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March 30, 2008

The photograph that terrorized London
Posted by Patrick at 05:52 PM * 211 comments

Taken at Spitalfields Market, 9:20 AM, Sunday, March 30, 2008. I liked the cartoony cloud-trail decorations seemingly supporting the left side of the ceiling, and the fact that the spire of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields was so dramatically framed in the transparent roof.

Right after I took the shot, though, a large security guard walked directly up to me. “We don’t take pictures in here.” “Oh?” I said. “Yes,” he replied, reaching for my camera. “We’ll have to delete that.”

“No you don’t, and I’m leaving the market right now,” I said, walking away briskly. And as I did so, I swear to God, I heard him get out his walkie-talkie and radio for backup. You can’t be too careful with these terrorist photographers.

Out on Brushfield Street, wondering if I was about to be wrestled to the ground by Spitalfield commandos, I phoned the people I’d come to the market to meet for breakfast in the first place. “Hey, Cory,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but…”

We tried, we really did. We walked back into the market brandishing the camera high, Cory Doctorow, Alice Taylor, and their celebrated offspring, four humanoids’ worth of concentrated well-informed civil liberties savvy, inviting, nay daring, my security-guard friend to come back and try to arrest my photograph. “It’s total nonsense,” Cory said. “Even assuming they have a posted policy, which they have to do—and they don’t—they certainly aren’t entitled to demand to delete your property.” (And indeed, some individual market stalls have “no photographs” placards on display, which does tend to suggest that this is hardly the default for the entire market.) To no avail. My uniformed security guard had evidently found even more pressing issues to deal with, possibly terroristic squirrels, or people removing mattress tags.

The whole War On Photography is of course puzzling. Leaving aside the obvious hypocrisy of putting a “No Photography” sign on your stall which happens to be devoted to selling framed photographs of Banksy graffiti (yes), it’s simply hard to imagine the thought processes that go into such a decision. Let’s see, we have a stall in a famous London market, selling vintage clothes or organic cookies or African wind instruments. And people want to take snapshots of our stall and put them on their Flickr page or share them with their friends and relatives back in Stevenage or St. Louis or Kyrgyzstan, because they had a good time visiting Spitalfields market and they think your stuff is neat. Logically, the correct thing for us to do is prohibit them from doing so, since we wouldn’t want to actually have any customers or anything.

What is wrong with these people’s brains? Show your work.

Comments on The photograph that terrorized London:
#1 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 06:52 PM:

It's a nice photograph, but I can't exactly see it as an instrument of revolution. Did I miss the microfilm plans of Parliament or something?

What is wrong with these people's brains? I'm not certain, but I suspect it's related to the same brain disorder that afflicts many members of the TSA.

#2 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:05 PM:

I think it probably arises at least partially out of some inflated sense of [self]importance. If it's got to be guarded*, it's a) got to be guarded against everything, and b) must be the most important thing evah.

* For definitions of guarded that may include one unarmed Beefeater equivalent

#3 ::: John Chu ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:13 PM:

I like the composition. As you said, the framing is really cool.

As for what's wrong with these people, I have no idea. I don't know why security theater is so seductive. Maybe it's the same reason why people pass on chain letters about nefarious black marketers who harvest kidneys from drunk party goers. i.e., it makes them Feel Good. It gives them the illusion that they are Doing Something For The Cause. However, what they're actually doing is acting out of irrational panic. Cheney can enshrine this as the "1% Doctrine." That doesn't actually make it rational.

(I totally get the feeling of powerlessness. That doesn't mean absolutely any action is better than no action.)

#4 ::: Buce ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:15 PM:

At St. Isaacs in St. Petersburg, there used to be--probably still is, as far as I know--a babushka whose job was to stand on the observation deck outside the dome and stop people from taking pix. I was there in March; heaven knows how she handles January.

#5 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:21 PM:

Picture = Makes me want to visit.

Goon = Makes me want to stay away.

Thank you, Patrick, for hopelessly disconfabulating me.

#6 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Clearly, Patrick, you are a dangerous terrorist collecting information that could be of use to other terrorists as the coded information in that photograph of sheep on your Flikr page makes clear. And the railway map of the Netherlands is an even bigger giveaway, in the hands of the enemy it could lead to great devastation. Thank goodness Comrade Stalin Great Leader Cheney has protected us from such things.

#7 ::: Brian Sniffen ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:32 PM:

Customers are objects to them. Their competitors are real people. The signs prevent their ever-vigilant enemy competitors from copying prices or special pieces. Also of interest: while most of these people don't run around trying to copy competitors this way, it's only because they are the best and wisest of their field. Everyone else cheats to stay even.

#8 ::: Brian Sniffen ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:34 PM:

Customers are objects to them. Their competitors are real people. The signs prevent their ever-vigilant enemy competitors from copying prices or special pieces. Also of interest: while most of these people don't run around trying to copy competitors this way, it's only because they are the best and wisest of their field. Everyone else cheats to stay even.

#9 ::: Dave Kuzminski ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:35 PM:

They wanted it deleted because you mistook a rocket on a launch pad for a church spire. ;)

#10 ::: Neil Willcox ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:46 PM:

I can see how you might not want to be photographed at work, and have the point of view that your stall is for selling things and not a tourist attraction to be photographed. In that case a polite notice saying no photography please makes sense. The whole security guards and police stopping people taking photographs of anything ever is more puzzling.

More generally, doesn't being photographed steal bits of your soul? Also creatures without souls don't show up in photographs. Bearing this in mind, can we think of anyone the lack of photography might benefit?

#11 ::: Miss Anthropy ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:51 PM:

Perhaps the man was actually a super secret Mall Ninja.

#12 ::: anthony ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 07:51 PM:

As someone who does street photography for a living, it is strange how terrified you can get after taking photos. A couple of anecdotes from my recent trip to San Fransisco:

!) I really wanted to shoot the giant American flag beset with plastic eagles, in the airport customs line. It was a fantastic example of kitsch, and looked disturbingly like similar objects in Mussolini's Italy. I did not want to get delayed, or turned back on the flight. So I self censored.

2) I did take a photo of the new federal building on 6th Street, including the security zones. I was convinced as I set up my shots, that secuirty officers or police would get in, and arrest me. That the ear bugs of paranoia seem so natural to me is so science fiction like.

I get stopped maybe twice a month to delete photos, or to stop taking photos, and I often get threatened with physical harm. There is a number of other anecdotal evidence that suggests that other street photographer's have had similar experiences.

Aside, from tourists, 150 years of photography has rested on the ability to take photos outside, of common things. I wonder what would have happened to Eugene Atget or August Sanders or Gary Winograd or any of the New Topographers if the circumstances were the same?

It is this surreal push and pull narrative. Because we also have the Abu Gharib situation. Everything is documented but documentation has become more and more dangerous...

Anyways, the photo is excellent.

#13 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:03 PM:

On a recent business trip I overheard a TSA agent accosting a frail-looking elderly man at the security checkpoint. I mean, top of her lungs yelling at him: "It doesn't matter that this bag is less than a quart, it's NOT A ZIPLOCK BAG! IT HAS TO BE A ZIPLOCK!"

You're right: something's just broken in these people's brains.

On the flipside, I'm thinking the ziplock people could probably use this in a commercial. "Our patented Ziplock™ technology really seals in the terror!"

#14 ::: Squirrel ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:10 PM:

Welcome to Britain. We get this bs all the time.

#15 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:10 PM:

I did notice that Hefty is now marketing a small packet of quart-size ziplock bags specifically for going through security lines.

#16 ::: Rikibeth ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:12 PM:

I find Brian Sniffen's comment kind of plausible, come to think of it, as I was once sent on a spying-on-the-competition assignment.

My employer's intent wasn't to copy any of the competitors, but to get a sense of the range of quality and prices available from multiple vendors of a similar product.

If the venue hadn't had a blanket no-photographs policy, it wouldn't have surprised me if some of the vendors had had them individually, because there WAS a lot of competition in that particular product, and creative designs were prized.

Even so, the vendors were awfully nice to a perceived customer asking detailed questions and taking notes, and one even asked to take a photo of ME with the product. And event security didn't bust us for it.

The London security guard? Officious bozo.

#17 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:25 PM:

I did notice that Hefty is now marketing a small packet of quart-size ziplock bags specifically for going through security lines.

In the security line at Dublin Airport, there were piles of free bags for liquids, so at least meeting the requirements didn't cost you anything.

#18 ::: Rob Hoffmann ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:26 PM:

I guess this is where someone should mention the various experiments that indicate the effects of power and authority on people's decisionmaking.

The Milgrim and Stanford experiments come to mind, with the Stanford study explaining the TSA nearly perfectly. :)

#19 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:34 PM:

My uniformed security guard had evidently found even more pressing issues to deal with, possibly terroristic squirrels, or people removing mattress tags.

Tha latter part of you sentence IS a serious matter. Didn't you hear the dire warnings of newscaster Lloyd Crawford, in the early days of TVland, that removing said tags would open a Gate to Hell?

#20 ::: Eastof Weston ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:38 PM:

I think that the general rule for conspiracy theorists applies here. Once someone is in that mindset, they might be made to realize that some individual piece of their facts or reasoning is incorrect. However, you will never be able to get them to understand that nobody cares. That the government and/or the terrorists aren't out to get them because... they just aren't attractive targets. And there aren't that many terrorists.

#21 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 08:51 PM:

Rob: ISTR the Tom Baker version of Dr Who observing that giving people guns made them stupid. The same phenomenon appears to be going on here--giving people police powers and Big Responsibilities mostly doesn't improve their judgment, and often makes it worse.

#22 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:07 PM:

This picture speaks to me. What's that, picture? I should kill who? With a what? Okay. I will. Okay. Yes, hail to the glorious revolution, picture.

#23 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:11 PM:

Kip W @ 22... I thought the picture was asking the camera what its objective was.

#24 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:15 PM:

In further support of the Sniffen theory, I recently asked if I could take some photographs (for an art project I'm doing) at Wegmans, a big chain grocery store here in upstate NY (I don't know if it's elsewhere). I would have been shooting actors, not focusing on the content of the aisles; but they said no -- absolute corporate policy against photography. And they gave as a reason precisely this.

In fact, one of the actors working with me said she once went to (that same) Wegmans as a kid to take some photographs for a school project (without asking), and they not only stopped her but stood there and made her delete all the pictures she'd taken.

Incidentally, the answer for me was to ask at the local co-op grocery: local businesses tend to be much more relaxed about these things... which, I suppose, goes *against* the Sniffen theory in terms of he stalls. Damn.

(I'm still bitter, because nice as the local co-op was, the Wegmans was simply a magnificent space -- huge, with lots of great colors, and a second-floor balcony in one section that I could have used for an aerial shot -- and I just couldn't duplicate it. The results were fine, and I'm extremely grateful to the co-op, but damnit, Wegmans would have worked better.)

#25 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:19 PM:

After they're done destroying the Church of Scientology, Anonymous needs to send a hundred camera-wielding Guy Fawkes to this place.

In fact, why wait?

#26 ::: Jonah ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:27 PM:


The signs prevent their ever-vigilant enemy competitors from copying prices or special pieces.
I worked at a Whole Foods Market for a few months several years ago (Whole Foods is an upscale US grocery chain, for those who don't know). They had a strict no-photography policy, and their rationale was that if they allowed photography their competitors would photograph their displays in order to copy them.


I'm thinking the ziplock people could probably use this in a commercial.
I know you're joking, but if I were in charge of marketing for Ziplock the last thing I'd want to do would be to associate my brand with the TSA in any way. I mean, this is the organization that is tied with the IRS for least popular government organization here in the US.

#27 ::: Gigi Rose ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:40 PM:

Show your work.

I've worked in crafts for years and many merchants do what they can to protect their work. Then there is also a privacy issue here. Even though they are in public there are folks who don't want their photo taken. A case in point... When I was a neofan Larry Niven was GOH of the con I was attending. I took his photo and I swear I thought he was going to take my head off. To this day I'll never understand his reaction.

I had a foreign exchange student from Russia back in '95 and she was so thrilled with our stores that she had me take her photo standing next to the booze, the candy and many other American trappings. We joked about it, but these were her favorite things about the U.S.

#28 ::: Tazistan Jen ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:44 PM:

I went to the courthouse the other day, and they made me take my nail file back to my car. What am I going to do in the courthouse with a nail file? Even if I went crazy and decided to stab the judge with it, the cop on duty in the courtroom would have wrestled me to the ground instantly.

#29 ::: Tazistan Jen ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:46 PM:

Back on topic: I bet there will soon be cameras that don't look like cameras for taking pictures in public places. Like the old spy novels, where your brooch took pictures.

#30 ::: Edward Oleander ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 09:59 PM:

#11 Miss A -- OMG that was a fun link! Thank you!

Gosh, and I was a security guard at the Mall of America... why didn't I ever see our Rapid Deployment Dark Ops Mutant Mall Ninjas? Maybe they were just so good that they defeated the Detect Invisibility skill of a mere 3rd level Security Guard like me...

#31 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:02 PM:

Jumping to the end (I'll go back and read the 25 posts prior): What's wrong with these people is unknown, but not new.

I've been dealing with this for a couple of decades. The present unpleasantness has merely given a greater tendency to color the temptation to try and prohibit pictures with the air of, "We're fighting terrorosists. You understand."

It's all bullshit of course, and I don't understand. Trying to tell me I have to give up some liberties, because someon, somewhere, might be planning an attack; and we can't have that, doesn't fly.

A rent-a-cop? Not in a million years.

anthony: I am familiar with the sensation. It's worse now than it was 20 years ago. I've been threatened with personal harm, and the physical destruction of my equipment. I keep the police phone numbers for all the jurisdictions I frequent in my phone.

I find it a great defuser to smugly offer to let them use my phone to call the cops.

