Stand your Ground, (Restrictions on street photography)

Discussion in 'Casual Photo Conversations' started by michaelging, Jul 20, 2011.

  1. A friend posted this on FB. I found it interesting to see how the "security" handled a photographer shooting photos in a public space in London, and how the police did.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJH9F7Hcluo&feature=share
     
  2. Well done to the police officers involved. I think 99% of all police officers would be reasonable like these. We usually only see the poorly trained and ignorant officers who make up the other 1% and from this we get the wrong impression and tend to think all police are bad.
     
  3. I watched the whole thing when it was posted in the other thread as well and was pleasantly surprised with the police reactions/decisions.
    It is odd that in a city like London, which we're told has more camera surveillance than anywhere else, private security would be so concerned.
     
  4. There would have been a completely different scenario of responses & reactions if the participants of this exercise were not aware that they were not being filmed directly! ..(apart from the fact that each of those scenes were probably being recorded by multiple cameras in all sorts of places, most possibly with no audio).
    I also could not help a wry smile at reading one of the listed 'top comments' that said - 'Now try it as a "muslim looking" photograph(er)'! It's a whole different ball-game then.
     
  5. Exactly! Get a Pakistani guy named Bilal to wear a Muslim toupee, sport a Bin Laden beard and take pictures with camera mounted on a tripod. The nice constable would definitely find reasonable suspicion. I mean this is Londonistan we are talking about ;)
    Interestingly, apart from the pink haired girl all other photographers were white. All six spoke politely and so did the videographer.
     
  6. All six spoke politely...​
    Wouldn't you?
     
  7. I was impressed by the one guy that actually invited them in (or in closer) for better photographs.
    If photographers are so suspicious, and there is so much surveillance in London, it seems it would be best for Security to make contact with them, invite them to photograph the building thus enabling numerous face recognition images.
     
  8. I'd wager the police figured out pretty quickly is was a setup to embarrass the security droids, otherwise why would you have a videographer along to record the interaction.
     
  9. An interesting experiment. Obviously, the lower-tiered security staff are simply doing what the building management told them to do, whether or not they had the legal power to do so. Their primary concern is for security, which is a reasonable concern, legal or not. In Los Angeles, there's so much media here, none of this ever really happens. In L.A., the only restrictions to photography in public spaces of which I'm aware are:
    1. You are not allowed to shoot jurors or witnesses entering or leaving a courtroom, and therefore, are generally not allowed to point your camera in the direction of a court building. However, for news coverage occurring at a courthouse, "B-roll" of the courthouse is usually required to establish the location. This is done routinely, without incident (we simply shoot quickly).
    2. Most US airports allow both video and photography, but do not allow any shooting of security areas.
    3. Tripods aren't allowed on public transit systems or train/subway platforms. I imagine this is more a liability issue.
    In general, properties owned by large interests are difficult to obtain permission or cooperation. However, taking the time and effort to seek permission from the appropriate office in the organization can sometimes lead to even greater cooperation, or possibly even a future paying gig. Most-often, the greatest stumbling block is simply the $2 million liability coverage required by most properties. But in many cases, common sense, creative diplomacy, and strategic shooting can still get you the shot 99% of the time.
     
  10. Also, at large news events, disobeying an order from a police officer or fire marshall can get you arrested, "public area" or not. Police tape is typically set-up to cordon off an impromptu "press area" at such events. There have been a few transgressions of the LAPD's actions, regarding clashes with the media, most notably, the 2007 "May Day" incident at MacArthur Park, and at the 2000 Democratic Convention, where LAPD assaulted a few journalists (whom I believe, were all wearing their LAPD-issued media credentials), and even overran the news tent of the Spanish-language network, Univision, right on live TV during the May Day event. But in general, I've found the LAPD to be one of the most professional police forces in the country, and have always been allowed to photograph in public areas whenever confronted by them.
     
  11. Michael:
    I just clicked on your bio--impressive resume! Also, your bio image is stunning!
     
  12. Honestly, this happens to me all the time when I go out to shoot street photography. Especially in the down towns of Cleveland and Akron Ohio. The police eventually come by after you have to talk to some security guy claiming he knows everything. The police always let you go and tell me I am welcome to photograph anything I like. I found this video awesome.
     
