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Thread: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

  1. #21
    multi format
    Join Date
    Feb 2001

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    OP I can totally see where you are coming from.
    I'm not Anglo or European either and what I do because
    I stick out like a sore thumb where I live ... I actually call the police give them
    a head's up, let them know what I am up to in case some wackjob calls the cops
    that "some guy who looks different with this weird box is doing something dangerous "
    the PO-PO can just say, "dude that guy is just taking pichers." When I photographed a secure
    military installation I actually had a MP running interference for me, I gave him photography pointers
    and he told all the looky loos that I was with him. Lately I am using something bigger than 8x10 and I am
    thinking of having a "body guard" hang out with me so well, you know he can wear all black, wear shades, have
    ear pods in, and look good, maybe collect some sacred 7-digits, and keep me safe.
    Last edited by jnantz; 3-Jul-2019 at 14:10.
    enjoy your coffee

  2. #22

    Join Date
    Dec 1999
    Forest Grove, Ore.

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    We've had problems with harassment in Portland near the Federal Building. Federal officers have emerged all hot and bothered from the building and hassled photographers taking photos, once when a photographer was using an 8x10 in a public park just across the street.

    Maybe they're unfamiliar with the law? In one case, the federal officials conducted a search through the photographer's equipment. The photographer later received an apology.

    It's all rather ridiculous. If I were going to surreptitiously photograph a building having bad purpose, I sure wouldn't call attention to myself by using an 8x10. Nor would there be a need to use 8x10.

    So, we've had similar problems. But from the sound of it in this thread, such overreactions are pretty rare.

  3. #23

    Join Date
    Aug 2016
    Scottsdale, AZ

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    Quote Originally Posted by neil poulsen View Post
    Maybe they're unfamiliar with the law? In one case, the federal officials conducted a search through the photographer's equipment. The photographer later received an apology.
    I have had my camera bag searched without a warrant as well.

    I was photographing about 50' into an alley -- and so you know, in Phoenix, alleys are considered open to the public unless posted otherwise -- when a police car pulled up at the end of it, two officers got out and started looking at my car parked in the entrance of a large parking lot across the street, such that the last few inches of its bumper hung over the sidewalk.

    I yelled to them that it was my car and they yelled back for me to come to them, so I did, leaving my camera on the tripod and my camera bag hanging hanging from a hook on the center column.

    Except when I start to cross the street, one of them warns me that I'm about to jaywalk and he will cite me if I do so. He then tells me I need to walk down the sidewalk to the corner, cross the street in the marked crosswalk, then walk back up the sidewalk to speak to them.

    "Really?" I asked him and he nodded his head up and down and pointed to the corner.

    So I started down the sidewalk, as directed, and the other officer crossed the street directly, walked down the alley, and retrieved my camera / tripod / camera bag, then returned to the police car, where he started to search it.

    I yelled "Hey, you don't have a warrant" as I was approaching (because I had to walk a much longer distance than he did, I still hadn't reached them and their car) and he responded with "I don't need one, because you abandoned your camera in the alley."

    Then proceeded to start searching my bag, looking for serial numbers on everything in it, which he was calling-in over his radio to dispatch so they could search their database to determine whether any of it was stolen.

    At which point, I called the police on my cellphone and asked for a supervisor to be dispatched to the scene because the cops were harassing me and performing an illegal search.

    The harassment continued for another 45 minutes, including threatening to have my car towed because it was illegally parked. It wasn't, but I humored them and moved it into the parking lot, which they told me was posted private property and they would have car towed if I parked it there. I pointed out to them there were no signs posted to that effect, which meant I was free to park there, at which point they pointed a No Trespassing sign on a fence running along the far side of the parking lot and claimed it applied to the parking lot in front of it, as well as the area behind it, which was complete BS and I told them so.

    Unfortunately, it was 2:00 am and no parking was permitted on the street at that hour, so I had to drive three blocks away to park my car, then walk back to retrieve my camera gear, because they were still holding it pending the all-clear from dispatch on the serial numbers.

    No supervisor ever arrived, although two other police cars did and the six officers were talking among themselves for a few minutes -- I was made to stand far enough away that I couldn't hear what was said -- and the other two cars left.

    After waiting another 20 minutes, dispatch informed the officers that none of my gear had been reported stolen, so they returned it to me and told me to leave the area. I told them I didn't need to leave the area just because they told me to do so and I intended to continue photographing, as I was legally allowed to do.

    The harassment then continued, as they followed me -- both while I was on foot and also when I drove to another area to photograph -- and made it impossible for me to photograph because they had their high-beams on and were shining the A-pillar lights on the scenes I tried to photograph, ruining in advance any photo I tried to take.

    After another 20 minutes of this, I gave up and drove home.

    Previous to this incident, the police I encountered during my outings were always friendly -- they would often wave to me as they drove past -- but for the next 18 months, I was hassled by every cop who spotted me, so clearly these two cops had gotten the word out about me having committed "Contempt of Cop" by pushing back against them and I was considered fair game, to the point I gave up photographing in that area and started photographing elsewhere for the next year, at which point things returned to the way they had been previously.

    I considered filing a complaint against them, but was warned against doing that because I had no evidence to support the majority of my claims (the full extent of their harassment went well beyond what I detailed above, btw) -- presumably, the only evidence would be police call logs showing they had stopped to investigate me and called in the serial numbers of my gear to dispatch -- so it would not be taken seriously and I would only be painting a target on my back that would remain visible for a long time. Needless to say, I never received any apology.

    So perhaps my earlier advice about minimizing one's interaction with the police now has some context to support my conclusion?