On the flip side, pulling out the phone and telling them that touching me, or my equipment, will earn them a trip to the local precint pulls them up short.

An absolute air of, "I won't put up with your nonsense" doesn't hurt.

So far those have worked.

#32 ::: Liz D. ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:10 PM:

@ #29: cameras that don't look like cameras for taking pictures

They're called cell phones.

My daughter and I are currently 3,000 miles apart. We've emailed each other cell phone photos of possible purchase items (garments, houses) etc.

Even in the "no photography allowed" venues like department stores the cell phone photos get by.

Of course, they aren't careful compositions like Patrick's, but the essential information is captured.

#33 ::: C. Wingate ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:10 PM:

Meanwhile in this county we have permanent automated speed traps taking pictures of our cars.

I've rather fallen out of the railfan world, but of course there was security theater about all these people taking pictures of trains. Never mind that these people are probably the most diligent watchers against sabotage. So we had policemen trying to stop people from taking pictures from public sidewalks and all that kind of nonsense. The reality that (a) trains are incredibly easy to sabotage, and (b) that nonetheless the terrorists weren't bothering wasn't sinking in. But then, it never does.

#34 ::: Kip Manley ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:12 PM:

I get to tell you what to do.

It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t make sense. Didn’t you hear me? I have been given license to tell you what to do. So do it already.

#35 ::: annalee flower horne ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:16 PM:

Westfield seems to have a no photography policy at all of their malls (the US ones, at least--don't know about Britain). The way they worded the policy (I can't find it anywhere on their website after an admittedly brief search) made it pretty clear that it was in place so that they could act against local news agencies trying to get footage for stories that would make the mall look bad. They also made some noise about defending their tenants' trademarks, because apparently snapping a picture that has a store sign in the background is trademark infringement (is it?).

There's been a lot of static about this in downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. As part of a major urban renewal project, the city has leased a city block to private developers (with a public access easement). The developers contend that since they've leased the street, it's private property and they can forbid people from taking photographs there. Which is great except that the public access easement makes it public land on which the bill of rights is in effect. When the Mormon Church tried to pull a similar stunt on land they'd leased from Salt Lake City (they were trying to prevent those shifty Unitarians from handing out fliers there), a federal judge told them to stghu*. Now I take my camera with me every time I go down there, just to piss those idiots off.

But back to the subject at hand, that is a very nice picture. I like the strong lines and the contrast between the building and the sky.

*(First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City v. Salt Lake City Corp. 10th circuit, 2002. The city later sold the easement to the Church to get around the ruling).

#36 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:23 PM:

My uniformed security guard...

On the first pass I read that as uninformed security guard. I still have to pause and think not to see it as a typo but my brain is all Mondayed out right now.

#37 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:37 PM:

Liz's mention of cell phone cameras in #32 reminds me of the half-day of jury duty I served a few weeks back. Cameras aren't allowed in court, as we know Bob, and court buildings in NYC have the sorts of security at the entrances that you'd expect -- metal detectors, cops, x-ray for your bags, etc. I've got a small digital camera that I carry in my jacket pocket, and I'd forgotten to leave it at home, so I had to check it at the entrance. My cell phone was no problem, but it's an old, crappy phone that doesn't have a camera. I later found out that the cops don't force you to check cameras that are built into cell phones; those can get taken into court.

On the other hand, I know someone who worked in the financial services industry in contexts where management is worried about people being able to sneak valuable information out. In their offices, cameras aren't allowed, and if your cell phone has a camera, it's not allowed either.

I'm tempted to cite that as an example of the difference between an organization that's actually interested in security, and one that's into security theater. Except the company my friend worked for also forbade workers from bringing portable storage media (USB thumb drives and the like) to their work computers -- but allowed iPods (which can easily be mounted as hard drives and used to transfer data).

#38 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:42 PM:

If the terrorists could study photos of how merchandise is arranged in the booths, they could determine the exact bomb placement that would destroy the most expensive merchandise.

Lacking that information, they may not risk expending an expensive bomb to destroy cheap kitsch.

Now you know.

#39 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:49 PM:

That's it. I was trying to recall something.

Last week I was at TJ's. The clerk saw my camera (I wasn't willing to leave it in the front seat) and asked me to take her picture.

The manager came out and asked if I was taking pictures. I said, "Yes, she asked me to."

She said she had and he grumped away, telling her that wasn't kosher.

#40 ::: Dena Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:50 PM:

And this happened in London, CCTV capital of the world? Where every person is photographed by the government some two-digit times every day?

The mind boggles. Given the record of national governments, the idea that gov't cameras watching you makes you safe - while autonomous ones in the hands of people put you in danger illustrates a dangerous lacuna in the teaching of history.

#41 ::: Pyre ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:50 PM:

Besides, this is a society of equals, which makes OUR group of souvenir stands just as important as all those shops at the airport -- and the airplane gates, and the security offices, and the military and government offices, and the whole national infrastructure -- so we're entitled to just as officious and paranoid a defense.

#42 ::: Ginger ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 10:53 PM:

Avram @ 37: Your comments reminded me of our policies at work, and made me realize how lucky I am that we don't have too much security theater. In research, we do have to protect our facilities against animal rightists (aka domestic terrorists), so cell phones with cameras are not allowed. We have key card and entry lock access (two separate systems). However, once we get to work, we're trusted with a lot of responsibility and access. I've heard people in the industrial R&D side talk about their coded ID cards and how they could be tracked throughout a facility..and how access was limited to "need-to-know".

We do have security guards at our entrances; occasionally we get someone with TSA-itis. Recently one new guard tried to stop my technicians from taking an anesthetized patient from our facility to the MRI in the next building, because the rules say you're not supposed to take anything out without a property pass. ::rolls eyes::

Security theater is why I absolutely hate air travel. I'd rather drive or take the train than allow myself to be subjected to the whims of idiots with guns and an overinflated sense of importance.

#43 ::: Shannon ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 11:13 PM:

My friend and I filmed a goofy zombie movie our senior week of college at Cornell University a couple of years ago. We shot everywhere on campus - including in the chemistry building at midnight to three in the morning. But where did we get yelled at by the campus police? Standing on a bridge in the middle of campus where five million people a day take a photo of the beautiful waterfall behind us. They asked if we had a permit. Uh, no? Do we need one to lug around a video camera and tape each other running around like ninnies? I don't remember exactly what we said to them, but it was convincing enough to make them go away. I just remember thinking, "You have to be kidding."

#44 ::: P J Evans ::: (view all by) ::: March 30, 2008, 11:36 PM:


The courthouse where I got to do jury duty last time has a no-pointy-objects policy - somehow they miss pens and pencils - and X-ray and metal detectors, for good reason. They also have pictures of some of the nastier objects they've found on people - knives disguised as belt buckles is the first one to mind. (It annoys me because they include kiddy scissors and knitting needles as dangerous objects also.)

#45 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:26 AM:

joann at #2 writes:

> I think it probably arises at least partially out of some inflated sense of [self]importance. If it's got to be guarded*, it's a) got to be guarded against everything, and b) must be the most important thing evah.

I once did some part time programming work with a local university - one which was surrounded by a high fence and a guard booth at the gate. On the last day of my contract I worked till about 3am just to clean up loose ends, doing unpaid work out of the goodness of my heart.

As I left at 3am, this meant that my gate pass had expired, along with my contract, 3 hours before. I had a - in retrospect hilarious - screaming argument with the guard on the gate, as I was trying to leave an area I was no longer authorised to be in, and he knew deep inside that it Just Wasn't Right.

The punchline is that some years later the fences and guard booths were pulled down, and the university is now just another bit of open city real estate!

#46 ::: Ms. Jen ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:29 AM:

In October of 2007, I arrived at Heathrow on a very early flight, by the time that the Paddington Express pulled into Paddington Station it was 8am and the first rays of morning sun were hitting the fabulous Victorian iron tracery work of the back (trackside) window. I was enchanted.

After I got off the train, I looked back to the grand back window and the light streaming through the tracery was lovely. I put my bags down, got my camera out, and went to take a photo when I was stopped by two security officers (uniformed) who told me that photography was not allowed in the station.

I was operating on very little sleep, too much travel, and my brain just blinked. "What?" Security insisted that I could not take a photo as it could be used by terrorists. Brain continues to blink. Finally, I mustered up some words and said to the younger of the two guards, "But you know that there is already hundreds of photos in the 'paddingtonstation' flickr tags right?" The young guard blushed, nodded, and looked ashamed. The older guard said, "Please move along." I did.

Now, every time I go through Paddington (4x since Oct.) I have made a point to take photos while arriving, in the station, and of the trains and then moblog them to flickr.

#47 ::: pb ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:30 AM:

Back in 1990 my (now ex-) wife and I honeymooned in Paris. The thing I remember most about our visit to the Louvre was the young woman whose job it was to yell "No flash!!" at random intervals in the alcove that housed the Venus de Milo.

Back then it seemed so intrusive and absurd. Simpler times.

#49 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:23 AM:

The only place I've ever been where security theater is more ridiculous than in the US was Heathrow, where a friendly guard advised me to carry my two computers to make room in my backpack for my camera and camera bag so I didn't violate the rules, while her co-worker was barking at me that I had to throw away at least one bag and its contents. I did get through the checkpoint, but I'm disinclined to travel through there ever again.

The first place I ever got grilled for taking photos was at the old post office in Asheville, NC, which is now a US District Court. Thankfully my friends (locals) dropped into their best Western NC accents and appeased the plainclothes guard. (To be fair, he was very courteous.)

@pb @47 - What I found amusing about the "No Flash" proclaimer was that they only yelled in English, when most of the flash-wielders were Japanese.

#50 ::: Kayjayoh ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:30 AM:

I can totally understand the desire to prevent oneself from being photographed. I myself hate being caught on film most of the time, which is one reason why I try to be behind the camera and also why I try to respect other people's wishes to not be photographed.

However, I can't imagine telling people that they can't take photos in and/or of a public space. I know it happens, but it still makes my brain hurt.

#51 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:55 AM:

pb: There is a reason museams disallow flash: the nature of the light damages the art. Not so much marble, but pigments in paintings.

#52 ::: pixelfish ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:58 AM:

Anthony@12: I took cell phone photos of that Federal building the ENTIRE TIME it was being built...never once got in trouble. (My boyfriend's apartment was just down the street--we walked by it every day.) I know other people have had problems in SF, but I never did.

I do, however, have a story about Dallas.

From March 2005:

Anyway, I have soured on Dallas as a city. I have acquired a parking ticket and been subtly threatened with the police, because you know, these days, you can't take pictures of big buildings. That's suspicious, don't you know.

We went to the Chase/J.P. Morgan building downtown. Lee used to work there in his days at Ionstorm. We went up to the Sky Lobby, which is open to the public. Keep in mind that not only is it open to the public, but people have receptions and weddings and whatnot up there all the time. Keep in mind too, that I have been up there before, taken pictures with the complicit knowledge of security guards, and emerged unscathed to tell the tale. (You can see the prior pictures at my DevArt gallery.) Keep in mind that on the way up in the elevator, we were asked by a fellow passenger if we were going up to take pictures, as if that was the most common and logical thing in the world. Nobody said anything. No signs were posted.

However, I had taken maybe two pictures, when I was accosted by a security guard and told not to. I was expecting that, because I saw him sidling over as I aimed the camera for my second picture. What I wasn't expecting was the injunction that this was because of 9/11. (Given that the time I had last been here was after 9/11, and the security guards let me take pictures without any problems, I was somewhat dubious that "it's been this way since 9-1-1.") I was also somewhat surprised to be told that I better not take any pictures downtown at any of the other buildings, or the Dallas Police would have to be called. The security guard, having delivered his ominous warning, went over and conferred with his fellow security guard, and both of them directed dark and dire looks at us.

So we left.

#53 ::: Giacomo ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 03:15 AM:

It's all about commercial sensitivity: the stalls try to protect their wares AND there's probably some sort of exclusive contract between the market managing company and professional photographers/postcard-makers.

#54 ::: Alison Plokta ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 03:21 AM:

I haven't blogged about this, for several reasons, but I got threatened with arrest for taking a photo at a railway station last week. I wasn't on my own time; if I had been I would have patiently spoken to British Transport Police and let them arrest me if they liked, after which I would have caused them a shedload of civil liberties trouble.

But the security goons told me it was illegal to take photos, which it isn't. They demanded I removed my photos, which they can't. They threatened me with arrest. They told me that by taking a photo of a member of their staff, I was breaking the Data Protection Act, which really offended me. The DPA is designed to protect individuals from the abuses of large companies; they were using it as a technique for large companies to abuse and threaten private individuals. They told me to stay where I was, which they can't; and when I started walking and pointed out to them that they couldn't touch me or stop me from boarding a train, they told me that if I boarded a train they'd charge me £3000 a minute for delaying it.

Eventually, of course, my desire to become a member of the Next Great Citizen's Army was exceeded by my desire to get to my meeting on time. I deleted my photos, and they let me catch my train. I do hope that the next generation of the iPhone will be tweakable to upload every photo to online storage as soon as it's taken.

Note I've used a none-too-complex pseudonym on this post.

#55 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:08 AM:

Parkinson's Law states that "work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion."

"Cyril Northcote Parkinson [said] that once a core organisation exists, it will perpetuate and expand itself regardless of the reason it came into being."

#56 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:22 AM:

#54 - Alison

Hmmm. Perhaps they could enlighten me how an image of a person held on a personal phone/camera/memory stick is subject to the Data Protection Act. It wasn't the last time I read it (and I have, dear reader, oh how I have)

As for 'No Photography' signs in markets etc; nothing to do with competitors, everything to do with the Inland Revenue and HM Customs and Excise.

#57 ::: Basho ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 05:26 AM:

This is all due to the police announcing that companies in the city should be concerned about terrorists photographing buildings as a precursor to attacking.

