Photographer or Terrorist? Photographers' Rights Under Fire Again

It should not be shocking to hear another story about a police officer wrongly accusing a photographer of breaking the law. These stories have become pretty common place lately. However, recently police in Long Beach California have been reprimanding individuals who have been caught photographing locations with no apparent aesthetic value. Back in June, Long Beach Post contributor Sander Roscoe Wolff was detained after photographing a refinery on North Long Beach. Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell has publicly stated that his officers have the responsibility to detain photographers who are not engaging in "regular tourist behavior". This story is an unfortunate consequence of the post homeland security world we live in and probably will not be the last infringement on individuals' rights. To read more about this story, head over to the original article on the Long Beach Post.

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28 Comments

photoframed.com's picture

Ridiculous!

Honestly guys, don't take me wrong..... But Canada is really way better in respecting People rights. It's changing since Stupid Stephen Harper is ruling but it's still way better... come live in here, you'll see you won't go back! :)

Guess I'll hang all 3 cameras around my neck today and wander the streets. If I'm on an openly accessed sidewalk or street let them arrest me. I'll take pics of the inside of my cell for all of you. Trample a photogs rights today, who's will it be tomorrow?

Holy crap! Next thing you know you'll need a "government minder's" permission to point your camera at anything...

Shaka Mayers's picture

NO joke, that may be coming soon.

Hahahaha.... sorry i can't stop laughing....

U.S.A the land of the free... i feel pity for you over there. How stupid can you be? It's really tragic that the police is treating everyone as an possible terrorist.... I decide what i think is art when i take a picture, not an trigger-happy police-officer!

Just throw a girl in a bikini in the photo and they'll let you shoot anywhere.  

Michael Knowlton's picture

Chase Jarvis had a nice information post about this very topic not too long ago. It can be found here: http://blog.chasejarvis.com/blog/2011/01/avoid-being-hassled-by-the-cops...

I always keep a copy of the document/law with my in my camera bag when I'm out shooting to avoid such cases.

RAMON OSTOLAZA's picture

It's just plain S T U P I D !!!! and the worst part is that in Puerto Rico the local government it's copying the same stupids laws from the U.S.A.

In my youth the mantra "Skateboarding is not a crime" was popular with the skateboaridng community as a way of highlighting the discrimination we got when skating in public places. The photography community needs a similar public education campaign.

keep rocking in the free world... probably the police have a problem whith the word "shooting"

This enrages and sickens me all at the same time.

ahmmmm google maps (street view ) ??? 

this makes my blood boil.

I got bashed here some months ago for criticising glorification of military personel on some shoot...woke up any of you yet? It's all part of the same system that's coming down on US citizens but they're too busy eating hotdogs on a baseball match...

one word, RETARDED

Yeah bro, but you honestly look like a terrorist.  Just saying'...

Yes I agree with everyone on here... It's stupid . What really gets to me is that they're not doing this to stop terrorist cuz if they really wanted to stop them no one would be able to walk around with their cell phone or point and shoot. If I'm a terrorist I'm not going to walk around with a big ol DSLR calling attention to myself.. I'm going to use my cell or my little canon to take the shot.

That why god made the 800mm sigma lens

ian sbalcio's picture

hey we made it on fstoppers! i'm a steadicam op on this show and another RT show.

Its simple, dress well (suit or something awesome) and carry a Lieca m9, shoot into an eye fi ad hock pro card so if they DO ask for you camera you can erase the images in front of them but still have them at home, while carrying starbucks coffee. You end up looking rich and no one bothers rich people. All the while you are shooting awesome photos. You think I'm kidding?

I recently shot a project in NYC and you should have seen the looks I was getting from the police while carry around my Canon gear. Its a HUGE no and can ruin a shoot and embrace the photographer if they got SOME clearance but not the kind the police thought they should.

I am dumping all of my Canon gear as far as lenses and body goes, so that I may shoot something just as powerful but not as big and obvious.

terrorists with DSLRs?
 I am not sure but has any terrorist ever been caught with a dslr? anyone seen any pics where a dslr was amongst the items retrieved in a terrorist raid? bomb parts, rifles, ammo, explosives, small point n shoot cameras, and apple iphones. BUT i cannot recall one dslr in all the photos i've seen.
(begin sarcasm) Gee, i hope the terrorists dont discover the internet. then they may discover google earth and/or google streets and then not need to go to a building and take pictures of it so the cops can catch them red handed with a picture.... ( end sarcasm)

M's picture

 "(begin sarcasm) Gee, i hope the terrorists dont discover the
internet. then they may discover google earth and/or google streets and
then not need to go to a building and take pictures of it so the cops
can catch them red handed with a picture.... ( end sarcasm)"

It's not even that.  I find it completely freaking hilarious that cops think a guy with a big SLR is going to be a terrorist.  1: They're not that stupid, they will use a camera phone 2: Clearly, someone walking around with a giant camera around their neck that any idiot can tell is a professional isn't spying on things.  Unless they're the worlds most daft spy.

It's not just police, big camera's (more specifically lens) attract attention from everyone.

I've had tterrorist crap tossed at me, asked what paper I shot for, and even worse chased into my own home by small minded people that think a big lens mean's you trying to exploit children (at midnight, in the rain).

You can read what happened to me the other day  on G+
https://plus.google.com/100425739170055690781/posts/AW6r94wxPQr

I think people have to be educated, with all the crap the media has tossed about over the year's..  people see someone with a camera and big lens as a threat of sorts, someone that's upto no good..  when in fact we just have a hobby/job that we enjoy.

Jerry P's picture

Been there in Morgan County Alabama. I had BP security tell me I was not allowed to photograph their refinery, nor 3M's plant across the street. Now, mind you, I was standing on the street, yes, the public street I, as a tax payer paid for. They actually called the Sheriff's department on me, they responded and backed the security guard. They took my drivers license, ran a background check, and told me to leave. It didn't go over well when I informed him that he was violating my civil rights!

I guess "photographers" need to start taking more interesting pictures. Why are you guys just wandering around taking pictures of refineries?

I've shot models in all kinds of "derelict" or "decayed" environments, not only here in Los Angeles, but in Chicago and Ohio.  It makes for INCREDIBLE visual imagery.  In fact, I'm planning on assembling an art book on the subject.

Outright trespassing private property is one thing, but to leave "aesthetic value" of PUBLIC property to the subjectivity of the police is another.

M's picture

Interesting news story, I'd like to see more of this newscast, not used to broadcasters who aren't automatically anti photographer at the drop of a sensationalistic hat.