My Apology to Charlize Theron

It has only been 10 years or so, but it is finally time I publicly apologize to Charlize Theron.  I am big fan of the Academy Award winning actress, model and philanthropist (donate here), but I did her wrong.  It is kind of a funny misunderstanding.

I was new to New York,  I had no work or clients yet.  So I spent the day trying to take interesting photos in Central Park; old people, couples, NY life.  I was trying to do candid photography in the tradition of Elliot Erwitt or Joel Meyerowitz.  Now if you follow this blog, then you know I never post candid photography.  Frankly because I don’t have the disposition to do it.  I am way better at taking photos of people who want to be in front of the camera.

So I am in Central Park and I have been taking photos for a few hours.  I have my Contax G2 film camera and a standard 45mm lens.  For the last half hour, I have been sitting on the bank of the pond taking photos of people rowing.  I am trying to be patient and get something good, but it isn’t working.  In my head, and this is the fashion photographer in me, I am thinking that I would love to get a cute woman rowing a guy on the lake.  Nothing doing.  I get up to leave and I see a super hot woman and a guy signing up for the boats.  I am excited and sit back in my spot. A few minutes later, she is rowing this guy right past me.

Now, you would think after a half hour I would have a pretty good idea of how to get a good shot from this position.  Apparently not.  Check the photo below.  I blurred it a bunch extra here on purpose, for her privacy.  But look at that boring composition and she is tiny in the frame with no definitive expression.  No feeling, stagnant.  I blew it.

At this point, all is good.  She saw me take a photo and gave me this beautiful smile.  Of course, I am an idiot and didn’t get that on film and still have NO IDEA the gorgeous beauty is the famous actress. So she rows away. Here is where I make my mistake.  I think I will try again.  I walk down over the bridge and wait on another bank.  A bit later she passes by again.  This time even further away and I have no zoom lens or anything, so I get nothing.  But she sees my again. I guess she puts 2 + 2 together that I am a photographer and probably assumes I am paparazzi.  I mean, it makes sense.  She is super famous and I am following her with a professional camera.  Well, you could just tell that I seriously ruined her day.   In hindsight, it was a moment where she went from being free and having fun, to being in a fish bowl.

I figured it out about half hour later.  I had left immediately, but I continued through Central Park.  I overheard the Rangers talking about her on the lake. After that, it made a lot more sense to me.

Of course, I had no intention of upsetting her.  My bad, I am not good with the whole recognizing the most famous people on earth.  Regardless, I made her day worse through photography and as a photographer I hate that.

To make matters worse, I did have the rare chance to apologize face to face.  Let her know it was just a misunderstanding.  Several years ago, I was backstage at a Coldplay concert.  Just standing there.  This time I managed to recognize Michael Stipe walk right past me.  And just then, Sandra is like, ” Whoa, don’t turn around.  Charlize Theron is back to back with you.”  There she was.  Super gorgeous and 2 inches from me.  First thing that pops into my head is that this is my chance to apologize.  But I wimped out.  I thought, what if it just pisses her off to remember me pissing her off.

So what’s done is done.  She probably doesn’t even remember anymore, while it is something that oddly sticks with me.   It makes you think about perspective in a couple ways.

All that being said and in the anonymity of the internet: Charlize Theron, I am Sorry.


Please consider giving to Charlize’s Africa Outreach Project.  I just made a donation and it was super easy.  Took like 30 seconds, they take credit cards and you can even text in your donation.