Mama Don't Take My Kodachrome
November 9, 2007 10:46 AM   Subscribe

Your Rights As A Photographer: As most of us are no doubt aware, the right to take photographs in the United States is being challenged more than ever--people are being stopped, harassed, and even intimidated into handing over their personal property simply because they were taking photographs of subjects that made other people uncomfortable. Recent examples have included photographing industrial plants, bridges, buildings, trains, and bus stations. Print and carry this pamphlet in your wallet, pocket, or camera bag to give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations over photography. [via] posted by fandango_matt (81 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Based on the history of this topic on MeFi, I predict this thread will wend really, really ell.
posted by mullingitover at 10:50 AM on November 9, 2007

Certainly worth reading, but carrying it with you isn't going to do much if you're presented with a situation where you're being harrassed. Saying "look here, its right on this piece of paper that I've got the right to shoot photos (etc)" is unlikely to dissuade a police officer, security guard or whoever from giving you a hard time. In fact, I'd bet it would escalate a situation. Luckily, I've never had a problem with this.
posted by blaneyphoto at 10:55 AM on November 9, 2007

i propose that we challenge this trend by going out and taking random pictures, even the non-photographers like me. when someone objects, we can videotape the asshole (which i propose to call metaphotography) and upload it to youtube.
posted by bruce at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

Great idea! There are some bridges in my town I'd like to take some pics of. They are far (very, very far) from high-value targets so it would be highly unlikely anyone would say anything, but then again I thought it would be highly unlikely the US would ever torture prisoners or listen to their phone conversations without a warrant...
posted by DU at 10:56 AM on November 9, 2007

...unlikely to dissuade a police officer...

I don't think it's supposed to. From the link:

...give you quick access to your rights and obligations concerning confrontations over photography.

This is a guide on what YOU should do, when busted. For instance, a cop can demand your film, but does that mean you have to hand it over? They are very likely to make unreasonable demands but they are somewhat less likely to actually do something illegal.
posted by DU at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2007

While all the info may well be true, the person with the gun and badge will almost always win in any confrontation of this nature.
You may be right, but it won't help.
posted by cccorlew at 11:03 AM on November 9, 2007

The UK guide linked has a great comments section where the law lecturer who advised on the guide answers all kinds of questions about what constitutes a "public place" in the UK (hint: nowhere).
posted by patricio at 11:05 AM on November 9, 2007

"This is a guide on what YOU should do,"

I understand this, but why would you carry it around? In the middle of an argument or confrontation are you gonna say - "hold on one minute while I review my rights..." Doubtful.

Its not a big point really, just a nitpick on my part I guess. Read it, understand it then leave it at home.

Actually, now that I think about it, I wonder if carrying something like that could totally backfire - Suppose you're stopped by police, searched and they find that. I could easily envision a scenario in which they'd say "see, we knew you were up to something - if you weren't why would you be carrying something like this?"
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:07 AM on November 9, 2007

Photographers Becoming Security Concerns
"Photographers across the country have complained of getting harassed by law enforcement officials citing security concerns since the September 11 terrorist attacks." [via]
posted by ericb at 11:09 AM on November 9, 2007
posted by ericb at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh my! A pamphlet! How quaint.

I was nearly arrested in Philadelphia's 30th Street Station while taking pictures of the annual Christmas decor. Interestingly enough, everyone else who was doing the same but with less... intimidating?... equipment remained unbothered.

The cops themselves are unclear as to what they should be on the lookout for. I have since been commissioned to shoot the bridges in our area and am still waiting to hear back from the various port authorities as to what permits are required, if any.
posted by butterstick at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2007

Give it time. When we all have 200 megapixel retinal implants, this whole conversation will seem very quaint.
posted by mullingitover at 11:11 AM on November 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

Many years ago, I was in a large Ottawa shopping mall called Bayshore, just shaking hands with a new camera by banging away at anything Christmas-y. Bayshore's Santa at the time was realy popular and as I strolled near his workshop, I caught a glimpse of a really cute kid waiting to hop up onto his lap. As the kid got to his turn, I pointed my telephoto and started snapping a couple shots.

Suddenly, while I was focusing through the viewfinder, an elf appeared beside me, a cute pre-teen girl in green tights who obviously looked a little sheepish at having to tell me that Santa was demanding I stop taking pictures immediately and, further, that he would like to talk to me. At that moment, this hugely garrulous "HOHOHO! Mr Photographer, c'mon into my workshop here!" rang across the Mall. I looked up to see Santa waving me over his way.

