Photography since 9/11 *moved*

Discussion in 'Photographic Discussions' started by jgbarber65, Sep 29, 2006.

  1. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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    I am a photo-artist. I enjoy taking digital photos of ordinary objects and editing them in Photoshop and creating art. I am finding it increasingly difficult to do this since 9/11 and wanted to know if anyone else experienced this and how they handle it. At a previous job, I had a co-worker that also shared my passion. We would use our lunch hour to walk around the city, get exercise and take photos. While walking up the sidewalk, we were approached by a local businessman who said he saw us taking photos and demanded we hand over our cameras. Of course we declined, but he out and out accused us of being terrorists.

    While waiting on the curbside for the nurses to wheel my wife out from surgery, I had my camera around my neck. When I left her room to pull the car around, my 5-year-old daughter was going to ride on my wife's lap while they wheeled her out in a wheel chair. I thought this would make a good photo for the album. I looked up and noticed 3 beaming spotlights shining on the American flag in front of the Hospital. I zoomed in and took a shot of the flag and someone grabbed my arm. It was Hospital security. I was quickly escorted to their office and interrogated. I showed the image to them on my camera and explained myself and still got the stare of disbelief.

    My wife and I were in a park near our home and I was getting photos of my daughter on swings, slides, etc. A lady nearby with a little girl said, "Are you taking pictures of my daughter?" I of course said "No. I'm taking them of my daughter." I showed her the digital images and the fact that her daughter was not in any shots. She still said, "Well I don't want my daughter in any of those shots." I respect her rights, but since my intent was to get photos of my daughter, now I had to be extra cautious of not only this woman's daughter being in the shot, but of any of the other kids playing in the area. We ended up leaving.

    I drive with my camera at my side and have missed many shots because I am now "gun-shy". One thing I enjoy doing is taking pictures of the older houses in my town and turning them into "haunted houses" with Photoshop. I am terrified now of getting out of my car and taking a photo of a house. I have an idea for a great Halloween photo, but it involves me getting a shot of cemetery. Not a close enough shot for names to be legible though. The problems today are:

    1) In a post 9/11 world, everyone with a camera is viewed as "suspicious".

    2) In the days of spam, junk mail, telemarketers, etc. If I ask permission to take photo of someone's old house, right away they are going to think, "what is the catch? What is he selling?"

    3) In the politically correct society we live in, if I get out and set up my tri-pod to take a photo of a cemetery, I am just asking for someone to approach me with suspicion or their oppinion of why they think I'm worng.

    Maybe I just need thicker skin. But am I the only one feeling this way?

    I used to be able to get away with just acting confident and people would think I was supposed to be there taking photos. They would think, maybe he's a photojournalist, making a brochure, realtor, surveyor, etc.

    In this day in age, they jump to conclusions first.

    I wanted to hear other stories like mine and/or how other photographers have adapted to handling this. It would be great if someone had a sample of a letter they use to send out to get permission to shoot a photo. I tried to write some, but they all sound like a sales pitch.

    Thanks,
    Joe Barber
     
  2. LaFoto

    LaFoto Just Corinna in real life Staff Member Supporting Member

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    As a German in Germany, I still don't feel this kind of help-she-takes-pics-to-later-bomb-this-place-for-sure-craze. And I am glad I don't. But people are suspicious of those with cameras such as mine, which is a DSLR of the smaller kind, really, with no fancy lenses, just the kit lens and a Sigma 70-300mm. And yet, when I place myself and lift the camera to my eye, I get eyed. At least.

    However, I found out that here in the countryside it is less a fear of terrorism (which I guess might prevail a lot more in NYC, even though I did not get confronted with it anywhere AT ALL while we were over in April), but more a fear of me being from some kind of authority, trying to suss out if people built one building too many onto their property without declaring that to the authorities (and in Germany, as the Land of Rules and Regulations, you need official approvement to ANY kind of building you set up on your property). I became aware of this when I - for the first time - tried to take photos with my dad's Leica and still had a hard time getting myself used to its ways (still haven't got used to it, I might add). So I was taking my time in setting up a photo of a farmstead, even including the farmer into my pics.

    So he came towards me to ask what I was doing. I said I like that one building on your farm here so much, this one here (pointing at it), and he started telling me about the history of that building and why it was built in the way it is built and so on and then asked if I did this for a hobby? Yes, I explained, only that, and this was my dad's old camera and it was so difficult for me to use it, and he said, ah, then that's ok, I thought you were from the authorities, trying to find out if there's something on my property that doesn't belong here.

    OK, all in all I think that whoever only has those buildings on their property they have declared they'd have need not be afraid in the least of anyone else taking a pic from the street, now do they?

    But here I was taking photos of some sunflowers and their shadow against the wall of a house in my very village, and I really only had the flowers and the shadows in the frame, nothing else, the house as such remained all unrecognisable, and the lady of the house came to me with the words: "Can I help you?" while the wind just blew the flowers over so they did not look good. I said "You could stop the wind for me, please?" (Have you ever seen a face go into a total questionmark? ;)) So I explained what I was aiming at, but also told her that actually I had missed the moment and the sun had already moved to far up, it had looked better 1 hour earlier, and then - after having established that I do this for a hobby only - she said: "OK then you just come back tomorrow at the right time." Phew. Settled. (The photos did not come out the way I had hoped, mind).