My company got a similar alert and immediately started watching for these terrorist killers...

...the fact that we are right next to the "gherkin" and everyone is taking photo's made the whole exercise futile and we gave up after a day.

'tis all bullshit.

#58 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 05:39 AM:

Remember, there are people in this city who will drive you out of town for money.

#59 ::: Chaz Brenchley ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 05:48 AM:

There's a line in an Iain M Banks short story, when a Culture character is confronted by a "No Photography" sign:

"Do these people think they own the light?"

#60 ::: Rodney ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 06:16 AM:

People who run market stalls don't like having their photo taken because they are all on the make. Their job is cash in hand and no doubt their not telling the tax man how much they realy make. And then there's the benefits they are scamming as well.

No evidence of them working please! So no Photos allright!

#61 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 06:22 AM:

Interesting choice of nom de net for the driveby, Rodney.

How's Del Boy keeping?

#62 ::: bryan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 06:27 AM:

"After they're done destroying the Church of Scientology, Anonymous needs to send a hundred camera-wielding Guy Fawkes to this place."

roombas equipped with cheap digital cameras.

#63 ::: Squirrel ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 06:30 AM:

Sorry, no privacy issues. If you're in a public place in Britain, you have no "right to privacy" against photography.

#64 ::: Simon Bradshaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 06:54 AM:

If anyone takes a camera off you and deletes pictures from it, then it may well be that they're committing an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 - specifically, unauthorised modification under Section 3. I'll have to look and see if there's any case law on this but my understanding is that a digital camera would fall within this legislation.

#65 ::: Jack V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:11 AM:

I once went to a local preview of Serenity. The cinema made you check mobile phones, because they might have cameras (which could copy the film). However (a) you weren't searched and (b) people with actual large professional cameras in camera holders went through ok. They concentrated so hard on the cell-phone exception they'd forgotten to actually ban cameras.

#66 ::: Calluna V. ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:16 AM:

When I visited the Central African Republic (1990), in the capital (Bangui), one pretty much didn't want to be seen carrying a camera, and certainly not taking any pictures with it, or the gendarmes would take and smash it. (The gendarmes were young men who were given uniforms and guns, but no salaries; the only income they had was from fees/fines they could levy and bribes. There's a small problem in this plan.) When we went for an evening stroll along the river side, with my brother explaining all the reasons one did not swim in the water, e.g., giardia, crocodiles, etc., we approached a water tower and were angrily waved away and shouted at until we crossed to the other side of the road. A water tower is a government installation; they couldn't allow people who might be spies to get close enough to take a good look.

It was, at that time, one of the poorest countries in the world. I think the near-hysterical fear of spies was an important way of...feeling important.

Why this kind of thing is now common in some of the richest countries in the world is another question, of course.

#67 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:17 AM:

Chaz Brenchley @ 59... "Do these people think they own the light?"

My eyes! My eyes!

#68 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:36 AM:

Rodney @ 60... Hmm... So, merchants wouldn't want to be photographed because the photographic evidence thus collated would allow the govt to find out how much money the merchants really make? (This reminds me of how clues were already out there that might have prevented 9/11, but thy were ignored or missed because of all the extraneous data. So, of course the govt's solution was to get more information to plod thru.) I don't know. This sounds like the premise for a skit by Monty Python's Flying Circus, or for an episode of Doctor Who with Simon Pegg as the villainous govt all-seeing eye.

#69 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:39 AM:

"After they're done destroying the Church of Scientology, Anonymous needs to send a hundred camera-wielding Guy Fawkes to this place."

roombas equipped with cheap digital cameras.

I think you might be able to get government funding for this ingenious scheme to clean up the streets.

#70 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 07:44 AM:

Admittedly a long time ago, when I worked a summer job in high school for a company that did traffic analysis for large markets, the stores' real (as opposed to the stated) reason for not allowing photographs was simply that they didn't want anyone getting physical evidence of the many egregious violations of health, safety, and food handling laws. This was in the US, mostly the Northeast.

#71 ::: Benedict Leigh ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 08:02 AM:

Serge @ 68

Although it seems paranoid on the part of the merchants it's a fear the government encourages.

See here for more details. This is an official government poster that plays on this sort of fear. It's part of an increasing and unpleasant campaign against people receiving benefits which - in my view - ignores the integral value of social benefits to civilisation.

#72 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 08:49 AM:

Benedict in #71:

The poster warns benefit thieves. What, exactly, is a "benefit thief?"

#73 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:10 AM:

The security guard obviously forgot to mention that you were stealing the market's soul by taking its picture.

#74 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:23 AM:

There is no policy advanced by preventing you taking that photograph, except to have a generation grow up with the technology to take photographs anywhere anytime but the ingrained belief that you may only take them at specific permitted times and places.

Today's photograph hurts nothing, sooner or later some photograph someone doesn't take because they were intimidated today might be able to prove someone's innocence and hurt those in power.

The habit of being afraid benefits those who can play to that. A fearful population is an easily cowed population, a cowed population is easily led, and once decieved, continues to decieve itself.

Alison's comment above could be a scene straight out of Nineteen Seventy Four.

#75 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:24 AM:

Benedict Leigh @ 71... it's a fear the government encourages

That fear seems to operate under the assumption that people won't think things thru. Then again, that has been shown to happen, especially when the powers-that-be encourage an environment of fear.

Bill Higgins @ 72... I suppose that a benefit thief is the same thing as Ronnie Raygun's welfare queen. The difference, according to that ad that Benedict linked to, is that the thief walks while the queen drives a Cadillac.

#76 ::: taryn-vee burnett ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:26 AM:

I was out photographing old and new buildings in London one early morning a few years back for a photography course I was on and was at the tower of london - well technically the building directly west of the tower of london and wanted to take a pic of the tower reflected in the plate glass windows... I was promptly surrounded by 4 security guards and asked to leave..

I did some research and found out they were in the wrong as i was on a public highway and went back and complained to the head of security armed with documents on my rights.

I cant remember where i found the original document - but heres a link to a pdf of your rights as a photographer...

#77 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:38 AM:

Bruce, as a farmer, for over 20 years I have had to follow government rules on the storage of pesticides, such as RoundUp, Monsanto's branded version of glyphosate.

One of the general rules is that the pesticides cannot be stored in the same building as food.

And, every year since I was told of this rule, I have seen the supermarkets filling shelves with gardening products, including verious brands of glyphosate, other herbicides, insecticides, and molluscicides.

On occasion, I've known that there have been spillages of these pesticides--the scents can be very distinctive--and the customers will cheerfully dump then in amongst their shopping.

So, yes, I can quite believe that the supermarkets don't want anyone accidentally collecting evidence.

And, when the PA system invites all available staff to the rumble on aisle three, maybe one should be careful.

#78 ::: lieutenant 030 ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:50 AM:

From Lieutenant 030

to Bill #72;

A benefit thief is somebody in the UK that claims monetary support from the Government whilst they are also earning money from either full time or 'cash in hand' employment. This support is called benefit.

What we need is a(camera)flash mob to go to Spitalfields and take pictues en masse.

#79 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:55 AM:

Tazistan Jan @28, the first time I went to see the USS Constitution, it was the March after 9/11. I went with a couple of friends, one of whom had a tiny, keychain-sized Swiss Army knife. After rifling through our wallets (like, literally through every card and bill in there), they told him he could either surrender his tiny knife or not board the ship. He chose not to board the ship, as he'd seen it before.

I have never seen him so disgusted. He didn't say it to the nice sailors doing the frisking, but afterwards there was much "Because I'm going to hijack Old Ironsides with my two-inch knife, sail it out into Boston Harbor all by myself, and....shoot the two decorative cannonballs they have on board? With no gunpowder? So I'm going to throw two cannonballs at the city."

#80 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:24 AM:

Caroline @ 79... Because I'm going to hijack Old Ironsides with my two-inch knife, sail it out into Boston Harbor all by myself, and....shoot the two decorative cannonballs

I can see Jim Macdonald doing that.

#81 ::: Mark Satola ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:27 AM:


What would Abbie Hoffman do?

I imagine he'd take a nice portfolio of pictures of the security goon bursting a blood vessel over the whole affair. As the control apparatus revs up, disobedience becomes the obligation of those committed to civil liberty.

#82 ::: jstewart ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:32 AM:

Ginger @42:

Security theater is why I absolutely hate air travel. I'd rather drive or take the train than allow myself to be subjected to the whims of idiots with guns and an overinflated sense of importance.

At first I wasn't sure whether you meant the security guards or the terrorists.

#83 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:35 AM:

terry karney @ 31 ... oddly enough I ended up in a "Fine, let's call the cops then" situation yesterday (along with a minor case of hypothermia from standing about outside). It was resolved without severe idiocy, but - well - not impressed.

All that aside - when you give otherwise powerless people some area in which they do have power, it's exceedingly common for that power to be abused. Witness many volunteer organizations...

#84 ::: Flippanter ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 11:13 AM:

Maybe the market's security staff are just big fans of Cory, don't produce anything in the way of art or literature that he'd find interesting but hope to be the subject of a BoingBoing post someday?

#85 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 11:22 AM:

This kind of security is the spirit of the age. I remember a friend of mine pointing out that, as a result of various school shooting/drugs/what-have-you scares involving high school kids, we were passing a whole generation through the schools who would be accustomed to police-state type intrusive crap in their youth. (Metal detectors, armed policemen at the doors, see-through mesh bookbags, etc.) And those kids would grow up feeling like this was normal, and would be very easy to sell on extending those same security measures to every part of daily life.

In fact, something worse happened. We got the school kids used to having no rights and living with police-state measures. (This didn't stop the already incredibly rare school shootings, but it didn't have to.) We also got the folks at the top used to secured buildings for their private or government employers, airport security checks, and courthouse security checks. All with a double helping of "papers, please" and "no joking allowed" and dimwitted rent-a-cops with the power to make your life very hard if you didn't obey their idiotic demands. (Yep, you'll have to hand over your Swiss Army Knife with the inch long blade and your toenail clippers. Yep, you'll have to hand over your camera or expose the film or delete the pictures off the memory. Not because it makes sense. Because we told you to. This is a very important lesson in how our relationship with the government (and more generally, uniformed folks with guns) is changing.

Given what America is becoming, I expect that learning to obey when uniformed dimwits bark stupid orders at you is important. It's a valuable skill we'll need in the next thirty years.

I'm so old, I remember when the guys in the movies that demanded "papers, please" were the bad guys. And the governments that routinely wiretapped their citizens' phone calls, tracked their library books, and otherwise spied on them were the bad guys, the Commies and Facists that we could thank God weren't running our country. Similarly, in the movies, the guys who tortured and mistreated prisoners, and threatened to punish the families of prisoners to get them to talk, were the unambiguous bad guys. Ah, but that was in another age. Now, they're the Heroes Protecting the State.

#86 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 11:55 AM:

albatross, they really are the heroes protecting the state.

Death to such a state, I say.

#87 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:07 PM:

(The gendarmes were young men who were given uniforms and guns, but no salaries; the only income they had was from fees/fines they could levy and bribes. There's a small problem in this plan.)

I see what you are saying here, but perhaps you have the wrong plan in mind. If (say) you have an interest in imposing random (small- or large-scale) terror on a population as cheaply as possible, this seems an excellent plan. It's just that we are tied to our modern expectations of fairness and democracy and legal oversight.

A system of widespread corruption is arguably very efficient at keeping dictators in power. It's largely how the Roman empire worked. The worrying thing for me in Patrick's post is the evidence of what some people will do unbribed.

#88 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:07 PM:

jstewart @82: There's a difference?

There's video of another pair of London cops trying to prevent photography, plus commentary, is here. There's apparently a petition up regarding this. As the blogger who linked it (Siege at Nerve) titled it, "Your camera is a weapon. Use it."

I recall hearing of photographers being harassed for taking pictures of buildings in San Francisco before, but I don't have references handy, and I'd be very surprised if photographers in Boston hadn't been harassed as well. Probably every major US city. Which doesn't make it right.

I'm not /sure/ if Spitalfields Market falls under the same rules -- if it qualifies as public property -- but I can't come up with any good reasons to prevent photography there regardless.

I don't think Brian @7 was offering fear of competitors taking photographs with intent to copy as a *valid* reason for stores to prevent photography, just a justification they might use. ("...while most of these people don't run around trying to copy competitors this way, it's only because they are the best and wisest of their field.") Ferchrissakes, if it was a product they wanted to copy, their competitors could just *buy* one and document it. (And they do -- see the photographed disassemblies of Apple products. Protecting that is what patents and trademarks are for.) And if it's display style their competitors want to copy, all that's needed is someone with a decent memory to visit. Protecting it by banning photography is futile.

#89 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:12 PM:

Also, that is an awfully nice picture, Patrick, and I'm glad you didn't delete it. I love the framing and the strong lines.

#90 ::: Katsu ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:15 PM:

My brother's had the same experience, taking pictures of the World Trade Center in downtown Denver. It was double BS, considering he was taking the photos from the street, which is public property. He also got the same line from a hopped-up little security guard at a different building, which was owned by the same company. (Transwestern.)

It's just idiotic. The outside of a building is open for public view, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It's not like taking a photo of it is going to steal a bit of the building's soul or something. Maybe it's just an excuse for these companies to act far more important than they really are.

#91 ::: Richard Anderson ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:18 PM:

What astonishes me is the market itself, which looks as warm and inviting as a mausoleum. Clueless security guards aside, why would someone want to linger in this space? Hardly a surprise that there're only one or two people in sight....

#92 ::: Rob Hansen ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:22 PM:

Ginger @42:

Security theater is why I absolutely hate air travel. I'd rather drive or take the train than allow myself to be subjected to the whims of idiots with guns and an overinflated sense of importance

This is why I don't want to visit the US again until the TSA is seriously reined in. Much as there are people over there I'd love to see, the aggravation (and sometimes much worse) just isn't worth it. Millions of missing overseas tourists apparently agree with me.

