Just because a person is standing on a crowded city street taking photographs doesn’t mean that he or she is a terrorist. But that doesn’t stop police from hassling photographers daily in some of the biggest cities.
Boing Boing just posted an interesting link to a new organization based out of London that is trying to enlighten “the powers that be” with a campaign shouting “I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist.” Photographers—both amateur and professional—can download a tip card listing actual UK laws pertaining to photography. If the cops come after you, calmly show them the card and explain you rights.
This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not only photographers.
We must work together now to stop this before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.
Scott Bourne has been talking about the infringement of photographer’s rights for years, going as far as to create a T-Shirt with the slogan “Photography is Not a Crime,” and he couldn’t be more correct. In recent months we’ve seen Amtrak police snag a photographer in NY Penn Station for photographing trains for an Amtrak sponsored contest and a British citizen get arrested for taking a picture of a police officer.
Hell, I’ve even been told to put away my camera after an NJ Transit conductor saw me taking a picture out the window on my way home from work. He claimed that we are not allowed to shoot photos of the tracks from inside the train. When I pushed he offered to escort me off the train at the next stop. I put away my camera.
The next day I called NJ Transit and they told me that the conductor was wrong and sent me the rules. Basically, you can photograph anywhere on NJ Transit rails, as long as you don’t use a tripod or engage in a professional shoot. For that, you need to obtain a permit or approval.
Quote from a letter from George Warrington, Executive Director of NJ Transit, dated 12/30/2005: Effective immediately, we will return to our historic practice, which enables hobbyists and other non-commercial photographers to take pictures in public areas throughout the NJ Transit system without obtaining permission or providing prior notice. There will also continue to be no restrictions on journalists in public areas of the system.
I think the British group has the right idea, and hopefully a group will rise up in the United States. In the mean time, be careful taking photos and never turn over your film or memory card to anyone.