    When on holidays in that part of Germany that used to be East Germany, I went out taking photos of farmsteads and sheds and stables there, for I like to take photos of such things, and the stables and sheds there are distinctly different from ours here, so I saw this very nice one with flowers in front lighting the whole scene from the way the sun shone, so I took a photo of just that wall and the flowers. Someone said "What are you doing there!?!?" and I replied: "I took a photo of that wall". He asked: "Don't you think you've got to ask for permission first?!" and I said: "No!" (His tone was so my reaction was NOT all that welcoming and friendly). He grumbled and said "I think you do!" and I went "And I know I don't need to ask when I am taking photos from the street."

    I hate those moments.
    And so far my experience has been that taking photos in big cities is EASIER and less intimidating than here in the country. I feel more inhibited and much shy-er here than I ever did in New York, for example. Like I said: there I never came across anywhere and anyone to tell me off, demand to see my pics, or threaten to take my camera away from me. Maybe I radiated "tourist"? I don't know.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Hi Joe, welcome to the forum.

    I personally have not had any problem of this type (doesn't seem to be much of an issue in Canada) but I still get that gun shy feeling when I'm at or near places like airports etc. There have been many discussions about this, over the years...and it seems pretty clear that unless you are actually on private property...you have every right to take photos as you please. That doesn't stop security or even police from overstepping their authority and hassling you. The problem then is that it's not worth the effort to fight. Yes, you could go on a rant about how you are in the right to take photographs...but they can find any number of excuses to question you or even hold you for questioning. I've even heard of police in the US using the patriot act as cover to harass photographers...even though photography is not mentioned in that act (from what I hear).

    On the other hand...it's easy to understand why police and security are watchful and somewhat suspicious...and for the most part, they are only doing their job...and that has changed since 9/11.

    Good discussion topic Joe. (please don't let this get into a political debate)
     
  4. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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    It's interesting to hear that even in Germany, you have similar issues and I like the way you handle it. Maybe I need to add some humor to my responses. Thanks,
    Joe
     
  5. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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    Big Mike, I know what you mean about the airports. I don't think I would even dare show my camera there these days. I think a lot of this suspicion of photographers stems from when Bush first gave his speech about being on the lookout for suspicious activity. I'm not sure, but I think there would be enough information and photos available on the Internet, that any would-be terrorist would not need to take photos of buildings in broad daylight. But I suppose I might report something if it didn't look right too. I spent eight years in the US Air Force in Japan. I took many photos there without anyone batting an eye. I wonder if it has changed there also? Also, I think that if someone has never caught the "shutter-bug" themselves, it is hard for them to imagine that someone would take photos for fun. I have met people that are no more interested in photography than I am in stamp collecting.
     
  6. rmh159

    rmh159 TPF Noob!

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    Interesting topic... I haven't run into any issues yet and I'm in the states. I definitely agree though that since 9/11 we live in a very vigilant society which is probably the case all over the world to some degree.

    Just seems like a change in the social climate and hopefully it will ease over time.

    Mike has a good point... regardless of your rights you can be held for a certain period of time (I want to say 24 hours) without a warrant so while I doubt you'd get arrested for photography... it's worth keeping in mind.

    You just have to be careful about what you're doing.
     
  7. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I don't do this sort of photography very often. When I have, even prior to 9/11, I would first approach anyone who might be affected by my work, introduce myself and explain what I want to do... just as a matter of common courtesy.

    As for images of public places, like a cemetery, I might consider approaching the caretaker if I was going to be while just to let them in on what I'm doing and why I'm doing it. Again, just as a courtesy.

    I would think making photos of high rise buildings could be a problem in this day and age. We've ALL been asked to look out for this sort of activity.

    I would never make photos of random children without expressed permission from the parent(s). If someone has a problem with me making photos of my own kids in public, they'll just have to deal with it.

    Pete
     
  8. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Oh... and it's been illegal for decades to make certain photos in this country: military bases and such. It's been 30 years since I've seen the list. I suspect it's longer now.
     
  9. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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    I have attempted to approach people and maybe it is my approach... maybe it is my deodorant... Whatever the case may be, I get blanks stares or looks of incomprehension. That is why I posted here. Maybe someone can help me with my approach. I would ask a caretaker of cemetery as a courtesy, but I can imagine his or her response not being a positive one... Although I have not tried yet. That is because some people view it as wrong or morbid to take a photo of a cemetery. But I am admittedly selfish and would like this photo to manipulate in Photoshop. I won't use other photographer’s photos in my art, even if they give permission. I want it to be my photos, so I guess here I just have to grow a backbone. I have friends that if I told them I was scared, they would say "Here, give me the camera and I'll take the photo." But it is hard if you love photography as much as I do and do not have the personality for dealing with confrontations. Buildings are tough. I've gotten stares from people for even shooting low-rise buildings. I have never taken a photo of any child except my own, but when you are at a busy park taking photos of your own child, you cannot help but get other kids in the background. I set my focus to center and change my aperture so that only my daughter is focus, but the parents of other children don't know this. My parents have thousands of photos of me at parks, etc... with other kids in the background, and my Father was never approached by any angry parents. This is a recent thing. I'm thinking of wearing a hat that says "PRESS" or "photojournalist".
     
  10. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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  11. jgbarber65

    jgbarber65 TPF Noob!

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    Also, with everyone having a camera on their cell phone now, I think this is adding to the (pardon my pun) "Photo-sensitivity"
     
  12. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I don't know if it's a law...or just an industry standard...but most/all camera phones have to make a camera sound when they snap an image. The idea being that they want to prevent people from secretly capturing an image.
     

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