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mark
04-25-2005, 09:04 AM
So if I was to visit the US on holiday (vacation) and photographed the Whitehouse (or any other 'tourist-interesting' building) I would/could be arrested?

It puzzles me how little you can photograph in the US these days, I also seem to remember a thread, not long ago, about people not being permitted to photograph Monument Valley due to something to do with Native American rights, is this true?

I am not so sure it is this bad all over the US. The best thing to do is openly set up your camera and take the pictures. If you need to hand hold use a camera that you can hand hold. A lot of places say no tripods because they get in the way of others. I have used a monopod quite successfully in many areas that say no tripod.

As for tribal lands you should contact the tribe for information. SOme tribes allow no photography on their lands. One that comes to mind right away are the Hopi in northern AZ.

There are even more cases of average citizens not allowing photographs of their land, who are not affiliated with a tribe, they just feel they own the view since they bought the land. These are the folks that really piss me off. I could be hiking down a river bank in COlorado and come across a sign that says in big letters no photography beyond this point. but I am allowed to continue walking.

Rlibersky
04-25-2005, 10:39 AM
I have photographed all sorts of buildings including those occupied by the government. People driving by have called in and reported suspicious activity. When the police show up, I am respectful and answer all their questions. They have never told me to stop. I usually thank them for doing their job and say I understand why you stopped. If some one other then an official stop me I'm also respectful. only once was I told I can't take a photo, I told him to call the police and report my activity and then went back to what I was doing without incident.

chuck94022
04-25-2005, 11:01 AM
Unfortunately, I have a photographic memory. Thus, after 9-11, I was required to register myself. I am now a Registered Photographic Offender and I must report to Homeland Security whenever I move, and must gain advance permission before I approach any government building or entity.

When I travel I am subjected to a brain scan to insure that I have not memorized any critical security detail. Luckily for me I have an ISO 25 brain (I'm a little slow), so these scans do not fog my memory.

Daniel Grenier
04-25-2005, 12:21 PM
....... I usually thank them for doing their job and say I understand why you stopped.......

WOW! You must be a really nice guy my friend. Where in their cop-job-description does it say to stop and interrogate guys with big cameras? I can't see me thanking anyone for harrasing me when I am photographing. But that's just me!

Rlibersky
04-25-2005, 12:25 PM
Why invite trouble, when there is nothing to be gained?

photomc
04-25-2005, 12:52 PM
Why invite trouble, when there is nothing to be gained?


Indeed, agree with this approach..but that's just me. In the situation that I had, by the time the postal employee was finished 'discussing' with me the moment (read light) was gone..so I felt the best thing to do was pack up and walk away...until another day. Tried to be polite with the person, but they were quite agitated, don't think he appreciated the fact I disagreed with him.

Will approach the idea again later, and contact the manager of the PO to see if there should be any restrictions. In the meantime will continue to search for the facts, so that I can be better prepared the next time this happens.

Would like to point out that the local law enforcement has never been a problem, and in previous shoots around the city have had them pass by .. looked to see what I was doing and went on their way..some cars some on bikes, never even stopped. Always make a point to nod or at least smile..they are doing their job, plus it not a bad thing to have them come by, hopefully makes me less of a target for less friendly people.

photomc
04-25-2005, 01:06 PM
In case anyone is interested here is a link with a picture of the building was trying to shoot...looks to be made pre 9-11

http://www.fortwortharchitecture.com/uspost.htm

Roger Krueger
04-25-2005, 01:07 PM
For me it's always been a very distinct line--cops good, rent-a-thugs very bad.

I shoot at night, so I certainly get my share of attention. but have never had a real cop spend more than 10 minutes asking reasonable questions (although sometimes including leading questions trying to get me to admit to commercial intent, which would require a permit).

But I've had rent-a-thugs tell me I needed to stop right now or I was going to jail. (I didn't stop, I didn't go to jail, he didn't even call the cops), I've had them trot out all sorts of copyright, trademark and terrorist malarkey, I've been threatened that they were "going to call the cops if you don't leave right now" several times, and never ONCE did they call when I told them I wasn't stopping. (Note that I was never on their property.)

All this despite the fact that I generally AM doing something illegal! San Diego, like many cities, has gone to great lengths to criminalize homelessness. As part of this, it's an infraction to set any personal property on a public sidewalk for purposes other than the immediate loading/unloading of a vehicle. This would appear to mean I could and should be cited for having my tripod on a sidewalk. But it's never happened, even when it was the real cops stopping by to check me out.

MattCarey
04-25-2005, 02:14 PM
For me it's always been a very distinct line--cops good, rent-a-thugs very bad.

Generally, I agree.

I worked security for the 1984 Olympics in LA. We had to interface with the police. Let's just say that LAPD didn't make that easy. Let's also say that we are damned lucky that someone didn't try to do anything then, as the LAPD didn't take things seriously.

That said, I remember this from my training. At that time, and in California, security were not allowed to actually do anything but observe and report. Obviously, if there were immediate danger, the security guards can do something. However, they can do what anyone can do. The uniform doesn't give them any additional rights.

Actually, we were warned that if we grab/touch anyone, we could be charged with battery.

So, as far as I can tell, a security guard can talk to you, observe you, call the police and stand in front of your camera.

Now, this is for private security. Someone working for the post office or a government building may have different rules!

Matt

c6h6o3
04-25-2005, 03:21 PM
Good point Dave..he was a postal employee. Asking just because in this post 9-11 era nothing is for certain anymore. Admit it irritated me to know end, but I know some buildings are off-limits, but this did not seem quite right..more like something that someone thinks is fact, but isn't.