Now I had one of two ways to go on this. The one I chose was to lean a little closer to the elf and say to her, "Tell Santa I'm just breaking in a new camera and these photos are strictly for personal, not commercial use." That seemed to satisfy her, but after tossing Santa a casual wave and moving along farther down the mall, a few seconds later I heard a now angry Santa yelling at his elf to "FIND OUT WHO HE'S WITH!"

Eventually I think the "personal not commercial" message must have gotten through because I was not chased down the mall by any elves.

But a couple weeks later, I actually read in The Ottawa Citizen that "Santa" claimed that his interpretation of Jolly Old St Nick was copyrighted and he had the right to license -- for a fee -- any use by anyone of images of him.

I admit I'm partially in agreement. He was a hell of a Santa and had my intent been to produce and sell, say, Christmas cards with his mug on it, I would've set up a more formal shoot with all the attendant releases duly signed. Also, I was obviously a guy with a camera, and with a photo bag slung around one shoulder I probably was not just a tourist taking snapshots. (Although in this case, that's exactly what I was doing.) And he had a hired photog with a camera from which he was happily selling glossy prints to parents of their kid(s)'s forever moments on Santa's knee.

But what got my goat was his claim that one couldn't even photograph him -- in the middle of a public mall.

To this day, I can't watch A Christmas Story's Santa sequence -- "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" -- without cracking up.
posted by Mike D at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

About twenty years ago I was threatened with a gun for photographing a liquor store sign in Texas. That was fun.
posted by spitbull at 11:28 AM on November 9, 2007

Banning photography is useless for security purposes. If there is a situation in which taking a photo would help a terrorist to achieve their objectives, no enforceable anti-photo policy will deter them. Anyone willing to plan or undertake a terrorist attack will be able to tolerate any punishment that could conceivably be imposed for taking photos. They are also likely to be able to take photos in a way that will not be noticed: either with sneaky hidden cameras or with a simple camera phone or by developing an awareness of when the authorities are watching. Banning photography in places like vehicles and bridges punishes photography enthusiasts and serves no security purpose.

I wrote a bit more about this on my blog.
posted by sindark at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2007

I got the same treatment Butterstick. I was setting up a tripod to mount my AK-47, oh, wait, no, I mean my Kodak Retina I, when a cop made me pack up while many other people took many hand held point and shoot/camera phone photos with no trouble. This was in New Haven's nice old train station.
posted by JBennett at 11:29 AM on November 9, 2007

I was stopped by an old lady while taking a picture of the sunset from a train platform. I told her to go ahead and call the police and she sputtered off.

Though, I will be writing down "NYCRR 1050.9(c)" and keeping it with my camera when I'm in the subway.
posted by Skorgu at 11:34 AM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

I like industrial and urban photography and I tend to do it at night. (Why? The colors are way more interesting, is why.) I'm expecting this to happen at some point, the same way you expect to be in an accident if you spend a lot of time in a car. Hope it won't, be ready if it does.

Doesn't really help here that the friend I do most of aforementioned shooting with attracts bored cops like a HOT light in the window of a doughnut shop. One of these days that's going to cancel out the fact that I'm usually left alone.

I'm not scared, though. I won't allow myself to be. I'm not doing anything wrong and I'm not going to sneak around in fear of trouble.

So, like the eventuality of a car crash, I have a contingency plan. I know people in law enforcement, so I'd know the right way to make a complaint. If I needed to I could get a lawyer on it with a quickness. I hate that I have to keep all of these plans in my head, but -- what the hell else can I do, these days? I get bored with landscapes.
posted by cmyk at 11:42 AM on November 9, 2007

While in Newfoundland a couple of years ago I set up my Mamiya to take a couple of pics of a famous lighthouse. It is a wonderful place I had been visiting all my life; for decades it was a lovely, lonely deserted place but has now been made tourist friendly. Anyway, I was informed the lighthouse was copyrighted and I could not photograph it. I just told them that it was ok, they were free to sue me for infringement.

I am not so sure I would be so cocky with an armed, boisterous cop who is threatening to arrest me. I hope I would be.
posted by Bovine Love at 11:44 AM on November 9, 2007

"in the middle of a public mall." - seems that's private property, owned by Ivanhoe Cambridge.

