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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> The War on Photographers. continues
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08/02/2006 07:37:10 PM · #1
Well, I had another police incident yesterday, where I committed the terrible crime of photography.

We went to JFK pick up my daughter who was returning from a youth trip to Israel. This was a long drive for us, and we were going to have to wait to miss the rush hour(s) traffic around NYC on the way home, so of course I brought my camera.

I didn't take any pictures in the airport. I was outside Terminal 4, on the island between the bus and car traffic lane, and my daughter and wife went back to the car to put her backpack in there before we went back in the airport for a <sarcasm>delicious dinner</sarcasm>.

I noted the terminal building was kind of interesting in that it has a curved architecture, so I let them go ahead and I proceed to take a few pictures of the outside of Terminal 4.

After about 5 minutes, I heard several people yelling behind me, Sir... Sir... (or something like that.) There was a traffic control officer who was yelling at me, and I think a passer-by was helping him yell at me as well. I finally looked around to see who they were talking to me and the security guard was approaching. He was not very happy. "You are not allowed to take pictures of the building". I said, "it's not illegal", and then he looked as if he was trying to decide whether to haul me in or just punch me in the face. He had a bit of a jamaican accent, and he told me that when he "tells me I have to stop taking pictures, I have to stop, and I shouldn't be telling him it's not illegal." Anyway, I decided to diffuse the situation rather than insisting on seeing his superior, and I just said, well, I won't take any more. He still looked like he wanted to haul me in, so I just said, I am waiting for my wife and daughter.

The irony of this is that people like this should be fired on two grounds. 1) If he was wrong, which I believe he was, and overstepped his bounds. After all, I was on a sidewalk outside the terminal, taking pictures, where there's no real security. 2) If he was right, and photography is truly prohibited, he didn't do his job because I took a dozen or so pictures before he stopped me and he didn't confiscate anything or delete anything, or even take my name so I could be added to the list of dangerous photographers.

<sarcasm>So these pictures must be really valuable. Maybe I can sell them on the black market for all those people who want to see what the outside of Terminal 4 looks like.</sarcasm>

Disclaimer: I understand the need for security. I just don't understand what taking pictures with an SLR of the outside of a building has to do with it. (After all, I could have taken similar shots from inside my car in the parking lot.) And it really bothers me that I have to worry about being hassled by the police when I go out to shoot pictures. Where do I live, in a communist country? (Note that this is my second altercation on this basis... I wrote another one up a few months ago)

Discussion?
08/02/2006 07:44:32 PM · #2
I have a friend who works for our local airport security. I'll ask him what the issue with that is and if it should have been confinscated.
08/02/2006 07:44:38 PM · #3
<sarcasm>Don't you know that photography is an act of terrorism.</sarcasm>. It scares me to think about the changes that are occuring in this country. As you said, I can understand the need for security, but I believe this is being taken to far.
08/02/2006 07:50:23 PM · #4
That stinks, Neil. As said many times, if you were up to something criminal, you wouldn't be so damn obvious about it. I understand the need for security too, but it's almost become a paranoia. If someone wants to blow up the airport one of these days, they are going to. Harassing some amateur photographers isn't going to prevent it.

edit: grammar

Message edited by author 2006-08-02 19:51:24.
08/02/2006 07:54:47 PM · #5
Okay. Due to 911 it is no longer to permitable to take pictures of the buildings, outside or in, nor of the run way. You may have been sarcastic and I agree whole hartedly with you that it's crazy, but they have to be cautious of security. Oh and yes the guard should have erased your pictures and taken your information. Bottom line is the world is screwed up and because of a few the mass will suffer.
08/02/2006 07:56:23 PM · #6
The sad thing is, most of the "security measures" they have put into place in the past few years do not really do anything to make us safer. They are "feel-good" measures, meant to be visible, but are largely ineffective. And airports are the worst. For all the time they spend hassling photographers and making us take our shoes and belts off for the x-ray scanner, a huge percentage of cargo/luggage gets loaded without any additional scanning. Go figure. Like the guy really helped anything by yelling at you.

In addition, security people are out of control. These are a bunch of relativly untrained, newer hires who are suddenly given a job with a bit of power, which they immediatly procede to trip over. What you were doing wasn't hardly a threat to anyone. He had no right to stop you, or even hassle you. But anymore, such people can justify anything they wany by screaming, "Its for security."

Bullshit.

I can totally understand why you didn't take the matter any further - it's just too much of a pain and not really worth it in that case. On the other hand, people really need to stand up and start raising all sorts of hell over this kind of thing. Anymore, its starting to feel like Communist Russia around here, and until we send the message that enough is enough, it will only get worse.

< 1/2 sarcasm> Maybe we should have a GTG at JFK, and hold a sit-down protest when they hassle us. </ 1/2 sarcasm>
08/02/2006 08:01:05 PM · #7
Next time, push it. Tell the security jerk to leave you alone or you'll call the police. Then call the police. When the police arrest you, file a lawsuit against the police department, the airport, the security company, and the security guard. Collect millions, retire to some tropical island, and make 'em think twice before they harass honest citizens.

