Tagged: photographyisnotacrime

555 Mission: Photography Is Not A Crime

August 26th, 2010 Permalink

I recently saw a post from Troy Holden regarding being harassed by the guards at 555 Mission in San Francisco for taking photographs. I was somewhat surprised, since I have shot there several times without incident. I decided to shoot the building on my way to work this morning. Here’s what happened. The shot you […]

I recently saw a post from Troy Holden regarding being harassed by the guards at 555 Mission in San Francisco for taking photographs. I was somewhat surprised, since I have shot there several times without incident. I decided to shoot the building on my way to work this morning. Here’s what happened.

Loading Dock, 555 Mission

The shot you see above is the loading dock at 555 Mission. While I was framing this shot, I was approached by a security guard. He wanted to know why I was taking pictures; I told him because I like to take pictures, I take pictures every day.

He told me that because of terrorism concerns photography of the building is not allowed. I told him thanks, but since I am on a public sidewalk I will continue taking photos. At the time, I was standing across the street on a public sidewalk.

At that point, he got on his radio and announced that they had a "terroist". I had to laugh at that.

Soon two other guards came out and told me that I was not allowed to take photographs of the building. They threatened to call the police; I invited them to do so. I continued taking pictures, shooting the rear of the building, the window washers that were working at the time, and continuing to the front of the building.

As I was finishing with the shots I wanted to get, Security Supervisor Nicholas Torres came out and gave me a "Courtesy Card" explaining their photography policy. I told him that it didn’t matter what their policy was, it does not change what my rights are. He acknowledged that I had the right to take photographs from the sidewalk (which contradicts what the other guard was telling me), but then said that they do not want me to take photographs of the exterior of the building (contradicting the card), and that I could not take pictures from the plaza (again contradicting the card), even though it is designated as a Privately Owned Public Open Space (POPOS). The Courtesy Card looks like this:
Courtesy Card

Perhaps it is not too surprising that the guard was contradicting what the courtesy card said, since the courtesy card contradicts itself. The first paragraph indicates that United Protection Service, apparently the company that is contracted to provide security services for this property, respects photographers rights. The second paragraph forbids photography of certain subjects. However, photographers’ constitutional rights do not stop at loading docks, security personnel, building entrances, garages, security desks, or lobby areas. If these things are visible from a public location, they can be photographed. In addition, there seems to be a disconnect between the United Protection Service policy stated on the card and the guards statement that photography of the building and photography in the plaza is forbidden. According to these policies, the photograph you see above is forbidden, as are all of these photographs, even though they were taken from public property:

Icewashed 555 Mission Street
Watching Left And Watching Right
Nicholas Torres

Troy has contacted the building management, and hopefully will have some answers from them soon. Ideally they will communicate to the security guards that photography is not a crime, so that photographers at this location will not be harassed in the future.

Photography is not a crime.

you can see all my photos from 555 Mission in my 555 Mission set on Flickr.

Update: Caliber SF has a post about this as well.

Photographers Rights in LA

January 23rd, 2009 Permalink

Last week, Bryan Villarin was harassed while shooting photos of a building in downtown Los Angeles by the misinformed building securitytheatre guards. Rather than just slink away when threatened by the overgrown schoolyard bullies, he stood up for his right to shoot, and with the help of Discarted — another Los Angeles area photographer — […]

Last week, Bryan Villarin was harassed while shooting photos of a building in downtown Los Angeles by the misinformed building securitytheatre guards. Rather than just slink away when threatened by the overgrown schoolyard bullies, he stood up for his right to shoot, and with the help of Discarted — another Los Angeles area photographer — set up a photographers rights demonstration in front of the building.

The photographers were well organized, shot photos and video, and presented the results of the excursion. Taking video was a nice touch, since it lets people see how ridiculous and unreasonable these securitytheatre guards really are.

This post is beginning to get some attention, which is a good thing. It has appeared on the LA Weekly Blog, and you can Digg it here.

