Harassed Photographer Speaks Out

Newspaper editor/photographer Kai Eiselein wrote an excellent editorial in The Eagle & Boomerang addressing his experience with law enforcement at the Thomas S. Foley federal courthouse in Spokane last week.

Eiselein admits he was a skeptic before his own incident, thinking somehow photographers must be provoking authorities. But after his experience, he understands how photography has been demonized in a way that is unnecessary, unfair and scary.

My test at the Spokane courthouse proved without a doubt that what some other photographers were claiming was happening was true.

And he also addresses those commenters, those wonderfully strident, angry commenters, who automatically accuse the photographer in these situations:

The comments were the most interesting part of the post, a large number of people praised my actions, but an equally large number, also photographers, vehemently decried what I did. Many of them stated I should have just backed down and apologized for taking photos, others called my actions underhanded, a set up, and that no real journalist would do what I did.

And on the practices of law enforcement:

Done often enough, to enough people, it can become a de facto change in the law, all without any public input or open debate. It runs directly counter to the tenets upon which this country was founded.

And some final thoughts:

Do we ban the photographing of children, buildings, aircraft, trains, bridges or anything else that might be used for some nefarious purpose?

Do we slice large chunks from the 1st Amendment in the name of safety and security?

Have we become so afraid as a nation that we see danger in every corner and shadow?

The fact is, bad people will do bad things no matter what kind laws or security procedures are put in place.

Article from The Eagle & Boomerang

2 Responses to “Harassed Photographer Speaks Out”

  1. 1 Steve April 14, 2010 at 5:08 pm

    The following is from The Federal Code of Regulations Title 41 Section 102-74.420. I looked it up. So can you.

    § 102-74.420 What is the policy concerning photographs for news, advertising or commercial purposes?
    Except where security regulations, rules, orders, or directives apply or a Federal court order or rule prohibits it, persons entering in or on Federal property may take photographs of—

    (a) Space occupied by a tenant agency for non-commercial purposes only with the permission of the occupying agency concerned;

    (b) Space occupied by a tenant agency for commercial purposes only with written permission of an authorized official of the occupying agency concerned; and

    (c) Building entrances, lobbies, foyers, corridors, or auditoriums for news purposes.

    Notice the last three words, (…for news purposes).
    My question for Mr. Eiselein is, was the photos for a ligitament
    news story prior to being contacted by Security or Police? If not, then what did you expect given that a bomb was recently found at the front doors of the building?
    See the following link:


  2. 2 Y May 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm

    A follow up for J.

    Based on your interpretation of 102-74.420(c), photojournalists surprised at the scene of a car accident, with the Thomas Foley building in the background, would be unable to shoot the accident.
    Instead, as Eiselein’s asserting, the public view of the building (whether or not it’s marked a federal building) leaves it open to the public lens.
    By including the news story link, you’ve provided Eiselen with a counter argument. It goes something like this.

    “Should every citizen stay absolutely informed of federal building security concerns just in case they happen to be taking pictures in front of it?
    “If so, then how can citizens stay informed if authorities hide the existence of the bomb and subsequent investigation for at least 10 days? Were the Spokesman-Review not to inquire, Eiselen and any other tourist with a camera would never know to be cautious. Does that mean the feds are relying on the press to divulge security concerns in order to warn the public not to photograph their buildings?”

    Before anyone should use that argument, instead they only need to look a few subsections above your Federal policies.
    Ҥ 102-74.365 To whom does this subpart [pertaining to conduct on federal property] apply?
    The rules in this subpart apply to all property under the authority of GSA and to all persons entering in or on such property. Each occupant agency shall be responsible for the observance of these rules and regulations. Federal agencies must post the notice in the Appendix to this part at each public entrance to each Federal facility.”

    Since Eiselen is on a public sidewalk adjoining the property (presumably with no intent to enter the building since he’s trying to photograph it), he and his camera may shoot anything in public view — which could include a hallway or lobby if he’s got a strong enough lens.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: