As a photographer, I’ve often been approached by seemingly curious, partially annoyed, and even downright angry civilians asking what I’m doing taking photos.

I never really know how to reply aside from saying, “Yes, I’m taking photos because I’m a photographer and that’s what I do.” That answer usually doesn’t suffice.

I get it. It looks weird. We as human beings are great at noticing differences in patterns since the caveman days. After all, any shift from the ordinary could be the difference between living to see another day and being served for dinner. However, the very nature of being an artist is to see things differently, do things differently, and just being different.

Don’t worry. I’m not going to eat you.

But you do think that I could be of potential harm to you, right?

Since I’ve returned home to San Francisco, I’ve spent a lot of time photographing my neighborhood. The exteriors of the beautiful houses and the entire ecosystem of manmade and natural structures fascinate me. This is something only someone who has a fresh pair of eyes can see, and that is exactly what I see. To me, this is admiration in its purest form, but to others, it is out of the ordinary and deemed suspicious activity.

You see, because you rarely see people zooming up close to details of your house. Frankly, you probably never see people take pictures of your house in general. It’s weird, and almost intrusive. In addition, seeing a tall Asian man taking pictures of neighborhood homes just doesn’t really make sense. Umm … “Excuse me sir, this is not a tourist destination, the Golden Gate Bridge is that way…”

But here’s the reality. If I’m up to any suspicious activity, it’s that I’m taking ridiculously good photos of your beautiful home.


by Jason Lam

Originally published at on February 19, 2016.

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