Photography is not a crime. If you are in a public area, you have the right to take photographs of whatever you can see. Kudos to the photographers in Los Angeles who took the time to stand up for their — and all of our — rights as photographers.

Almost Arrested For Taking Photos At Union Station

May 14th, 2008 Permalink

Andy Carvin has a post on his blog detailing how he was almost arrested for taking photos at Union Station in Washington, DC. Apparently, three security guards told him three different reasons why photography is not allowed in Union Station. He finally got to speak to a supervisor whose business card identified him as Robert […]

Andy Carvin has a post on his blog detailing how he was almost arrested for taking photos at Union Station in Washington, DC.

Apparently, three security guards told him three different reasons why photography is not allowed in Union Station. He finally got to speak to a supervisor whose business card identified him as Robert H. Mangiante, Assistant Director, IPC International Corporation. They were told “Pack up and leave, or you will be arrested”. Mr. Carvin handled the situation perfectly, as far as I am concerned.

First of all, in a private space, of course management has the right to determine what can and cannot be done in the space. However, to me, Union Station is something in between a public and a private space. It may be owned by a private company, but it is open to anybody, and sees many, many people come through it every day. Their web site even promotes it as a tourist destination, and guess what? Tourists == photography! The only mention of photography on their web site states “If you are interested in utilizing Union Station as a production site, please fill out this application and return it to our office for prior authorization.” And judging by the comments on the blog post, they generally allow photography and have established a precedent of allowing non-commercial photography. There are no signs posted. There is no clear policy forbidding non-commercial photography on their web site.

Now I am not saying that they are wrong to have rules and enforce their rules. But they really do need to be clearer about what is and is not acceptable. Their own employees don’t understand the policy — how can the public be expected to understand what is expected of them? Rather than arbitrarily threaten random photographers, why not refer them to a PR person, or assist them to get whatever permission is required? It seems that would be a much better move for a place that considers itself the most popular tourist destination in the nations capitol.

If You Put That Picture On The Internet I’ll Call My Lawyer

May 6th, 2008 Permalink

This guy was on the corner of Stockton and Columbus in San Francisco yelling at a homeless man. Anger, conflict, drama — sounds like a great shot to me. I crossed the street but was unable to get anything interesting, since I only had my 50mm lens on the camera and I was just too […]

If You Put That Picture On The Internet I'll Call My Lawyer

This guy was on the corner of Stockton and Columbus in San Francisco yelling at a homeless man. Anger, conflict, drama — sounds like a great shot to me. I crossed the street but was unable to get anything interesting, since I only had my 50mm lens on the camera and I was just too far away.

However, Mr. Angry Overreaction Man decided that he now had a problem with me. He confronted me, demanding my camera. Of course, I refused. He got in my face and started threatening me, telling me that I cannot take his photo without his permission. I told him that yes, in fact, I can. He then walked up and bumped into me, trying to act tough. I told him that one more touch and I would call the police.

Of course, he didn’t like that very much, and at that point told me that if I put his picture on the internet, he would call his laywer. I assured him that his photo would be on the internet, and he then walked up and grabbed my camera lens. Well, that’s just not something that I will put up with, so I pulled the camera away from him and reached for my phone and started dialing. Once he saw that he turned away, still yelling threats, and continued on his way.

I felt bad for his daughter, who was with him, because she was obviously embarrassed by his antics and kept pleading with him to stop. I have a great shot showing her looking up as if saying “Oh boy, here he goes again”. But I’m not going to post that one, as she was not acting like an idiot and I don’t want to embarrass her. Mr. Angry Overreaction Man seems to do enough of that.

So, Mr. Angry Overreaction Man, your photo is now on the internet. Call your lawyer. Tell him somebody on a public sidewalk took your photo while you were on a public sidewalk. Then tell him you physically assaulted the photographer. See what he says.