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Thursday, July 20

Is Photography Becoming Illegal?

From today's LA Times:
... Someone takes a picture, or tries to, of a public space, in a public place. Muscle appears. Sometimes badges are flashed. Vague laws are vaguely invoked.

A man taking pictures of a symmetrical array of school buses gets a visit from Homeland Security. A shutterbug shooting 16-millimeter film of the scenery outside the train window is questioned, and the film is confiscated. A history student taking photos of the New York state Capitol for her class project finds the police at her door. Another student in Seattle, photographing a popular tourist sight, is corralled by men declaring themselves to be "homeland security." A Texas railroad buff takes pictures of trains and gets grilled for five hours by the FBI and the cops.

To the absurdities of overreaching "no-fly" lists that keep infants off airplanes, add this one: photographers, amateur and professional, being menaced for taking pictures of public sights in plain sight.

In the online photo magazine Vivid Light Photography, Jim McGee writes about photographer-cop encounters and "wild tales about 'made-up' laws that cops pull out of the air to justify their actions. Is photography becoming illegal in the United States?"
The US motto should be, "9/11 changed everything". I would say that the terrorists won in this respect. They "hated us for our freedoms" so the government is taking them away.

I guess I've been lucky in that I haven't had a visit from DHS yet. Since 9/11, I've been chased by security guards at abandoned insane asylums while shooting musicians (and ghosts) and caused a scene with cops at a quiet train station while taking pictures of a musician who wanted to look forlorn for his website. I took some pics in a subway for another artist. I took pictures of "Do Not Take Pictures" signs and pictures of "Department of Homeland Security" signs in and around the NYC area. I held my camera over the fence at Ground Zero shortly after the tragedy. I took 1200 pictures in Arizona, 600 pictures of the Wall Street area and 300 pictures in one day at Coney Island. I also like to take pictures of space through my telescope. I'm a sometimes professional photographer/videographer for private citizens who want cool backgrounds in their pictures, but I'm mostly a happy shutterbug and I'm wondering when the shit will hit the fan. Oh you'll hear about it if it does.

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