Security Guards Take and Damage Photographer's Gear

Two security guards stopped a photographer, Benn Jordan, in Chicago who was trying to take a timelapse video and things went very south very fast. They took his cards away from him and formatted them and also, he claims they damaged some of his gear. The security guards said he was trespassing on the property but the photographer claims in the videos description on Youtube that he was only on the sidewalk. So who is at fault?

I watched this video a few times now and I just feel more anger at the entire situation each time I see it. By no means should people be allowing others to take their cards and format them. One of the things that truly stuck out was when one of the security guards actually took his card and then tried to resell it back to him! The photographer asked for his gear so he could leave but was refused it all until the police showed up.

"(The security guards) lied to the police and claimed I was on the other side of their fence, refusing to leave, and tried to have me arrested for criminal trespassing. Upon showing the police the 20+ minutes of video I have of the incident, they told me I would have to take it up with civil court. "

Looking at the video from another perspective, I can see why the security guards may have had an issue. If Benn was indeed trespassing, then I think it was right for them to hold him there. They have no clue what his actual intentions were and if it was a construction site, they may just think he was there doing an undercover investigation from maybe a competitor to try and get them in trouble. I do not agree with how they handled it though with the taking of his gear.

I am not siding with either person as of now because I feel there is a definitely lack of evidence on what truly happened. Without proof of where Benn was standing or what happened at the beginning, which he says "I wish I could get to my phone sooner when they initially approached me, as I definitely have grounds for assault." To prevent any of this from initially happening, people should start reaching out to companies they plan on taking direct photos of. Even if it is "legal" to shoot from a sidewalk, it is always nice to build a relationship with a business you are sitting outside of snapping away at. In their shoes, they feel they are being investigated and attacked (not physically). From another side, businesses need to also recognize what is and is not legal in terms of photography.

This entire situation seems a bit all over the place. What are your thoughts on the video?

[Via Youtube User Benn Jordan]

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Danny Solis's picture

Security Guards are nothing but police academy rejects. When is the last time you have meet one who takes their job with pride? They abuse their authority all the time.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

What a narrow minded view of the world. It's hard to be that prideful in your job when not many people respect you. And let me correct you: some security guards abuse their authority, but definitely not all. That's like saying all black people steal (they don't, but some do).

John_Skinner's picture

They have no authority other than acting as agents for a private concern. Other than that, ZERO authority. Trespass, unless combined with a criminal act is not something in which someone maybe held against their will. This is a huge law suit waiting to happen.

Daniel S's picture

Two words: concealed carry.

Oh wait, it's Chicago.

What the guards did, even if in "good faith", was a crime. Especially the part where they lied to police about it.

Mark Schueler's picture

Right, because pulling out a firearm would definitely have defused that situation. SMH.

greg tennyson's picture

There are two ways to get someone to do something, by force and by reason. If I am armed you MUST reason with me, you cannot force me to do anything.

Daniel S's picture

According to what we know, two strangers detained him, robbed him, vandalized his property, and then proceeded to lie to police when they arrived. The situation wasn't being defused with reason because the guards already made up their minds.

Kyle W's picture

Some people have a lot of patience and I envy people with patience... I would have gotten violent with them and I would have gone to jail for sure.

Wes Jerdon's picture

...... Wow.... He's a LOT more civil than I would have been.

Tobias Solem's picture

Land of the free.

Christian Lampe's picture

He doesnt seem to argue with them about it being public property. They keep saying its private and he says "okay ill leave". Seems to me that he was on their property and they had every right

Daniel Pryce's picture

Yeah, thats what im thinking. Arguing could just escalate the situation, so I would just wait for the cops to show up and have everything resolved once and for all. If the photographer was trespassing he should just man up and take the ticket and then move on; and if he wasn't, then the security guard would be charged with theft.

