No pictures allowed

parking_structureWhen you’re walking around with your camera, you can be an easy target for anyone in uniform these days.

This video clip “Union Station Photo Flap” shows an incident in Union Station, Washington D.C.

So even “professionals” haven’t been spared.

I came across this story about National Press Photographers Association, which I belonged to while at the newspaper, asking Amtrak to stop harassing photographers.

Thanks to DeeAnn for alerting me to a funny video related to NPPA and Amtrack. See the video on the jump.

This is situation is real enough. I didn’t need to go far.

I was downtown photographing a parking structure and the parking attendant motioned me over.

Since I was on the other side of the street and obviously on the public sidewalk, I just ignored him.

It’s becoming fairly evident that photography is fast becoming the victim of overzealous security personnel who are more than happy to throw their weight around.

I posted this video previously but for some reason the link was broken. I found it again, this time, it comes to you via youTube.

What is it that these security personnel think we plan to do with our images? Another photographer I ran into recently said he was told to leave when he was outside the Robert Presley Detention Center with his camera.


Where exactly is that mandate that “you can’t take pictures in a public street or place” coming from?

If it’s being enforced by an overzealous underling, then why doesn’t the brass or the district attorney come forward and say something?

As you can see this paranoia has to stop. It’s not confined to the US.

Making tourists delete their images and video on the spot is excessive and totally uncalled for.

Photography is a fun creative activity, but clearly in the UK, they are coming up against quite a bit of harassment according to Tom Geohegan of BBC’s News magazine.

As with most issues in our litigious society, I am doubtful and not so optimistic that things will loosen up unless a lawsuit of some sort is filed.

In the mean time, see if these 2 resources help.

If you’re in the UK, download a copy of your rights as a photographer.

For those in the US, a copy of your rights as a photographer is available here.

How about sharing,wherever you are,  your encounters of this kind? Over on the right sidebar, there’s a poll, if nothing else, just let me know over there.

Related to this post is one about photography in public places.

8 thoughts on “No pictures allowed”

  1. Eggman,
    You raised some very good points. I’ve come close to wearing matching bracelets (being handcuffed) while performing my duties as a newspaper photographer. So I generally move on but not before taking names down and badge numbers and so on to lodge a formal complaint. That’s all you can do. Haven’t had to erase my memory cards yet. How about you?

  2. Some of the confusion over ‘no photo’ enforcement also comes from the authorities having just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

    An example for me was the DC Metro (Subway)

    There is a rule that you can’t use a tripod INSIDE a station without a permit/permission. This really does make sense from a safety standpoint. An overzealous Metro policeman, however, thought it meant you couldn’t take pictures, period.

    I was on assignment for the designer of the station and did, in fact, have permission, but I was accosted while setting up a 4 x 5 across the street. I sort of hoped I’d be arrested because I (and my lawyer) could use the extra $$ but the light was going and I was in a hurry. I wasn’t privy to the conversation he had with his super via radio, but he got very apologetic very quickly.

    Why would a ‘real’ terrorist want to waste time taking photos of a NYC bridge when they could just go to a library and look at a set of plans?

  3. Pete!
    Thanks for reading and commenting. It’s becoming a concern for sure. Even though I don’t work in mass media anymore, I am concerned. As a teacher, I do ask my students to photograph buildings, architecture and various structure because they are easy subjects to study for lighting and form.

    I do feel this will become more and more of an issue. The video from UK does make a very good point that there are CCTV’s everywhere these days–we are being watched. So why can’t we “watch back”? Please click on the poll I started on the right sidebar and check back to see the results.

  4. Good post Pete! I have not had any problems, yet. Lets see what happens when we travel to the UK soon.

  5. Speak of blocking shots, saw Scientology PIO Muriel at Duffy Memorial Friday. Remember how paranoid they are at Gilman Springs location? She would often put her hand up to my camera. Very hard not to whack her with it. But her teeth look better.
    Despite growth of non-photojournalists shooting everything with their cell phones, crackberries & iPhones, people are paranoid when a ‘real’ camera comes out, especially with a good lens. I don’t understand it and like you Peter try to ignore them.

  6. I assume you were in or around an airport? Or were you in the terminal? I can understand their paranoia but if you produce a business card or ID which shows who you are, they ought to leave you alone.

    So did you just stop and just move on? How were you dressed? May I ask where you were?

  7. I’ve actually had people stand in front of me and intentionally block my shots of aircraft landing. One person in particular told me that he was calling the FBI and reporting me for suspicious activities, and then he followed me around. I was in a public place and not on private property at all.

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