Monday, June 16, 2008

Photographers are not the enemy

I was reading Bruce Schneier's column on photographers and he hits the nail on the head squarely and with good force to describe why photographers are not the enemy. Why distinguish between a tourist, which any terrorist(s) would try to look and act like, and serious to professional photographers exercising the profession or make in living?

More and more photographers are being harrassed, detained and arrested, to be released later and never charged with any crime (becaue it's not illegal), and often they have been asked to surrender or destroy their film or flash cards. My incidents with authority pale in comparison to those the column above list with links to stories of working photographers, and to the abuse by law enforcement who don't understand let alone follow the law. Why police departments don't do more to inform their own officers is beyond belief.

Even a case in Seattle, when police falsely arrested a photographer photographing an arrest from a safe distance, was settled in favor of the photographer and the Police Department issuing new polices about the rights and the treatment of photographers. As long as we're not interferring with the Police's work or photographing in restricted or prohibited areas, we're free to work free from police interference.

The point that the column makes is that terrorists don't take photographs, and whatever planning they make, they use consumer level cameras to appear innocuous to everyone else, essentially blend into the crowd. They don't act like serious or professional photographers and they don't use mid-to-highend camera equipment. It's too much for what they need. That's the truth and reality that seems to escape the police.

And it escapes the police serious and professional photographers are their friends. We take thousands of photos and images which can help them if and when they need them. We're everywhere taking photos of everything. What's not to like with the sheer number of images available to them? And with all the surveillence cameras now in use, videotaping or photographing the same scenes or people we are, what's the difference? Just it's them and we're not?

And to all you tourists or locals who fear photographers, why? What is your fear of a photograph? It's a camera. Just a better one than yours, but still just a camera. It doesn't kill or hurt anyone, and the photographer is just another person like yourself. So why worry about us? If you bought a better camera and started being harrassed in public, how would you feel? You're just an innocent photographer, like us.

Get the picture?

And if you saw a friend who is a photographer or a photographer you've worked with, such as for family portraits, weddings, etc., doing street photography, would you suspect them? Would you think others should or would suspect them? No? So why suspect other photographer because you don't know them? We're all strangers until we meet, so what's the difference if we're a photographer?

Why does the camera and/or lens make the difference? If three people were taking the same photograph, one with a consumer point & shoot, one with a comsumer level DSLR and one with a professional level DSLR, what's the difference, who would be the suspected terrorist? Why would a terrorist buy a $3-8,000 camera and another $2-3,000 lens when a simple consumer camera with a built-in lens would do?

Get my point?

Photographers are not the enemy. Far from it, they're people who work in the photography field, have better equipment, and enjoy taking pictures. Nothing else.

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