View Full Version : Hassled by The Man?
Photographers' rights have come up quite a bit lately.
This file is informative:
and story on NPR
Morning Edition, June 16, 2005 · Photographers across the country have
complained of getting harassed by law enforcement officials citing
security concerns since the September 11 terrorist attacks.
I was under some highways photographing with my 7x17 when a police cruiser pulled up. They were "checking" on me.
I smiled and told them what I was doing. It was great. Their response was "... we're glad you know what you're talking about..." and drove away.
I've had less hassels in South Asia. But that's another story.
I haven't had any problems. I think this whole "photographer hassled by police" stuff has been blown way out of proportion. When someone gets hassled you read about it, you don't read about the ten thousand other photographers on any given day who went about their business with no problems at all.
It depends what you shoot and where you live. I reckon on average, I have chat with some "super snooper" at least on 1 in 4 outings... Granted, I live on an international boundary and my subject matter tends not to be glitzy and obvious.
That's what I thought until it happened to me. I was hassled by an overly entusiastic private security person when I was photographing from the roof of a public garage. (That was actually the second time I was questioned by a security guard.) I was all set up, and had I done what he said, I would have had to start all over again, probably on another day. As it was, I had to go to the security office afterwards to discuss the matter. I told them who I was and what I was doing, and they told me I could photograph from up there without asking permission. In the large scheme of things, it was a minor annoyance, but I do have to say that once it happens to you, there is a chilling effect. You think carefully about where you go to photograph things. Sometimes if you think you may be hassled, it just doesn't seem worth the effort.
I reckon we photographers have the responsiblity of being reasonable to the folks on the line. They have a job to do even if it invades our personal space and reason. As Brian pointed out we hear about one and assume it is widespread. In this world of instant media an event can be reported around the world.
Remember what Grocho says about assume ". . . it makes an ass of u & me!"
That also works for the guys in blue with badges and weapons they need to use a bit of sense as well. An old grey hair fellow with an 8x10 isn't going to be taking to many images. I would worry about folks with those phones with cameras builtin, now there is a real recon instrument! Instant images around the world via the cellphone.
my few pennies. . .
I have had a few unpleasant encounters with local law enforcement (not in my town, which is in the far suburbs of Boston) while out photographing. Nothing dramatic, not always, but unpleasant nonetheless. It happens. Anyway, I am glad that NPR ran that piece.
I just wanted to ad that I have listened to the NPR radio article and gone to the lawyers webpage that post a rights handout and even got a copy.
In today's America you are not free. Think about it. You can be pickup without charge and held indefinitely at the whim of the "authorities!"
In my most humble disabled veteran opinion, "The Patriot Act" is the most un-American document, in my lifetime, that the government has perpetrated against the American population. I'm done no more politics I come here for photography.
i've had very few bad experiences. when security guards have asked what i'm up to, i cheerfully explain. i respect them for wanting to know ... when they see a stranger setting up a big aparatus next to the property they're guarding, i'd expect them to ask what the story is ... anything less would be negligent. usually it takes them about five seconds to figure out i'm not a terrorist, and by then they've already heard way more than they want to about my photography. the more i prattle on, the faster they walk away.
some of them might give you attitude, and many will be ignorant about what they have the right to ask and what you have the right to do. but in my experience that can usually be defused by being friendly and unchallenging, but also unyielding.
I've mentioned it before, but I have had run-ins with NPS police on Staten Island (went to the station to argue my case), NJ Transit police (had to wait for a supervisor to arrive), NJ State police (escorted out of park on Delaware River once, brought to police barracks to argue my case another time), Bridge Authority Police at Golden Gate (escorted out of park), and numerous rent-a-cop run-ins (too many to count). I've been questioned countless times, but almost always politely and with no further action after I explain myself. As I photograph bridges and buildings I've just learned to accept that I'm going to have to fight for my rights. Amazingly, the police here in NYC have only asked me to make sure I stay out of pedestrian flow. They've never hassled me and often times want to take a peak at the groundglass. All I can say is push it until you get a supervisor and if that doesn't work push it as long as you have time. I've been threatened with loitering charges numerous times until I promise to sue for unlawful arrest. The MTA here announced that they've given up on the photography ban and two weeks later had a questionable arrest of someone taking pictures of their infrastructure.
"I haven't had any problems. I think this whole "photographer hassled by police" stuff has been blown way out of proportion. When someone gets hassled you read about it, you don't read about the ten thousand other photographers on any given day who went about their business with no problems at all."
Sorry Brian, but I have been harrased numerous times. Particularly in Chicago but also in DC, and Arizona a couple of times and even in Albuquerque shooting a piano store for the builder! Like if I was a terrorist my target of choice would be a piano store! This harrassment stuff is real. People are frightened by things they don't know and view cameras are something most people know nothing about and I guess look suspicous. I have been at this for 27 years and it is definitely getting worse..
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