Anonymous's picture

Even if he was on private property the security guard can't legally do what he did regarding taking the memory card. The photographer sounded nervous and I'm sure he was just trying to avoid any confrontation which is why he said "okay I'll leave". I don't think he was admitting to knowing he was.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

This happens in NYC all the time. We were shooting on the sidewalk near times square and a security guard just kept getting in front of the camera. It gets pretty old what these guys do.

Daniel Pryce's picture

Are you allowed to even setup a tripod without getting ticketed? I remember someone telling me this.

Jerrit Pruyn's picture

We didn't have a tripod. I wouldn't set one up in places like that, not even worth it. I have used one outside of the tourist areas with no issues.

Glen Grant's picture

Filming time lapse photography of union work?? Nothing about this is conclusive, photographer did not even want to get the cops involved makes it even more suspect of what the original and overall intent was. Hmm..

Anonymous's picture

I think the photographer was just nervous and didn't want any confrontation. Nothing suspicious. You should check out his YouTube channel to see his time lapse videos.

Glen Grant's picture

I think this was a bad drop by FStoppers. Easy for after the fact to potentialy seek sympathy from a video capture, but this just does not add up. If he was on public property and had nothing to fear then I believe he would have stood his ground.
Clearly he was willing to vacate once confronted, and not wanting to have police involved lets me believe he may have known he was in the wrong.
No point in the video do you see his equipment being banged around etc. or anything but a memory card being acknowledge as being taken.
If I am wrong, I apologize to him but this one leaves me a bit unsettled.

Anonymous's picture

Again, I think the guy was just scared. He was very vulnerable at that point. He had two guys confronting him and touching his gear, which wasn't just a camera around his neck. He wasn't in a position to pack up quickly or just walk away. So he did have quite a bit to fear.

It's obvious that the video doesn't tell the whole story, but even if he knew he wasn't on the sidewalk or wasn't sure, he didn't deserve to be treated the way he was. They should have told him to he can't shoot there and given him a chance to leave and if he refused, then call the cops. He was willing to leave, but they wouldn't let him.

I don't think he was afraid of the police being called, but more in fear of the two security guards. Trespassing, in this situation, would have gotten him a ticket at most.

Sterling V's picture

This is why i always keep mace pepper spray in my bag, if your NOT an officer of the law your going to get maced before you touch my gear.

Anonymous's picture

That's the same with me. When you're shooting in public you never know how people will react and you want to be prepared to not only protect your gear, but yourself.

Raoul Brown's picture


NonPCconservative's picture

The simple fact that the security guards lied about what had occurred showed that they were not acting in good faith. They should be dealt with and punished to the limit of the law.

Ross Floyd's picture

This is a photographer that hasn't clearly thought his project through, what the implications are and how people may react. I they had they would have communicated with the company of each of the sites he was photographing. I have enough problems with photographing in places that I am actually HIRED to photograph.

Hiding behind what is legal and not legal doesn't matter, because nothing happens in a vacuum - you can quote the law all you want whether or not you are on right or the wrong side of the law, it still won't fix your broken camera or even worse injured body.

Plan ahead, make good decisions, act conscientiously and communicate effectively.

That minimum wage security guard doesn't care about your "time-lapse photography" the probably don't know what that is, all they see is a threat to their livelihood, and that is why they get aggressive - wouldn't you if some doing something seemingly inane could jeopardize your job?

I am disappointed with fstoppers for not doing a little more investigation before posting this inflammatory video. Too many "ifs" not enough substance.

All that being said, no one has the right to touch you, take or break your things, but it doesn't mean that they won't. Work in pairs, and be careful.

Just because you want to photograph something, and its legal, doesn't mean that there aren't good and bad ways to go about doing it.

