Photographer Jason Lanier is on a mission to end discrimination against the small business photographer. As seen in the video above, he and his group were confronted multiple times while attempting to do a shoot. In the first location they are asked to leave the premise altogether. In the second they were asked to "make it look less commercial" by getting rid of a strobe. In both instances they weren't interfering with any event around them nor were they disturbing the public and only had a single portable strobe setup. Lanier notes a growing trend to neglect and discriminate against the small business photographer.
To be clear, Lanier isn't asking for special privileges. He believes we shouldn't be allowed to stop traffic, set up complex lighting rigs, or impede the public without a permit. However, he has found being a small business photographer and using a minimal setup has become increasingly difficult. Both locations where he was stopped are public areas. Places where anyone can come photograph whatever they would like; that is unless they have a nice camera and an off-camera flash.
So why not get a permit? Permits are tedious and often were never meant for the small business photographer. They are meant for big Hollywood studios and big-budget model shoots. When inquiring about a permit to shoot in New Orleans' run down Six Flags, Lanier was quoted $51,900 for a month. No photographer needs a month. Give us a couple of hours. No such option existed. The ranger in the video above tells him that a one-time use permit will cost $500, which of course isn't feasible for most small business photographers. He also notes that many establishments make the process to get a permit unusually difficult by being time consuming, obscure, or having to wait "forever" for the permit to process. The conclusion can only be that they don't want small business photographers in their jurisdiction.
Of course not all areas are like this and it should be pointed out that we are speaking of public places. Here in Charleston, S.C. I rarely, if ever, am stopped by local authorities. This city is renowned as a destination wedding location and so most of our authorities are aware of that and are more accommodating, with only a few exceptions. Some institutions are catching on as well. The U.S. National Forest Service recently announced a permit fee and charges a relatively small fee of $10 for a group of three to shoot. In other parts of the country, there often isn't a realistic option. Your local friendly small business photographer doesn't leave an obtrusive footprint, so why all the defensiveness? Why all the restrictions?
What do you think? Are local authorities too controlling in your city?
[via Jason Lanier]