#93 ::: Emily Weise ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:25 PM:

@47 pb:

That's because flashes actually do ruin artwork. The Mona Lisa is behind glass that is designed to protect it from tourists who don't pay any attention to the signs around explaining that using a flash can harm the art, and it's still getting destroyed. People don't know how to work their own cameras.

#94 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:29 PM:

Caroline: (#79) I went to see the USS Constitution in 1999. I was subjected to as detailed a search (though the officer in charge got upset with me for holdimg up the line by showing the Seaman where he was missing things. A bit of security theater even then).

They were looking for sharp things, not for fear of highjacking, but vandalism. They don't want people carving into the wood of the ship, or snipping bits of rope for souveniers.

#95 ::: deathbird ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:37 PM:

It's not so bad here in the land of Oz, but when I was working at Russell Offices (Australia's answer to the Pentagon), the visiting-from-out-of-state parents of one of my friends were nabbed by security for photographing the 'chicken on a stick'* in Blamey Square.

It's a public monument and generally portrayed as a tourist attraction. The damn thing is available on postcards, for crying out loud!

(and on the web):

*okay, so it's really called the Australian-American Friendship Memorial and the chicken is an eagle...

#96 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:40 PM:

Emily Weisse; Some of that (lack of knowing how to work the equipment) is the fault of the equipment.

Cameras with auto-flash, and no way to defeat it (save a finger over the strobe) are why stadia look like sparklers.

I don't know how they'd implement it, but if I were running a museum, there would either be a ban on all cameras, or a knowledgeable person who took the time to check each one that came in, explained the reason for no flash, and told the patron that any use of flash would lead to ejection.

I'd also have lots of guards who know what to look for.

The Huntington Gardens (one of my favortite haunts in LA) has some of this. No use of tripods in buildings. No flash in buildings. Artwork one can walk right up to.

Security guards who can see pretty much everything. Who will talk to you about the art. Who will (politely) tell you not to touch (my companion was indicating some detail on a chair).

If you try to use a flash. They will take your camera for the duration of your stay. You can claim it at the entrance.

#97 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:42 PM:

The world is full of terrorist threats to our security -- nipple rings and photographers apparently being among the most serious. My own photographic encounter with a security guard at a federal courthouse back here in Wisconsin resulted in my identifying myself, an odd conversation, but no deletion. I emerged with a photo of the security guard's shadow: My shadow is the one with the camera. The other one is the suspicious security guard.

#98 ::: Donna ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:49 PM:

First- Albatross, I loved your post. totally agree and it grieves me deeply to the bottom of my soul. I prefer having my old illusions about American courage and Constitutional rights. They are now gone.

I am/was a passionate amature photographer.

Aprox six weeks after 9/11, I decided that I would try to go out and do something to get my life back to some semblance of normal.

I took my camera to downtown Atlanta, (where I live), and began photographing the Atlanta Gift Mart from the street. The building has some interesting round external cement staircases. I loved the repetition in B&W.

I looked up and could see a small crowd of people staring at me out the windows of the ground floor.

A cop began to walk toward me.

He said "Lady, Ive got a bunch of terrified customers in the building. Why are you taking pictures?" Then he hauled me into his security supervisor.

I could not believe it. Now,I was terrified. The Atlanta Gift Mart is a primary terrorist target? Oh, honey, please.

To make a long story short, the only way I got out of going to jail for questioning was the fact that my husband is prominent attorney and civic leader in the city. Not the fact that I was photographing from the street in an unconcealed manner, or that I am a middle-aged female, or that what I was doing is legal. But it took twenty minutes of talking to the Supervisor to get me out of it.

To this day, my husband thinks that this story is somewhat funny. I don't. I felt like I was being raped. I no longer always assume that the law and order guys are right or even telling the story in a fair and truthful manner. And I Goddamned hate Republicans who have used fear and lies to win so many elections.

It also explains so much to me about the subsequent turn of this country. This is why we love strong military guys. At heart, we are a terrified mass. That is why we hide behind our big bombers, vote for blustery asshole politicians and tolerate the loss of our freedoms. We use this to hide the fact that we are a frightened nation of sheep.

Sheep must love their shepherd. He keeps them safe, dry and fed. They just ignore the fact that sooner or later he is the one who leads them to the slaughter... for his own benefit.

#99 ::: Jasper Milvain ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:51 PM:

In London, it may be hard to tell new, menacing security theatre from our good old-fashioned English petty-mindedness. The default attitude comes with a song, which Google tells me I must have read in George Orwell:

For you can't do that there 'ere,
No, you can't do that there, 'ere;
Anywhere else you can do that there
But you can't do that there 'ere!

As it happens, a lot of the railway stations have policies specifically permitting personal photography: Network Rail, which I think runs most of the big London mainline stations, says it's all right as long as you don't sell your images or - classy touch - photograph the CCTV cameras; and London Underground is fine as long as you're not using flash or a tripod. But I wouldn't back myself to argue the case to a security guard.

#100 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 12:57 PM:

Emily Weise #93: People don't know how to work their own cameras.

Or they get distracted and forget. I'm an art historian by training, and even I have had a couple of "camera malfunction" incidents, usually in Italian churches, simply because the damn camera came up with flash enabled as the default. Sort of the reverse of forgetting to take off the lens cap. I now have a nicer camera that makes it impossible to open up the camera and start shooting with the flash already on--you have to raise the little flash compartment. Works a treat.

#101 ::: Emily Weise ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:00 PM:

Terry @96:

There is no camera that I am aware of that has an auto-flash with no mechanism to turn it off. People are not willing to take a few minutes to read a manual or understand how to use their cameras, which is NOT the fault of the equipment (putting aside variations on menu choices and the like. I agree that software is not always optimally designed).

There are so many hundreds upon hundreds of people that roll through the Louvre that it would actually be impossible to work out that kind of plan on their own.

Interesting, though, that they yell that warning in English. I wonder how they worked out that it was the English-speaking tourists who were fucking everything up?

#102 ::: Emily Weise ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:01 PM:

Joann @101:

Yes! The same kind of forgetting that allows normally very pleasant and respectful people such as myself to neglect to turn off their cell phone ringer in a movie theater.

#103 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:08 PM:

albatross #85: Have you read Francine Prose's After? You just pretty much described it, and methinks you would like it.

Oh, and this: I remember when the guys in the movies that demanded "papers, please" were the bad guys.

Yes. I often wonder how many people my age--or, more particularly, people five to ten years younger than me--have seen those movies, and what their reaction would be if they were shown them. I'm finding it increasingly hard to imagine what the world must look like to people who were born only slightly later than I was, and that's scary.

#104 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:12 PM:

Emily Weise #101: I haven't used one since the advent of digital, but when I was using them disposable cameras tended to be autoflash with no other option. I bet a lot of touristy types use them.

#105 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:17 PM:

What's really amusing about the 'no photography' rule in that market is that, more than likely, there are security cameras recording every bit of the place, 24/7.

Your encounter with the guard is probably immortalized for future prosecution should something unfortunate occur.

#106 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:20 PM:

The last time I was in Vancouver (2006) I spent quite some time--sans flash--photographing the interior of the Cathedral Place building right across the street from our hotel, with particular reference to a large glass and metal sculpture ("Ancient Navigational Device", a super-sized riff on the Antikythera Mexhanism) that had caught my fancy on a previous trip. The security guard was watchful but felt no cause to intervene, perhaps because it was Saturday afternoon.

#107 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:25 PM:

Emily #102:

Or even worse, a musical event. I was at a noontime concert the other day, realized just after the music began that I had forgotten to turn off my phone, and *didn't do anything about it*. Why? Because my cheap pay-as-you-go phone plays a tune when it is being turned off, a song that there is no way to silence.

#108 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:28 PM:

@ joann on # 107 -

Sure there is. Just pop the battery.

#109 ::: Emily Weise ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:36 PM:

Ethan #104:

Every disposable film camera I have ever seen had a button you had to hold down to charge the flash. Taking a picture without the flash is really easy -- just don't charge it.

#110 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 01:40 PM:

Josh #108:

Blush. Being a software person, I looked for a software solution. (Although I should mention that I normally find changing batteries on small devices to be an exercise in extreme frustration and clumsiness, generally accompanied by loud curses as I break yet another fingernail. So I don't even think in those directions anyway.)

#111 ::: Simon Bradshaw ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 02:03 PM:

Bill @72

What's a Benefit Thief? Well, I suppose an example would be the nice middle-aged chap who was an occasional handyman for an elderly female relative of mine. He was very helpful and always did a good job, so I once offered to help pay for a bit of work he was doing for EFR. When I started writing a cheque out for EFR to give to him, she explained that no, he always got paid cash-in-hand. Because (and EFR turned out to be quite aware of this) as far as HM Govt were concerned, he was unemployed and too disabled to work and so large payments into his bank account might make things "awkward" for him.

I agreed that they probably would. I also noted, as tactfully as I could, that it was this sort of thing that made it "awkward" for my then-wife to get disability benefit at all, even though she actually was disabled.

As someone who also strongly believes in social benefits, I have big issues with welfare cheats - they're not stealing from 'the system', they're taking money from their fellow citizens.

#112 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 02:28 PM:

joann @ 110... Heheheh... I think there was an episode of Eureka where some device was starting to malfunction and dire things would happen if nothing was done. Everybody started thinking of which protocol to use to shut the machine down, but all possibilities would take too long. In comes in sherriff Jack, who just pulled the plug. (Maybe I imagined that story, but, if it didn't happen, it should have.)

#113 ::: Steve C. ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 02:35 PM:

During the last eclipse trip I went on, they made sure to remind the people to turn off their flashes before taking pictures of the eclipsed sun; because, as they said, no matter how powerful your flash is, it's just not gonna illuminate the moon.

#114 ::: Benedict Leigh ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 02:53 PM:


"benefit thieves" is used, I think, as a rhetorical device to stigmatise people claiming benefits. Whilst I agree with Simon Bradshaw @ 111 that claiming money you're not entitled to steals from your fellow citizens most of the evidence shows that overclaiming / fraudulent claims are minor (compared to the losses from tax avoidance). The complexity of rules for disability benefits (in the UK) mean that people who could do small amounts of useful work either don't, or volunteer, or work illegally (this is especially true if your illness is cyclical). This seems a bad idea and a waste of talent.

#115 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 02:59 PM:

I've skipped a bit, and thus possibly someone else has already said this more succinctly, but here goes.

The world is too complex to understand. Improved communications makes this much, much harder to ignore than the prevailing village-customs used to do, and don't think the rich and powerful don't have village customs and aren't cranky about it when they are forced to look outside and notice that they have no real idea just exactly what is going on.

Everybody is helpless, all the time. (This is not the same as hapless.) It used to be that most people worked, or had worked, the sort of hard manual labour job, or job with large livestock, or outside job that forces you to come to an accommodation with this awareness; the wind blows, blizzards happen, kicks from horses can kill you, plan and cope as you can.

The primary present cause of helplessness in the US (and increasingly in other "First World" nations) is not the environment, but large and indifferent organizations that regard individual people as something between an annoyance and a food source. It is not acceptable to publically acknowledge this, nor the erosion of the rule of law and mechanisms of rights which were intended to prevent such a state of affairs.

So everybody is aware that there's stuff going on they don't know about, and that some of it is (effectively) malicious, and that the mechanisms that are supposed to protect them aren't reliable.

You can react to that by trying to fix the mechanisms that protect you; you can react to that by working on the great 'build an external brain to understand this stuff with' project called science; you can react to that by striving to achieve a sort of balanced Zen detachment.

If you can believe that you can fix the mechanisms by making them very, very simple, simple enough that you're comfortable with understanding them even when you're frightened, that gets you away from feeling helpless and away from feeling confused and it's much, much easier than any of the three approaches which produce tangible good results. So it has a huge selective advantage, in an environment that is not yet all that actually dangerous -- it's much less work, so you have lots more energy and effort left over for other things.

So you get the whole "fear makes you stupid; iterate" process of people doing their best to solve the problem of not understanding what's going on, or why, by simplification through appeal to authority. Through the creation of authority; you don't have to understand, you just have to follow the rules. It's -- in a cognitive load sense, in a systematic sense of difficulties of decision and control -- very, very easy.

It's a long term utter disaster, but that doesn't keep it from spreading like a very sincere fungus in the short term.

#117 ::: Leigh ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 03:13 PM:

I got hassled for drawing an escalator in a subway station in San Francisco.

#118 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 03:16 PM:

Emily Weise #109: Oops, I should have been more complicated originally...with the ones I used at least, if you charged the flash and took a picture with it, the flash would automatically recharge and stay that way for a couple hours, no matter what you wanted the camera to do. So if you need the flash for one picture and then want to not use it later, you're out of luck.

#119 ::: Kawika Holbrook ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:10 PM:

Bring along a can of mace. When a guard tries to take your camera unfairly, yell "Thief" and spray him in the face. When people stop to watch the man writhing in pain on the crowd, clutch your camera close to your chest and cry, "This was a gift from my grandmother before she died and that thief tried to steal it. Shame! Shame on you. I'm taking your picture and giving it to the authorities." And then take the guard's photo as he tries in vain to wipe the pain from his eyes. You might go to jail, but I would enjoy looking at the photo on Flickr and think warmly of my small effort here to make the world a happier place.

#120 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:36 PM:

Serge #112:

Then we would both be hallucinating. Somewhere in the first season, I'd think--I have a better memory for them, perhaps because I watched them later, on DVD.