Carrying guns and or mace seems like the wrong way - I'd rather be robbed and make a claim against my insurance than be facing assault or manslaughter charges.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

That is what irresponsible owners of those defense items would do. Because you have mace or a firearm does not mean you have to, or even should, use them. They are to be used as deterrents first and foremost. That first involves informing the assaulter about what you have on you in order to protect your freedoms and rights. Secondly, if needed after this stage, would be to present it and show them the firearm or mace on your holster, for instance. If more is needed, then you take it out and prepare it for use, but without using it. Only after all this, would you consider actually using it. And even then, doesn't mean you have to use it. In fact, unless you yourself are physically being assaulted, you still shouldn't use it. In that case, it's better to take the loss of camera equipment than risk a violent outcome.

But you have every right to inform and present the things you have at your disposal to protect yourself as a deterrent.

Ross Floyd's picture

You have missed the point of what I have written.

Yes of course, you have the right to protect yourself responsibly with what ever tools you feel are necessary.

Do you feel that any sort of weapon would have been helpful in this situation, with these guys?

As some one who lives in Chicago, has seen gun violence first hand and is well aware of how situations can quickly escalate, I can assure you it would not.

Since this site isn't about guns lets talk about strategies to avoid similar situations.

Photograph with a friend so at the very least you are not alone
Ask permission even when its public property
Get a location release
Ask yourself - even if its legal, is this a good idea?

Just because in this country it is legal to photograph in public space it doesn't you can do that or anything else for that matter without implications for yourself or others legal or illegal, fair or unfair, right or wrong.

Cesar Andre's picture

Professional. Thank you.

James Davies's picture

I've worked for National newspapers for over 20 years and i've often come across security guards and other folk who have had an issue with what I was doing at the time. Be it sitting in my car on a surveillance job or shooting buildings, you can be guaranteed that some busy-body will turn up and mess your day up. I know the law with regard to photography and it's easy to run rings around these folk. Most people don't know what is or isn't legal in the photography world, everyone assumes that it's illegal to take pictures of people or buildings in public, but they are wrong. I've happily sat in my car waiting for the Police to turn up after 'curtain twitchers' have demanded to know what my business is sitting in their street with a long lens. One guy was so irate that I wouldn't tell him the nature of my business, he called the Police - I wouldn't tell them either. He got even more irate and the Police carted him away. I waved at him when he was in the police van :o)
The photographer in the video should have pushed for the Police to arrest him for theft. They have no right to remove his memory cards and erase the images.
I had a situation recently where I was on a public road running through open countryside which the army use for training. I was commissioned by a newspaper to take pictures of the squaddies training. I didn't show any faces or identity of the soldiers concerned, I made my business known to them and my identity, but one soldier in particular took great exception and called the military police when I said I wasn't going to erase the images. The military police were out of their depth and called the civilian police to deal with me. When the civilian police arrived, it was quickly decided that I hadn't committed any offence and they let me on my way. I could have left at the outset, but being a bona-fide news photographer who knows a bit about law, I stayed just to make a point. I apologised to the Police Officer for his time having been wasted and we parted happily.
I can't stress enough the importance of knowing your photographic law. It will help you out.

Veldask Krofkomanov's picture

Where would you recommend to go learn about this? I'm curious because I've ran into some troubles, and I can never say any more than "actually everything I'm doing is perfectly legal", which isn't very convincing.

Josh Robertson's picture

Here's a place to start:

morepics's picture

I live in Chicago and where he is standing is absolutely private property!

Jason Barker's picture

I'm not advocating the security guard's behavior or actions but [as a photographer that knows the laws] I am going to play devil's advocate. Is that a railroad track directly in front of them?

Cesar Andre's picture

I want my 2:55 back. Don't shoot on private property without permission. End of story. The law is not just, the law is the law. It all comes back to people relations, be friendly and professional about your photography and you will open doors, be sketchy and have bad communication and you are asking for problems even if you are within your rights. Fstoppers please filter the content that goes up on your site, I feel like more and more junk is making it on here and takes away from the good content.

Ross Floyd's picture

Agreed. This is just an inflammatory piece to generate clicks, not a healthy debate on photographers' rights or even best practices.

Dory Breaux's picture

Abuse of title/job. I doubt there would have been any harm in asking him show them anything he had shot, then asked him to leave.