Heading to Portland from Vancouver - photography laws?
I'm planning to head down to Portland sometime in the near future and was wondering a few things:
1) What are the laws regarding street photography and publication of those photographs? (not commercial stuff. Just printing out a blurb book or posting on a blog)?
2) Any good places to buy 35mm film (and also Instax film) in the Downtown core?
3) Anyone had any issues with respects to customs swabbing film going down to the States and/or going up to Canada? I haven't had issues so far but any tips would be great!
The general rule for street photography in the US (to the best of my knowledge) is pictures taken in public areas, where there is no expectation of privacy, require no releases if not used commercially or editorially. But every municipality has some variation of where, when and what may be photographed. Again mostly this addresses commercial photo shoots. No trespassing, no invasion of privacy, such as shooting into someone's window, no creating obstructions or dangerous situations, no picture taking where signs prohibit picture taking, and being careful around official buildings and sites would all be worth remembering. Also, if someone is complaining about pictures being taken, I walk away. I do not know Portland, but I would think the above advice would suffice there as well.
Best shop for film is Pro Photo Supply. They sell film in both the main store and in the lab around the corner. Selection is generally better in the main store. There are other places, but none compare. Paul
If you are on private property such as a mall and someone (security guard) tells you to stop taking pictures comply. I'm not a lawyer but I've never heard of someone on the actual street snapping away without harassing people having a problem. Just tell anyone that asks, you are a tourist from Canada taking pictures of American culture and sites. If you stop when people ask you to stop you shouldn't have a problem.
If you are traveling with 35mm film the US guys should be okay. Medium format film is where things can get weird since I guess they don't see it often in a lot of places. They have always swabbed it in my experience but some dolts want to take it out of it's sealed wrapper. If I am going to be going through a check point with a boat load of medium format film I email a week or so in advance and give the manager a heads up that way they can make sure the staff complies with the proper swabbing procedure.
The info I'll put here applies generally to anyone interesting in doing street photography in the U.S., in Portland and elsewhere.
Portland residents, like those in Seattle and San Francisco, are a lot less uptight than people in larger Eastern U.S. Cities. Maybe it's the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean. <G>. So if someone spots you photographing them, you might suddenly see them posing for you and hamming it up. Still, there are the basic rules that ArtOn nicely summed up above.
As a photojournalist, I've done a fair amount of street photography for publication with and without getting releases. Two informal rules I tend to work by are: Courtesy will oftentimes get you better images than sniping. If I happen to see someone who appears photographically interesting to me, I engage them and ASK if they would permit me to photograph them even if it's not for publication. This is especially true of people who appear homeless and when you want to photograph a kid who appears younger than 18 years. I generally introduce myself, very briefly explain what I'm doing and tell them why I think recording their image is interesting or important. I may give them a card and ask them to sign a model release. Here's some excellent editorial info. on public photography from the New York Times Magazine in April of this year. The images, of course, are great too.
A lot of info on street photography law is based on anecdotes or wishful thinking rather than the law itself. A few years ago there was a guy running all over the net publishing booklets for sale with legal info that he believed was correct when in fact a lot of it was not. So as you read about this interesting subject, pick the sources you want to rely upon wisely.
Some such reliable ones include (without limitation of course) :
One from a lawyer named Bert Krages who, last I checked, is located in Portland and he does intellectual property law that applies to photographers and copyright issues. Here's a really useful single page you should print out and carry with you:
http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm and the form located here: http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm
It generally covers the rights of photographers in public places here in the U.S. and since he's a lawyer, I'm reasonably certain it's quite up to date. His website also has a lot of useful info for street shooters. http://www.krages.com/bpkphoto.htm He's also written a book entitled "Legal Handbook for Photographers: "The rights and liabilities of making images. Published by Amherst Media.
Another solid source of info is by Leonard Duboff, another lawyer, also in Portland. His book is called:
"The Law (In Plain English) For Phographers"
Victor S Perlman is an intellectual property lawyer AND happens to be the lawyer for ASMP in NY. He wrote an article called "Legal Perils on the Street" in the April 2013 issue of Rangefinder Magazine that you can probably find online. Perlman takes a common sense approach to these issues and I agree with his philosophy. Know your basic photographic rights and it's both just and proper to "...keep them from getting trampled" but it requires a cost-benefit analysis that are sometimes outweighed in favor of the potential costs involved in litigation over use/misuse of an image.
Finally, I suspect you know that photographic rules have changed substantially here since 9/11. For awhile, state and federal cops and security people, officials and others, stirred up a real paranoia over photographers just making photographs of public buildings, structures, monuments, ad infinitim. In San Francisco for awhile, it seemed everyone with a camera, tourists and photojournalists included, were immediately suspected of plotting terrorist acts for things like taking a picture of a subway train.
It's simmered down quite a bit but be mindful (not necessarily paranoid). Cops often use photography as a pretext to stop and ask for ID. It's BS but they are entitled if they have "a reasonable suspicion" of foul play afoot.
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Are you flying, or driving? If driving, they won't care one bit. However, you'll have to deal with the rather unpleasant demeanor of most border crossing guards. Driving does have one advantage, that being the ability to hit up places like Glazer's and Kenmore Camera on the way down (and/or back).
I've had no problems shooting in the city of Portland (as well as, obviously, here in Seattle).
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I cross the US/Canada border frequently while driving, and generally speaking the personnel there (in each direction) are quite businesslike. They appear to me to be quite serious about their work, but over many years I have had very few occasions where I might want to complain.
I am careful not to take photographic equipment with me that might imply I am working in the US - they are fairly diligent about preventing non-US residents from working without the required permits.
In the 1980s I worked as one of those Canadian border crossing persons, so I may have a somewhat different perspective on the issue.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
I cross back and forth on a regular basis as a US citizen married to a Canadian with lots of family in BC. We live in Portland. I don't remember a border agent ever even mentioning photography and I always take my camera and lots of film.
As to shooting in Portland, no problem and it has a lot of interesting areas to shoot in. If you make it to North Portland to an area called St Johns you will find a great camera store that specializes in analog and has a tremendous used camera department and even does optical printing for your color film.. it is called "Blue Moon". Walk from there to Cathedral Park for some interesting views.
I did hear about Blue Moon but not sure I'm going to be able to make it up there. But thanks for the headsup! If I ever drive down there I will be sure to check it out.
Originally Posted by dpurdy
I'm actually going by train so will have my film in sandwich bags ready to be hand-inspected. Hopefully no issues in this regard
Appreciate all the resource! I've bookmarked and saved a few of them and will definitely have to consider my pros and cons of taking certain images. I will hopefully look like another tourist so I can just blend in with the other tourists.
Someone here raised a good point about not looking like a pro as the border is pretty strict on people crossing over to work. I plan to bring multiple cameras... Anyone think there will be an issue with that? Suggest to go with small cameras? (Planning to bring 3 - 2 color, 1 b&w - all 35mm)
What is swabbing film? What do the Homeland Security folk hope to find?