#121 ::: marek ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 04:41 PM:

Jasper @99 - The London Underground may be a less hostile place than you imagine. A few years back (before 2005, but definitely after 2001), I was taking a visiting architecture student on a tour of the stations on the Jubilee line (pretty much every station from Westminster to Stratford has jaw dropping moments). At one of the stations - probably Bermondsey - on a totally deserted platform, my visitor took a flash photograph. Within a few seconds, a disembodied voice echoed round the station, "photography is allowed throughout the underground, but the use of flash is not permitted". In both phrase and tone it was like any other announcement: a piece of information we might find useful, not an admonition, however much we knew it was directed at us.

#122 ::: martyn44 ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 05:30 PM:

In classical, subversive terrorist theory, the whole point of the exercise is to make your opponent so deprive the population of their traditional freedoms that they rise up and overthrow the oppressive regime.

The question we have to ask is, which set of terrorists are winning?

It is useful to consider British colonial history and the number of 'terrorists' who became heads of state (up to and including Saint Nelson) or even Deputy Chief Ministers (stand up Martin McGuinness)

#123 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 08:19 PM:

martyn44 #122:

Uprisings seem very unlikely, as the terror is a means of getting and keeping voters and customers.

#124 ::: Alex ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 09:36 PM:

If I was a terrorist planning to attack the FooBar building, I'd probably take my pictures from the back of a car with tinted windows. I'd not only take still photos, I shoot some video too, and nobody would ever see me. Then I'd rent an office in the building across the street and learn everything I could about the neighborhood, including the patrol behaviors of the police and security goons. Further, I'd put my cell-phone into camera mode and find an excuse to walk into the building. I'd search for pictures of the building on Flickr, and Google images, and I'd happily peruse Google Earth on a stolen account...

If I was in the US, I'd call one of the organizations (usually run by a consortium of companies with pipes and wires that run underground) and arrange for the streets to be marked to show the locations of gas, electrical, sewage, phone, cable, and water.

That's not even counting the stuff you can do at the library and the hall of records.

How dumb do you have to be to think some guy with a camera is a terrorist?


#125 ::: Vidiot ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:14 PM:

One problem about cheerfully offering to call the cops to resolve this sort of situation is that the cops are frequently the instigators of such. I've twice been stopped for taking pictures in the New York subway -- such photography is explicitly permitted under MTA regs, as long as you're not using tripods/lights/reflectors or any other ancillary equipment, and you're not blocking anyone's access.

One time, a cop told me flat-out that what I was doing was illegal (I later got letters from the MTA and NYPD confirming that I wasn't breaking any laws), and the other time, the cops just smiled and said "Everything changed on 9/11" when I asked them if I was breaking any laws. The lieutenant who stopped me also said that it wasn't illegal, but that "al-Qaeda sometimes hires guys that look like you."

I don't appreciate being told I'm breaking nonexistent laws, and I don't appreciate being told implicitly that I'm suspected of aiding terrorists. I wish there's something I could do, but the cops hold all the cards. I could have insisted that I didn't have to give them ID when asked (I didn't -- this was not a Terry stop), but I have a sneaking (and a sinking) feeling that I'd have gone to jail if I'd insisted on my rights.

In a free society, you should not have to make the decision between exercising your rights and going to jail.

#126 ::: Older ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 10:36 PM:

I have recently become a bankruptcy auctioneer (a growth industry these days, no fooling). The law requires that the auctions take place in the lobbies of County Courthouses. So . . . I work in two counties. In one, I just, y'know, open the door and walk right into the lobby. In the other, I have to pass through a security gate. I take off all the metal I'm wearing, put all my stuff in a tray and pass it through an x-ray machine. I myself pass through a gate which sounds an alarm, the meaning of which is "Beware! This person has artificial hips!" And I have to give the guard my scissors to keep for me until I leave. These are primary school scissors with no sharp points. Cause, y'know, a kindergartener might stick up the judge or something.

Before I took this job, I had resolved never to have business in the courthouse ever again, but I had to change my mind, alas.

#127 ::: B. Durbin ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 11:25 PM:

To my chagrin, I took flash photos at the Green Show in Ashland until a security type came up and (nicely) asked me not to. That was an older digital that went to flash automatically when it started up.

I like my new one— it stays on the mode you leave it in, and it even has a "museum" mode that not only takes off the flash, it removes the little fake lens-snap sound so you only hear a tiny sound as the real lens clicks.

The Smithsonian travelling exhibit makes you check your camera because too many people forget about the flash, and most of the objects in the exhibit are apt to severe damage from light (cloth, the Star Spangled Banner for example.)

Malls won't let you film them without permission, though we managed to get away with our tapes in college since they weren't fast enough. "Oh, we were just leaving." Boring building anyway, but a nice establishing shot for our story.

#128 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: March 31, 2008, 11:27 PM:

Vidiot 125: In a free society, you should not have to make the decision between exercising your rights and going to jail.

I would go so far as to say that in a truly free society, you NEVER have to choose between exercising your rights and staying out of jail.

#129 ::: Margaret Organ-Kean ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 12:22 AM:

Alex @ 124

Just for the heck of it, I googled 'federal building photographs'. The first thing that came up was a stock photography company's offer of a disc full of the things.

Also, speaking of courthouse searches, would someone please explain to me just what they thought I was going to do with a pair of jewelry needlenose pliers with lavendar handles? Pinch a judge?

#130 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 01:43 AM:

Since no one else has mentioned it, I'd like to point out that there's a good reason for shops which sell artwork and fine crafts from local artists to forbid photography. You can't tell who is just a tourist and who's taking photos to send to companies in China that make mass-production copies of art. This is a huge problem for craftspeople in general, especially those who make one-of-a-kind or limited-run items. Pick up any professional magazine for that market and you'll probably see an article about it. After all, why should customers pay a fair price for your time and labor on those hand-carved candle sconces when they can get an exact copy at the department store for $20?

#131 ::: Nick Caldwell ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 05:41 AM:

Lee@130 -- I'm not sure even that's a great reason to ban photography. If you've got enough cash to be out and about scouting for products to photographically steal and mass-market, you've certainly got enough cash to buy an item, take it to a hotel room, and photograph the crap out of it for even more flawless duplication later.

#132 ::: Cory Doctorow ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 07:49 AM:

Lee, you're basically saying that the attack that this security measure prevents is the dedicated but easily discouraged pirate: the kind of guy who would take a photo and ramp up an entire factory's worth of production and marketing, putting the original artisan out of business; but who is so easily discouraged by having to buy whatever he's cloning that he shrugs his shoulders and walks away.

Do you really believe that such a person exists?

#133 ::: SimonC ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 07:51 AM:

Lee @ 130 - some of them also ban photography because they're rip-off merchants. The shitehawks in Camden High Street who sell bootleg prints of some of my Banksy photos have a very prominent 'NO PHOTOGRAPHY' sign, possibly due to the fact that I'd been regularly photographing my work for sale on their shelves...

#134 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 09:12 AM:

hmmmm.... overzealous security, could it be another example of The Lucifer Effect?

#135 ::: Steve ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 11:14 AM:

Now, if it had been some of the dodgier markets up here in Scotland, I can see why they wouldn't want pictures taken of the piles of dodgy DVDs and CD-ROMs of pirated software, but the request to not take pictures would have been a little more vigorous....

#136 ::: R. M. Koske ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 02:00 PM:

#101, Emily Weise -

Sure, there's a way to turn off the flash on my camera. And if the camera automatically powers down and I turn it back on, the flash is on again. If I switch from the "indoor" setting to the "kids and pets" setting (best for low-light no-flash pictures) the flash comes on again. I know how to turn the flash off, and I do. A lot. Unfortunately, sometimes I forget that just because I turned it off five minutes ago, that doesn't mean it is off now.

(Most often, this happens when I'm taking pictures of our kitty, who really hates getting a flash in the eyes, poor guy.)

#137 ::: candle ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 04:16 PM:

I got hassled for drawing an escalator in a subway station in San Francisco.

Leigh at #117 is not alone - buried in this article in Saturday's Guardian Review is the observation that the journalist was stopped by a security guard from drawing the footbridge at King's Cross station.

As it happens, the print version of the article was illustrated by a photograph of the bridge.

(Also, see the "I was assualted by this man..." particle, unless everyone has seen it already and thought it too obvious to mention.)

#138 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 06:44 PM:

Nick, #131: I agree that there's no good way to guard against someone buying an item with the intention of copying it. But the people who take photos for bootlegging are not usually doing it on their own account; they're just hirelings, and not being given the money to buy expensive artwork. Photos are cheap.

Cory, #132: Nice strawman. You are, of course, free to believe that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about -- but I flat guarantee you that there's not a trade show in the crafts business which allows photography by random attendees, and that's one of the reasons why. And trade shows are about (licensed) mass-marketing, so it's hardly surprising that galleries and individual artists might follow suit.

#139 ::: David Harmon ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 07:49 PM:

Albatross @#85:

Amen! Some points you missed: As noted by others, forbidding people to take pictures of things prevents them from documenting not just assorted abuses (besides Bruce @#70 and Dave Bell @#77, consider police brutality), but reality in general.

Remember what the protagonist's job was in 1984? That gets a lot easier if you don't let private citizens take their own photographs of public areas!

#140 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 09:51 PM:

Lee @ 138 Nice strawman. You are, of course, free to believe that I don't know what the hell I'm talking about -- but I flat guarantee you that there's not a trade show in the crafts business which allows photography by random attendees, and that's one of the reasons why. And trade shows are about (licensed) mass-marketing, so it's hardly surprising that galleries and individual artists might follow suit.

We aren't talking about a trade show (which, incidentally, typically would fall under the umbrella of a private event, even if they let in members of the public), we're talking about a stall in a shopping center. A public space by nature.

Still, your argument doesn't completely negate Cory and Nick's point. If someone is determined to steal your images in order to duplicate your work, they will. The can buy a hidden camera, take a picture from an angle where you can't see them, or just wait until your back is turned.

Oddly, this is the same argument made about the sharing of music via the internet. The producers try to make it harder for their images to be copied, but since they can never stay ahead of the determined pirate or infringer, then the pirates eventually win.

Of course, I'm sure Cory could tell you all about the fact that a person's work must get wide distribution and recognition before limited editions become valuable, making the attempts to enforce artificial limits on artwork nearly meaningless. After all, a print of the Mona Lisa does not decrease the worth of the original.

By demanding that a potential customer follow these strictures, you make it less likely that they'll market by word of mouth and by sharing the images. With less exposure, you'll have a harder time finding customers.

Of course, this isn't a personal attack, despite your response to Cory and Nick. And also, just in case you want to point out that I "don't know what the hell I'm talking about," I would point out that you've given me no reason to believe you over someone that I know has spent years dealing with issues of copyright and free speech.

#141 ::: Caroline ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:01 PM:

Steve C. @ 113: Hahaha. That takes it a step farther from what I usually say when I see people taking flash photos of buildings in the dark. "MY flash is big enough to light up the WHOLE BUILDING! FOOM!" (imitating the sound of some sort of nuclear explosion, you understand).

Henceforward I will say "MY flash is big enough to light up the MOON! Muahahahaha! FOOM!"

(I say this quietly to my boyfriend, and then we giggle to ourselves.)

I will be in San Francisco in May, and am considering whether to take photographs and risk harassment, arrest, tasing and imprisonment 3000 miles from anyone who could help me, or just buy postcards. (I'm being melodramatic, but really, I worry about tangling with the law so far from my family.)

#142 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:32 PM:

Caroline @ 141... FOOM!" (imitating the sound of some sort of nuclear explosion, you understand).

I thought that 'FOOM' was the onomatopeia for gasoline being lit up.

#143 ::: Craig R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:36 PM:

I still maintain that it's absurd to try to ban photography of the outside of buildings. There are always ways to do so, and blaming idiot rules on "terrorism" is a lie.

Several years ago a nesting owl had taken up residence in a tree outside the building where my wife was working. So I decided that it would be good to get the picture of the thing.

Well, a (very polite) security guard came out and told me that I couldn't do that (in somewhat explanation for her attitude was that it was a bio-research firm and they may have been worried about Luddite-wannabes)

Because my wife worked there and I didn't want to cause her trouble (one of the true joys about "right-to-work" laws and that almost everybody is really engaged in employment-at-will is that in a dispute such as harassment by a co-worker it is all too simple for a company to just fire both parties, regardless of the merits) I didn't make an issue of it.

If I'd really been interested in taking pictures of their *building* I'd have gone up to an upper floor of the hospital parking garage right next door, and would have had no difficulty getting very good images.

What I found more amusing than frustrating was that I was setting up to take pictures with my back to the building.

The prohibition against photography in public places is even more absurd when, as actually thought through, it will "stop terrorism" as well as torturing innocents will, or doing profiling of travelers (as somebody, a few years back, helpfully provided that maths to show that profiling more likely ups the odds for a successful terrorist action).

All you need is to recruit, or train, somebody with a good "eye," a fair short-term memory, and who knows how to sketch and draw.

Walk leisurely through the train station, walk outside to a waiting automobile, and take out the pencils and pad.

If *I* can think of that, so can the "bad guys"

#144 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:41 PM:

I guess I'm officially an Old Fart.

I see FOOM and think, "Friends Of Ole' Marvel".

Shoot me now. Doc Paisley infected me with Marvel comics.

#145 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 10:47 PM:

Caroline @ 141 is ...considering whether to take photographs and risk harassment, arrest, tasing and imprisonment ... or just buy postcards

Buy postcards of places you would like to photograph before you start shooting (assuming postcards of them exist). If you're confronted by anyone who claims that photography is prohibited for security reasons you have proof that either they are lying, deluded or misinformed.

#146 ::: Serge ::: (view all by) ::: April 01, 2008, 11:24 PM:

Paula Helm Murray @ 144... Doc Paisley infected me with Marvel comics

Is Doc Paisley related to Doc Doom?