Most malls that I've seen have "No photography" signs near the entrances. I have been asked to stop videotaping in a mall, many years ago. (pre-911, pre-Bushes.)

I'm often skeptical of these 'bullied photographer' stories. Often times I wonder how many times the photographers themselves caused the issues. I've snapped photos in airports, of trains, ON trains, on planes, of buildings (including a couple in San Francisco that people claimed would get you accosted by police) and never had any problems.

This pamphlet is utterly worthless.

The bigger problem is how fucking out of control our copyright laws (not just in the US, based on the comments, Canada has a problem too) have become. Copyrighting a lighthouse? Yikes.
posted by drstein at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2007

Keep a notebook with you, if anyone asks you to stop, demand their name, their position, the name of their boss, and what rule that they are citing which is supposed to compel you to cease your activities.

They are trying to use authoritarian tactics on you, turn it around and out authoritarian them.
posted by quin at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2007 [4 favorites]

But what got my goat was his claim that one couldn't even photograph him -- in the middle of a public mall.

I suspect that, in most cases, a mall is a private space.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2007

If you don't have anything suspicious on you or any skeletons in the closet, I would be tempted to just let them arrest you. Will they reallyl want to deal with the hassle? If so, are the rest of the cops going to laugh at them when they drag you into booking for snapping photos of a landmark?
posted by fructose at 11:57 AM on November 9, 2007

Banning photography is useless for security purposes.

This has nothing to do with actual security and everything to do with security theater. It has the additional bonus of giving the authorities another way to hassle the citizenship and exert their authority. They would really like to underline that everything you do is courtesy their patience and permission.
posted by maxwelton at 12:00 PM on November 9, 2007 [6 favorites]

Said as someone who has never had an issue with the police when photographing stuff, I've had overzealous security and curious passersby give me some grief.
posted by quin at 12:00 PM on November 9, 2007

Many years ago, I was working on a series of playgrounds at night and was driving into a park's lot when a squad car pulled up behind me flashed his lights, turned on his spot and cornered me against the parking barrier. Panicking, I decided to signal to the police officer that I was taking photographs by lifting my tripod so he could see it through my rear window. I looked at the rifle shaped object in my hand and thought, "Oh. Shit." After an "I'm unarmed" pantomine out my car door, a conversation filled with apprehensive glances, we managed to negotiate a time period for me to shoot pictures while he inspected/shut down a couple of the public structures. The shots are some of my favorites, and were an important moment in learning how to handle these types of situation to get the photos I want.

I've been "kicked out" of a large number of places recently, partly because I'm growing bolder in where I'll wander to shoot. I do almost always get my shot though. Since you're trying to get a picture, not hang around, the best thing to do is to act fast... I don't mean run in like a ninja; just don't linger and chimp your LCD screen after eight unecessary shots of the same composition. In my experience, security types really don't care that you're taking photos, they just don't want you wandering around. Peruse an area and decide exactly what you want to shoot and how you're going to shoot it (tripod? what height? where will you need to stand and/or position your gear? do you have the right lens on? etc); then go in, keep your eyes open, git r dun. It's rare that people want to mess with a casual intruder. If I'm efficient I can be gone by the time they decide to take action. If I've not left yet, the interaction is generally short and awkward. Sure, sometimes more hostile than other times, but I think you'd be surprised at the spots you can get shots from if you're efficient.

Granted, there's going to spots that are going to be problematic but knowing that in most cases nobody cares about your pictures can be a good way to avoid problems.
posted by pokermonk at 12:02 PM on November 9, 2007 [3 favorites]

"I'm often skeptical of these 'bullied photographer' stories. Often times I wonder how many times the photographers themselves caused the issues."

I don't know. I think most of the photographer's might say what got the cops attention is a tripod or any semi serious piece of photographic equipment. It that's "asking for trouble" than I think it's still the cops problem, or the chief who's telling their cops to shut down any photographer with a tripod or serious looking camera.
posted by JBennett at 12:04 PM on November 9, 2007

quin, I get the overzealous security sometimes. That's when my brain shifts into Buffy mode and I quite excitedly tell them I had this project for my photo class at (whichever local college I still have ID for) and the view from here is amazing but I guess you don't notice it after a while because you're here a lot, aren't you, but it's good you are because I feel so much safer if I'm not here by myself, smile smile, big blue eyes. This may not work if you are male.
posted by cmyk at 12:05 PM on November 9, 2007 [5 favorites]

I'd love to see someone messed with for photographing something return with an easel and draw a picture of it.