  13. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I would hope that there is a plan to send copies of the appropriate videos to the CEOs of the firmd concerned with two possible objectives
    1, So they can see their security staff making up the law as they go and judge whether thats the way they want their firms to be represented.
    2. Just to cement the idea in some reluctant heads that there is nothing they can legally do to prevent their buildings and staff being photographed from a public place.
    Like others I was delighted ( and surprised) by the attitudes of the police, but sadly totally unsurprised by the ignorance and potentially bullying behaviour of several of the security guards.
     
  14. In Los Angeles, there's so much media here, none of this ever really happens. In L.A., the only restrictions to photography in public spaces of which I'm aware are:

    1. You are not allowed to shoot jurors or witnesses entering or leaving a courtroom, and therefore, are generally not allowed to point your camera in the direction of a court building. However, for news coverage occurring at a courthouse, "B-roll" of the courthouse is usually required to establish the location. This is done routinely, without incident (we simply shoot quickly).
    2. Most US airports allow both video and photography, but do not allow any shooting of security areas.
    3. Tripods aren't allowed on public transit systems or train/subway platforms. I imagine this is more a liability issue.​
    For the record... I'm British, and I've never been stopped in London, although I've not done that much street photography. In the last couple of times I've been in LA, I've been stopped once in each: One time by a member of the public telling me I could get arrested for shooting the sun reflecting off the skyscrapers (okay, not "stopped", just interrupted) as I walked up Figueroa. The other time as I took a snap of the water feature that was, I think, outside the US Bank tower - and that was a security guard (I wasn't shooting the bank itself, and I was on the street). Both times I was heavily laden with conference stuff and wielding an SLR - subtle terrorist surveillance it wasn't.

    Neither time seriously bothered me, and both times I politely moved on. But it's not true that photographers aren't stopped in LA - or at least, it wasn't then (2008, most recently).
     
  15. Andrew said:
    The other time as I took a snap of the water feature that was, I think, outside the US Bank tower - and that was a security guard (I wasn't shooting the bank itself, and I was on the street).​
    I'm not saying it never happens, I'm just saying it seems to happen less-frequently here. And, yes, the "U.S. Bank" tower, otherwise known as the "Library Tower," is probably the most problematic place in L.A. to point a camera. Most high-rise buildings in downtown L.A. are particulary vigilant against terrorist threats, whereas most of the rest of the city is less-so. The Library Tower in particular was featured in a front-page L.A. Times story following the 9/11 attacks as being one of several suspected targets. Years later, I believe cars entering the building are still swept with mirror wands by security staff.
    Actually, now that you mention it, conspicuously shooting any tall building will eventually raise security concerns, no matter how benign your appearance. About a year ago, I was shooting the Century City towers on a beautiful cloud-filled day with a Nikon D90 and a Tokina 11-16mm lens. I think I remember a security guard eventually coming out to see what I was doing. I asked if it's okay to just shoot from the sidewalk, and he was fine with that, and I just kept on shooting.
     
  16. I'm not much of a street photographer. But living in NYC I get a chance to shoot tall bldgs once in a while -Empire State Bldg, Chrysler, you name it, as well as inside icons like Grand Central Station. Everyone in NYC is shooting everything it seems to me. There are signs near bridges that says no photography but I don't know if it's enforced. Certainly people walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, a prime terrorist target, shooting as they go. Considering we lost the WTC you'd think we'd be more conscious of these things but I don't believe that happens much. Maybe other shooters' experiences are different.
     
  17. Shot all over central London in 2008, was never stopped or anything like that. Amazing city.
     
  18. Ralph: I could believe it. I was just a little surprised that kneeling on the pavement and snapping the water feature (rather than the tower itself, for which I'd know better) triggered the "we don't allow photos of..." response from the security guard at the Library Tower. No biggie.

