Posts Tagged 'civil rights'

LA County Sheriff Tells Photographers Not to Photograph Them

While waiting for OccupyLA members to arrive at the Wilshire/Normandie Metro station in Los Angeles, CA, an LA County Sheriff told two photographers not to photograph them.

At that point, a video camera was turned on to document the encounter, as the photographer defended his constitutional rights to take pictures in public.

The irony of the video is the fact, that at the beginning of the footage, the Sheriffs tell the photographers that photography is not allowed on the Metro (which is quickly rebuked by the photographer).  However, five minutes into the video, the sheriff backtracks, and starts saying the opposite—so suddenly photography is allowed on the Metro?

And it is, in this case, for now, simply because the photographer knew his my rights and Metro policy and stood up to these Sheriffs.

This kind of behavior from police officers needs to stop.  We can no longer allow them to continue harassing photographers exercising their constitutional rights while using the Metro.

To voice your concerns regarding this officer’s behavior, contact the LA County Sheriffs via this complaint form.

IL Takes Several Steps Back, Won’t Protect Recording Police

People in Illinois are looking at fifteen years if they audio-record police activity. Or should I say “still looking”? Because the Illinois Eavesdropping Act makes recording someone in public without their consent a felony. Last year the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the law, but a few weeks ago Federal Judge Suzanne Conlon dismissed it, saying there is no First Amendment protections there.  

Although law-enforcement officials can legally record civilians in private or public, audio-recording a law-enforcement officer, state’s attorney, assistant state’s attorney, attorney general, assistant attorney general or judge in the performance of his or her duties is a Class 1 felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

As Reason magazine’s Radley Balko writes, unfortunately, “the law is used almost exclusively against people who attempt to record on-duty police officers.”

While absurd, this makes some sort of sense because allowing citizens to record police activity would likely cause all kinds of grief for that very jackbooted state that is known to be very corrupt.

Source: New York Times

Civil Rights & The Beatles

Two amazing photography collections surfaced in the news this past week, and while they’re of vastly different subject matter, they both defined the 1960s in their own way.

Frederick Baldwin was taking photo of polar bears when an introduction to civil rights leader Hosea Williams gave him entrée into the world of “longshoremen halls, meetings and rallies of civil rights protestors and first-hand access to key locations” in 1960s Savannah, GA. Now, Chauncey Mayfield, who inherited the collection from his father who was involved in the movement, has gifted 50 black-and-white Baldwin images to the Ralph Mark Gilbert Civil Rights Museum in Savannah. The collection is one of only three in the US.

Read more at Savannah Now

And cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt has given over a box of never-before-seen publicity shots of the Beatles from 1968 to go on display at UC Berkeley. The negatives sat neglected for four decades while Goldblatt made his name in Hollywood and didn’t think much of his earlier brief photography career. “Still photography hasn’t been my career for a long time. That’s why these negatives just sat there,” Goldblatt said. Twenty-five black and white images will be on display at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism Gallery through January.

Read more at San Francisco Chronicle

Famed Photographer’s Double Life

The Commercial Appeal in Memphis dropped a bombshell this week – that famed civil rights photographer Ernest Withers was also working for the FBI as a paid informant. Many people, including Withers’ family, expressed shock that the photographer could have been at the same time documenting the black community’s struggle and helping the government keep tabs on it. The Appeal was able to obtain more than 7,000 pages of documents that outlined Withers’ work for the FBI in the 1960s, including handing over photos and names of people involved in protest activities.

Known as the “original civil rights photographer,” Withers was on the front lines during some of the era’s seminal events, including the Emmett Till trial, the integration of Ole Miss and Martin Luther King’s assassination.

Withers’ actions are infuriating. As documentary photographers, we all know how difficult it is to earn someone’s trust and be allowed entry into their private lives. We are privileged when that happens. But when someone like Withers comes along, his behavior casts a looming shadow of distrust over all of us. If Withers were alive today he should be expelled from the profession and marked with a scarlet I—for informant. That way, everyone would know how much of a disgrace he his, despite his fascinating work.

On a personal note, a few years ago I was on Sunset Boulevard and an LAPD officer asked me what I knew about some people I was photographing and if there was anything I would like to share with him. I told him I didn’t know anything. The cop then let out this dismissive chuckle and said, “Oh yeah?”, knowing that what I just said was absolutely not true. That’s all I said and walked away. Like most documentary photographers, I would never betray the people I photograph.

Articles from Commercial Appeal and AP

Charles Moore, 1931-2010

Birmingham, Alabama 1963 Photo by Charles Moore

Influential civil rights photographer Charles Moore died last week  in Florida. He was 79. His iconic images from the 50s and 60s, especially those of police, fire hoses and dogs attacking black protesters, were widely credited with changing the national mood and paving the way for civil rights legislation. Without his images appearing in Life magazine, the average American couldn’t really understand what was going on. His impact can probably not be overstated.

In Birmingham when I saw the dogs I don’t think anything appalled me more, and I’ve been to Vietnam,” Mr. Moore told the New York Times in 1999. “I photographed it, and the world rushed in. I realized the power of even one image. . . . What changed was my awareness. I wanted to show how awful, how vulgar, how terrible this whole thing was.”

For more, read the Washington Post tribute and watch the BBC slide show.

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