Tagged: rights

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.

Carlos Miller – Trial Begins Monday

June 11th, 2008 Permalink

Carlos Miller, the photographer who was arrested in Miami for photographing police activity, finally has a trial date. This is something worth keeping an eye on if you are interested in your rights as a photographer.

Carlos Miller, the photographer who was arrested in Miami for photographing police activity, finally has a trial date.

This is something worth keeping an eye on if you are interested in your rights as a photographer.

Seattle Police and Photography

June 4th, 2008 Permalink

Carlos Miller has an interesting post over on his blog about a new policy that the Seattle Police Department has issued regarding photographers.

Carlos Miller has an interesting post over on his blog about a new policy that the Seattle Police Department has issued regarding 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.

Overwhelming Response

May 11th, 2008 Permalink

Well this post, and the photo on Flickr, has certainly received much more attention that I expected. The comments run the gamut, from “Good job!” to “I will kill you if you take my photo!”. It is still my personal opinion that this person overreacted to the situation. If he would have ignored me, there […]

Well this post, and the photo on Flickr, has certainly received much more attention that I expected. The comments run the gamut, from “Good job!” to “I will kill you if you take my photo!”.

It is still my personal opinion that this person overreacted to the situation. If he would have ignored me, there wouldn’t have even been any photos to speak of. If he would not have pushed me and grabbed my camera, there would not have been anything remarkable to post about. If he would have simply been decent towards me, I would have respected his wishes. That post was not about if it is right or wrong to yell at homeless people. It was a report about an experience that happened to me personally and why I did not allow somebody to use threats and physical force to prevent me from taking a photo.

Everybody is, of course, entitled to their own opinion, and I appreciate that people took the time to comment and express their feelings. I was hoping that the post would make people think about what they would do in a similar situation, and I believe that this was successful. I have enjoyed reading other accounts of people being confronted for taking photos because it made me think about how I would handle these kinds of situations. It is not uncommon for people to ask me what I am doing when I am out there shooting; sometimes they are very suspicious, and sometimes their body language is initially threatening. However, it is quite rare that a situation escalates to the point of somebody attempting to physically take my camera or pushes me around.

If you are out in public taking photos, you will eventually be confronted by somebody that does not like the fact that you are taking photos around them — hopefully you will be able to handle the situation in a way that promotes an understanding of what you are really doing. If you are the person on the other side of the lens, and a stranger seems to be taking a photo of you in public, hopefully you will be able to engage them in a civilized conversation rather than threaten and assault them.

Personally, I will continue to shoot. I know that eventually somebody will not like what I am doing, and I hope that I will be able to have a reasonable conversation with them. I hope that every time somebody asks me what I am doing, I get a little better at fostering an appreciation for why I am out taking photos, and become a little better at avoiding conflict. It is much more rewarding to talk to somebody than to have them yell at you and push you around.

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.

My Rights, As Opposed To What’s Right

November 5th, 2007 Permalink

If you’ve been following my blog, or my photostreams on flickr or Zooomr, you know I shoot all over the Bay Area, and I shoot a lot of neon signs. Many of these signs are in various windows: bars, liquor stores, corner grocers, etc. Occasionally, the people in the store will ask what I’m doing. […]

Making The World A Little Worse Place

If you’ve been following my blog, or my photostreams on flickr or Zooomr, you know I shoot all over the Bay Area, and I shoot a lot of neon signs. Many of these signs are in various windows: bars, liquor stores, corner grocers, etc. Occasionally, the people in the store will ask what I’m doing. Most of the time, they are just curious, and sometimes they even invite me in to show me the neon inside the building. That’s how I found out about this beautiful sign at a bar called Toot’s in Crockett.

Sometimes, however, the people think that I’m doing something wrong by shooting the signs, and get downright rude, nasty, or violent. And this post is a story of one of those times.

I was shooting in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco (not the greatest part of town) in the afternoon. I spotted a couple of promising signs in the window of a little store, and started shooting them. The person in the picture above came out and asked what I was doing. I explained that I collect pictures of neon, and I was just taking photos of the signs. He told me that I needed to ask him first. I politely told him that I was not going to go into his store, and that I would stay on the sidewalk, and continued shooting. He came over and shoved my camera back into my face, and told me that I could not shoot at his store.

At this point, I aimed the camera at him and took the photo you see here. I told him that I would call the police if he assaulted me again. He did not like this, and told me that we didn’t need the police, but that I should be “very careful”. He went back inside, and I took a few more shots and went on my way.

After I posted the photo on Zooomr, Thomas Hawk posted about it on his blog. Reading the comments on that post got me thinking about what I feel is the right way to handle this kind of situation, as opposed to what my rights are.

In the situation described here, it’s pretty clear that I was well within my legal rights to take these photographs. I was not trying to take photos through a window into a private place; these were photos from a public sidewalk at a sign in the window of a business that is open to the public. Was it the right thing to do to take the photos? I believe that it was, and I believe that I handled the situation in the right way. I did not yell at the person. I did not speak to him rudely. I did not act violently towards him. In fact, if he had not pushed me, I would not have even taken his picture.

I think that it is important for everybody to stand up for their rights. Free speech is not something that should be taken for granted, and allowing somebody to force you to give up your rights by trying to intimidate you is simply not acceptable. Of course, you should be mindful of your own safety as well.

So what kind of situation would cause me to choose to not exercise my right to take a photograph in a public place? One thing that I can think of is taking photographs of people. People have feelings, and it is understandable that some people would be uncomfortable with a stranger pointing a camera at them. If somebody asked me nicely, I would probably respect their wishes. I would most likely politely explain to them that I do have the right to take photographs in public, and that I will be taking photographs, but I would attempt to leave them out of the frame if it makes them more comfortable. I think that is a reasonable consideration to extend to somebody, and that it would be the right thing to do.

But people and buildings are different things. Buildings, signs, and storefronts do not have feelings. Generally, these are places that the public can enter and leave freely. Things are displayed in the windows to appeal to passersby and attract them into the store. I really do not see that there is any harm in exercising my right to take photographs of these subjects. If somebody asks me not to take the photo, I will be polite to them, but I will probably choose to exercise my right to take the photograph.

You might not agree with me, and that’s fine. I don’t expect everybody to agree with my thoughts on this subject. But if you enjoy taking photographs in public places, these are things that you may want to give some thought to. Thinking about these situations before you encounter them will help you to keep a cool head and be polite to others, even if they are being obnoxious towards you.

Which leads me to the bottom line: I think the key to handling these kinds of situations is to be as polite as possible. Don’t be afraid to explain what you are doing; often times people just misunderstand your motives. Don’t be afraid to carry a printout of the photographers rights and to share a copy with people. Be sensitive to the feelings of others, but at the same time don’t allow others to bully you into giving up your rights. It is possible to do the right thing, and still stick up for your rights.