Sure, it sounds harsh, but if people continue to do nothing about this type of abuse of their civil rights, then it will continue, and probably get worse.

Power-hungry little tin gods need to be stepped on hard.

08/02/2006 08:01:53 PM · #8
Security guards and even police do not have the right to confiscate your photo equipment. Nor should they erase your files. If it's a public building and you're shooting from public property, then I believe it's all completely legal.

Check that out
Photographer's Rights

Message edited by author 2006-08-02 20:02:15.
08/02/2006 08:04:36 PM · #9
If I was a terrorist... I'd just use Google.
//www.bridgeandtunnelclub.com/bigmap/queens/jfk/index.htm
08/02/2006 08:12:42 PM · #10
My only question here Neil is that airports seem to be some quasi-private property. It's hard for me to garner if Portland's airport, for example, is "public" or "semi-public" (like a stadium) or "private". I don't think it's the last, but there is some precedent at least to have policy dictate the prohibition of pictures in a "semi-private" establishment (like at a concert).

PDX has a great glass canopy structure outside that I've been wanting to take pictures of. I've itching to try, and a bit of me is looking for a fight because I agree it's gone too far and it would be my part to "fight the powers". I was going to call someone, but who do you even call? The Police? The airport? Who even knows. One solace is the guy who wrote the Photographer's Rights pamphlet many of us carry around is in Portland. I at least know who I would have represent me. ;)
08/02/2006 08:13:37 PM · #11
(Sigh) Yes, I can tell by the company you keep
that you have terrorist leanings...
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I suppose architecture buffs and students should stay away from public buildings too.
08/02/2006 08:28:03 PM · #12
Originally posted by DrAchoo:

PDX has a great glass canopy structure outside that I've been wanting to take pictures of.

My wife and I spent several hours at PDX shooting photos for the "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" challenge in 2004. I expected the security people to stop and question us, but they never did. They drove past us a couple times, but they barely glanced at us. We setup at several locations on the streets surrounding the runways and terminal, and in the Max train stations. We didn't try to take any photos of the terminal building itself, but we did take a few of the control tower.

08/02/2006 08:35:17 PM · #13
Weell, the thread finally got me to do something about it so I called PDX police and asked. I spoke with a nice lady who told me that there are no statutes prohibiting photography at the airport. However, if I am taking pictures of "unusual" things, I may be "contacted". I asked if architecture is "unusual". She said yes. I asked what would happen then. She said they might ask what I was doing and ask for some ID. I asked whether they would run a "background check". She sorta indicated that was the wrong terminology. I reasked if they would look to see if I would be checked for some "watch list". She indicated yes. I asked if I would be PUT on a watch list. (this was sorta scary) She paused...then said it depended on how suspicious I was. Well, that doesn't really make me happy, but it's good information. She did say TSA does not allow pictures of the security stations (which is fine by me because I'm not interested in those). She also said lots of people actually complain about people taking pictures and they are forced to check it out. I guess that's fair enough, but indicates the general level of freakiness of Ma and Pa American.

Soooo, perhaps I will saunter out there the next time a challenge dictates. We'll see how it goes...
08/02/2006 08:37:00 PM · #14
You all need to give up this architectural stuff. It's just bad for your health :-)

Simple cure:
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08/02/2006 08:54:56 PM · #15
Forgive me here everyone but [expletive self censored but it started with an F] that PANY security guard and the Port Authority as a whole.

It was a guard from PIC I think is their name and he was wrong. Next time have him call the police. I have been threatened many times by these same "Guards" or rent a cop. The last time I got in his face and told him to get lost.

The reason for my hostility is, one time I forgave his refusal to let me leave, the second time I made it known I was taking pictures and he called the cops and said "There was a middle eastern looking man taking pictures of the George Washington Bridge" So the cops came with lights blaring.

I have had it with these Wanna be cops and the Port Authority as a whole for keeping these Sphincter muscles employed.

I will say this here; there is no law that says you cant take a picture at any public location except MILITARY installations. That is not a police station, an airport, a bridge, tunnel, toll booth or any other place where police are. Also if there was I should be in jail right now, I am not and have not been arrested though questioned three times or should I say harassed by these same Port Authority police after one of their rent a cops tried to stop me.

Call this lady Charlene Allen 212-435-4803 Customer Relations Tunnels, Bridges & Terminals Port Authority of NYNJ callen@panynj.gov

To her I am sure I am the only one complaining and I must be a nut case. Maybe if they hear from a few more photographers they will change their policy. It is only a Port Authority policy not a law and I didnt vote for any of them last time I looked. Dont give me any I understand after 9/11 BS either. I would be willing to bet that before they stop a terrorist planning an attack with a camera; I will get a picture of him.

Michael P. Randazzo, I am not hiding from them I am calling them out. Feel free to use my name if you contact Charlene.