On my bike route home from baseball games, there's a spot that offers a cool nighttime view of passenger trains, but I've never been able to bring myself to get the picture for fear I'd get hassled. Partially because I got hassled once for taking a photo of a whole in the ground.
posted by drezdn at 12:06 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

a photo of a whole in the ground.

It was a whole hole.
posted by drezdn at 12:08 PM on November 9, 2007

Stores (especially chains) can flip out if you try to take a photo inside them -- OH NOEZ... corporate espionage!

A bit silly, IMHO.
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 12:09 PM on November 9, 2007

An era of Prohibition.
posted by stbalbach at 12:10 PM on November 9, 2007

It's pretty easy to get harassed while taking pictures of the GW bridge. It's happened to me once and I've seen it happen to others a couple of times. The harassers aren't cops - they're the rent a cops who yell at you.

I've found it rather effective behavior to just shrug my shoulders and keep shooting.
posted by Stynxno at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I think that's just it though. Their chief probably isn't giving them a whole lot of guidance other than to be on the lookout for people casing the joint.

And with hundreds of tourists taking "snapshots" of a tree in a station, but only a handful of "suspicious" photogs with tripods and such, it becomes easier for them to notice the photogs.

It's this emergent line between suspicious and incovenient.
posted by butterstick at 12:12 PM on November 9, 2007

I do a lot of plane spotting, complete with a camera and the sort of lens you'd expect for that. Of all the times I've been out, I've had to deal with law enforcement twice, and each time I was with a decent-sized group of other people doing the same thing.

Both times the officers were nice about it; the first time, we had seen them at the scene of a minor car accident nearby, and figured they'd drop by sooner or later. About a half hour later or so, sure enough, they come by. They explained that they didn't really care that we were there, but they saw us and figured they'd get a call about us, so they stopped nearby for coffee, and sure enough they got the call, so they had to drop by. The second time had pretty similar results. The consensus seems to be that the cops are, generally, getting more familiar and comfortable with us around doing this.

However, there are still stories of photographers being hassled by police in the area. The most recent one I've heard was two photographers who were visited by a couple of officers, who were nice and gave them the OK to keep shooting. A couple minutes after those officers let, another one rolled up and gave them an attitude about it, telling them they had to leave.


Considering that I also do a lot of train/railroad photography, I'm actually surprised that I've never been stopped, especially with the stories I've heard from others about officers coming over to them as soon as they took out their camera. My girlfriend says it's because I look like the typical "all-American white boy", which I certainly suppose is possible.
posted by Godbert at 12:17 PM on November 9, 2007

Oh, forgot to mention, that while I've never been stopped or confronted, I think I was called in at least once that I know. I'd been hanging out on the platform at a train station taking pictures for a while, when I decided to call it a day. I still had my scanner on, and when I got back in the car I heard the dispatcher talking to one of the trains, telling them they'd had a report of someone taking pictures and to see if they were still there. I didn't hear anything about where, but I figure it was me they were talking about.
posted by Godbert at 12:21 PM on November 9, 2007

Right on fandango_matt! Excellent post! *high five!

From personal experience as a street vendor here in NYC after 9/11, I have, literally, stood my ground by showing documentation that what I was doing was, in fact legal. I was respectful but clear...and succeeded. Many times.

Two street vendor friends of mine have taken their cases of arrest to court and won serious money contesting their rights under the Constitution. Robert Lederman, an extraordinary First Amendment activist/NYC street artist, has taken cases allll the way up through the state courts to the US Supreme Court and won. Repeatedly. Lederman has cojones and tells how he won against very powerful, rich people. The state has ended up forking over major money to people who stood their ground.

NYC street vendors created a Street Vendor Project of the Urban Justice Center, which works in protecting rights, getting the information to the media, to the public and to those whose rights are being violated.

Standing up for one's basic rights under the law is important. Information, having that handbook, is power.