#147 ::: Suzanne ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:19 AM:

What is wrong with these people’s brains? Show your work.

my best guess

#148 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:21 AM:

Spherical time, #140: I will happily accept Cory as being knowledgeable on copyright issues as they apply to writing; he's a professional writer. When the topic moves into the arts, I'm more inclined to pay attention to the people who write about it in professional magazines such as The Crafts Report; they're professional artists who are equally knowledgeable in that venue. Perhaps we should ask elisem to weigh in on this?

FWIW, I don't care if someone wants to take pictures of my work; I'm not doing anything that's sufficiently unusual to merit getting upset about it. But I can think of a number of artists just in my local area who are doing work at that level.

True, there's nothing you can do that will defeat a really determined bootlegger, just as there's nothing you can do that will defeat a really determined professional burglar. But IMO that's not enough reason to make it easy for them. (My partner and I go around and around on this -- he's really bad about leaving his car unlocked in the driveway, and we've had a couple of opportunistic thefts because of it, which I don't think would have happened if the car had been locked.)

#149 ::: Martin Wisse ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:04 AM:

I hate Lee's attitude, where because you can imagine a scenario where doing something innoceous(photographying in a public space) may result in Something Bad happening (stealing designs from honest, hard working artists), it should be banned. It's this attitute that has led to banning fluids and nail scissors on plane flights, showing certain Dutch governmental buildings on Google Earth and all the other absurdities of post-9/11 life.

You can always find reasons to forbid things, but none of them will ever prevent the Something Bads from happening.

Also, it's not my job to safeguard the intellectual property of market stall holders. They can ask me not to photograph and I can tell them to fuck off.

#150 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:10 AM:

Lee, while you've responded at some length to Spherical Time's post #140, you've somehow neglected to address their point about the difference between a trade show and a public market. Since your slam at Cory in #138 depends on blurring exactly that difference, one would think you would want to address the issue.

My own gut feeling is that we should look very critically at any merchant who wants to sell in public while at the same time prohibiting the public from making a record of what they do, and that this is true whether the merchant is Exxon or a lone artisan. As Adam Smith pointed out over two centuries ago, merchants always want to control the discourse surrounding their transactions, they almost always have reasonable-sounding arguments for why they should be granted this power (Chinese counterfeiters, public safety, the other grocers might learn our prices, etc), and yet it's almost never actually in the public interest to guarantee their ability to do so. Sunshine makes for healthy markets.

#151 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:12 AM:

(Martin Wisse posted while I was typing, and made essentially the same points in clearer and more vivid language.)

#152 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:34 AM:

I suspect that a lot of the no-photography contingent amongst sellers are doing things that way because on some level they view their customers as competitors rather than allies - somewhere between an unpleasant necessity, and That Bastard who will do everything he can to avoid giving me a fair price for my work.

So high-stress adversarial measures seem much more justified than they do to the ones who run a more modern version of Economics[1] and, in the nature of stressy shouty things, can end up reinforcing their original reasons.

Personally, I love people photographing my work, but then I made a decision when I started web publishing to release things under CC:BY by default, on the basis that I didn't want to deal with the stress of keeping control over it - and because I'm betting that no matter who else tries to copy my artwork, I can do it better. As far as I know nobody's taking advantage of that, but to a close approximation the same goes for all CC-licensed work, and for all creative work generally.

One thing I've noticed, which might be related or might not, is that there seems to be a fairly sharp divide between people who'll chat at length about their techniques and practices, and people who want to keep them to themselves or just don't like talking about their work. I'm about seven thousand times more likely to buy something from the first kind, but I might be atypical there.

There's also the depressing problem that most of them don't make a decision for themselves, they default to what they see as current best practice or at least standard practice.

Oh, and yet another thing. Patrick was, after all, standing in the City of London whilst looking potentially Irish. We have long memories.

[1] ObStross - but I'm having a bit of a quandary about the numbering. If we take Adam Smith as the architect of Economics 1.0 (first stable release) then these guys are probably running something like 0.7. I am of course not a real economist, I just play one in virtual worlds.

#153 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:18 AM:

"Oh, and yet another thing. Patrick was, after all, standing in the City of London whilst looking potentially Irish. We have long memories."

Uh, not to downplay the very real and recent fact of all that stuff, but I really don't think I look any more "Irish" than any other vaguely caucasian person. Also, if I have any Irish ancestry, I'm unaware of it.

#154 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 07:39 AM:

'Potentially Irish' is effectively shorthand for 'not black, Nordic, Swarthy-Featured, or Old Etonian'. About like 'potentially Islamist', which as we all know includes North African businessmen and Brazilian electricians. It's out of date, but still amuses me.

You look about as Irish as I do, which is to say not very at all, and I actually am Irish at least by ancestry.

#155 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:06 AM:

Re: photographing art work

Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it.

I have. The worst are the "nyah, nyah, I got it for free!" guys. It's a considerable personal invasion.

I don't prohibit photography of my work, but I can certainly understand those who do.

#156 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:08 AM:

Re: photographing art work

Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it.

I have. The worst are the "nyah, nyah, I got it for free!" guys. It's a considerable personal invasion.

I don't prohibit photography of my work, but I can certainly understand those who do.

#157 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:11 AM:

Sorry about the double post.

I DID really, really mean it.

#158 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:38 AM:

Oh, hey, a topic I actually know something about! As a craftswoman/artist/maker-of-stuff who does this as her day job (celebrating ten years of metal-bending and shiny-making this June: come to the party at Fourth Street Fantasy Convention!), I'm qualified to speak about the no-photography issue.

While some crafters/artists (and some public craft shows) do discourage or prohibit photography, many do not. I'm one of the latter group... and I'm pretty sure that my work is "sufficiently unusual" to meet the criteria of having that as a reason to fear photography, if I were of that mind. (Example: when I was last in New York, I did a piece that PNH told me looked like particle trails; it's this one: The Moving Particle Writes.)

Instead, I'm fine with people photographing the pieces*. I'm fine with people asking a question or two about technique, too. More than five or six questions, though, and I sometimes smile and explain to them that I do teach, and that I do it on a sliding fee scale. That's because usually at a show I am there to sell and to make stuff, rather than to teach, and since I lip-read, teaching does take rather more energy and attention than an average show permits -- though I did just spend some serious time at Potlatch with a student by my side, and I think it was interesting for folks to watch. I do often work right at my table, since it's a definite point of interest, as well as a smart sales technique**.

The heart of your issue, though, when you talk about photography is about copying -- and specifically, it's about the dangers of cut-rate copying that would undercut my prices and steal my share of the market. In the kind of work I do, in order to copy my designs a person would have to spend time getting the technique down, and then they'd have to spend pretty much as much time as I do making each piece. (My work isn't readily adaptable to stamping or casting, which are the primary means of quickly mass-producing jewelry. I'm working with what I call "live curves," i.e. hand-formed without tools, rather than jig-formed, and playing with the springiness of the wire and the way work-hardening it gives curves that I suspect are chock-full of nummy Fibonacci series goodness, because they look like botanical forms to me.) I don't prohibit photography at all. In fact, I put photos of my own stuff up on the net all the time.

Sam says in #152, "One thing I've noticed, which might be related or might not, is that there seems to be a fairly sharp divide between people who'll chat at length about their techniques and practices, and people who want to keep them to themselves or just don't like talking about their work. I'm about seven thousand times more likely to buy something from the first kind, but I might be atypical there." Sam, if my experience is anything to go by, you're not atypical. I find that to be true too, and have noticed that shopping decisions do often seem to follow along those lines. Nobody likes to buy from a defensive, suspicious grump.

Another reason I make photographs available and teach is that when I was starting out, I tried and tried to find people working with live curves and doing the same kind of wire-working in silver, gold filled, or (soon!) in argentium that I'm doing, and there just weren't any I could locate. So I started teaching, because if there isn't a sufficient number of artists working in this technique, where are I going to learn about cool new tricks and adaptations? Right now, I have one apprentice who's an adult (and pretty much totally self-propelled; she might well have come up with this stuff herself if she hadn't seen me doing it) and one who's a teenager, and I've taught a bunch of folks in various countries. Then again, my craft is one that takes time and effort for each piece. There are no "secrets" to give away, though there are definitely a bunch of "aha!" moments for students. (Mostly these are things that they have to learn in muscle memory, things that can't be described in just words.) But what they do will be their work; when you get right down to it, nobody can really copy mine without being me, and even I don't do mass-production of any one design. Uniqueness is a plus, in what I do. (It works, too. I just sold over $3600 of work on-line... using photographs.)

Sorry; I can get pretty long-winded talking about work, because I love it so much. I guess the summary is that I personally don't mind at all having my work photographed, though I do enjoy it when people politely ask if they may photograph my shinies. (That's possibly just because I like saying yes. It's a Thing for me. Heh.) The more people like to look at my work, and take photographs of it, and show it to other people, the more I sell, and the more interesting conversations I get into with people who like the work, or who are doing similar stuff or would like to learn how. Being afraid of having my designs stolen? Never really occurs to me, these days. I'm too busy having fun and figuring out the next thing, or refining the one I'm currently obsessed with. But then, I love my work, and part of that love is the love of sharing it. Also, my work doesn't depend on novelty for its saleability. It depends on whether the buyer likes what I've done with that one particular stone bead in that unique piece. (I did do two matching pieces once. They were for two sisters, and I did one in yellow metal and one in white. Other than that, I almost never repeat, except for my "Mary Pinckney's Flowers" earring design.)

Other crafters can prohibit photography if they want. Me, I go the opposite direction: you want to show somebody my work? You want to have a visual memory of something neat you saw somebody making, when you were on your trip? Cool! Go for it.

Hope that helps. I've got to get to the workbench now, because all this talking has made me need to make something.

* as long as they're not blocking access for anybody shopping and buying.

** People are often shy about shopping when the creator of the work is watching them. They're sometimes afraid that if they don't want to buy a piece, the maker will feel hurt or rejected. Or else they just don't like feeling watched while they shop. I understand this completely, so I often bring work to occupy myself with, and thereby take the intensity of my regard off the people and put it on something artistic. Curiously enough, this boosts sales, as people turn out to be more likely to buy something they've seen made. Kinda neat, actually. It's not an automatic sale, but it's a bonus for the kind of person who likes knowing that a real person made something by hand, and likes being able to say that they saw it being made.

#159 ::: Mark Allen ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:50 AM:

I take lots of photos, to say the least!

I was in DownTown Portland Oregon this last summer around the time word started coming into the US about anti-photography policies happening in the UK neck of the woods. As I always have a digital camera on me for the great random shots, I was walking threw what we call "Pioneer Square", with my camera in my hand at the ready. I felt an violent tug on my camera from my right hand, but being I have Kung-Fu grip I stayed lached to it like a needy heroin addict. What I thought was a perp grabbing for my camera to my surprise was what is known as an "IED"(a federally paid beat walker cop/security) As I turned in my reaction I took up a Karate style stance to the man before I had comprehended what was happening. While I stand at the defensive, the man(IED gard) without saying a word lunges for my camera. I basically jumped to the left, out of the way, to see this man move past me with his momentum to fall right on his face. Now I'm only thinking that this man is armed and crazy. The first thought that came to my lips "For trying to steal my camera, I'm placing you under citizens arrest, stay on the ground or proper force will be used to subdue you for arrest". At this point I pulled out my cell and called the real cops. They were there in what seemed like the moment I hung up the phone with dispatch. The cops approached the situation on gard, from what I remember in their body language. Yet when the police came within talking distance, the first thing out of their very polite mouths to me were "are you ok sir". 'I felt like I could go see a movie with these two men'. I told them what had happen and how I thought the gard was a theif because he came from my backside trying to forcefully/violently take my camera from me with no warning. The younger cop asked if I was joking. My look to him answered his question. The two nice officers took my statement and doced the scene. two months latter I recieved a call from a local Portland Police Sargent letting me know that taking pictures in Downtown Portland is in no way against any rules or regulations. He also stated that such rules and/or regulations are against are state and federal consitution. And that if I'm ever to come into this situation again, to call a precinct authority(not a beat cop) and get them to make these Feds answer up.

Here in my town the fake Federal officers and the real area cops have a disliking toward eachother. It's like watching two rational gangs fight?

#160 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:53 AM:

I should add that I may be in a special position. The best market for my work is people who work with or love words, possibly because of the Artists' Challenge program. An out-of-date and thus incomplete list is here. Nowadays, there are at least six times that many, plus hundreds of haiku earring poems.) So the average craft fair is not my market. I have done them; my sales are not nearly as good there as they are at a convention with a large number of writers, editors, agents, and other story-lovers, or on-line in similar venues or communities.

If I were just making shinies, cranking them out, I might feel differently. But as it is, each piece is different, and each one has only a few people in the audience who will love it and jump on it and take it home. (This makes them unattractive for mass-marketing and piracy, most likely.) But for a unique piece, it only takes one. The trade-off for me is being able to wait until that piece finds its person. These days, though, it works pretty well; I'm at the point where I can't make pieces fast enough to keep enough inventory in stock for the next show.

Right. Workbench. That's what I was going to do. See ya.

#161 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:54 AM:

"Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it."

Well, with all the good will in the world, no.

If what I'm arguing is right or wrong, it's right or wrong on its own merits, not based on whether or not I'm an artisan who's had a particular negative experience.

We're talking about public policy: not whether it's reasonable for artisans to prefer that their work not be photographed, but rather, whether those artisans can reasonably expect the organs of the public sphere (police, private security hired out of public funds, etc) to cooperate in enforcing those preferences.

I'm entirely in favor of artists, craftspersons, and artisans of all sorts, but it doesn't seem to me they're any more entitled to state enforcement of their personal or commercial convenience than waitresses, janitors, or book editors are.

Saying I ought to "back down" unless I've had some specific, arbitrarily-defined experience is tantamount to saying that only the victims of crimes should have a voice in determining the penalties for those crimes. The fact is, while the victims have a stake in the question, so does the rest of society. Similarly, artisans who feel they've been abused and ill-treated under certain circumstances have a right to argue that society should cater to their needs. And the rest of society has the right to argue back.

