Shield Law Photographer Outs Himself


Hunters Point, San Francisco 2008 Photo by Alex Welsh

A former San Francisco State student whose photo of a dead man thrust him into the middle of a shield law controversy has outed himself – by winning a national photojournalism contest.

SF Weekly reports that Alex Welsh, 23, won first place in the 2009 College Photographer of the Year awards in the documentary category. In 2008 Welsh was photographing Hunters Point, the last predominantly black neighborhood in San Francisco, when a dice game turned deadly for one of his subjects, Norris Bennett. That photo, of Bennett’s bloodied body being attended to by a police officer, is included in the series, along with every major theme of poverty-stricken neighborhoods: a funeral, fire, tattoos, dog fighting. But they’re gritty and real and deserving of the award nonetheless.

The police tried to get a search warrant for the photos, which Welsh successfully fought using the shield law. Shield laws protect journalists from having to testify or disclose sensitive information to law enforcement. Welsh’s name was redacted from all court documents and not released by police or journalists during the controversy so he was able to remain anonymous. Welsh was apparently worried for his safety, but no longer. I guess it helps that he lives in Brooklyn now.   

Interestingly, seeing the photos in the contest, the San Francisco police detectives have renewed their interest in pursuing Welsh to get him to cooperate. He probably doesn’t have much to worry about though.

See Welsh’s winning photos series, Hunters Point – “We Out Here,” here.

Article via SF Weekly

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