More 'can't photograph government buildings'

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by bsdunek, Jul 26, 2010.

  1. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

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  2. Ric Trexell

    Ric Trexell Member

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    What about phone cams?

    There was a letter to the editor of Pop. Photo I think a few months back where the writer said that he saw where Janet Napalianto (however you spell it) told a guy that asked how we could prevent terrorist attacks, that he should be on the look out for people taking pictures of buildings. The funny thing is that with all the cell phones with cameras built in them, there are at any one time hundreds of cameras in front of a government building. Yet if I take my camera and put it on a tripod, standing on a sidewalk (or somewhere where I'm not interfering with traffic flow) I will be assumed to be taking pictures for the terrrorists. Whether using a digital or film camera, I must leave the area and either develop film or transfere it to my computer. A person with a cell phone can immediately transfere that picture to anyone in the world. Or, to put it another way, someone can stand a half mile away and take a picture with a 500mm lense, but the guy that uses a 50mm lense in front of the building is probably a crimminal. It doesn't show much intelligence for our intelligence agencies to hassle photographers. Ric.
     
  3. wiltw

    wiltw Subscriber

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    In Sept 2009 this statement was released...now the feds say it is not illegal to photograph federal buildings...

    http://carlosmiller.com/tag/washington-dc/
    September 2nd, 2009 Tags: Washington DC
    By Carlos Miller
    "It took four months but the United States Department of Transportation finally responded to a query from the ACLU asking it to clarify its policy on the act of photographing its buildings.

    "Turns out, there is no such policy forbidding the photography of DOT buildings in Washington DC.

    "The response from the U.S. Dept. of Transportation acted as if it were only an isolated incident in which a security guard was misinformed about the policies regarding photography. It offered an apology for that particular security guard.

    "But the truth is, there has been a pattern over several years of DOT security guards forbidding photographers from taking pictures of its buildings.

    "Much of it has been documented by photographer Erin McCann, who provided Photography is Not a Crime with the response from the US DOT, which also included a 2004 “special security bulletin” from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security regarding the photography of federal buildings.

    "The bulletin makes it clear that there are no restrictions of taking pictures of federal buildings from the outside, especially if you are not standing on federal property.

    "The bulletin also states that it is permissible to photograph “building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors or auditoriums for news purposes.”

    "This, of course, brings up the old debate about who is a journalist and who is not a journalist or what is newsworthy and what is not newsworthy.

    "As there is no federal law defining what makes a journalist, so this pretty much makes it acceptable for anybody to take pictures of these areas.

    "The bulletin also states that it is permissible to take pictures inside federal buildings as long as permission is obtained; verbal permission for non-commercial photography and written permission for commercial photography.

    "The bulletin also encourages security guards to harass approach photographers and conduct 'field interviews' to determine that they are plotting to blow up the building with their cameras."
     
  4. KenR

    KenR Member

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    Not only in Washington!

    I was in Boston a couple of years ago - as I was walking near the fairly new Moakley Federal Courthouse, a guard came over to me and told me that I could not take any photos of the outside of the building. I assured him that I would not, and proceeded to take pictures of a nearby pedestrian bridge. A little while later, I was approached by another guard and was again told that I couldn't take any pictures of this architectural award winning building. When I got back home I did a Google Earth search and of course was able to see the satellite photo of the building. I then searched for other photos on-line and was able to find lots of them - with several articles extolling the beauty of the building.
    Does this make sense to anyone? As many have pointed out in the past, is a terrorist going to stand there with his very obvious camera on a tripod taking pictures of his next target? Somehow I doubt it. Paranoia and a lack of reason have thrown common sense out the window.
     
  5. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Doesn't make any sense at all. And despite any evil intentions, even the would be terrorist has a right to take those pictures from a public place!


    Steve.
     
  6. Sean

    Sean Admin Staff Member Admin

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    Not to mention you can put the name of any gov't building into google image search and get plenty of pics of it. I'll put on my tinfoil hat on and say that it probably has more to do with maintaining a general level of fear in the population. The more normal every day life is (freely taking pictures on the sidewalk for example) the harder it is for the government to dominate the people. No pictures of buildings, no pictures or video of police, report your neighbor if they look suspicious. The boogey man is coming for you! Oh, by the way we are going to pass some more laws to keep you safe. :surprised:
     
  7. cfclark

    cfclark Member

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    All that, and the "security" people hired to watch most of these facilities were given a badge and a gun (or a stun gun) and given a rudimentary directive to just watch the building and report/stop anything "suspicious". This is not the cream of the crop in most cases (the cream of the crop is actually engaged in doing something more proactive). No one wants to get written up for letting the "big score" get away, thus the harassment for taking photos of something that has been photographed and the resulting images disseminated freely for decades.

    Critical thinking would dictate that if I'm standing at the main gate of Ft. Bragg snapping photos as military personnel pass in and out, that's one thing, and if I'm shooting an architecturally interesting federal courthouse, that's another--but we have a serious deficit of critical thinking skills among the general populace, which is a topic for another thread, probably on another forum. :rolleyes:
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Absolutely this.

