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Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Photography Is Not A Crime!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett


I'm not a lawyer, but I try to follow the laws regarding shooting in public places.

Today Thomas Hawk blogged about getting kicked out of the SF Museum of Modern Art for taking photographs in an area where photography is permitted.

There are two sides to every story, and if you read the comments trail there are notes from (mostly) anonymous commenters that security thought he was trying to take pictures of a woman's cleavage using a telephoto lens. Hawk says (and the picture he posted backs him up) that he was using a 14mm lens and that the woman in question was wearing a sweater and scarf instead of a low-cut top. (For those unfamiliar with how lens sizes might equate to settings on your point-and-shoot, he was using a wide-angle lens.)

I'll let you surf through the comments and decide for yourself. Someone claiming to be the person who kicked Hawk out posted, but I'm dubious. In situations like this the protocol is to kick it along to the PR folks and let them handle it. Even if he's in the right on this one, he's facing a hostile audience.

I don't know if that's the case here, but it's been my experience in the past that I've sometimes been singled out because I carry pro level photo gear. This experience stretches back more than twenty years.

Today with the prices of good digital gear affordable to consumers, more and more people have better camera equipment. I suspect that's one reason we're hearing more stories about photographers getting hassled. The other is the "terrorist" angle. That one just burns me up. Banning photography isn't going to stop terrorism.

I have a few personal rules that I follow, which I'll outline below:
  1. Be aware of the surroundings and don't block foot or motor traffic. This is a very common-sense rule, and you may draw less attention to yourself if you're not in the way.
  2. Be polite. Again, very common-sense, but a little courtesy can go a long way.
  3. Take care in photographing identifiable people, especially children, without permission. You can't shoot street pictures without getting some identifiable people, but it often helps when people understand that you're not shooting them, but the scene. Be aware that if you can identify someone in a picture, that a model release may be needed if you intend to sell it. (There's an exception for journalistic/editorial use, obviously.) Children can make lovely subjects, but it's a very good idea not to take pictures without parental consent. This can be a touchy issue for parents involved in custody battles or those trying to keep their children from an abusive ex. That sounds shocking, but I ran into that situation while taking candid classroom pictures for an elementary school yearbook.
  4. Follow the laws, but be aware of your rights. Be prepared to defend them (here's an excellent guide to photographer's rights written by an attorney), but don't be a jerk. Sort of goes back to rule #2. Is it really worth ending up in jail? That's your call.
All things, considered, I have to admit that I'm using my point-and-shoot a lot more these days. I'm able to get some pictures with my little Casio that I'd never be able to get with my Oly. People tend to consider it less threatening - not to mention the fact that it gets pretty darned hot where I live and I don't care to leave my gear in the trunk. It's 102F outdoors as I type this. If I was making loads of money off of my photography I might consider it an occupational hazzard. But I'm not that fortunate, so I need to take care of the gear I have.

Speaking of making money, I need to work on my other site. But after I get the next round of laundry finished. And maybe after I have a beer. Okay, maybe while I have a beer. I'm not picky. But I do need to work, and I plan to write about photography tech today.

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Filed under: Photography            
8/9/2008 4:34:58 PM
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