Ever been challenged?
Preface: This is another thread that I had intended to throw up much earlier, shortly after the incident below occurred (but, as often-times happens....).
As I have made mention in a number of other posts, I am in the midst - when time allows - of a two year-plus project, documenting life on Vancouver Island, shooting a host of diverse subject matter (if it looks interesting or photogenic, I may grab a shot or two...or more). And when I say diverse, I mean diverse: landscapes, seascapes, architecture, wildlife, portraits, festivals, sports, etc. The impetus? The effort is my swansong to Kodak's Ektachrome offerings. To that end, I picked up (okay, I've hoarded) some 700 rolls? - I don't really know the exact amount I accumulated because I purchased film over a period of several months - of E100G and E100VS in 35 mm and E100G in 120. At any rate, I digress. The following is the issue at hand, one which has come to the fore on several occasions during the course of the aforementioned effort.
Shooting surfers and boarders one bright and sunny day back in late October, this year, in Jordan River, BC (a rinky dink backwater on the Island's Southwest coast, I found myself in a bit of a heated discussion with one of the denizens of that town re my "right" to shoot these folks playing out in the Pacific. I was first asked if I was "from Jordan River," to which, motioning to the Burnaby dealership tags on my Honda, I replied in the negative. The individual then informed me that "people from here, wouldn't take kindly to being photographed." I then replied that "once you cross the threshold of your home, your right to privacy has been lost until you return home." He then proceeded to tell me I "couldn't just take pictures wherever you wanted." I suggested otherwise, to which he became increasingly agitated. When I mentioned that the average individual - living in a metropolitan region, mind you - was captured around 200 times per day on a host of surveillance devices, and that the "right to privacy" was an artefact of another age, a flush on his cheeks was in evidence. Further agitating him, I made mention that photography, in a public space, was protected under a host of legal statutes (freedom of expression, etc.), and that, absent commercial usage, photographers retained the right to display/use their work in any manner they deem fit. I was almost certain that the conversation was about to lead to fisticuffs when this individual turned, muttered a few obscenities under his breath, walked back to his SUV, grabbed his surfboard and headed into the water.
I thought about this conversation later on, wondering why this individual felt the need to be so confrontational. An aversion to photographers? An ignorance of the law? Then I realized the day of the week: it was Wednesday. Given the number of bodies out in the water, a perfect day for recreational pursuits, and the fact that the town has a fairly high unemployment rate...perhaps this is how some people in Jordan River (enjoying the largess of Unemployment Insurance) conduct job hunts? lol
So...the question: Have you ever been challenged on your right to photograph, when out shooting in a public space? How did you respond?
An assortment of F-series Nikons with a lot of Nikkors, a pair of M6s with some Leitz glass, a pair of 500c/ms with a wide range of Zeiss optics and a D800 (just to help keep Duracell solvent/and in situations where E100G doesn't work).
Favourite films: KE ("Kodachrome Era"): PKM25 and PKR64, HP5/Tri-X; PKE ("Post-Kodachrome Era"): (a) 35mm: E100G, HP5 Plus, Tri-X and Delta 3200; (b) 120: PanF Plus, FP4 Plus, TMax 100.
If it were afternoon, he could have been drunk or something. Probably sometime of some sort he wants to hide.
People don't often mess with me. I'm perhaps physically imposing to strangers and use fewer words. I'd probably have told him yes I can take photos and looked him up and down quietly, and he probably would have left then. I suppose later in life I may not be so much this way.
I did have a neighbor dress me down for setting up a tripod on "her" beach. She does it to everyone who spends time on her beach, so she was being consistent. Then she figured out I was her neighbor and was a completely more kind chatting with me but still wanted me to move along. Beach is a weird mix of private and public space based on colonial laws of a state we are not even part of now. I'd be allowed to duck hunt with a gun, but not photograph/relax, so most property owners usually err on the permissive side if you're not causing trouble.