    A photo club I belong to got permission to shoot at a building that is trademarked and that doesn't usually let people shoot it from its property (legal as far as I know - it's their property). In an e-mail about the shoot, the vp of the club perpetuated the "can't shoot it because of homeland security" myth. I was so so ticked with him.
     
  9. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Fear in the population, or fear of the population.

    I suspect you and I have the same hat maker.
     
  10. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    You can't trademark a building. There is a copyright on the design, but Article 17 of the US Code has a specific provision stating that one can photograph a completed building without violating copyright. Of course, you have to be standing somewhere where you have the authority to stand.

    I've been challenged by cops when photographing in the middle of a Florida swamp.
    juan
     
  11. Rudeofus

    Rudeofus Subscriber

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    I would believe that if police harassment of harmless amateur photographers was commonplace in the whole western hemisphere. Fact is I only hear these stories from the US, UK and possible Australia. I hope these stories are not an indication of things to come here but at the moment in Austria I can photograph whatever I want in public space.
     
  12. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    As can most of us in the UK, the US and Australia. All we hear on the news is reports of the rare incidents where a photographer was wrongly harrassed or detained. We don't hear reports of the hundreds of thousands of times someone takes a picture in public including a government building, police officer, bridge, etc. with no problems encountered.

    Obviously these events shouldn't happen at all but there is a certain amount of paranoa and hysteria involved to the extent that some US residents say they will not travel to the UK because of it and likewise for some UK residents to the US. This is complete nonesense and is blowing the problem up out of all proportion.


    Steve.
     
  13. eddym

    eddym Member

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    Did you get a model release from Pogo?
     
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  15. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    That tears it! I'm packing up the Yashica and heading downtown! I've been meaning to do a photo series on architecture ever since the new court house was built. This just reminds me of it.

    But, first, I'll print out a copy of the Constitution, fold it up and stick it in my back pocket before I go. :wink:
     
  16. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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    I have a Federal Courthouse nearby, just waiting to be photographed.

    If DARPA developed an Invisibility Device, they would not have to
    worry about buildings being photographed.

    There Is An iPhone App for the Constitution, no folding necessary.


    Ron

    From The Long Island Of New York, and the
    Long Island @ Large Format Group, right here on APUG
    .
     
  17. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I want the Constitution on paper so I can roll it up like a newspaper and slap those bad little doggies on the behind with it!

    :wink: :wink: :wink:
    :D
     
  18. M.A.Longmore

    M.A.Longmore Subscriber

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    I see your point.
    The iPhone could be used to photograph the building.
    So it would only create another problem for the security personnel.
    Then they would have to Taser me twice, I guess ?


    Ron
    .
     
  19. cfclark

    cfclark Member

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    If you're reasonable with the cops, you probably won't find much trouble. However, I'm sure at least one photographer has tried the "show them the Constitution" trick and been accused of being a terrorist/Communist/smartass for "waving that piece of paper around". :D
     
  20. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Not only that, the iPhone can instantly transmit that photograph across the internet. Even if the Rent-a-Cops demanded that you erase the photo and you were stupid enough to do it, the damage could already be done. By that time the photo has already been sent to Afghanistan... PLUS photos of the Rent-a-Cops, themselves, as they run out to harass you, could be just a second behind.

    By the time Sheriff Roscoe P. Coletrane and Deputy Barney Phife even figured out what had happened, let alone do anything about it, ole' Osama Bin Laden already has the information he wants.
     
  21. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    Does it give you the un-conditional right to do that?!


    Steve.
     
  22. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    :wink: :wink: :wink:
    :D

    Smiles and grins indicate humor.
    i.e. - I wouldn't really do that but it's funny to think about.
     
  23. Steve Smith

    Steve Smith Member

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    I know. I don't usually use those smiley things. I use exclamation marks instead.


    Steve.
     
  24. cfclark

    cfclark Member

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    "Curse those security guards! How will we ever find the Federal Courthouse in Tacoma now?"

    "Maybe we could just look it up on Google Maps?"

    "No, that'll never work...we need a photo. A really good photo, taken with at least a medium-format camera. Preferably using a tripod to reduce vibration. You don't know how important it is to have a good, sharp image of your target."

    "Maybe the 'architectural interest' story isn't working. We can't just send a guy with a cellphone?"

    "Too blurry. Although the new iPhone has a sweet camera."

    "Too bad about that antenna problem."

    "I know. But I heard our operative was going to the Apple store Thursday to get the bumpers."
     
  25. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    You're right. You could even use your iPhone to show Officer Pfife all the pictures of his building, right there on the spot.

    I was just thinking more of the classic, face-to-face confrontation of a security guard walking up to a person and demanding that he "erase" those photos. By that time it would be too late.
     
  26. cfclark

    cfclark Member

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    You're dead on about that. We should be fighting this "war" (and despite my skepticism about some of what we've done, we do face legitimate threats) with more brains and less harassment of our own populace (I refer to the US populace here), but instead we get this kind of silliness that wastes time and money and doesn't achieve anything real.