You just can't be too careful these days, even if you're a professional photojournalist covering a major international sporting event. Multiple photographers shooting the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto are learning this the hard way as thieves seem to be targeting professionals and their gear. Plot twist: it is appears to be their fellow photographers carrying out the thefts.
In a week that has already seen one high profile story of a photographer caught stealing gear from another shooter, details are beginning to come out of numerous thefts at one of the largest multi-sport competitions in the world. Freelance photographer Gary Hershorn was packing up some of his gear during the opening ceremony for the Games, he turned to put something in one of his bags and when he turned back, his camera and the 400mm telephoto lens attached to it were gone.
My camera and lens were sitting right next to me, half under my seat, and when I came back up, my camera was gone.
Hershorn believes that someone walking up the steps next to his position was able to grab the gear when his back was turned.
All they would have had to do is reach out with their left hand to grab the monopod and keep walking. They wouldn’t even have had to break stride, it was that simple to take.
Hershorn informed security about the theft, but unfortunately they said that it was too dark in the building for the security cameras to see anything. He suspects that it was another credentialed photographer who stole his gear.
My guess it was another photographer. I don’t suspect the public had anything to do with it at all. We were in some pretty expensive seats down there, and when you go to an event like this, photographers steal from other photographers.
Several other photographers have already reported stolen gear at the Pan Am Games, and a memo was sent out to media outlets on Monday warning them to take extra precautions.
Not an Uncommon Issue
Photographers stealing from other photographers at sporting events is unfortunately more common than you might expect. I spent several years covering professional and collegiate sports in Houston and heard stories of more than one piece of gear "walking away", everything from a roll of gaff tape to laptops to bodies and lenses worth thousands of dollars. Since photographers are usually all housed in large, busy, communal photo rooms, trying to keep track of your gear in the middle of shooting an assignment can be quite a challenge. While it would be nice to be able to trust your fellow shooters and not have to worry about protecting your equipment, it's not a risk I suggest taking. Make sure you have a good insurance policy that covers you in case of theft, and do your best to keep your gear on or around your person as much as possible. As cliché as it might sound, it is ALWAYS better to be safe than sorry.