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  1. #1

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    Photographing within a police state -- is accommodation with authorities possible?

    This morning I had another run-in with the law. Apparently a teutonic looking guy on crutches with a camera looked very much like a terrorist to a passing vigilante motorist and it wasn't more than a few minutes later that I was forced to explain myself to six cops. Going into more detail would be boring.

    My question is, has anyone found a successful strategy for making these encounters go more smoothly ...like getting your name on file with cops ahead of time so they only need to call in to check on you? It takes so damned long to talk 'em down from their urge to shoot something. Any ideas? I realize there have been threads on this before, but I want to make sure I'm not missing any smart, new ideas.

    -Michael

  2. #2
    Dave Parker's Avatar
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    Where and what were you photographing? Just curious, but location and items being photographed seem to have bearing on how to handle the situation. I would have to say as a free lancer, I don't know that I would be good with the idea of pre registration with law enforcement because I might show up on a street corner photographing something they think is out of bounds!

    Dave

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Poco
    This morning I had another run-in with the law. Apparently a teutonic looking guy on crutches with a camera looked very much like a terrorist to a passing vigilante motorist and it wasn't more than a few minutes later that I was forced to explain myself to six cops. Going into more detail would be boring.

    My question is, has anyone found a successful strategy for making these encounters go more smoothly ...like getting your name on file with cops ahead of time so they only need to call in to check on you? It takes so damned long to talk 'em down from their urge to shoot something. Any ideas? I realize there have been threads on this before, but I want to make sure I'm not missing any smart, new ideas.

    -Michael

    michael -

    i always stop a cop that is nearby to let them know who i am and what i am doing. i don't look teutonic, but i'm a member of the olive skined brotherhood. giving them a head's up always makes things go easier, and they watch your back.


    good luck!
    -john

  4. #4
    Bill Mobbs's Avatar
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    I agree with Dave, I don't believe we have reached a stage of captivity where we must or should report to police prior to making a photograph. OTOH, I don't think it is a good idea to photograph Federal building and the like... No point in drawing fire... So to speak.
    "Nobody is perfect! But even among those that are perfect, some are more perfect than others." Walt Sewell 1947

  5. #5

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    Dave,

    I was on an overpass, taking a pic of a landfill -- hardly a strategic asset. The question of what I was photographing and why always comes up and then I break into a big grin and go off in rhapsodies about the light, the contrast, the form ...and their eyes soon glaze over as they realize they're dealing with a flake and they let down their guard. But there's got to be an easier way.

    John,

    I do the same, when a cop is available ahead of time. You're right that it heads off all kinds of problems.

  6. #6
    blansky's Avatar
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    Poco, I have to say you are indeed a gutsy guy, heading out to photograph strategic locations like power plants, nuclear plants, dams, defence department sites and of course landfills.

    What are a you, some sort of troublemaker.

    The police have to take enough time out their day at the donut shop harrassing double parkers, and speeders to waste six patrol cars investigating activists and potential terrorists like you, pretending to try to get the perfect shot of the local dump.

    Without this kind of police diligence can you imagine the damage that a terrorists would be able to inflict if they blew up the city landfill. Think about it man.

    It would take the environmental types 3-10 years to agree to a new site, while this one is investigated and the appropriate statues and memorials are erected to pay tribute to the loss. Every governmental agency would be tied up in knots for a decade with lawsuits and regulations while this situation was resolved to nobody's satisfaction and while the endangered salamanders were moved to a nice new swampy home.

    The entire city would be awash in garbage while all this was going on, jamming up the streets and alleyways. Rats and vermin would take over and disease would become rampant, jamming up emergency rooms and doctors offices. The entire economy of the city would probably go right into the dumper.

    So next time, think before you shoot. Maybe something nice like and old barn or perhaps a pretty lake.

    Michael
    I couldn't think of anything witty to say so I left this blank.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Mobbs
    I agree with Dave, I don't believe we have reached a stage of captivity where we must or should report to police prior to making a photograph.
    I'm not so sure.

    I notice a white van slowing down and then stopping while I take a photo. I finish up and make my slow way back to the car, taking note that the van has turned around and is following. I lead the van on a trip through the city taking it very slowly so citizen Duddly DoRight can keep up and complete his tail job until the cops show up. Eventually the van pulls to the side of the road as he's passed by three cop cars which finally stop me. In a flash I've got 6 cops swarming around the car, hands hovering inches from their guns.

    If you think of what was involved, it's ridiculous. Duddly must have been been in constant, breathless communication with the dispatcher on his location (which is why I was so terrified of him losing me -- who wants to start a state-wide man hunt?)

    The fact is, the "Police State" reference in my title doesn't overstate the case one bit. Remember back in the 60's when one of the signature outrages of Soviets was that you could be detained for just taking photos near missile installations? Shit, they were thinking small.

  8. #8
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    You should have driven to the police station and reported the guy for tailing you.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  9. #9
    John Bartley's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by David A. Goldfarb
    You should have driven to the police station and reported the guy for tailing you.
    Yup - or called them on the cellular and had them stop him ....

  10. #10
    Aggie's Avatar
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    Yeah when you call the police report you are being terrorized by a white van and give them the guys license plate number. Also let them know you are a photographer at the same time. You were in the process of taking a picture when this guy started acting suspicious and you are afraid for you life. You were on crutches, so it gives much credence to what is going on.
    Non Digital Diva

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