Posts Tagged 'photographing buildings'

Armed But Not Dangerous

Photo by Justin.Beck

Wouldn’t it be a shame if pictures like this weren’t possible because of ignorant security guards? The photographer of this shot at the Transamerica Building in San Francisco was harassed by a guard who was “concerned” by his presence — on the public sidewalk — and made a point of bringing a camera out to take photos of him. (The subject of the photo is another member of the security staff.)

In a recent post, the New America Foundation’s Media Policy Initiative blog cautions about the dangers of letting fear and security concerns, however real or imagined, overshadow First Amendment protections.

But in the modern information society, the camera is not a weapon; on the contrary, it’s increasingly the main tool of citizen journalists in their effort to spread information. The easiest way that an average person can contribute to the news ecosystem—one of the prime opportunities for civic engagement—might be to take just one picture.

NYPD Rankled Over Javits Center Photos

The New York Times’ Lens blog reports today on photographers’ rights, noting the case of photographer George Hahn, who was recently harassed by an undercover officer while taking a nighttime photo of the Javits Center in New York City. Hahn says that he was on a public sidewalk, but that didn’t stop the officer from barking out a gruff, pointed, “Can I help you?” (No, Officer, I usually prefer to work alone….)

There are terrorists and there are architecture enthusiasts. You’d think the NYPD would be able to distinguish between the two, wouldn’t you?

Article from Lens

NYC Cop Harasses Photog, Claims “Frozen Zone”

Apparently the sidewalks around the UN headquarters in New York are a “frozen zone.” This is yet another fine example of police officers overreaching to justify trying to prohibit a legal activity. And their tool of choice? The “Patriot Act” of course. Hey, didn’t that became irrelevant along with its enabler anyway?

Perhaps this cop should go back to the academy to brush up on some laws. Federally owned sidewalk? Credentials? Signs? No asking questions? Yikes.

Still No Photog Rights in London

The Gherkin Photo by FromTheNorth

It seems the photographers’ rights situation in London (or lack thereof) has reached a boiling point. After years of egregious harassment and the ensuing complaints, the Metropolitan Police finally released guidelines in early December that said in effect their officers should lay off photographers shooting in public. The next week, renowned architectural photographer Grant Smith was stopped and searched for taking photos of Sir Christopher Wren’s Christ Church in City of London, the financial district.

So, Guardian reporter Paul Lewis decided to do some investigating of his own. Armed with a hidden camera, he went to photograph the Gherkin, a skyscraper and major landmark also in the financial district, and within two minutes, he was approached by a security guard. At one point they actually used the words “hostile reconnaissance.”

Five security guards and police officers later, and two photographers in the vicinity also stopped during the incident (one from the Guardian who was working with Lewis), and nothing was resolved. City of London police defended their actions in a statement that basically said under section 44 of the Terrorism Act they have every right to do this.

Watch the video here.

Article via the Guardian

SF Guards Offer Black Eye to Photog

Photo by Troy Holden

This week Troy Holden of the Caliber photography blog had a little confrontation with security staff at 555 California in downtown San Francisco. Now, San Francisco is known to be a very progressive city, but these guards seem like they’re straight out of an episode of “The Sopranos” on the other coast.

When Holden and a friend starting shooting the building, they were told no photos. Then, he writes:

I decided to challenge this statement and the older of the bunch (left) asked me if I wanted to be punched in the face. No, I replied, I have to go back to work and a black eye would make things awkward for me. He then asked me how I would feel if he broke my camera. I told him I would be bummed, but that I needed an upgrade and if he touched me or my camera I would seek monetary legal action to the extent of a brand new Canon 5D Mark II.

Holden contacted the building’s security department and got a response that indicated they are taking the incident seriously.

But in the meantime, Troy – get a Vievue.

Article from Caliber via Thomas Hawk

Gas Tower Video Has New Home

The Biltmore Hotel, as reflected in The Gas Company Tower. Photo by teamperks

Enjoy the video here.

YouTube – More Like Censor You Tube


Today YouTube caved to a “privacy violation” complaint and took down the video of our conversation with a The Gas Company Tower security manager. What’s most puzzling is the video doesn’t fall into any of the categories in their Community Guidelines. Not even from the Privacy section:

If a video you’ve recorded features people who are readily identifiable and who haven’t consented to being filmed, there’s a chance they’ll file a privacy complaint seeking its removal.

The great majority of the video is of the guy’s torso. But forget that for a minute: We were on a public sidewalk where there is no expectation of privacy.

What’s more, we regarded the encounter as informative and instructive, especially for the guard. Perhaps he’d go back to his supervisors and they’d brush up on the law so building security and photographers can finally all just get along. From our perspective, it was cordial and no one in their right mind (other than paranoid YouTube execs) would agree this discussion on photographers’ rights was a violation of someone’s privacy.  But it seems someone felt the need to file a bogus complaint.

This is setting a scary precedent. So from now on, anyone can complain to YouTube about a video they don’t like of themselves – like all those cops who beat protestors or smash into bicyclists? They’ll just sign up for an account, file a complaint, and – bam – no more public record?

Oh well, it’s not as if that will really make the video go away or anything. We’ll post a new link soon.

LA’s Gas Tower Full of Hot Air

UPDATE: YouTube removed the video due to an apparent “privacy” complaint.

We had to go to downtown for an errand this week and, since we’d been hearing some reports of continued harassment at US Bank Tower, we thought why not do a little photographers’ rights reconnaissance while we’re there? We’re happy to report that the US Bank Tower is as friendly and respectful as ever, with a security guard coming out after a few minutes to hand us a courtesy card – and then turning right back around to go inside.
One block down at the The Gas Company Tower, however, they are apparently not on the same page (and it’s owned by Maguire Properties and patrolled by Universal Protection Service, same as US Bank). After a minute or so of harmless shooting of an escalator, a security manager who identified himself as Ivan came out and told us we couldn’t take photos of a private building. We told him that’s not true and we were on a public sidewalk. He said it was a private sidewalk (and we were very aware of the easement plaque). The usual back and forth ensued.

We ended up talking to Ivan for a bit, and he changed his tune once he realized he didn’t really have any facts to go on. He ultimately made some comments about respecting photographers’ rights and kept mentioning a courtesy card inside they normally hand out, but he really didn’t seem very prepared to tackle this issue for his superiors. It was interesting that a security manager of a major skyscraper in LA would come out to reprimand photographers and not be armed with courtesy cards, his own business cards, or any knowledge of the law. But, I guess they pay these guys just to reiterate.

The takeaway is this: Knowing your rights and standing your ground is essential. Undoubtedly nine out of 10 photographers security approaches at the Gas Company Tower apologize and leave immediately. The security staff is then emboldened to enforce a nonexistent law and trample on constitutional rights, and there is absolutely no incentive for them to do otherwise.

Interestingly, someone has filed a privacy complaint with YouTube due to the above video. How does it infringe on anyone’s rights? No face is shown, no last name is given; we’re on a public sidewalk discussing a policy that relates to photography in public. What an incredibly lame move from a very small person – someone who is perhaps embarrassed how he comes off? Just speculation, of course.



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