Posts Tagged 'California'

Mother Jones’ Photos Causes Release of Thousands of Inmates

Photo: California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

California prisons are overflowing with inmates, who are packed like sardines into unsafe and unsanitary conditions at nearly double the system’s capacity. Because of the overwhelming volume of people, in one prison an inmate had been dead for several hours before officials realized it. Mother Jones published this piece and accompanying slideshow of the conditions at several prisons in the state, which helped to play a major role in a recent Supreme Court decision to release thousands of inmates.

The photographs in this sideshow provide a glimpse of those extreme conditions: the E-beds (emergency beds) stacked in gyms and dayrooms, the tiny holding cells for mentally ill inmates. All of these photos, some of which were taken by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, were entered as evidence in the California prison case. Three of them (here, here, and here), were appended to the Supreme Court’s majority opinion, suggesting that they had played a role in convincing Kennedy and four other justices to endorse the plan to downsize the state’s prisoner population.

Source: Mother Jones (via Boing Boing)

Man Arrested For Filming Police – From His Garage

Abuse of power at its most worrisome:

The trouble started when Lonnel Duchine saw police detaining a group of juveniles at gunpoint. Having his camera-equipped phone on him, Duchine started to film the events as they unfolded. However, once they knew they were on camera, backup officers not directly taking part in the investigation approached Duchine, demanding that he hand over the phone as evidence. When he refused, Duchine was cuffed and informed that he was being charged with interfering with police business.

Source: Examiner.com

Interview: Ara Oshagan’s “Juvies”

Interview by Shawn Nee and Julie Haire

Ara Oshagan is a Los Angeles-based documentary photographer who delved into the  world of the juvenile criminal justice to make “Juvies,” a moving series about the bleakness and despair of kids who are caught up in a broken system that has nothing to do with rehabilitation.

The project was developed in tandem with  filmmaker Leslie Neale, who created her own documentary on the subject. Oshagan graciously submitted to a long interview with us, and he has a lot of good insights on getting access, his process and the state of documentary photography today.

Leslie Neale’s documentary Juvies focuses on juvenile offenders in an LA County detention center. Can you tell us how you became the set photographer for the film?
Leslie had seen some of my work from Armenia and she invited me to shoot with her. From very early on in the project, I did not consider myself to be a set photographer but in a sense a collaborator, a documentary photographer working in parallel with the aim of developing a parallel project, a book that would be about the same kids and same topic.

For a project like “Juvies,” we’re always interested to know how the photographer was able get to permission to photograph such a difficult subject that involves state government and the prison system. It seems like you must have jump through a lot of hoops while cutting endless strands of red tape. Can you explain how you were able to gain access?
Leslie Neale was a magician when it came to access. She was politically very well-connected in high places (for instance she knew the DA well), and she had some very key people in Corrections supporting her work. She also had an assistant who dealt with access on a continual basis. Often we would get shut down during a shoot and then we would have to wait in a waiting area until Leslie or her assistant made some calls and then we got clearance to shoot again. It was a HUGE and tireless effort on her part because, as you know, no one wants to give you access. I was supremely fortunate to be part of her crew.

What was the routine like that you went through each time you entered the prison?
We came with a cart-load of equipment—camera man’s equipment, sound person’s equipment, myself with my camera gear. A list of all our equipment would have to be sent in ahead of time and then at the entrance to the prison, our equipment would be checked against that list. Then we would be allowed in. Always one or two corrections officers would be with us the whole time we were there.

Photographers are artists who are generally allowed to be creative and free-flowing, so was it at all challenging to photograph inside a place where there are many rules and restrictions?
This was the most challenging part of the work for me. My usual process is to wander and photograph whatever interests me in, for instance, a certain region or around a topic. And I tend to spend a lot of time with people until they are comfortable with my camera and myself. To make the kind of images I am interested in, I need people to be in their natural way of life and ignore my presence. My book Father Land is based on this process. And I always work alone. So, in prison, not only are you not allowed to wander too far away from the two corrections officers who are accompanying you, but you also have to deal with a film crew shooting at the same time and basically shooting the same thing you are shooting. And when you are in the yard for instance, all the prisoners are interested in you and looking at you and want to speak to you. Plus to be able to shoot anyone besides the youths who were in the film, we needed to get signed releases. So, the whole process was very cumbersome and not at all intuitive.

Did ever you feel as though your access was being limited, or that you were being censored regarding the people and things you could photograph?
Due to Leslie’s magic, we went in as a documentary crew and were able to shoot in places very, very few people can—in the yard, in the dorms, in the eating areas, pretty much everywhere. But every once in a while we would get shut down as I wrote above. I personally was not censored on any specific occasion—like someone never told me “Do not photograph this.” But there were ground rules, which were: do not wander away from the officers who were accompanying us and no photos without releases. As long as we stuck to those rules, we were fine. If they felt you respected their ground rules, they respected us in doing our work. This was in the state prisons.

