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  1. #1

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    Photography at the airport

    I was 2 hours early for my flight ad bored to death so I took out my Mamiya 645 and took a couple of snap shots. One was of a pilot sitting at a gate with his eyes closed. Nothing out of the world but looked cool. An airline employee asked me if I knew the pilot and I said no, he asked why I took the picture and I said I was an amateur photographer. He woke up to pilot and told on me. I approached the pilot and explained that I was an amateur photographer and that the picture was for my personal use. He wanted to see the picture and I explained it was on film. He asked me to promise not to posted it in the internet and even though I did not need to I agreed.

    I walked away and fairly soon ran into a police officer from Denver International and I asked him if there were any regulations against taking snapshots in the airport. He explained that there were none but that if the person in the picture felt their privacy violated then the photographer could be cited. It did not make much sense to me but I decided not to argue with him. I went on my merry way and on my way back to my gate I saw the pilot talking to the officer. I approached them both and I told the pilot that even though I did not need to I would gladly give him the roll of film ( It was cheap arista and his was only the second frame). He was grateful that I did this and the cop eventually left. After the cop left I talked for a bit with the pilot and he actually agreed that there was no expectation of privacy in an airport, that the picture was not taken in a security area and that nothing would have come out of this whole mess if I had taken the picture with an Iphone.

    So my question as it applies to US airports:
    -are they considered a public place.
    -Other than the obvious security areas, TSA screening, bathrooms, etc. Do people have any expectation of privacy while sitting at the gate?
    -Does being an airline employee change the answer to any of the two above?
    -Does being an airline pilot change anything?
    -Is there a web site or does any one have a collection of the statues and supreme court decisions that protect photographers while taking pictures in public places?

    Thanks
    Joaquin

  2. #2
    omaha's Avatar
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    I think you handled it well and gracefully.

    I'm no lawyer and no expert in any way on this, but I do have this sense that at airports these days, you are subject to all sorts of laws you would never imagine anywhere else. I wouldn't be at all surprised if a TSA agent (and I expect that any cop working at an airport is, in some legal sense, a TSA agent) could pretty much do whatever he wanted with you if he could claim some sort of security concern. In practical terms, whatever rights you may or may not have on paper don't mean anything when the guy with the gun is talking to you: He's going to do what he's going to do, and if he is wrong, you can argue about it in front of a judge later, but you'll never win an argument with the cop.
    I shoot digital when I have to (most of those shots end up here) and film (occasionally one of those shots ends up here) when I want to.

  3. #3

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    airports

    I spent a year in the 1960s taking photographs for most of the airlines that used Los Angeles International Airport. In those days I could go just about anywhere, including onto the tarmac to photograph a couple of people with the tail of an airplane between them. The tail showed that they were being photographed at the airport. It was also good because a newspaper or magazine using the photo could not crop out the airline's logo and the airline was paying my salary.
    I did not work for the airlines, I worked for a company that contracted to do photos for the airlines.
    In the 1970s I was a freelance news and celebrity photographer and did a lot of photography of film and TV stars at the airport. Members of the Beatles, Princess Grace of Monaco, Sonny and Cher, Robert F. Kennedy, and so on. Never had much of a problem.
    So what is different today? Paranoia and a heavy-handed bureaucracy consisting of layer upon layer of "Homeland Protection."
    I seriously doubt any sane person thinks they have privacy rights at the airport with all those spooks and guards and video cameras everywhere.
    However I seriously believe one will get into a royal hassle trying to take photos in such an environment. Photographers seem to be guilty -- of something or other -- just by holding a camera. It stinks.
    Malls seem to get away with curbing photographer rights by saying its "private property." I suppose they try that at airports. If the public can go there then photographers should be able to take photos. Bathrooms and such obvious stuff excepted.
    More cameras add up to less crime. How many terrible incidents have happened in recent years and the cops asking to see any still or video taken by bystanders?

  4. #4

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    I would think that the pilots concern was not with privacy but the fact that he was sleeping. That is most likely why he did not want it appearing on line. It could in the world we live in be used against him "to tired to fly" would be the headline. And it would spiral out of control from there. Sometimes the photos we take and post innocently on line are taken and used incorrectly by others. So while we have a right to take them we live in a world where it is our responsibility to make sure they don't hurt an innocent person taking a nap.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by drgoose View Post
    ... He explained that there were none but that if the person in the picture felt their privacy violated then the photographer could be cited. It did not make much sense to me but I decided not to argue with him. ...
    I think he may be mistaken. I think you did the right thing with both the pilot and the cop but it would be interesting to have asked "Cited for what?" He cannot randomly cite you, me, or anyone else for "making a citizen uncomfortable".

  6. #6

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    Always keep a spare roll of film to give to them :]

    Some airports are private property. Some are public property, and some are federal/state property. So rules will vary. The police being who they are these days (and I won't say what my opinion of them is here), I don't do anything to provoke stressed, armed, ill informed, power tripping hooligans w/ badges who won't think twice of shooting you or depriving you of your rights, especially at an airport. The only good police encounter is no encounter.

    Yes, a cop can randomly cite or arrest someone. Happens every day. They do not need a reason. Brave New World and all that. I once had a couple of DEA agents roust me from a sound sleep at 3AM on a train to ck my ticket, ck my I.D., search my backpack, and ask a ton of questions for no other reason than I probably looked Mexican to them. They were visibly disappointed to see my Italian name on my I.D. After a while I lost my temper w/ them and demanded why they were singling me out and they backed off and were courteous and left. I complained to the conductor and he said that it happens all the time. I told him it felt like the bad days of wartime Germany, w/ them demanding to see my papers, and that it seemed Un American. His reply surprised me. He said "Oh, I agree. This isn't America anymore".
    Last edited by momus; 05-08-2014 at 01:51 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  7. #7

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    can they do that

    I once asked an attorney "can they do that?" He said, "yes they can. The only question is -- can they get by with it?"

  8. #8

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    All I know is that when one is cited or arrested in a legitimate law enforcement environment the officer must have a valid reason. Sure, they can use a bullshit reason like "disturbing the peace" but they can't use "subject was an a-hole" or "subject failed to comply with my illegal request" or "subject was taking a picture of a sleeping airline pilot with a camera" as a reason. Maybe in some small town or corrupt city they could get away with that... but not where I live. Cops in LA have a hard enough time arresting real criminals at times. What they can get away with, however, is to detain for questioning. That is easy.

  9. #9

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    I think the issue is: Why should your 'right' to photograph in public supersede my personal right to privacy and not be photographed 'close-up' without my permission? Celebrities may be deemed to have given up such right (and are forever pursued by paparazzi), but I don't believe plain old, regular people have given up their right to privacy.

    If nothing else, courtesy would suggest asking a person first if you can photograph them 'close-up',

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by BrianShaw View Post
    All I know is that when one is cited or arrested in a legitimate law enforcement environment the officer must have a valid reason. Sure, they can use a bullshit reason...

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