Assault on Photography - July 28, 2005

Today was an interesting day for photoblogging.

At least for me.

If you read the blog pages of, you saw that there was a post regarding something a lot of us are familiar with: being stopped and harassed for photographing some public edifice. To say that the post struck a nerve would be an understatement. I thought -- and stated -- that I thought it would be great as a photographer to have some authoritative facts concerning what the law is on this. Two fellow bloggers -- Martin and Rick -- responded with a link to just that information. This is an awesome resource. So awesome, in fact that I've decided to include it as a permanent link on the bottom of this site. Let it be a resource to all (all five of you) who come here.

In a serendipitous turn, I started looking through Martin's site. I discovered that Martin is a photographer after my own heart. I'm already a huge fan of his urban photography. And I assure you I'd be saying that even if it weren't for the fact that this photo, posted three days ago, is freakishly similar in concept to the one I've posted today.

Anyway, thanks Rick and Martin.


I have been carrying that one-page document with me for several weeks. This is a serious topic for all, not just photographers. If I was a conspiracy theorist (which I never was before W, but not so sure any more) you might think that all of the Homeland Security BS is naught but an attempt to keep the public in check. I mean it is getting to the point that unless you are at home watching TV, at work, or at the "mall" you are suspect.

I got into an interesting discussion a few weeks ago over at "That...was my foot" (a site I watch) when the photographer there told of being questioned by some person for taking pictures near (not AT, but NEAR) a port facility. He was told that taking pictures there was illegal since DHS had taken over security at the part (or some such tripe). I was amazed that the response to that story was more conciliatory than I would hoppe for from free Americans.

As a society we seem all to willing to forfeit the very rights that our forebears fought to secure for us in the NAME of safety and security. I cannot help it, but I am constantly reminded of the Sinclair Lewis book "It Can't Happen Here." From the 30's telling of how fascism can so easily be accepted by a public scared out of there minds.

Sorry, Tom, but you triggered a hot button for me too. I heard a story the other day, shortly after the London bombing. Some official in England was commenting on plans to monitor phone calls. When challenged that this violated basic civil rights, he responded that people had a "civil right" to be able to travel to and from work without fear of terrorism. That says it all. In my opinion, such safe travel is NOT a civil right. It certainly is what we want, but I will not forfeit real civil rights simply to "feel" safe.

BTW, Tom (if you read this far) my shot today was posted with you in mind. I thought you might like the subtle irony of the decrepit sign announcing a "rehabilitation" of the area that is clearly NOT rehabilitated.

Posted by: Bob on July 29, 2005 08:00 AM

Unfortunately the same sense of "security" is happening here in Australia. I've been a photographer off and on for about 20 years and the good old days of being able to take pictures without fear of alarming people is over.

I don't even bother these days with some buildings if I know they are defence but these days it's often hard to tell as a lot of our public service now leases space in privately owned buidlings. Recently I was accosted by a security guard for taking photographs of a buidling and it took some time before he finally told me it was a defence building. I knew my rights, it was a public space and insisted he either show ID or I was just going to keep on taking photographs.

I always carry ID with me and if given just cause will (ie: defence) stop taking pictures but public space is public space.

Malls however are a weird combination of public and private space and I'm always a bit cautious taking pictures in them, but if there's no sign at the door saying no cameras they will have an argument on their hands if they harrass me, but they do always retain the right to kick me out as it's privately owned space. But they do not have the right to take the film or camera, which one young idiot security guard tried once, but on threat of calling the cops if he touched me he backed off. There is some pleasure in growing old.

Taking any pictures with children anywhere in the frame or even within sight, I don't even bother. Too many parents are way too paranoid these days and incidents of violent overprotective parents have made the papers, in one case it being a well known photographer and the children weren't even in the picture just the sight of the camera was enough for this guy to lose the plot.

What I do find bizarre is how many people react funnily to you taking photographs. "What's the picture for ?". Taking photographs for their own sake isn't enough these days, which considering the huge sales of digital cameras and camera phones is weird. So many people just don't seem to get the idea of taking photographs because it may be a good image, that it's a fun thing to do, creation of imagery is a pleasurable thing etc. What are all these digital cameras rushing off the shelves being used for. So what if I'm in your way as you rush about, stop, look and you may see the world around you and the beauty will appear and give you pleasure.

When I was doing my photography course many many moons ago I was often out with a 4x5 camera taking pictures and people would stop and look ask me a question or two and strike up a conversation, "my granddad loved photography" or some such thing. I hate to think what would be the reaction these days to a 4x5, tripod and black cloth. I'd probably get shot.

Posted by: Jeremy on July 30, 2005 12:04 AM