Posts Tagged 'photographing skyscrapers'

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.

Pittsburgh’s PNC Tower’s Bogus Claims

Photo by J. Lawrence

In April we posted on the strict (some might call asinine) photography policy at PPG Plaza in downtown Pittsburgh. This past weekend, photographer J. Lawrence was in the area and had this confrontation with some less-than-knowledgeable security personnel at Two PNC Plaza.

Memorial Day I was walking down Liberty Avenue shooting pictures.  Because of the impending storms, there were some really cool reflections of Midtown Towers and EQT on the surface of Two PNC.

I’m on the sidewalk, and this security guard comes running out of Two PNC.  “You’re not allowed to take pictures of the building.”  “I’m not?”  “No.”  “Why not?”  “Because of 9/11.”  “This is still America.”  “Just leave.  And no more pictures of the building.”  So she goes back into the building.  I lift my camera and take a pic of her.

The old woman’s eyes flare.  She comes running back towards me, screaming behind her “Call 9-1-1!”  I stand there.  “I told you not to take any pictures. Now I’m calling the police.”  “Fine.”  She whips out her cell phone and points the lens at my face.  I smile.  She takes two pictures.  “What’s your name?”  I defiantly tell her.  “Your address.”  Gave my address.  Because that’s how I get when I’m angry.  “You wait here for the police.”

I sat, and waited.  Some kid came out in a security guard uniform (I’m becoming an ornery old man at 42).  “You’re not allowed to take pictures of financial institutions. You have to get permission first.”  “I’m on the public right-of-way.”  He had NO clue what I was talking about.  Idiot.  “You’re not allowed to take pictures of financial institutions.”  I explain that I am.  It’s like talking to a very disinterested wall.  “Don’t take any more pictures.”  “Pray tell, who do I need permission from?”  “The PR Department.”

That about says it all.  If I didn’t have an appointment I was late for in Highland Park, I might have just been a little more defiant and kept on snapping.  Unfortunately my picture of the old witch didn’t come out.  Now I need to find out what security firm they work for so I can inform them that they need to provide their workers with some training.

It sounds like PNC may need to retrain its security staff. Private property restrictions are valid; it is not, however, illegal to take photos of a financial institution. And it is not illegal to take photos of anything on a public sidewalk.

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