We’ve covered photographers being treated as criminals previously (and look at Photography is Not a Crime, or Thomas Hawk’s collection of related posts), and now some photographers in London are pushing back against illegal limitations on photographers. In the video above–skip to 1:15 for the actual video–six photographers took to the streets of London to take pictures on public space. All six were approached by guards asking them to stop taking pictures for “security reasons” or because of concerns over terrorism. Three of the incidents elevated to police involvement, but happily, the police stated that the photographers were all allowed to continue taking pictures. In one case, the photographer thanks the police officer for not asking to see or delete the photos, and the officer responds that not only was he not interested in doing so, but he couldn’t because he didn’t have reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing. The video was apparently produced as part of the London Street Photography Festival 2011.
In the US, there’ve been some recent run-ins between Transportation Security Administration officials in airports and photographers wanting to take pictures or video of security screening areas. Here’s one video that a videographer rescued from his camera after police forced him to delete his video, and here’s another couple of videos that brought attention on the TSA blog about whether security screening areas can be photographed. The TSA blog outlines the current regulations regarding photography at TSA checkpoints, thus: “We don’t prohibit public, passengers or press from photographing, videotaping, or filming at screening locations. You can take pictures at our checkpoints as long as you’re not interfering with the screening process or slowing things down. We also ask that you do not film or take pictures of our monitors.”
The NPPA has also recently pushed the issue with the TSA and gotten an official response from Margot Bester, Principle Deputy of the TSA’s Office of Chief Counsel, dated 22 June 2011 (pdf copy of letter). Here’s the relevant passage from that letter: “…TSA’ s goal is to protect passenger’s rights, including the right to record at passenger screening checkpoints, while ensuring that passenger screening operations can take place in an effective and efficient manner.”
The NPPA also points to the Department of Homeland Security’s official bulletin on rules and laws regarding photographing federal facilities in the US, which includes the statement that “officers should not seize the camera or its contents and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera, as this constitutes a seizure or detention.”
Also, for photographers in the US, be sure to know your rights. There’s a handy pdf at that link that you can print out and keep in your wallet or camera bag.
“After stopping the car I noticed that he was shabbily dressed, needed a shave and a haircut, also a bath. Subject talked with a foreign accent. I talked to the subject a few minutes and looked into the car where I noticed it was heavily loaded with suitcases, trunks and a number of cameras.” –from the police report of the arrest of Robert Frank in Arkansas on Nov. 7, 1955
And all of this is nothing new. Here’s a story in the Telegraph that starts out with an account of Robert Frank getting hassled by police in Arkansas while photographing The Americans, and here is the arrest report.