PHOTOGRAPHY AND THE LAW.

Have you ever gone outside to do some photography, take random photos of the location that you are in and while doing so got questioned by the police? If you said “yes” then this blog post might be of interest to you.

About two months ago I was taking photographs when I noticed something odd. It was odd enough for me to log into my Twitter account and tweet about it. I had tweeted the following from my BlackBerry.

“@CastroLuisE: Why the cops spying on me? Leave me alone! I am taking #photos !”

What was I photographing that was so vile,  and evil that the police had to take a moment to observe? It was the photo below.

12th Avenue and 32nd Street – Manhattan New York

It’s the street corner of 12th Ave & 32nd Street located in Manhattan, New York.

What had happen was that there was an unmarked police car that suddenly stopped short in the middle of traffic, blocking traffic that was now forced to go around them and the officers inside the unmarked car were just watching me.

Why was they doing this? If you look to the left on the middle of the block, it’s where the Department of Sanitation stores some of its garbage trucks, one of many facilities around the city. So it seems that I was some sort of threat just taking photos of the area.

Mind you… I just ignored them and just kept taking photos, besides. It was and is a public area, with so sign telling me not to do so. So I just kept doing so. And the police officers in the unmarked car eventually just moved on after a few minutes of watching me.

Mind you I am all for public safety in a post 9/11 world. But the simple mention of the words “security, threat, terrorist, 9/11” seems to throw everyone into a panic. Overrides every other consideration, and legal right that a person might have. Logic, reasoning and the law are simply thrown out the window.

Since when did photographing in public become a crime? The answer to that question is. “No it’s not a crime to take photos.” I feel that photography is an expression of free speech, just like writing or protesting.

Granted if it was a tourist that was in this situation they might think that photography is illegal in America. That would be very odd and extreme thinking if you ask me.

Is this a new form of racial profiling? As an Hispanic-American I do have to think this. But overall It’s just America (and the worlds) security being pro active and in some cases being zealous in protecting innocent people.

Recently the New York Times posted an article called “Criminalizing Photography” that covers this subject matter in great depth. You can see the article via this link.: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/14/criminalizing-photography/

Another interesting article that is worth reading from the New York Times is called “See, Officer, I can too take that picture.” You can view it at.: http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/01/27/see-officer-i-can-too-take-that-picture/

I have always felt that knowledge is power and we all have the right to know things and to learn from them. So my reasoning for posting this is to just let people know what you can and cannot do in certain situations when doing photography. And as well to simply show that you are not the only person in the world that this has happened to.

I was once told by another photographer a long time ago, when I once asked him to review my work and could he give me some advice. And he told me his advice, and that advice was. “Never be afraid to take a shot.”

As long as it’s perfectly legal to “take the shot” feel free to do so I think.

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