Sounds like time for a photography rights group/blog.
posted by nickyskye at 12:29 PM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

fuckers think they can wander around anywhere, pointing their soul-capturing boxes at anyone they please.
posted by quonsar at 12:32 PM on November 9, 2007 [4 favorites]

This might come in handy for those who take pictures on trains and subways.

I was accosted and asked for ID while taking pictures of the local post office (which has a federal courtroom upstairs). I refused to show ID, but am still annoyed that the security officer wrote down my license plate number.
posted by Xurando at 12:41 PM on November 9, 2007 [2 favorites]

From the guide:

Basically, anyone can be photographed without their consent except where they have secluded themselves in places where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy...

Just remember that there may be a big difference between your camera phone and your phone's video recorder. In many states, you may not make an audio recording of another's voice without their consent.
posted by A Long and Troublesome Lameness at 12:55 PM on November 9, 2007

Stores (especially chains) can flip out if you try to take a photo inside them -- OH NOEZ... corporate espionage! --potsmokinghippieoverlord

Yeah, I've been told to stop taking pictures in an IHOP of all places, while in college and hanging out there with some friends. I can't imagine what the point of that was. I suppose I could have stolen the secret of their plate arrangement for bacon and eggs and sold it to Waffle House. I doubt they'd pay me much though.
posted by Bugg at 1:04 PM on November 9, 2007

Hasseling photographers has been going on ever since, well, there's been cops and photographers.

The little pamphlet you print out will work great to mop up the blood from your forehead after being slammed to the cement by a cop.

Any altercation you have with a cop after being asked to stop taking pictures is just going to end up worse when you whip out your little piece of paper. Cops who know the law are fully aware that any citizen is within their legal right to photograph vitually anything provided they're standing on public property. There are now unfortunately a few caveats to that due to the War on Terror ™ and that's where the misunderstandings come in.

The bad cops, i.e. the ones who tell you you're breaking the law, don't give a flying fug what you say or what your rights are. Having been on the receiving end of a cop administering a choke hold due to me taking pictures I can tell you there's nothing that can be done in the situation. You deal with the situation, try not to get arrested and then go find a good lawyer.

The sad thing in all of this is that after 9/11 there was a significant percentage of the public that was more than willing to go along with the Patriot Act and any other legislation that purported to be fighting terror. I remember having a discussion with a few photographers who were outraged at the idea that US citizens would be willing to give up some of their civil rights in the name of perceived safety. One of the photographers said something that had never really occurred to me - most Americans don't have any clue they're giving up civil liberties because they've never been in a position to have to use them. They ultimately won't miss something they took for granted or never knew they had.
posted by photoslob at 1:11 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I was stopped by five (count 'em FIVE) security guards after taking pictures of people outdoors at a mall here in central Texas. Cops were called and I thought it was all going to be good once they arrived . . . think again. An hour later I was in cuffs and on my way to the pokey. Court date coming up. Sheeeeesh!
posted by ahimsakid at 1:16 PM on November 9, 2007

I teach photo classes in New York City and I send "The Photographer’s Right" link to all my students (particularly the freshmen who have just moved here from elsewhere). I also make sure to let them know that, although they may be in the right legally, the NYPD might keep them in jail overnight. No one's been arrested yet, but I suspect it'll happen eventually.
posted by Drab_Parts at 1:16 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

With what offense(s) were you charged, ahimsakid?
posted by fandango_matt at 1:31 PM on November 9, 2007

.....I've never been able to bring myself to get the picture for fear I'd get hassled...

Yeah, I was stopped by five (count 'em FIVE) security guards after taking pictures of people outdoors at a mall here in central Texas.

Slow. Boiling. Frogs.
posted by rokusan at 1:45 PM on November 9, 2007

It was a whole hole.

Yeah -- I've always wondered how to dig half a hole.
posted by ericb at 2:48 PM on November 9, 2007

Slow. Boiling. Frogs.

Next Time, What Say We Boil a Consultant.
posted by ericb at 2:49 PM on November 9, 2007

Hear Hear!Well said, nickskye. Don't give in to the bastards. If it comes to it, let them arrest you, document it, and then sue their frikken azzes.