    I would hope, everywhere, that sensible security will hopefully tell the difference between an artistic snap of something that's already all over the internet and a covert close-up of a structural or security feature (or something that should be private) - precisely what use a flarey photograph of sunlight reflecting off tower blocks could be in a terrorist attack, I have no idea. Snapping areas where the fireproofing is missing, for example, is another matter. I believe there's an issue with taking commercial photos in some places in London without a licence, but since I'm an amateur I've not paid too much attention.

    The fuss only happened because the police put up posters a few years back telling the public to look out for photographers who might be terrorists. I believe this was an horrendous public relations gaffe, possibly with the intent of reassuring the public that there was something that they could do about terrorism (much like, IMHO, the limit on liquids on aircraft), and they've not sorted out the mess since. To be honest, I'm not sure it was necessary in the first place in the UK - we had enough of the IRA bombings in the 80s (ah, I remember when their used to be rubbish bins in railway stations...) that any small-scale terrorist activity tends to get relatively shrugged off unless the newspapers deliberately make a big thing of it, and there aren't many places the size of the WTC towers or Pentagon that are worth attacking. Or maybe that's just my perspective, and everyone else is really panicking; the problem with the police's position is that, in the modern culture of assigning blame, it's their fault if a terrorist attack happens, so they have to err on the side of paranoia. I'm sure the best hope with most security guards is to be reasonable, friendly, overt and accommodating. Or come back later.
     
  19. How is this Street Photography? To me, if anything, it's architectural photography. I didn't see anyone in the video shoot a person other then a little girl sitting on a concrete bollard. She was the only one imo actually shooting street in the whole video. How does this help the street photography cause? long lenses and tripods attract attention, pointing directly at a building is going to alert people to your presence. There are buildings and bridges where it is Illegal to take pictures of them unless you have a permit.
    I just think people who take a picture in the street automatically call it street photography. Which, imo is why there is so much bad street work out there. It's simply mis-categorized.
     
  20. >>> How is this Street Photography? ... I just think people who take a picture in the street automatically
    call it street photography.

    Yes, amazing how many people feel that way.

    As far as the "event" is concerned, it was pretty much a stunt.
     
  21. The link below puts trumped up security guards in the UK into perspective. Can you image the police reaction to this guy in the UK?
    The site is not suitable for all viewers though, NSFW. We see so many videos of bad police, it is very refreshing to see some common sense, streetsmarts and good policing videos for a change.
    Agree on the street photography comment too........
    Link.
     
  22. I've lived in London for nearly six years now, and only had problems twice.
    In the first case, about three years back, I was standing in front of the Peckham Library after dark one evening. I was waiting for a rap artist I had done some photos for to show up and give me some cash so I could give him a disc with his photos. I noticed the full moon lying low over the old buildings across the street, and pulled out my camera and snapped a few shots of it with my 80-200.
    I had put the camera away and about 5 minutes later, I noticed two cops making a beeline for me across the plaza. They were polite, but told me that they had gotten a report of a suspicious person taking photographs. Considering the buildings were pretty worse for wear and didn't seem to be on most tourist maps of London, I didn't think they were much of a terrorist magnet. But one of the cops told me that under the anti-terror laws they were going to take my details.
    In order to keep things calm I showed them the photos I'd taken and explained I was waiting for a client. One of the cops was genuinely interested in photography, and we chatted gear and such for a bit. The other fellow played all nice, too, for about five minutes. Then, out of the blue, he suddenly announced, "Now, I'm getting *really* interested in what you're doing out here." I was like, whatever. I teach school, and I know all about the good cop/bad cop tactic and the technique of suddenly flipping on the interrogatee. So I wasn't impressed.
    Fortunately, before I had to let PC Number 2 know that I was immune to his intense training in psychological techniques for breaking down baddies, my client arrived and I pulled out the disc and handed it to him. The cops let me go right away then--the other cop, the one who liked photography, shot his mate an I-told-you-so glare and gave me a commiserating I-gotta-work-with-this-wally look--and my client discreetly passed me the cash as we walked the other direction.
    The other time happened in broad daylight in Deptford, also well off the tourist trail. I was passing over a bridge when I noticed that the machines ripping up and moving scrapped autos looked like huge mechanical dinosaurs. So I stopped to pop a few photos with my Mamiya TLR. After a few minutes, an employee came out and told me that I couldn't take photos. I explained that I was on a public pavement and that what I was shooting was clearly visible from said public space. He told me that his boss said I still couldn't take photos.
    I kinda felt bad for the poor guy, as he had clearly been sent out by some fat arse who was too lazy to do it himself, and I realised he had no clue about the law. I told him I'd move on in a few moments after I'd finished my roll. He went back in, and I shot four or five more frames and moved on.
    Even though I was in the right, arguing with the fellow--who was simply the low man on the totem pole--wouldn't have accomplished much. And considering how things work in Southeast London, I might have been (a) assaulted by a swarm of goons suddenly issuing from inside or (b) assaulted and/or arrested by the cop they might have called, who very well may have been receiving favours of some sort from the interests which owned the scrapyard.
    One thing to remember in these sorts of encounters is that, although the cop/security guard did not have the right to kick your arse, and even if you get an apology/compensation later for his having done so, it still does not change history and erase the fact that you did indeed get your arse kicked. So while I agree with standing your ground, a bit of discretion and diplomacy would be, I believe, valuable assets to employ to achieve a satisfactory outcome to the confrontation.
     