#162 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:00 PM:

PNH @161 We're talking about public policy: not whether it's reasonable for artisans to prefer that their work not be photographed, but rather, whether those artisans can reasonably expect the organs of the public sphere (police, private security hired out of public funds, etc) to cooperate in enforcing those preferences.

Oh! Right. (I was answering a different question, I think. Oops.) No, definitely not. Public is public, and that goes for photography, in my book.

(If we did get to have police or private security do that sort of thing, then I have a short list of annoying people I'd have them keep away from me just for my own satisfaction. And they'd make me tea. And massage my feet. Heh.)

#163 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:05 PM:

To the fretful artisans here:

If what you're worried about as an artist is people copying a copyrighted design, that's something with a set of remedial actions already in place.

If you're worried that somebody's going to steal a march on you and make a bunch of your nifty new thingies and sell them before you get a chance to do so, then relax: it'll either happen or it won't, but fretting about it will be bad for you, that I do know for sure. And besides, all things that get popularized generate copies and spin-offs. It's how this stuff works. Did you get any of your ideas from seeing somebody else's stuff?

If you're worried about the person who will take a photograph and therefore not buy the piece, well, that happens. In that case, let 'em get on with it and take their photo and move on, and let the people who actually like the work and might want to live with it come in. That's how I feel.

#164 ::: Sam Kelly ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 12:45 PM:

Um. What Elise said, basically. It's pretty much exactly what I was trying to say, except much more cogently put. And that particle piece is beautiful - if I wore jewellery I'd fall for something like that.

Speaking of workbenches, I have a half-done canvas sitting on the other end of the kitchen table.

#165 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:03 PM:

Thanks, Sam. After Patrick pointed out the particle trail similarity, the name the piece needed was pretty obvious.

#166 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:21 PM:

Simon @133: yeah, that'd piss me off too. Photography is one of those easier-to-rip-off things, and the opportunists strike there harder.

A while ago, I bought some beads from a supplier in New York I like very much. When I returned to where I was staying, I dumped the beads out to do the ritual post-purchase gloating, and the business card they had given me flipped over. The photo on the other side looked very familiar. It took me a minute to realize that they had lifted a photo of my jewelry taken by David Dyer-Bennet and used it without permission on their corporate business cards.

We went through various discussions about this, as you might imagine. They wound up never paying DDB anything, but they did reprint all their business cards, apparently, because the new ones don't have that photo on them. (It's possible DDB may still pursue the matter with them, as they definitely infringed his copyright, and did so for commercial use.)

Me, I'm glad they stopped using it without permission, because I like buying their beads, which are pretty cool, and I like them. For the record, the person at this particular shop, which may or may not be their only one (I dont' know, actually), said that they hired somebody to do the cards, and that they were not aware of the infringement. They were rather taken aback by the whole thing -- as was I. I mean, what are the odds that I'd walk in, buy some wholesale beads, and then find a photograph of a necklace I made adorning their business card?

(It was the one called Oh, That Kind of Angel. DDB gave it to Lydy as a present, years ago. Somewhere there are some very cool photos of her opening the box and being totally surprised and delighted and speechless.)

However, they didn't do it by taking a photograph in a public market.

#167 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:31 PM:

Paul Duncanson: Would that the existence of postcards proved such a thing. There is a statue in Chicago (a giant mirror-finished orb). The owners of the plaza in which it sits have very aggressive guards who will come up to anyone with a "professional" looking camera, (or a tripod) and get all uppity about the taking of pictures.

The reason? It's a copyrighted statue, and only with the permission of the owner of the copyright (which seems to be the museum; something about work for hire) can any photo of it be legally taken.

This is hogwash, but the postcard would be used as argument for it; because there will be a copyright notice on it.

Lee: As a photographer I am aware of a few differences in regards to copyright. The most egregious, and a case of the law not keeping up with the world, it's still apallingly easy for a photo to fall into public domain, last I checked a stolen image which has been published; unchallenged, for more than one year is public domain. Flickr's odd policy (no photo to which one doesn't own the copyright, not merely have legal use of; despite the CC licenses they provide, and the overide of restrictions to copy that using them provides, is grounds for account deletion and loss of payment).

I also, as a photographer, don't really care if someone takes a photo of one of my pictures. It's a shabby copy (barring the use of a copystand and the right lights) and that person wasn't going to buy it. I might get lucky and have someone who see it elect to buy one. Much the same for image collectors from the net. At 200 dpi (the highest resolution I'll post a picture) a decent 8x10 can be made. At the 96 I usually use [it's a question of how large I want it too look on the monitor] it's not going to look good at even 8x10. We shan't even get into problems of color management).

Someone who want's to take photos which are similar to mine... 1: there's nothing I can do to stop them. They can look at my stuff, and then go shoot. 2: They can't do it. No one can. I can go to Half Dome and shoot it till I turn blue, it won't be an Ansel Adams. It might be a swell homage (or in the style of, or whatever you want to call it), but it won't be the same.

So I think such bans are silly, even for a "stealable" medium like photography.

elise: What's argentium? I ask brcause I saw someone describe it as "more pure than sterling or, "fine," silver.

#168 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 01:43 PM:

Elise (#166): A while ago, I bought some beads from a supplier in New York I like very much. When I returned to where I was staying, I dumped the beads out to do the ritual post-purchase gloating, and the business card they had given me flipped over. The photo on the other side looked very familiar. It took me a minute to realize that they had lifted a photo of my jewelry taken by David Dyer-Bennet and used it without permission on their corporate business cards.

Oh! I'd be all over that. I'm not sure, in that case, how I'd do it. I know my attorney would want to skin me if I didn't call him first. He might commend I speak to them, he might want to send them a letter. But even if I insisted on speaking to them before he sent a letter, he'd chastise me if I didn't call him before I did anything.

#169 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 03:41 PM:

#158 ::: elise

Everything she said.

I'm not being clear, here.

Patrick, I've never been raped, and I'll bet you haven't either. This doesn't keep us, or anyone else, from empathizing with anyone who's suffered that. The same applies to lesser, though still traumatic aggression.

I'm objecting to people being rude and invasive of my space and work. I've never refused permission to photograph any of my stuff, because my art work is about putting myself and my concepts out there. I'll gladly talk about ideas and techniques right to the point where it interferes with someone handing me money.

People who think they can cop a feel, literally or figuratively, are jerks. The folks who post regularly here aren't jerks.

Martin Wisse, however, saying: Also, it's not my job to safeguard the intellectual property of market stall holders. They can ask me not to photograph and I can tell them to fuck off. talking specifically about someone's property with what seems like a jerk's attitude.

Continue this privately if there's anything nasty to say to me.

#170 ::: lieutenant 030 ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 04:20 PM:

The discussion appears to have gone off topic; I don't think anybody here is advocating copying people's products. I simply want to live my life without being treated like I'm a criminal and an idiot. I resent people that don't understand the law trying to enforce it upon me; even more so when it benefits no-one in the slightest.

Proudhon said it best (and I do see the irony in me copying his words but I think he would've wanted that):

"To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied upon, directed. legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated. censored, commanded; all by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so.

To be GOVERNED is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished.

It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be place[d] under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then, at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed; and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored.

That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”

#171 ::: elise ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 05:44 PM:

I think the invasive jerkiness in the original post was that of the security guard who stopped Patrick from photographing and threatened to (and attempted to, actually, what with the reaching for his camera) destroy the photograph. We ran rather aground on a digression of what possible reasons for not wanting to be photographed some of the vendors might have, but in fact it was not a vendor objecting at all, from the story. It was an officious security guard taking it upon himself to stop the heinous threat of Patrick photographing the ceiling.

#172 ::: Spherical Time ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 06:52 PM:

Carol Kimball @ 155: Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it.

I've been copied before. I still disagree with Lee.

Elise @ multiple

Just so you know, I think that your jewelry is beautiful. I might not buy any for myself, but I'll definitely keep you in mind when I go shopping for my mother and my aunt . . . just because of the photographs you've posted.

Finally, I think I made my point this time. That would be the first time it's come across clearly on Making light. I am quite happy about that.

#173 ::: Tim Walters ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 09:34 PM:

Carol Kimball @ 155: Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it.

Maybe it's not exactly analogous, but someone once sampled electronic sounds (which I had indeed put a fair amount of work into) from one of my CDs, and put it up on the net as a downloadable, playable sample bank.

While I would prefer to have been asked, and I think he would have been wrong to leave it up if I had asked him to take it down (I didn't), I'd rather have that sort of thing happen than to preemptively police people's use of my work, even if that were possible. In fact I was more flattered than anything.

If he had been selling it, then of course I would have busted him. That's where the line is, for me.

#174 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Terry @ 167: I am aware of that statue. That and a few other similar things are why I mentioned the "security reason" excuse for prohibiting photography in my post at 145.

Has anyone challenged the copyright claim in court? It seems to me that taking a photograph of a physical object like that is not copying it (as opposed to, say, photographing every page of a book) and unless you're making a 3D replica of the sculpture you're not violating anyone's copyright.

#175 ::: Paul Duncanson ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 10:36 PM:

Me @ 174 and Terry @ 167: It seems that the bean is photographable now.

Note to self: Google first, then post.

#176 ::: Vidiot ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2008, 11:20 PM:

Terry @167: last I checked a stolen image which has been published; unchallenged, for more than one year is public domain.

Really? Do you have a cite for this?

IANAL, but this seems odd. I can understand a statue of limitations on making a copyright-infringement claim, but to say that the photo is public domain from that point seems strange to me. If Alice takes a photo, Bob publishes it without permission, and Alice doesn't notice for more than a year, does that mean then that Carol has free rein to publish as many copies of Alice's photo as she wants?

#177 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 12:38 AM:

Vidiot: You have it right.

The logic went like this (and it goes back to the days of film, and offset).

I recall, when, with great fanfare, all the photography magazines were (in the early nineties) explaining the joy of the changes in the copyright, which made it as I explained it.

Prior to that the time frame was one month.

The reasoning was, a negative/slide was a controlled object, and one had to (so the theory went) let someone have access to it to do the work (make a print, convert it to half-tone/get separations, etc.).

As a result the default position was a copy had been allowed, and lack of declared copyright was intentional.

It's possible (and I hope so) that this was fixed in the DMCA, or in the (insane) extentions, but so far as I know the present system is still that silly, "stolen use must be contested to retain copyright).

So yes (so far as I know), Bob takes a picture, Alice swipes a copy; and prints it, so one year later Carol can sell it to Ted, and Bob has no recourse.

#178 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 01:05 AM:

Taking pictures of art. I put pictures of my stuff online and don't worry about people taking pictures. For one thing, I'm not going to make that piece again, and for another, unless they're very very good, they can't make it at all. People good enough to make it themselves will be good enough to have long lists of ideas of their own to make.

Taking pictures of public places. I think it's silly to keep people from taking pictures because someone who really wants to know what a building or kiosk or statue looks like has an awful lot of ways to find out anyway.

#179 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 07:34 AM:

Arguably I should let this go, but Carol Kimball's behavior in #155 and #169 really bothers me.

She began with a demand: "Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it."

She got pushback. I said in #161 that no, I think this is an issue everyone in society has standing to discuss, not just people who've been victims of one particular kind of bad behavior.

Her response in #169 was to bring up the issue of rape, observing that even people who haven't been raped ought to try to empathize with those who have.

This is a non sequitur. Her previous post hadn't been a call for empathy, it was a demand that people who disagree with her "back down."

She went on to explain that she was "objecting to people being rude." Oddly enough, so am I. Beginning your participation in a hitherto-civil conversation by demanding that people shut up: rude. Pretending subsequently that all you meant to do was call for empathy: also rude. Decrying rudeness and then stomping off with parting shots characterizing another participant as having a "jerk's attitude": quite rude indeed.

If all she ever meant was to point out that there are reasons to sympathize with artisans who try to keep people from photographing her work, there were any number of ways to do it that didn't entail all the other baggage.

I don't mean to make a federal case of it. Carol Kimball has contributed many good and worthwhile posts to the conversations on this site. And we all have our bad days. But I find it extraordinarily bothersome to be lectured on civility and empathy by someone whose basic position in the discussion is that most of the participants don't have the moral standing to express an opinion. This is, forgive me, a hell of a lot more "rude" than anything Martin Wisse said.

#180 ::: ajay ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 08:12 AM:

Please back down on this unless you've spent painstaking time on a piece and had someone dishonestly photograph it. I have. The worst are the "nyah, nyah, I got it for free!" guys. It's a considerable personal invasion.

If you really feel that protective of your art - to the point where someone taking a photo of it feels like a "considerable personal invasion" - it's probably best not to put your pieces anywhere where the public might see them.

I write for a living. I put the stuff I write out in the world, where all sorts of things happen to it. People say nasty things about it. People copy it without attribution. Both are annoying - and the second gets them hammered for breach of copyright - but I don't feel that either are a "personal invasion". There are some things I write that I would feel that way about - some things that are private, which I wouldn't like to see published, let alone copied and criticised. Those, I don't publish.

#181 ::: Carol Kimball ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 10:04 AM:

I regret having pushed hot buttons, and apologize. It's been a rough couple days here, but that's no excuse.

I allow access across the board to anything I make or do, to demonstrate how I work, to discuss, to teach. I put a lot of instructional info out, and only request that when it's photocopied, that the attribution to me is kept. I don't fret about when it isn't.

If someone used my work for (substantial) personal gain, I'd go after them. It's usually not worth it .

Forbidding Patrick to take photos, where this started, and the excuse by quasi "security people" to vandalize and attack at whim is appalling. I despise using emotional levers to infringe on freedom. While not an anarchist, I strongly believe that the best law in many cases is no law, but common sense and respect. Passing knee-jerk legislation almost always creates far more problems without solving the original.

