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 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:
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:
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.