    Contrast that with the police officer in Superior, AZ, a small, economically moribund mining town an hour's drive east of Phoenix (as an aside, it was the town in which a large part of Oliver Stone's 1987 movie, U-Turn, was filmed due to its unique, frozen-in-time character) who stopped me late one night, warned me to avoid a certain area because it had become a gang hungout, and gave me his personal cellphone number to call in case I needed help, because the town's dispatch only worked for two shifts, so any 911 calls during the third shift were routed through Globe, AZ, a much larger neighboring town, and as such, it sometimes would take a few minutes for the call info to be relayed to him.

  4. #24

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    It’s important to know two things: when your right and what your rights are.

  5. #25's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Winona, Minnesota

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    An associate is a professional documentary photographer; when he is going to photograph in a new (usually small) town he goes to the police station to introduce himself. It helps a lot if one is as friendly and engaging as he is. (Oh, he is conspicuous, always works from a tripod.)
    Last edited by; 30-Jun-2019 at 12:35.

  6. #26

    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Jersey City

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street


    When it happened to me, the older officer scanned my id and the younger one (who looked like Dolph Lundgren) asked me to open up my rucksack, to which I did and laid out all the contents, a book some duct tape some minor parts, film rolls. And the one asked me to see the images and I said I can give you the film, its not digital. And the older officer just explained that due to the high security problems (2017), I should shoot near gas stations or the skyline in Hoboken (to which I did) and did take shots by Observer highway which was a 10 minute walk from Holland Tunnel.

    I was told not to use the word "target" I said ok the "places". Its funny because I went west of the PATH police station but facing a gas station and no one ever complained and I was there for over 15 minutes.

    This is why I asked and ask myself because LF cannot be hurried and its not like street photography where you can be "slick".
    I guess I just have to dress apt for the thing and have the small booklet ready (still in process of coming up with it).

    Yes the confiscation bit, I would carry my receipt if need be but I will see, since I can always find flat supports to test the Sakai field camera as opposed to using a tripod.
    I am thinking of finding a way to get a table top tripod or something so I can "shrink" the appearance of LF if that makes sense and just learn to set my ev's right and exposure then I make the shot.

    Also if I stay away from foot traffic, I seldom get anyone which is better but I am avoiding residential areas because everyone can just call on you regardless of whether its public or my equipment is harmless.


    Accurate to the point that since I am transitioning to architecture after I graduate the Mech Tech at NYCCT, at least it will not be that vague but will not leverage on that.
    The Holland Tunnel was definitely a no go because I was churning out watercolor sketches in 2011 and I was near 50th-56th along 10th ave where they have very interesting old buildings housing the grid or sub grids for NYC and I was finishing my small 11 x17 sketch and this guy approaches me greets me and asks me, to which I said sketching. He said its prohibited and so I stopped and left.

    Yes its a possibility to inquire , but then I would have to present my school id and that I am taking up architecture in the fall , and I could explain and get shot by moronic responses like why this hobby and yada yada yada, to which hmm gets political and funny because those who use social media for some reason abuse the "I will record you and put you on youtube" constantly and the police are somewhat taken aback by that but when they see LF or film at least their spider senses just go off

    I will see and get my buzz cut ready and just be straight and if it happens I try to be calm...
    my two cents is this in general, people are becoming attached to technology that they cannot understand how the present evolved from the past, although if you look at all the images and fotos from the 1880's or perhaps before the proliferation of the digital slr, the images are just different.

    So many digital photographers and yet I wonder why every time I look at an 810 54 57 image, its just not the same. So in any case I can always find ways to take images since I did do 3 am to 7 am on the Brooklyn bridge and no one was around (its touristy I guess) and just understand the situation. (2017)

    I always get asked why two things in general:

    1) Why do film when there is digital ? hmmmm

    2) Why do you have to shoot at dawn at dusk or at night? I really don't know how to explain this.. but I do.. I just cannot stand the lemming mind.

    and sometimes the third is what will you do with those pictures ? hahahah. How do I explain my desire to learn optics, film and large format to a police officer who was born in the early 2000's and beyond that becomes a very dialectical problem for me (I was born in 1980).. hence some have had the audacity to say why not music, cooking painting or friends ( I really don't want parasites) and I have done all that cook, paint and play the guitar, but the process of taking an image encompasses time especially my interest is in space and seldom try to include people in my shots.
    Last edited by Maximo; 30-Jun-2019 at 20:49. Reason: correction

  7. #27

    Join Date
    Dec 2005
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    You shouldn’t have to explain yourself. Photography is not a crime. Unfortunately you seem to have fallen victim to some fools and thugs. Wearing a badge and carrying a gun doesn’t make one intelligent, unfortunately. Your civil and American rights have been violated. The problem is that no matter how right you are, they carry the big stick and will punish you... even when they are enforcing their will and whim rather than the law. Not all are like that, but they seem to exist.

  8. #28

    Join Date
    Jun 2018

    Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    I’m from the a pretty rural area in the Great Plains, the other day I was shooting by my car out along a dirt road with no houses for a ways. An old lady pulled up as I was packing everything back into my car. She stared at me for a few seconds after I said hello and asked “what are you doing out here?”

    I replied that I’m an art student and I was doing some photography.

    “You’re taking pictures?”

    “Yes ma’am”

    “Alright, I won’t shoot you then” *drives off*

    I love my hometown.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  9. #29
    Robert Bowring
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Wauwatosa Wisconsin

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    Life is strange. I have been bothered by people and police several times when photographing around the United States. I have been to China twice and have taken hundreds of pictures from the largest cities to some remote rural areas. I was never bothered by anyone.

  10. #30
    Greg Davis's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009

    Re: Avoiding harassment when shooting in the street

    I photograph from the side of the road. After almost causing a pileup of rubber neckers I now put on a road crew safety vest and hard hat. People ignore me now.


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