BTW here is another picture I am not allowed to take:

click here

Message edited by author 2006-08-02 21:01:42.
08/02/2006 08:56:45 PM · #16
If the terrorists want to blow up my airport and need photos to do it, all they need to do is buy a few postcards. :P
08/02/2006 08:58:42 PM · #17
Even Iceland isn´t completely void of this. I think about 2 years ago an Italian tourist was taking a photo of the parliament house at dusk or night. I don´t remember the exact details of the story but I think it was dark anyway. Dark here usually means cold so he was wearing a ski mask and "acting suspiciously" so someone who saw him reported him to the police and I think it got so far as him being arrested or at least brought in for questioning but was ofcourse released soon after. That is the only case of anything like this happening here though.

I was just watching "V for vendetta" earlier tonight and I am wondering where this world is heading really... Hopefully these threads stop popping up so regularly :(
08/02/2006 09:01:38 PM · #18
Some of those people just want to look busy, or look good to their superiors. If he really thought you were a terrorist, he would sneak out and called someone else to deal with you...

Show offs.... that's all.

*I am sure most of those secutiry people are honest though*
08/02/2006 09:07:25 PM · #19
Originally posted by focuspoint:


*I am sure most of those secutiry people are honest though*


That's what I thought too but not after they said after I had introduced myself before shooting my 30 second challenge entry that I was "A middle eastern looking man." Such BS should be scorned. The reason I know that is what he said is the nice (for a change) Port Authority female officer told me that's what he reported.

Not only that, there were other photographers there too, I was the only one stopped. Bastards.

Here is the picture I took that day.

Another I am not allowed to take.

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08/02/2006 09:09:13 PM · #20
Not to mention this addendum to their policy--I don't know this for a fact, but I'm pretty sure.

If I were to have stood my wife and daughter on the sidewalk in front of me, then I could have pretended to take pictures of them with the building in the background. I could have made them insignificant in the photo or even zoomed past them. I believe the guards' training would have been that I was not a threat in that case. And if I were a terrorist and I wanted to take pictures of the building, what better way not to arouse suspicion than to pretend to be taking a picture of a person? Yet the same information would be there in the picture--whether or not I included the person.

I believe this to be the case because there were plenty of people with cameras inside the airport, presumably for taking pictures of their loved ones. But who knows what they were really taking?

I had this happen to me in a Mariott once in DC post 911. I was staying there and went down to take a picture of the chandellier and mirrors in the lobby. A guard walked up to me and told me that for security reasons I was not allowed to take pictures of the lobby, unless I was taking a picture of a friend or family member in the lobby.

08/02/2006 09:11:15 PM · #21
Originally posted by MPRPRO:

Originally posted by focuspoint:


*I am sure most of those secutiry people are honest though*


That's what I thought too but not after they said after I had introduced myself before shooting my 30 second challenge entry that I was "A middle eastern looking man." Such BS should be scorned. The reason I know that is what he said is the nice (for a change) Port Authority female officer told me that's what he reported.

Not only that, there were other photographers there too, I was the only one stopped. Bastards.

Here is the picture I took that day.

Another I am not allowed to take.

' . substr('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/511/thumb/348505.jpg', strrpos('//images.dpchallenge.com/images_challenge/511/thumb/348505.jpg', '/') + 1) . '


Oh oh... Too late now... You are in big trouble. Lots of terrorists reading these posts in DPC... Revealed the "forbidden picture"

LOL
08/02/2006 09:15:25 PM · #22
While I'm currently indisposed, and unfortunately couldn't participate, it'd be really interesting to do a few tests of which photograpers are harrassed more according demographics and post the results on DPC. The suspicion is, of course that darker skinned male photographers would be harrassed much more, but who knows, it is within the realm of possibility that the authorities could be fair in the application of the 'rules'. Just a random thought as I wake up and read this post...

<edit for grammer>

Message edited by author 2006-08-02 21:16:41.
08/02/2006 09:21:00 PM · #23
Originally posted by angelfire:

Okay. Due to 911 it is no longer to permitable to take pictures of the buildings, outside or in, nor of the run way. You may have been sarcastic and I agree whole hartedly with you that it's crazy, but they have to be cautious of security. Oh and yes the guard should have erased your pictures and taken your information. Bottom line is the world is screwed up and because of a few the mass will suffer.


ah...nope ... this statement is just wrong AFAIK...

Can you give us a research reference for this ???
08/02/2006 09:21:09 PM · #24
So while potential terrorists taking shots of public buildings and structures are hounded, (Images which can be found on the net and postcards) the real terrorists could be crossing the Mexican border without any harassment at all. Ironic.
08/02/2006 09:24:22 PM · #25
Originally posted by MPRPRO:

Forgive me here everyone but [expletive self censored but it started with an F] that PANY security guard and the Port Authority as a whole...

But damn, Mike I just love it when you get going. ;) I feel your pain, seriously. That speach had passion to it. I wish I had that kind of, "eff, you" fire and brimstone attitude.

Message edited by author 2006-08-02 21:24:33.
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