In fact, I'm thinkin' that it's time to start preempting this fascist clap-trap. A letter sent to the local authorities in advance, informing them of your intent to exercise your legal rights at some point in the future would probably put the sender on pretty firm legal ground in any subsequent conformation.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:50 PM on November 9, 2007

er, confrontation.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:52 PM on November 9, 2007

In regards to the mall thing:
You may shoot on private property with reasonable public access (malls, grocery stores, etc) right up until the point a representative of said private property asks you to stop. If you take more pictures after that point, you are trespassing.
You do have to be like a ninja sometimes to get the shot and not be noticed. It also helps not to be a dweeb with an unnecessarily large lens hanging from your neck. Also, tripod use in the daytime is retarded. Don't be that guy.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 3:03 PM on November 9, 2007

This happens in Hong Kong* too, the one difference being I've yet to be hassled by a police officer.

Usually it's rent-a-cops; regardless, the so-called security issue is completely irrational.

* Apologies for the self-link, but the story is relevant and contains links to other incidents where I was hassled for taking photographs.
posted by bwg at 3:18 PM on November 9, 2007

Here in England you don't just have to watch out for the police / security - you have to watch out for other members of the public, especially if you're using a conspicuous camera.

While taking photos in a local historic building which explicitly allows photography (there's a sign outside the door saying you mustn't use flash), I was treated to a long sequence of sotto voce comments about my bad behaviour, usually by people studiously not using their compact cameras but who, when I pointed out it was quite OK as long as they didn't use flash, would happily start snapping away.

Then one woman decided to take me to task, loudly proclaimed "You shouldn't be doing that!" and started haranguing me about the fact I seemed to think I could do whatever I wanted, getting the attention of just about everybody on that floor of the building, including one of the guides who'd just spent five minutes talking to me and suggesting things I might like to photograph....

As for what happened when the organizers of a local bicycle race series (run on public roads) talked me into photographing the juniors.... Well, let's just say it was a good thing they were prepared to vouch for me.
posted by arc at 3:50 PM on November 9, 2007

Of course there is the double standard of now having surveillance cameras all over the place (except on the Upper East Side, where the rich live), being photographed without permission by the government, stores, corporations etc but when the camera is pointed the other way it is not legal.
posted by nickyskye at 4:20 PM on November 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

In the UK public photography outwith the smiling-tourist-in-front-of-a-famous-landmark stereotype is classed as potential Hostile Reconnaissance

I've recently had the misfortune of undergoing anti-terrorist training with Special Branch designed to bring those working with the public in city centers into line with current police tactics and intelligence.

Can't say too much otherwise I'll doubtless be arrested myself but the authorities here are churning out hundreds of civilian wannabe terrorist-busters onto our streets armed only with hyperbole and a warped sense of civic duty.
posted by brautigan at 4:24 PM on November 9, 2007

I spent an hour in a metal-walled "holding room" at the Monaco Sporting Club for taking pictures of my fellow traveler's tie as he at the bar with me. (It's a mandatory tie establishment, so they provided one and I picked out the Happy Father's Day Snoopy tie just to annoy him.)

Yeah, that was a fun evening. We were actually a bit afraid of how deadly serious they were, we had 3 security guards standing over us while we were interrogated. (Apparently they worried that we were taking blackmail photos of someone else in the bar or something.) In the end, I decided the only way out was to put on my acting hat and do whatever I had to do no matter how annoying. So I pretended to have a panic attack and to hysterically cry until they decided we were too much of a pain in the ass & escorted us out of the building.

Good times. Oh wait, no actually, it wasn't. Monte Carlo sucks. I hate that snotty place.
posted by miss lynnster at 4:31 PM on November 9, 2007

Correction: "as he SAT at the bar with me."
posted by miss lynnster at 4:31 PM on November 9, 2007

If you guys think it's hard shooting with a tripod and a DSLR try doing it carting around a bunch of light stands, strobes, and battery packs. I get hassled the minute I pull a Pelican case out of my car. It happens so often I try to bring extra people to my shoots specifically to deflect the attention of bored security guards and cops.
posted by bradbane at 4:45 PM on November 9, 2007

Seconding that Monte Carlo sucks. ugh. It is amazing to see the streets lined with Lamborghinis, Ferraris and one after the other gazillion dollar cars.

Stayed at the Hermitage for a few days in 71. Age 17 with my 15 year old brother. We had hitched up from Morocco en route to staying on the beach in Elba. I was wearing a djellaba, we were covered in dust, carrying our backpacks. Our little sister, 12, had been given a freebee, staying at a tennis camp there for the summer, with the 'campers' staying at the hotel. It was a riot walking through the seriously fancy lobby, looking like nomads. No doubt we'd be arrested and put in the clink these days for even going up to the hotel steps looking like that. Even thinking of heading to the hotel, looking like that.

