Protect Yourself As Photographers' Rights Come Under Fire

Posted by David Ozanich — 27 Jan 2011


Just this week, a New York Times photographer was attacked by police while working in Tunisia. With that in mind, here's a look at the current state of photographers' rights which are not looking very well-protected at the moment:

Too many photographers--especially photojournalists--are being confronted with increasing frequency by cops who are emboldened by a mandate to step up security, and by hovering parents who go ballistic if anyone dares take a picture of their child. Credentialed news photographers have been confronted by police, and some of them have been arrested while taking pictures.

To prevent this from happening to you, consider picking up these photographers' rights gray cards that handily inform police and security officers (and helicopter parents, I guess?) of exactly what you are and are not allowed to do in a public space.

Usually one would expect to get hassled shooting outside government agencies and the like, but one of my favorite parts of this blog post is that she came across a behind-the-scenes look at Jordan Matter's "Dancers Among Us" photo project which we really like and have previously discussed. Definitely worth watching.

The photo above was the last shot on AP photographer Matt Rourke's camera before being arrested himself in 2008.

UPDATE: In a curious bit of kismet, the New York Times is writing about this very topic today in a post on their City Room blog titled "Photographing a Federal Building From a Public Space? You're Not Breaking Any Laws."

After Antonio Musumeci was arrested for doing just that, the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit. The case was settled in October when the government agreed that the public had a right to photograph the exteriors of federal buildings from public spaces. Now, the civil liberties union has received a copy of the federal directive that puts this finding in force and has shared it with the public. Having a print-out in hand may save you some hassle the next time you're taking pictures.

Here's that federal directive. More on their Lens Blog.

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