  23. Scott, the person in the Oceanside “incident” to which you linked made one potentially serious mistake—denying that he had any identification if indeed he had it. Though lying to a peace officer is not specifically a crime in California, a cop with the wrong attitude might arrest for “resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer.” I doubt the charge would stick, and it might be possible to get the arrest erased from the record, but there still would be the hassle and expense.
    How would a cop know you were lying? He’d notice a wallet and assume that it contained identification, and either demand that you produce it, or possibly remove it himself if you declined to comply. Is such a directive legal? Well, the court in People v. Long (1987) felt so. What about the search? Probably not legal, but People v. Loudermilk (1987) held that sometimes it was. These cases are both pretty shaky, seemingly at odds with the U.S. Supreme Court, as later cases in California have held, but some people (like DAs) still claim that Long and Loudermilk are controlling. I’d love to see someone set the record straight, and if legal counsel were free, I might even try it myself. Until then, however ...
    The person in the video stated that California is not a “stop and ID state”; in the sense that unlike Nevada, there is no law requiring a person other than a driver to identify himself to police, the statement was correct. And jurisprudence and recent legislative action lean very much against failure to identify oneself constituting obstructing an officer. But I’m unaware of any state case that has conclusively so held, so it’s conceivable that a cop might make an arrest for failure to present identification. Again, I doubt the charge would stick, but I would also guess that the cop would be granted immunity from suit.
    Whether to “show ID” is a personal choice, with advantages and disadvantages either way. But if you don’t want to do it, you’re probably better to politely decline than to lie to a cop—if he sees a wallet, he may assume you’re lying and look for other ways to trip you up even if he doesn’t search for ID. And once you’ve lied, you’re seen by everyone in the legal system as a liar, even if you haven’t broken any laws.
     
  24. ted_marcus|1

    ted_marcus|1 Ted R. Marcus

    I've made several trips to Downtown LA over the past six months. I've read in a lot of places about how security guards aggressively protect their territory from the continuing threat of photographers. But I have never once encoutered any of it, even during four different visits to the Library Tower.
    Indeed, the only time I've had anything resembling difficulty is once when I went with a friend, who decided to ask a passing security guard at a building in the Financial District whether it was OK for me to take pictures. The guard, having been explicitly alerted, ran to inform me that photography was absolutely prohibited without the explicit written permission of the building owner. But if my rather naive friend hadn't approached the guard to ask permission, I doubt anyone would have noticed.
    What might have helped me is that I used a Canon S90 shirt-pocket camera instead of my usual DSLR gear. That may or may not have kept me under the radar. I have found Downtown LA a fascinating place to photograph (it's also one of the few places in Southern California where it's easy to get around without a car).
     

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