Again, my apologies.

#182 ::: Constance Ash ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 04:18 PM:

"Terrorism" has made it possible to put in place the most stupid rules for anything anybody feels like.

It's gotten really difficult to know if one is o.k. taking photos anywhere in NYC since so many public sites got designated 'no photograph' locations, like George Washington Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, oh, you know, all the sorts of thing a tourist is expecting to photograph.

At the same time cameras get smaller and smaller; shoot intelligence agencies have had micro cameras for years, long before cell phone photography arrived.

Many NYC photographers are street photographers. I'm not really a professional, though I've sold a few of mine here and there (mostly, I think because I happened to just have what was needed Right This Minute), but wandering around my home town and taking photos is one of my constant joys.

If I recall correctly, Bloomberg's people have backed off to a degree on prohibiting photography, but -- at any time some too big for his britches fellow might jump in on you for taking a photo, if he just was in the mood to do so. Even if you are justified and let off the hook, the aggravation, the rise in blood pressure, the invasion of YOUR privacy is still something that shouldn't have happened in a civilized culture over an activity taking place in the 'commons,' or 'public space.'

Petty bs and harrassment trains the general population to unquestioningly obey any stupid order given to them by 'authority,' and thus helps create totalitarian states.

Off soapbox now.

Love, C.

#183 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 04:35 PM:

Carol, no fault no blame. I apologize in turn if I was getting too hot. I meant it when I said you've posted lots of good stuff around here.

#184 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 07:43 PM:

Terry@177: (so far as I know), Bob takes a picture, Alice swipes a copy; and prints it, so one year later Carol can sell it to Ted, and

Bob has no recourse.

That's almost the opposite of how I understand copyright. My understanding is that Trademark must be challenged to keep the trademark exclusive. if you don't challenge a trademark, you can lose it.

Copyright, as far as I know, is completely independent of challenges. Maybe this is something specifically applicable to photographs?

If you have a URL that explains this law, or that at least identifies the law so that I can poke some lawyer friends of mine, I'd appreciate it. Cause this takes some things I thought I understood and turns them on their their heads.

#185 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 10:15 PM:

Carol Kimball @#169:

Patrick, I've never been raped, and I'll bet you haven't either. This doesn't keep us, or anyone else, from empathizing with anyone who's suffered that. The same applies to lesser, though still traumatic aggression.

I won't say "unless you've been raped, please back down from using rape as a metaphor for lesser aggression," but I will observe that comparing anything to rape is a peril-fraught endeavor. It seldom adds to the discussion, and the mere presence of the word on the screen may discomfit someone.

#186 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 10:28 PM:

Carol Kimball #181:

I regret having pushed hot buttons, and apologize.

Thanks...I appreciate it.

#187 ::: Mary Dell ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2008, 10:30 PM:

Carol Kimball #181:

I regret having pushed hot buttons, and apologize.

Thanks...I appreciate it.

[sorry if this is a double post--I forgot the itals, initially, dunno if I hit x in time]

#188 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 07:25 AM:

Terry, I have to echo some of the puzzlement others have expressed over the claim that copyright in a photograph can be so easily lost. My understanding is that:

(1) 87.5% of what even smart people think they know about copyright is slightly wrong;

(2) It's extraordinarily difficult to alienate a copyright under modern US law; and

(3) See #1.

I would really want to see some citations, or hear from an actual copyright lawyer, before believing something that goes so startlingly against everything I understand. (Note that in my experience, generic lawyers without a specialty in IP law are as prone to believing nonsense about copyright as the rest of us are.)

(Speculation: It may be that under the circumstances you describe, it's hard to collect much in the way of damages for infringement--but that's not the same as losing the copyright.)

#189 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 10:35 AM:

Patrick @ 188

I'm not an IP lawyer*, but I've dealt with enough patent situations that I've absorbed some of it (specifically US law) by osmosis. As I understand it, Trade and other sorts of Marks, and Trade Secrets, must be actively defended or they lose their mojo. Patents are vulnerable to claims of previous art, vague description, claims of ownership, etc., but if not actively attacked are good for whatever term they're issued. Copyrights are invulnerable for the term of effectiveness unless they were fraudulently obtained.

All that being said, the agents in any IP litigation are lawyers, and their job is to come up with theories that support their contentions, not matter how tenuous or bizarre.

* and I'm not fond of abbreviations like IANA?L

#190 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 10:52 AM:

Terry, from my understanding of copyright, once the piece is "fixed" (recorded in a fixed medium, and pixels count), the creator holds the copyright for whatever the current length of time allows. This means the creator may sign away certain rights under contract (i.e., to get it published, you grant your publisher limited rights to the copying, distribution and display of your work, or you can use a Creative Commons license to pre-approve certain uses), but the basic copyright of the work is yours.

You may be thinking of orphan works, which are a different matter, and the law is in flux right now (a study group report on Section 108 has just been released with recommendations for new legislation). An orphan work is one which is not in the public domain but for which you cannot locate the copyright holder. As it stands right now, there's no good mechanism in the US for using an orphan work. In Canada, someone who wants to use such a work can file a report of all the sources s/he has checked for the copyright owner, and be granted permission to use it for a limited period with a guarantee of very limited liability for infringement if the owner does step forward. We're hoping something like this will be put in place here. As it is now, you have have to assess your possible risks in using what appears to be an orphan work -- if the owner does step forward, you could be liable for a lot more than just the profit you have made from using the work. But there's no "one year and you're okay" period that I'm aware of.

#191 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 02:19 PM:

to one, and all, I know that what one knows is often at odds to what is.

And it seems, happily, that the problem has been addressed. Prior to '86 (see above, my comments on the photography press making noise about it in the, "late '80s") a photographic work which for which copyright was not asserted on publication (or which was misasserted) was in danger of leaving the copyright of the maker.

Though copyright notices are no longer required, before 1986 failure to include a copyright notice, or use of an incorrect notice potentially shortens the period of copyright protection. Materials that can be verified as meeting either of these criteria may have fallen out of the control of the photographer of copyright holder. This creates yet another category of public domain as potential resources for researchers and publishers. Vintage Photo

There were some changes in the law in 1990:

(d) Duration of Rights. — (1) With respect to works of visual art created on or after the effective date set forth in section 610(a) of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, the rights conferred by subsection (a) shall endure for a term consisting of the life of the author.

(2) With respect to works of visual art created before the effective date set forth in section 610(a) of the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, but title to which has not, as of such effective date, been transferred from the author, the rights conferred by subsection (a) shall be coextensive with, and shall expire at the same time as, the rights conferred by section 106.

US Copyright Office.

So, I'm guilty of a certain sort of protectively lazy lack of updating my knowledge, i.e. by going under the old rules, I didn't lose anything. I'm sorry to have been passing along misinformation.

Unfortunately, (again per Vintage Photo, which is in the market of selling photos, so I have some reason to trust them): Digitizing a photograph creates a derivative work, a right not addressed under fair use that requires permission of the copyright holder.

This shouldn't apply to an image which was originally digital in format, but the entire question of derivative works is, with a lot of people (understandably) a touchy subject.

#192 ::: Madison Guy ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2008, 05:12 PM:

All together now, let's fight terrorism by keeping an eye out for photographers who seem odd. An open-ended invitation to profile photographers from the Metropolitan Police of London -- as stupid as it's fear-mongering. And not just a problem in London.

#193 ::: Sylvia ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2008, 03:06 PM:

This is a bit too panicky a voice for me to think it'll do much good, but it's a useful website in terms of tracking the stupidities invoked upon photographers in NYC

#194 ::: boroughboy ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2008, 09:23 PM:

re #149

"it's not my job to safeguard the intellectual property of market stall holders. They can ask me not to photograph and I can tell them to fuck off."

Where's your grace and decency?

I'm a market stall holder in central London, and I allow photography on our stall - very picturesque it is too - but I tell you now, if you told me to eff off for whatever reason I'd ask you to leave my stall immediately, regardless of your photographic rights.

This is the thing that winds me up most about amateur lawyers-cum-photographers - they will push the envelope of the law just because they can, when using common sense and courtesy is clearly the more intelligent approach.

BTW, I've also been an active street photographer for years. I know my rights. I just don't wear them as a badge.

#195 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: April 05, 2008, 11:01 PM:

boroughboy: Welcome.

I think (and I am doing a fair bit of interpreting) that from context, that Martin is reacting to something I've seen, which is the stallholder being aggressively rude, about telling someone what they can't do.

I've seen stall owners come some distance from there stall to tell people they can't take pictures. I'm not going to tell them to bugger off, but I'm also not going to be all that concerned with their feelings at that point.

Because (as you've probably experience) having some one tell you to piss off/shut up (which is what saying, "you can't take my picture" is doing) is an adreniline pumping experience.

#196 ::: Spiegel ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 01:27 PM:

I vaguely recall an old movie, set during the Olympics, where the main character is suspected of being a spy because he was sketching buildings. Does anyone remember the title?

It seemed funny at the time.

#197 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 05:46 PM:

Welcome, boroughboy.

I think it's a mistake to read Martin's comment as a categorical assertion that one ought to tell market-stall owners who try to forbid photography to "fuck off."

Martin's point is that in terms of any sensible ethic of public space (local laws which may be less sensible notwithstanding), people selling in public have the right to ask what they like of passersby--and those passersby have, correspondingly, the right to say "no." If they don't have the right to say "no," politely or less politely, it's not really public space, and it's questionable whether public funds ought to be spent on its development or upkeep.

Subsidiary to that, a right isn't a right if it depends on being requested in polite language.

And while I agree that amateur lawyers who play "gotcha" games can be annoying, I find that that set of people includes as many merchants as photographers.

At the end of the day, I think the rights we all share would be under a lot less threat these days if more people wore them "as a badge."

#198 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 05:51 PM:

Just to add to my comment above: Of course boroughboy, or any merchant, should have the right to demand that anyone being actively rude get the heck out of their stall. That's not what's being hashed out here.

#199 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: April 06, 2008, 11:10 PM:

5-10 years from now little of this will be relevant, as a good portion of the population will be equipped with cameras which continuously record everything that they see.

10-20 years from now we'll probably have enough technology and capacity to record the signals that your eyes are transmitting to your visual cortex.

Everything will be recorded and that is both frightening and empowering.

#200 ::: Bruce Cohen (SpeakerToManagers) ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2008, 06:46 AM:

Andrew @ 199

30 years from now we'll all melt into a homogeneous cybernetic goo, and be a single consciousness, so it won't matter at all. Spying will be the same as playing peekaboo with yourself in a mirror. Let's hear it for the Singularity!

#201 ::: SimonC ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2008, 07:50 AM:

And it's going to get worse. Much, much worse:

Laws protect iconic street signs

Counterfeiters producing copies of central London's world famous street signs could now face prosecution.

Westminster Council has secured the copyright to the iconic red and black signs created by the late design guru Sir Misha Black in the 1960s.

All products displaying the street name plates must now be licensed.

Anyone caught trading illegally could face a heavy fine, with all money generated from copyright infringement being put into council services.

Anyone reproducing the street name plates must apply for a licence before the end of the month.

Westminster Council's Martin Low said: "Westminster's street signs are an integral part of London life and very popular with the millions of visitors that the city hosts every year.

"In buying the copyright, we felt we needed to retain an element of control over the signs to maintain Westminster's image as a world class tourist destination."

Council officers will be checking for any breaches of copyright and will report any infringements to the council's legal department. [...]

#202 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: April 08, 2008, 02:28 PM:

I can see why Westminster Council want their share from souvenirs and stuff which exploit the design of the streetsigns. Whether copyright is the correct protection, I'm not sure.

Since they're talking about products, it sounds like the people talking, aren't chasing after the guy with the camera, who happens to have a streetsign in their picture. But are the people doing the enforcement going to be clear enough about that. And, short of havng a warrant, the Police have no authority to enforce this.

#204 ::: Jan Vaněk jr. ::: (view all by) ::: April 24, 2008, 09:52 AM:

This seems not to have been linked here directly; I don't know if it has been featured in some of the links, or actually where this came from, but I just have to say that I love Cory Doctorow's parody of an official photographing-is-suspicious poster (via Dave Langford, see links at the bottom).

#205 ::: chris ::: (view all by) ::: December 07, 2009, 10:07 AM:

We call them jobsworth as in, "its more than my jobs worth". Sadly this mentality has, at its ultimate extreme, people hurding others into gas chambers.

#206 ::: Lee sees possible spam ::: (view all by) ::: May 07, 2010, 05:21 AM:

206, and something equally weird over on Open Thread 84.

#207 ::: emilly sees spam ::: (view all by) ::: January 14, 2012, 06:39 AM:

although it's true, you do know how to keep a reader amused.

#208 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2012, 05:46 AM:

I have a feeling that this sort of incident is going to become more common in London, with the Olympics looming. Security is Important.

Which could get ridiculous when everybody attending the Olympics is going to want to take their own photographs.

See this recent report in The Guardian.

It seems that the insecurity industry is grabbing every chance it can to sell their fears. Anyone remember that book and movie about the terrorists and the TV/advertising blimp over the Supersaucepan (or dish or basin or something: I read it a really long time ago)?

Me, I rather like the idea of turning an advertising hoarding into a giant claymore mine overlooking the stadium. You could make a movie out of that, though the product placement potential might be difficult.

#209 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: March 14, 2012, 10:04 AM:

Dave, #210: Black Sunday?

(I'm actually rather amazed that I remember enough about that one to have recognized it from your description, especially since I never saw it.)

#210 ::: LMM sees obvious spam ::: (view all by) ::: April 02, 2012, 05:35 PM:

Anti-Semitic spam at that. Lovely.

#211 ::: Niall McAuley sees spam at #211 ::: (view all by) ::: November 20, 2013, 03:42 AM:

Spammity spam

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