The local Madison, Wisconsin, paper Isthmus picked up the story this week about an incident that happened in October where photographer Josh Zytkiewicz was questioned by a security guard outside the federal courthouse. The guard told Zytkiewicz “security procedures” prohibited him from taking photos of the building and said he was calling the Madison police (which never arrived, if he did).
In a nice bit of reporting, the paper talked to Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Kirk Papenthien who admitted the courthouse is a popular landmark and not all people who shoot photos of it are stopped and questioned. When asked why the security guard told Zytkiewicz to stop taking photos and threatened to call the police, Papenthien says, in typically noncommittal law enforcement-speak, “I have no knowledge as to whether that is an accurate transcript.” Zytkiewicz recorded the conversation on his iPhone and you can listen to it here. Even so, Papenthien won’t admit that the guard was out of line because he said he didn’t know what Zytkiewicz was taking photos of.
But…if photography is legal at the courthouse, does it matter what the photos were of? So, is that to say, taking photos of windows are fine, but entryways are a different story? Of course not. It’s not a gray area, and shouldn’t be approached as one. When photography is legal in public, which it always is, then you can’t harass and threaten people for doing it.
Article via Isthmus