The 8 Layers of Photo-Requesting Interaction

Can I get a picture taken, please?

The White Orange 🍊⚪
6 min readMar 3, 2024

Picturing some birds lost in the depths of UK’s beautiful countryside, we were stopped by two young lads who, to my astonishment, made a rather unusual request: they asked us whether they could get a picture taken. It took me a split of a second to realize these lads were not simply asking whether we could take THEM a picture or whether we could take a picture OF them. A careful examination of the grammar employed suggested their request involved something more convoluted. These lads specifically demanded a picture taken, that is, these two young lads did not intend to get a picture out of our interaction, what they really wanted was us to take a picture of them with OUR camera. In other words, they wanted us to own a picture of them(!). And so we did as they asked: we took a picture of them, they thanked us, and left. That my friends, was the story of my first Layer 5 interaction ever, and it was beautiful.

The 8 layers of photo-requesting interaction.

But these lads, not only they allowed me to experience a Layer 5 interaction for the first time, in fact I must admit they opened up this entire photo-request layering to me. After this ludicrous interaction, I suddenly felt the entire electrical circuity of my nervous system firing up, my dimly lit brain turning into a powerful ultraviolet source as the holy grail of photo-requesting interactions unveiled in front of me. I could finally see clearly that in fact what these lads had done was just to go beyond the boundaries of the acceptable, what they wanted was to rebel against the all too common selfish form of photo-request “Can you take a picture of me please?” i.e. “Can I get something out of you, please?” by demanding the absurd. These lads wanted to break the logical boundaries of photo-requesting and venture where no man has ever ventured before.

And since we are already discussing stupid photo-request interactions, why stop there? Let us know venture even deeper, let us know delve into the full spectrum of photo-request possibilities that these lads have opened to us. Let us know explore the 8 beautiful layers that photo-request interactions afford us.

We’ve already discussed Layer 1, it’s the most common form of interaction and the one we are all familiar with. It is the one it took me a second to realize the young lads were NOT asking for. It is a form of “YOU take ME with MINE” and usually involves asking “Could you take a picture of me, please?” Boring stuff.

Layer 2 is unfamiliar to most mortals but all too common for celebrities or white westerners travelling to exotic countries like India. It is a request of a picture of YOU for the person taking it. Normally involves asking something like “Can we take a picture?” or more creepily “Can I take a picture of you?” It is a form of “I take YOU (or US) with MINE”.

A once rather inconceivable form of photo-taking was to take a picture of oneself. Because only the “I” is involved, here “photo-requesting” becomes merely “photo-taking”. But the advent of the selfie made such once ludicrous “request” not only possible, but acceptable, enabling Layer 3: “I take ME with MINE”.

A slight variation of Layer 1 is “I take YOU with YOURS”. This is like Layer 1 in that the person being photographed ultimately gets the picture. However here is the person making the request who takes the picture. While absurd at first glance — and trust me we will explore in depth the absurdity of it all later on — we all have encountered those kind passers-by who notice we want to get a picture taken, but feel too shy inside to ask and they’re kind enough to even go and approach us and ask us whether we want a picture taken. In its “logical” form one would ask something along the lines: “Do you want a picture taken?” or “Would you like me to take a picture?” This is Layer 4.

And here my friends is where the fun starts, where we leave all reason behind and venture into the realm of all possible photo-requesting interaction regardless of their logic.

We’ve already encountered Layer 5 with our two young lads. These lads created a whole new layer I never thought possible or desirable. They were asking for a “YOU take ME with YOURS(!)”. I can only assume they merely wanted us to have a picture of two random (and I must add seemingly stoned) young lads in our collection of pictures. All they wanted was to exist digitized in the memories of total strangers. These lads did not give a damn whether we wanted a picture of them, nor whether to keep the picture we were about to take OF them. Or perhaps they craved some form of exchange, an opportunity to interact with total random strangers. All they care about was the absurdity of it all, making the interaction the goal itself, without expecting anything in return. Whatever the reason, no one asked, no one questioned this ludicrous request, instead, everyone played along as if it made total sense. Beautiful.

“Can we get a picture taken”? A Layer 5 interaction.

But let us continue our journey into the realm of logic-breaking photo-requests.

For instance, one can envision a slight modification of Layer 5 — “I take ME with YOURS” — leading to a similar outcome but through a different process. This is how it would look like: You walk to a stranger, you ask him whether you could take a picture with his phone. He hands you his phone, you take a selfie, give him back the phone and, you thank him? Or does he thank you? Who is getting something out of someone here? Because the person that ultimately gets the picture never asked for it, nor does the person making the request get the picture, hence the absurdity of Layer 6.

Our Layer-5 lads could have elevated it to a Layer 6 by asking for the camera as opposed to having us take the picture, take a selfie or a picture of themselves, and give us back the camera. We would still have kept their picture and they equally would not have got anything in return. Different process, equally pointless.

There’s also a much more fun variant of Layer 2 — remember “I take YOU with YOURS” — in which you walk to a stranger, out of the blue ask him whether you can take a picture of him while implying you are asking for his phone to do that, take a picture of him, thank him and hand him the phone back. Pointless indeed.

But consider now Layer 7: “YOU take YOU with MINE”. Here’s how such (idiotic) interaction would look like: you walk to a total stranger and ask him: “Could you take a picture of yourself please?” while handing him your phone. This person proceeds to take a picture of himself with YOUR phone, he gives you back the phone, you thank him for that and you both part ways. Now, THAT, is beautiful.

But we find the epitome of absurdity of picture-request interactions in Layer 8: “YOU take YOU with YOURS”, it is like Layer 7 — YOU take YOU with MINE — but instead of handing your phone to the person, you just ask whether he could take a picture of himself. This person would pull out his phone, take a selfie and put the phone back in his pocket. You would then thank him for that and wish him a good day.

So next time you feel adventurous, try it out, walk to a stranger and ask him to please take a picture of himself. Who knows? Perhaps all these forms of picture-request would become acceptable one day…

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