Some people do that to me as well. I find that if I linger around the corner for a while and photograph other stuff, then my presence becomes less obtrusive. By being there for a while I become a regular fixture like anything else on the street. People ignore me. Then I do my thing. Blend in by belonging there.
Even when trying to walk slowly my legs walk quickly, always in a rush to take me somewhere where I don't them to. Force of habit of always walking fast to cover as much of the large area. I stare downwards at the screen, never bring the camera to my eye, so it should look like I'm just toggling settings.
If I sit down and people are walking past, they can see my taking photos, but my reckoning is; i was here first and you're walking in my shot. Yesterday i walked past a barbers, took a quick photo, stopped, took a deep breathe, walked back, aimed, a few seconds felt like minutes, and they all stared and I ran away...no they didn't, they didn't notice. It helps seeing other people with mammoth cameras who look like photographers, then I make sure to photo them and want them to notice.
I take hip shots with the compact camera by my side walking past people, a very observant homeless man (all people sat/stood watching things past by catch me) who was too threatening to take a photo of but i was too stupid to care called my back after the second time I walked past...but just because the camera is by my side sat vertically doesn't mean i take a photo...
That's the trouble with 'sneaky' things like hip shorts. I use them too at times, but I find just being direct about it is better. Then just smile and be friendly. Tell them you think they look really cool and if you feel they are safe then offer to show them the photo. If people get angry, apologize and walk away. I doubt most average people will pick a fight over photos.
'I doubt most average people will pick a fight over photos'
well now that you say that...i failed to realise that my panasonics have a red light that blinks in darkness that i ought to have taped up..the 3 rules are supposed to be; no one sat down who is observing, no one who looks threatening, and maybe don't look in their direction. But when you've lost a few photos from a dead battery just moments ago and think, sod it..
'who do you work for?'
I sometimes wonder if other people can't fathom why anyone would want to take their photo, like it seems more voyeuristic that documenting, especially if you happen to take photos of almost anything. I think that's the thing, like a disconnect between you doing arty things and the person just being. Even an old gorilla at a zoo once gave me a death stare that he deliberately hung as he walked past, it was chilling.
I think people are maybe more cautious and wary about cameras nowadays, in terms of how photos can be used against them. Some people are already paranoid they're being watched and have an inflated sense of their importance, that they think a photo can damage them. I've been thinking about carrying a photo with me to show anyone of the final edits.
I think you're right about people's perception of photos, particularly in western countries. It's definitely a cultural thing too, because when I was in Cambodia people were very happy, almost eager, to pose in photos. It made them feel special. The paranoia in western cultural must arise from the media that has been produced: books such as 1984, or all that stuff we hear about the NSA watching us. I also think there must be something a bit deeper than that. There is a general selfishness in how people go about their privacy. They see their own faces and outward appearance as belonging to themselves. It's almost as if they would charge you a royalty for just looking at them if they could.
Anyway, the solution is to always smile, and don't hesitate to engage them in positive terms. I that simple compliments do wonders to break the tension. Nothing breaks the ice better than 'I really like your hat!'