photographer confrontation on a public road

as an amateur photographer i often worry about confrontation for a number of reasons. among the top reasons is that another person will take exception to the what, where, when, or how something is being photographed. now, the person may be a member of the public, a property owner or tenant, a local authority such as the police, or some other person or persons and they may approach and react to the situation in a broad spectrum of ways. as the photographer the best response is to always be polite, accommodating and understanding, and to engage in conversation as appropriate. while the vast majority of situations are never a big deal, there's always the potential for unexpected escalation and confrontation. these are challenging situations at best and potentially dangerous at worst. take the situation encountered by alex stone recently which was recorded and posted on youtube:

so, could this have been prevented? could this have been handled and managed differently? what can be learned from this situation? i have several observations about this particular incident that i want to share:

  • public road photography: did the photographer and the team have permission to take pictures in this location? despite this being a public location, it is still a road and there's no right to impact traffic even if your perspective is that there is little or no "inconvenience." others may not have the same perspective (even if they said nothing to you directly), and without permission (or even having provided pre-notification to local authorities that you will be in the area) you may have little recourse if something happens.
  • facilitating the escalation: while the photographer is polite (although perhaps a touch condescending at times) during this encounter, there doesn't appear to be anything to gain from continuing to engage with the man in the truck. why not just acknowledge his presence, apologize for any misunderstanding, and state that you will (as quickly as possible) gather your gear and be on your way?
  • post-escalation response: why call-out the man in the truck as  a "redneck" when posting the video? yes, contacting the police and even posting a video as a lesson for others may be prudent and reasonable, but there's no benefit from further stoking-the-fire by labeling the man in the truck. yes, he's clearly unreasonable but let his actions speak for themselves.

clearly my observations are pointed at the photographer in this situation. the potential for a confrontation was created by choosing to take photos on a public road without prior permission or notice. by continuing to engage with the man in the truck they allowed the situation to escalate. this all could have been avoided in my view.

with all of that said, the man in the truck is completely unreasonable and appears to have only been looking for fight. that the only damage done is to the phone is remarkable as this could have been much, much worse. perhaps the photographer has also learned a few lessons in the process as well.