In juvenile hall, it was totally different story. The same respect was there, but you absolutely could not photograph anyone’s face besides the kids who were in the film. And there the corrections officers did not want to be photographed either. And in juvenile hall, we met the kids in the film in a “video production” classroom and rarely went anywhere else. When we did go to shoot their “dorms,” for instance, it was just us and our kids, no others.

Continue reading ‘Interview: Ara Oshagan’s “Juvies”’

Morro Photo Expo


Photo by JH

Morro Bay, CA, isn’t just home to a secretive $133 million lottery winner and some cute-looking seals. On October 22-24, it’s also home to the Morro Photo Expo. For $129, photographers can partake in a variety of classes and workshops all weekend long, including instruction from outdoor photographer George Lepp, an HDR photography tutorial, and a one-on-one portfolio review.

For more info, go here.

New Law Means Aggressive Paps Face Harsher Penalities

California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went and did it — he signed the bill known as AB 2479, which will impose more serious penalties on aggressive paparazzi, including stiff fines and one year of jail time. Not surprising considering the Gov is a former celebrity married to a celebrity and friends with many celebrities.

The California Newspaper Publishers Association opposed the bill, arguing that it would hinder First Amendment rights. It’s a thorny issue, and both sides make good points.

But, as in the case of hypocritical paparazzo Carol Williams, who put herself in the position to be run over by Paris Hilton’s boyfriend’s car and then protests “Don’t take my picture!”, maybe the law wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

Article from LA Times

Bill Means Harsher Penalties for Paparazzi

Assembly Bill 2479, or the “anti-paparazzi bill,” was approved by the California legislature at the end of August. If it’s signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a paparazzi photographer could face more serious criminal charges than current laws allow, including jail time.

Here at the blog, we are split on this very thorny issue, as you’ll read in this “point-counterpoint”….

A: I say it’s about time.

B: It’s NONSENSE. They’re gonna waste taxpayers’ money debating Assembly Bill 2479 when they already know it’s illegal. The article even says that. And there are laws that exist that address the driving. “False imprisonment,” that’s a joke. Celebrities are not being held against their will, AND THEY CAN LEAVE WHENEVER THEY WANT. This won’t hold up.

A: You have a right to take photos in public up to a point. I’m not arguing that. When it crosses the line into harassment, aggression, stalking, literally hunting people down, it’s not OK anymore. I don’t think bands of reckless thugs who drive the wrong way down Laurel Canyon to get a shot of Britney Spears should be protected under the law as if that’s somehow a legitimate “right” we all have.

B: Again, there are already laws that exist to combat harassment, aggression, stalking. How is AB 2479 any different from the existing law that was used to charge the guy who drove cross-country to stalk Jennifer Aniston? “Literally hunting people down” is a catchphrase used by AB 2479 advocates to garner support for this illegal bill. It’s all about wording and manipulation to trick the public into believing that there is an actual threat that can’t be dealt with by using existing laws. It’s about creating fear, which is the first tactic used by government officials to get what they want.

Finally, we can’t penalize someone because they’re holding a camera in public while following a celebrity. It’s a slippery slope that will potentially lead to the erosion of more of our First Amendment rights. What’s next? Locking up photojournalists who continually photograph corrupt politicians while they’re in public?

A: That’s a huge leap. I am the biggest supporter of First Amendment rights there is (uh, hello?), and I’m all for photographing corrupt politicians. There isn’t a multi-million dollar industry for corrupt politician photos so the level of stalking doesn’t even come close.

B: Continually taking pictures of someone in public is not a crime. And let’s not forget that it’s a fact that celebrities and their “people” tip off paparazzi to get publicity. Without paparazzi, celebrities would fade away much quicker than they already do. Where would Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston be without paps? I’m all for never seeing them (or their mother) ever again, however, if it means destroying the First Amendment, then I’ll happily deal with that dysfunctional family.

A: How many times do we have to go over this? I am not for outlawing paparazzi! And I fully realize many, many celebrities tip them off. Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston aren’t even relevant to this discussion because they’re desperate for press and continually sell their stories. We’re talking about paparazzi who pursue celebs in cars (ever hear of Princess Diana?), camping outside kids’ schools every day, screaming out inflammatory and obscene things to get a reaction, literally provoking the subject to get a “good” shot?

B: Then stop reading Popsugar if you don’t like it!!! Obviously, you have not done your research into Diana’s death, which goes much deeper than paps following her in a car. Camping outside schools? Big deal, it’s a public sidewalk. These rich celebrities should send their kids to gated private schools that are on private property if they don’t want their picture taken. And please provide video evidence of paps “screaming out inflammatory and obscene things to get a reaction, literally provoking the subject to get a “good” shot”? As far as I know, Sean Penn attacks paps just for taking his picture, and if you watch TMZ, the camera operators actually engage the celebrities in consensual conversations. Maybe Harvey Levin should mediate this debate.