The mini village of Eze, overlooking Monte Carlo is nice though.
posted by nickyskye at 5:25 PM on November 9, 2007

Reading a bunch of today's news stories, the petty and not so petty fascist bs going on, it's saddening. And then I see a photo like this one and think how many have a life so much harder.

Pictures, like words, must be protected as a freedom of expression.
posted by nickyskye at 6:07 PM on November 9, 2007

More petty fascist BS. Why do these WWII veterans hate America so much?!
posted by homunculus at 6:40 PM on November 9, 2007

While it may be legal to photograph whomever you want in public, my photography teacher instilled in me a belief that you should only photograph people with their explicit permission. To do otherwise is just plain bad manners.
posted by grubby at 6:40 PM on November 9, 2007

As much as I disagree with the US government's near-fascism and as much as I agree with everyone who talks about photographer's rights...

I usually try to ask permission first. I'll walk up to whoever's in charge, or better yet directly to a security guard or cop, hand them a business card (for my websites) and politely ask them what their policy is for photography.

I'm generally pleasantly surprised at their politeness, and most places are happy to give permission. In fact, when my wife does this, she ends up with the employees of the establishment posing for a group photo half the time.

If they don't want me to take pictures, I'd rather find out about it early in a nice, polite way rather than find out later with a spotlight and a gun aimed at my face...

I also make it a policy to ask permission of any people before photographing them. I might have the right to do so, but it's still polite to ask, and again, if they're going to freak out, I'd rather find out in time to avoid it.
posted by mmoncur at 7:37 PM on November 9, 2007

The act of photographing isn't against any law. It's what you do with that photograph afterwards is the issue. This is where the waiver comes in. But a cop, well, intimidation is part of their tactics. What are they going to charge you with, aside from some bullshit, just because you didn't show 'respect'. That's what it look like to me.

Why is the onus on me to explain why I'm photographing a particular subject¿ Because. Good enough reason for me. What next, a photographing without explanation ticket¿ WTF¿

I agree with nickyskye, sue their asses off, period, just don't tell them at the time. Take down their particulars and do ask to see some identification.

When the fuck did the USA become Communist. Just like Poland in the 70's under Communism. Spies, Spies, all 'a ya./
posted by alicesshoe at 8:27 PM on November 9, 2007

I agree with mmoncur -- it's better most times (not all) to ask first. It just eliminates a lot of uneasiness and misunderstandings and it shows you're not intimidated -- and what your intentions are. Also, it's a good way to find out more information when you are upfront.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 8:41 PM on November 9, 2007

So I was taking these photos inside this nuclear power plant I snuck into, and this security guard has the nerve to ask me who I was and what I was doing here and put down that gun
posted by tehloki at 12:20 AM on November 10, 2007

Although I don't see myself printing this out and tucking it into my photo bag (I think it would be awkward, digging around for it at a point of interrogation), I still think it's important for a photographer to be aware of his/her rights.

This can be murky territory.

I was at the beach with my two daughters this summer when I noticed a group of middle-aged men taking photos of some teenage girls ... with their cellphones. The girls asked them to stop, and they didn't.

Who's rights trump whose here?

I shouted the men down. Had there been police officers in the vicinity I would have flagged them over. To me (as a woman, and a mother of two girls) I found this behaviour morally repulsive. But apparently it's not illegal. Gack. Where are my rights?
posted by quietfish at 6:56 AM on November 10, 2007

Who's rights trump whose here?

It really is a tricky question. The courts have ruled (in non-photography-related cases) that you have no right to privacy, either in body or personal property, once you are outside and on public land. This, I believe, was determined in a case where police were attaching GPS tracking units to people's cars, once they were out in public.

One could certainly extrapolate this to your not having any right to prevent your photo being taken when in public, even if you ask the photographer to stop. Think paparazzi and celebrities in public.

I don't like it very much, but, I think the current opinion is that, once you step out of your front door, you have no privacy rights. Perhaps the only possible exception to that might be in case where the photography was being done for strictly commercial reasons, such as for an advertisement. Not sure if a court has ruled on that situation, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:07 AM on November 10, 2007

drstein writes "The bigger problem is how fucking out of control our copyright laws (not just in the US, based on the comments, Canada has a problem too) have become. Copyrighting a lighthouse? Yikes."