Yes. Usually it is enough to listen patiently and let them know you will try not to include them in your pictures if they don't want. But I did have a mother call the police on me once because she insisted I was not allowed to shoot photos at a soccer game, though lots of other mothers and fathers were. Since I was using my Pentax 645Nii and a tripod I think she felt justified in causing me trouble since I couldn't have been a parent or grandparent. If I would have been using a little point and shoot, or my cellphone, she probably would not have paid any attention. I think her major bug was that I wouldn't delete my pictures nor would I show her my images. Since I was shooting film that wasn't possible but I don't think she understood the concept of film. She became upset enough that she stood right in front of my camera. I was using my 120 macro at the time and I got a great, tight portrait of her face, and that certainly didn't make her happy. She insisted she had not given me permission to photograph her but I pointed out that since she was preventing me from taking pictures of my grandson in the soccer game I may as well get shots of her instead.
The police arrived, explained to the nice lady that I had every right to take pictures of the soccer game, and also explained that since I was using film I would not be able to show her my pictures (I assume so she could personally "edit" them). Later on I did give her a nice 8x10 shot of her son kicking the soccer ball, which she did accept, but she still gives me dirty looks and this happened two years ago. On the day this all happened I just thought she was having a "bad hair" day, but I now think this is her normal attitude.
Life goes on.
I had a shotgun aimed at me, once, while photographing a tree which was on a private farm. I was, however, not on the property.
I was detained in the basement of the US Capitol, once, while waiting for the person who issued permits to get back from lunch, so she could tell the police I had a permit.
One time, there was almost an international incident, while doing some work for a DC real estate management company. I was hired to photograph their portfolio, which included embassies, office buildings, and apartment buildings. For most of the buildings, I had to shoot interiors and exteriors. For a particular Middle Eastern embassy, I could only shoot from the street. Apparently, the security staff didn't get the memo I was coming (it was prearranged to avoid any issues) and saw me shooting the building. About 8 guys, with guns, came running through the gate, and forced me to my knees. While on the ground, a DC patrol car came upon the scene, called for backup, and before long there were about 5 other patrol cars there. After some discussion about jurisdiction (the security guys wanted to detain me inside the gates, and confiscate my film/camera), a higher up came out to say he had forgotten to mention that I was expected. The security withdrew, and one of the cops said, "If you had gone in, there isn't much we could have done, but they probably would have let you go, eventually..." Scary then, neat story now.
I take photos of trains. I get hassled several times a year. I usually just point out I'm on public property and if there's any question about that, I'll call the sherrif/deputy on my cell phone and we'll get their opinion. That always silences them, including local police. I refuse to get sucked into arguements with irrational people.
Kent in SD
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Speaking of trains, I was recently hassled by a Chicago cop in the subway. No sense in arguing with a Chicago cop unless you enjoy body cavity searches.
I got harassed for pointing my camera at a bank in Pasadena last summer. The man (an employee of the bank, dressed like a middle manager) asserted that it was "illegal to photograph financial institutions", even from the public sidewalk I was standing on. He hurried off to tell the police, and I walked away. I kind of wish I had stayed and argued for my rights, but I didn't.
In my experience, most people are turd burglars.
You need to use a press camera.
The one time anyone mentioned my presence, was when I was out with my pressman.
The other person with the "interested party", told him to relax. "It's not even a real camera, they don't use those anymore..."
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I find it so odd today. On one hand people have no compulsion whatever in photographing anything; their toenails, their breakfast, themselves destroying rock formations in State Parks. Then they post it online for anyone and everyone to see. But on the other hand if someone is taking their picture on the street they become offended that their privacy is being invaded. It is almost as if some people have completely lost the ability to think critically. If it isn't in a video game they seem lost and don't know how they should respond.
But, to be completely honest, although I have had one or two confrontations in recent years, most of the time people either don't even pay any attention or they do everything they can to hurry by and ignore me.
In 40 years since my first car (and independence), I've always had a pretty fair sense of being in my place or not, and don't recall of ever getting into trouble. By nature I tend to be one to avoid confrontation. Of course sometimes it has caused lost picture opportunities. But better that than trouble. In this particular day and time I believe people are more touchy than ever, so now I'm double careful. In the 70's I could sit in the rest area of a big shopping mall with my 35 and a 135 on it and shoot children to my heart's content for instance, and parents thought nothing of it. Try that now.