was an accident and he doesn’t publicize the picture of course.

    My point is that it really comes down to intent. We object to the pervert’s actions not because they do any actual harm, but because of what his actions represent and because they violate our standards of decency. Viewed this way, I think you should be able to see where Heath was coming from. In both scenarios (the pervert taking the cell phone picture and Derf taking the picture of the girl on the stretcher), a man was photographing a vulnerable girl without her knowledge. While you can argue that it is a totally different story, please keep in mind that we consider it different only because we are grossed out (justifiably) by the idea of what the photographer was thinking, not by any actual difference in the physical actions of Derf vs. the pervert or the effect on the subjects.

    It seems clear that Heath was looking for some explanation of why Derf took the picture. If Derf had said, “I just get off on looking at accident victims,” I think we all would have been grossed out. Fortunately, he didn’t say that. But the problem was that he didn’t say anything. I may be right in my assessment (see above) about why he took the picture and VT_Photo may be right in his guess about why Derf mentioned it. But those responses came AFTER Heath had already given up on Sayville.com and they didn’t come from Derf himself, so we may never know.

    My point(good lord I’ve got to find an editor to help me pare this crap down), is that you and I have agreed in the past on things and I think you are generally above the typical reactive poster, but I think you were way too hard on Heath and you should reconsider your point-of-view.

    People might think its is unfair for Heath to have kept pushing the issue of WHY Derf took the picture and then mentioned it (and I agree he should have dropped it sooner), but when you consider the larger issue, I think the question of intent is a fair one.

  13. dakeeper said

    Hey Switters- what up son? Listen, I’m tired of rationalizing about Derf and his ‘MVA at Night’ photo. It was a bullshit photo to post it on the community forum and then he bitched up when it came time to answer for it. Well sorry Derf, you’re not always gonna get a ‘you go guy’ and ‘oh my, how wonderful art thou’. Take it like a man and move on, but what does he do? He gets the admin to lock the thread. That’s the equivalent of a certain neighbor of mine cursing at me and then running into his house. “Paging Mr. Poo-Say, your wontons are ready…Mr. Poo-Say?”


  14. Heath said

    mom2girls wrote:

    On Sunday, a man was arrested for taking a photo of a 15 year old girl, with his cell phone, underneath her skirt, while she shopped at the mall with her mom!

    well now we know why derf hasnt posted any new pictures

  15. SJDF13 said

    I have enjoyed reading all the comments on this both here and on the sayville.com forums. The only thing I can say is what came to my mind when I saw that photo…
    What a statement of the human condition, diverting from all the scenic and lighthearted photos of the post this image reminded me of what we are capable of, I need to be reminded of life’s ugliness every once in awhile to better appreciate all the good things. Now I have no idea of Derf’s intentions but I will not discount the photo or his comments. People react in different ways and some days like when I read this type of thing I wish we all could be a little more accepting and not so condemning of each other.

    This may be off the cuff and not appreciated but I swear to god I want to send some of the savyille.com fanatics off to Iraq and Iran maybe they will strap bombs on them and take them out for not believing in the way of life of Sayville residents, who knows maybe they will get a version of Sayville with no cracks in the sidewalks and where all the big trees are still around and no chain drugstores are to be seen anywhere, as a reward.

    What should be on a community forum? Any community as with the whole of civilization will have the full range of joy, jubilation and all the things that are great about humans beings as well as sadness, pain and generally “evil” things, so why not represent them in a community forum. Granted it should probably be presented in a considerate fashion if not so flowery topics are to be posted about.

    Now as an adult that grew up in Sayville before I moved away I will say this, that town the school district and most of the adults there are so full of shit it makes me want to puke. You can not hide from your problems or issues even as a community all you can do is face them together to make a better place (sayville used to be great at the hiding and ignoring part i hope it has gotten better)

  16. dakeeper said

    SJ, my whole argument with that guy’s photo wasn’t the quality of it, the guy obviously loves Sayville at night, but whether or not it was appropriate for the forum, if only because of the victim’s family or the victim herself seeing it. The discussion got bad when he mentioned the picture he had of the victim on a stretcher. Bad taste, nothing more.

    As for your other observation, from my standpoint, I’m a realist. I’ve experienced and seen alot of shit in my life, both good and bad. My problems with many of the people in this community are their insular and selfish ways. I cannot believe how self-centered some of these people can be, from little league, boy scouts, football, and other community-oriented activities I’ve joined.

    Lastly, some of these people just have no sense of humor and they could shit diamonds with how tight their asses are.


  17. MOM2GIRLS said


    Maybe I WAS a little harsh on Heath…however, my point of view has not changed (after much reconsideration)…here’s hoping derf and Heath have worked things out…


  18. LK said

    Loevly picture of a dead goose on Sayville.com. I prefer the accident photo any day.

    One day my family will see there is more to life than LI.

  19. dakeeper said

    The goose picture was posted to make a point. Some got it, some didn’t. If I want to lmao I’ll go to youtube or to some of the other forums I’m involved in where people know how to laugh and aren’t tight like many sayville.com patrons seem to be.

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