A: Popsugar publishes friendly paparazzi photos. Celebrities know that’s what they’re in for by being public figures. THOSE are not the issue. The issue is situations like dozens of photographers surrounding Sandra Bullock’s car in what amounts to a scary feeding frenzy. And Sandra, I might add, is not the sort of celebrity who ever asks for attention.

B: First, what the hell is a “friendly” paparazzi photo? Is a picture from a public beach of a topless celebrity not “friendly?” If so, why not? Is a picture of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s big fat ass on a public sidewalk not “friendly?” Mischa Barton picking her nose on a public bench while showcasing her cellulite thighs? All of which, let me remind you, were obtained legally. Again, if the photos were obtained illegally, there are already laws that exist to prosecute the individual. More importantly, and fortunately for all of us, laws in the US can’t be created to criminalize a select group of individuals—it’s unconstitutional.

A: Yes, they can. Ever hear of a select group of people called murderers?

B: Really? You just accused me of taking a “huge leap” and then use that senseless analogy. A non-pap and a pap who commits murder will be charged with the same crime. Just like any other crime. AB 2479 is a law that was clearly created to punish paparazzi for working as paparazzi and nobody else. Be thankful that the founding fathers were smart enough to create the First and Fourteenth Amendments. And, by the way, for all you paparazzi haters, if TMZ didn’t exist, then we wouldn’t know the evil truth about Mel Gibson, which Sheriff Lee Baca tried to cover up and the rest of the media ignored until TMZ broke the story.

A: I don’t disagree with that. TMZ has done this country a great service.

Article from Sacramento Bee and Malibu Times

News Crew Kicked Off State-Funded Property

Sacramento’s CBS 13 news crew went to a vacant EdFund building as part of a story on government waste and were met with some puzzling resistence. First, a security guard put his hand over the camera’s lens and asked them to stop filming. Then, Heather Wallace, EdFund’s lawyer — someone ostensibly very familiar with the law! — came out to tell them to stop filming.

You are not authorized to film right now,” said the lawyer.

“We’re in a public place right now,” the reporter responded.

“This is not.” Wallace stated. “This is not a state property.”

But the rent on this property at Mather is in fact entirely funded by the State of California. Yet that didn’t stop EdFund from escorting the CBS 13 crew off the premises.

Later, an EdFund communications staffer told CBS 13 that the reaction was due to the confidential nature of what goes on there…in a vacant building…that, if it were operational, would be to “provide counseling and financial information for students – and ultimately guarantee the loans will be paid back.” It doesn’t seem top secret, but OK.

Taxpayers have been paying $1.3 million a year in rent for the vacant building for two years. California is in the midst of a fiscal crisis of extreme proportions, with a budget deficit of $19 billion. Could that be why they’re so averse to a news crew filming there?

Story from CBS 13

All Eyes on California Town


Photo by view-askew

The tiny town of Tiburon, Calif., wants to install almost $200,000 worth of security cameras so it can track all the cars coming into its city limits. Officials think it’s an effective measure against car theft. NPR says the “plan could effectively turn Tiburon into perhaps the nation’s first public gated community.”

Nevermind that crime, and car theft, is low in the town. This is another example of supporting the wrong solution to solve a big, tough problem. Nicole Ozer of the ACLU says instead of spending money on more law enforcement, they’re doing something that opens a can of worms – one that can lead to charges of spying and discrimination.

Jennifer King, a Berkeley professor of technology and public policy, goes even further to say privacy protections are a risk here – and can ultimately be used against the residents. She says these this type of data is always used for more than its original intent, citing toll records that have been subpoenaed in divorce cases.  

At a city council meeting, Tiburon resident Terry Graham said, “I’m horrified this is before us. We shouldn’t be surveiled every moment of the day. Why do we need to spend money to surveil residents who are innocent?”

Article via NPR and the Marin Independent Journal

Caltrain Guards Need More…Training

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Photo by darthdowney

Photographer and Flickr member darthdowney was taking photos of the conductor at a Caltrain station in Mountain View, Calif., when a security guard told him it was not allowed “since the attack.” (Would that be 9/11? Swine flu?) Darthdowney tried to point out it was in fact legal, but soon gave up when he realized there was no getting through to the “goon,” as he called him.

Note to Caltrain employees: Photos of trains are perfectly legal. If you need to bone up on the law, read this.  And let’s stop with this tired old 9/11 crutch and start living according to the laws we are granted in a free society.

Read darthdowney’s account here.

California Coasting

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Photo by Brian Auer



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