If you were not on government property, he can't tell you to do anything. Even if you were on USPS (which is only quasi-governmental, BTW) property I would question his jurisdiction unless he's part of the Federal Protective Service, which provides security for Federal Buildings.

I work at a US Government facility. If we observe a breach of security we call the FPS. I'm a contractor, but not even the Fed employees can take any action on their own. Unless I'm challenged by a uniformed officer with a badge, I'm very uncooperative.

I would've continued photographing and told the man to kindly bugger off.

JHannon
04-25-2005, 04:04 PM
If you were not on government property, he can't tell you to do anything. Even if you were on USPS (which is only quasi-governmental, BTW) property I would question his jurisdiction unless he's part of the Federal Protective Service, which provides security for Federal Buildings.

I work at a US Government facility. If we observe a breach of security we call the FPS. I'm a contractor, but not even the Fed employees can take any action on their own. Unless I'm challenged by a uniformed officer with a badge, I'm very uncooperative.

I would've continued photographing and told the man to kindly bugger off.

It could have been a postal inspector. They are plain clothed and are federal law enforcement agents with the authorty to arrest. I would think he would have shown a badge or federal ID.

Postal employees are instructed to inform either the postal police or the inspectors if there is suspicious activity on or in federal property. They should not act on their own.

It is too bad, it looks like a very nice building to photograph.

bjorke
04-25-2005, 06:03 PM
There is no such law, and cop/inspector/security guard whatever, he was full of BS. He may have believed it -- training in such issues has been notoriously poor at all levels of government (including, I sometimes think, Capitol Hill). Next time refer such twits to this recent tidbit. (http://www.photopermit.org/?p=75)

When someone hassles you, ask their badge #, their agency, and specific citation of the law they claim you are violating.

tim atherton
04-25-2005, 10:57 PM
ALso, Kevin has been too modest (unless I missed the post...) to point out the information and resources on his own site:

www.PhotoPermit.ORG

http://www.photopermit.org/forum/

and also the photogorpahers rights sheet at

http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

tim atherton
04-25-2005, 11:03 PM
Will approach the idea again later, and contact the manager of the PO to see if there should be any restrictions. In the meantime will continue to search for the facts, so that I can be better prepared the next time this happens.
.

Check out some of these threads

http://www.photopermit.org/forum/viewforum.php?f=6

Most such limitations only apply to Defence Department locations or Atomic Energy Commission sites or such - very few "ordinary" Federal buildings are otherwise restricted.

wfwhitaker
04-25-2005, 11:20 PM
...he was a postal employee...
Did he have a gun? They can be quite bothersome when they have guns.


Reply for the USPS is already in, boy that was quick...
Must've FedEx'd it....

photomc
04-26-2005, 06:58 AM
Thanks Kevin & Tim...That is exactly what I needed. Better to be informed than have to 2nd guess what is and isn't legal. That was one reason for walking away..I thought the employee was wrong, but the gov't does some pretty dumb stuff these days all in the name of security....reminds me of the camps set up is WWII for Japanese-Americans, that did not make sense either.

Lee Shively
04-26-2005, 07:58 AM
People are more wary of "suspicious" activities today than they used to be. People also have different perceptions of what activities are "suspicious". A group of tourists taking pictures around a well known landmark is unlikely to draw attention but one person photographing a relatively anonymous structure at an odd hour of the day is more likely to seem suspicious to a lot of people. Some people probably don't know the difference between a large format camera on a tripod and a rocket launcher.

I can remember being detained by FBI agents at the local Federal Building parking lot once because of suspicious activity. This was around 1980 or so. I was doing a photo stake out for some local bigwig being tried on federal charges. I was suspicious. I was standing in a parking lot in the rain wearing a hat and raincoat with two cameras around my neck and a bag over my shoulder with a walkie-talkie attached. I looked suspicious even to myself.

arigram
04-26-2005, 09:40 AM
So, let me get this straight:
As long as you are polite, smile a lot and look like a harmless european tourist you are ok, but if you carry a big camera, wear "suspicious" clothing, are grumpy and look middle eastern or muslim you are in trouble?

Shmoo
04-26-2005, 10:31 AM
I find that smiling innocently and saying "I didn't know that!" while continuing to focus. Then "Do you know the phone number of the security office/police in charge?" while setting your exposure and adding "I certainly don't want to get in trouble." while putting film holder in and saying "Thank you for that information." after hitting the shutter release usually works.

I had a similar situation near a bridge in the port. Got stopped by port authority police, building maintenance/security manager (who shoots his cameras regularly around the area), and a security guard. I find that being calm and forthright (heck, I'll let them have my ID) calms them down as well. I don't mind being stopped, because it means they're doing their job. Is it a hassle? You bet. I'd be more worried if they didn't talk to me...

Jim Chinn
04-26-2005, 10:36 AM
So, let me get this straight:
As long as you are polite, smile a lot and look like a harmless european tourist you are ok, but if you carry a big camera, wear "suspicious" clothing, are grumpy and look middle eastern or muslim you are in trouble?


you do not need to look like anything. Remember we have had our own share of domestic terrorism. (Oklahoma City, Unibomber etc). Coupled with 9-11 anything can be considered suspicious. Couple with that a growing concern in the US over loss of privacy makes things difficult. Couple of years ago I interogated (well talked to) someone photographing homes in are area. He was just a real estate agent making a record of homes in the area to show the neighborhood to clients regarding a nearby listing.

With private property concerns I have always found it to be best policy to talk to a property owner before even getting the gear out.