No photos please, we're from Palmy

01:35, Jan 09 2013
Shamel Wanis
SNAPPED: Shamel Wanis takes photos at the crossing on Church St.

A man taking photos of Palmerston North pedestrians he thinks are fashionable is not going to let verbal abuse, police warnings and water being thrown in his face deter him from his goals.

Shamel Wanis has been standing in the middle of Church St by the entrance to The Plaza – the busiest public pedestrian area in Palmerston North – creating a gallery of photos titled ‘‘101 days of street fashion’’ which he hopes will be displayed in a city art gallery.

He has been taking photos while standing on a traffic island – technically a traffic offence.

After three days of photographing, much public angst, and five formal complaints, Palmerston North police are asking Mr Wanis to move on.

But Mr Wanis said yesterday what he was doing was art and he would not be going anywhere.

‘‘I have to continue because it’s my project, it’s my baby.’’


He said he would be returning to the same spot every day for the next 98 days because he wanted 101 photos.

‘‘This is my runway,’’ he said, gesturing to the traffic crossing.

‘‘I want to photograph people with difference.

‘‘The stars get photographed with fashion but we pay for fashion and we have never been photographed.‘‘It’s funny because some people are nice but a lot of people do not like it.  I have been abused and splashed and all sorts.’’

Mr Wanis thinks part of the confusion is that people cannot read his T-shirt which says what he is doing. They think he is taking photos of their children, he says.

‘‘I don’t have a sign I can clip to the traffic light. I need a sign.’’

Mr Wanis was born in Egypt and moved to New Zealand six years ago.

Since then he said he had done a number of photography jobs including taking photos during the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

He has a dream of being like world-renowned street photographer Bill Cunningham.

While Mr Wanis was speaking to the Manawatu Standard, a woman  in a black blazer and a distinctive flowery skirt walked across the crossing.

‘‘See, she dresses differently. ‘I want to capture that, I want to make people think about what they are wearing and why they wear it.’’

Passer-by Rorie O’Brien had her photo taken by him previously.

‘‘He claims it is for fashion but you have to wonder.

‘‘I don’t care, I think it’s funny but I can understand if you are a parent with a little child you might think differently.’’

Another passer-by Sam Buckley did not like that he was taking photos without asking for permission, even if it was legal.

‘‘It’s just weird, surely there is some common courtesy to ask people.

‘‘It’s a bit like what they do on that Stuff [website] street style thing but the people in that seem like they get asked beforehand.

Sergeant Darren Paki said it was legal to take photos in a public place, but Mr Wanis was warned he was committing a traffic offence by standing in the middle of the road.

‘‘I’ll be driving past there [today] and if he’s still in the middle of the road I’ll ticket him.’’

How would you feel about being snapped by a street style photographer?

Manawatu Standard