Just cause some bitty from a historical society says something doesn't make it true.

TheGoldenOne writes "Also, tripod use in the daytime is retarded. Don't be that guy"

Lots of reasons (off the top of my head: stereo, HDR, time lapse, extremely long exposure to eliminate people in the shot) to use a tripod even in full on sun day light.
posted by Mitheral at 8:41 AM on November 10, 2007

Thorzdad writes "Perhaps the only possible exception to that might be in case where the photography was being done for strictly commercial reasons, such as for an advertisement. Not sure if a court has ruled on that situation, though."

Doesn't matter what the intention was during the shoot; if you are using photos with recognizable people for commercial purposes (except news) you need a model release.
posted by Mitheral at 8:44 AM on November 10, 2007

Mitheral: ust cause some bitty from a historical society says something doesn't make it true.

Buildings most certainly be copyrighted. For the U.S. Guildlines, see Copyright Claims in Architectural Works (Circular 41)

However, according to FindLaw, a photograph of said building is non-infringing if the building is viewable from a public place. Doesn't stop em from hassling you, though.

TheGoldenOne: As far as using tripods in the daytime goes.... get serious. I use a 4x5 and it ain't exactly a hand-held one. Not to mention various issues of composition, etc. Saying it is retarded is retarded, or at the minimum strikingly uninformed about the effort that goes into good photographs.
posted by Bovine Love at 10:52 AM on November 10, 2007

Also, tripod use in the daytime is retarded. Don't be that guy.

Right. Don't be like Ansel Adams.
posted by bwg at 2:17 PM on November 10, 2007

Also, tripod use in the daytime is retarded. Don't be that guy.

Yeah -- heaven forbid if in this digital age you want to employ high dynamic range photography. Oh, that's right -- use of a tripod is de rigeur with HDR in daylight and night time.
posted by ericb at 3:09 PM on November 10, 2007

Bovine Love writes "Doesn't stop em from hassling you, though."

Which was my point. I'm not sure of the exact law in Canada but I can't recall any locations where photography of a building from a public place infringes copyright. I know there are places like that in the states.

Talking about the US; aren't lighthouses constructed by the federal goverment and therefor automatically in the public domain like all other Federal copyright protected works?
posted by Mitheral at 8:47 PM on November 10, 2007

Don't be that guy. Be the HDR guy instead.

HDR: the Velvet Elvis Carpet Painting of Photography*

I'm glad I live in a visually interesting city far, far away from the paranoid puritanism of the US.

*I can (and often do)achieve similarly tasteless effects with RAW image latitude, but I refuse to go whole-hog and actually use HDR/multiple exposure shots for it.
posted by Poagao at 3:41 AM on November 11, 2007

I'm not sure of the exact law in Canada but I can't recall any locations where photography of a building from a public place infringes copyright. I know there are places like that in the states.

Actually, according to the FindLaw link, photography from a public place is specifically not infringing in the US (it is in fact an exemption for architecture). Quite a few building owners have been known to say otherwise, but it would appear that the law is on the photographers side in this case. I don't know about Canadian law; as a Canadian, I know US copyright law much better, as usual. Sounds odd, but it is actually more important (market size issues), not to mention our tends to parrot the US one in many many cases. And of course there are more resources for studying the US one, as well.
posted by Bovine Love at 8:08 AM on November 11, 2007

I was stopped from shooting photos at a dying mall once, but that's just because it was a humiliating eyesore. Still, they told me that if it happened to be the backdrop for me shooting pictures of my friends, then it would be okay!

"Here we are in front of a boarded-up, empty storefront... and here's where the record store used to be... and here's what's left of the food court that caused a local hepatitis A outbreak!"

...And sadly, authority figures can't take my Kodachrome 200 away, because Kodak already did.
posted by stleric at 3:18 PM on November 11, 2007

I was thinking of the copyrighted art sometimes found outside buildings.
posted by Mitheral at 11:15 PM on November 11, 2007

Man arrested for photographing an arrest wins $8000 from the government.

"the public has a right to observe and document police activity that occurs in a public location".
posted by nickyskye at 10:36 PM on November 12, 2007

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