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11/13/2010 10:50:30 AM · #1
It has never quite been brought home to me quite as clearly as in the past two days, that our country has entered a rather sad State of Paranoia. First in a downtown LA gtg, and yesterday at Crystal Cathedral.

During the gtg, all four of us (separately) were asked to stop taking pictures of the buildings we were standing next to. We could take a step or two further and be on the sidewalk and take the pictures, but not while standing on the property itself. No reason is ever given when asked. It's just "the policy". It's very Cold War.

Then yesterday, you cannot imagine the furor I caused with one image. We were being toured around Crystal Cathedral (for a work project). I was along to photograph the property and all the various buildings and their uses. One of them is a school. I'd gotten separated from the rest of the group for a couple of minutes, and in searching for them happened upon a very colorful schoolroom filled with kid's artwork hanging from the ceiling. It was backlit and very pretty. I took a walk-by shot (didn't even stop). I didn't notice any children, but later found out they were on the floor, about to nap. Apparently, a teacher behind the desk near the door saw me and thought something sinister was afoot.

By the time I'd caught up with the group 3 minutes later, there'd been some alert issued, and the maintenance man who was touring us was answering non-stop calls and telling the various callers that he'd "take care of it". Then he explained to me that I was not to take pictures of the children under any circumstances, and made me delete the image in front of him. For the rest of the tour (about 45 minutes), he continued to receive calls about this horrific transgression.

Yes, we need to be careful about predators and such, but sometimes I think we have truly swung into the extreme end of things...

Message edited by author 2010-11-13 11:02:20.
11/13/2010 11:08:52 AM · #2
As a photographer and a mother I can see both sides of the issue. One side artistic freedom and the other the need to protect.

Sorry to hear that you stumbled in on a hornet's nest. I do think that in some ways the need to protect has swung to the extreme side. And I think a contributing factor is the fast pace of technology - one can take a picture and post it on the internet/facebook and such that once it is out there it is out of 'our' control. Twenty years ago that 'venue' was not available such that a person/parent did not have to worry about additional safety of a image going 'worldwide'. Coupled with either better reporting or just more cases where the predators being caught and prosecuted are woman there is now an elevated culture of 'who can you trust'. Then of course you have 9/11 which just shattered the American psyche of being safe, protected - untouchable to outside violence.

BTW, I too have noticed a high shift into safety in that I volunteer at the school and just noticed a new sign in the front office asking parent's & visitors to abstain from taking pictures while on campus - not sure how this will play into the fact that PTA asks parents who volunteer or those who attend school social functions for pictures taken for the school yearbook.

Message edited by author 2010-11-13 11:17:06.
11/13/2010 11:22:20 AM · #3
It's the extreme to which I'm reacting. I'm not a parent, but if I was, I'd want my child to be protected. But you just had to be there to see the panic!!
11/13/2010 11:33:44 AM · #4
I had a similar story (and this may seem like a thread hijack, but please bear with me :)

Being a foreigner in the country where im working, i was so glad when my friends from my home country told me that they were visiting. I took a day off from work so that i could be a tour guide to them. I took them to some popular tourist destinations, and we had bunch of snapshots. One of the places we went to was this street filled with flower vendors, fruit stands, and some souvenir items. I saw how colorful the fruits were and decided to take some closeup photos, with only the fruits filling the frame. The vendor angrily yelled at me and so i stopped taking pictures. The same thing happened when i tried to take a photo of the flowers on the sidewalk, even when i politely asked for permission. To think that we were on a tourist spot location, it was difficult to believe that the locals would frown at tourists taking photos. We then happened to meet a group of tourists, and one of them happened to be on the same flight with my friends. They were headed for this Bhudhist temple (with invitation), so we decided to join them. I knew from the start that photography would not be allowed inside the temple, so i turned my camera off, and put the lens cap on. An old man angrily came towards me and started yelling in the local language, but he was pointing at my camera so i knew what he was trying to tell me. I felt frustrated trying to explain to him that i was not intending to take photos. He saw my camera, but he chose not to see that it was turned off, with the lens cap on. In the end, we decided to walk away. Talk about extreme reaction to a guy with a camera.
11/13/2010 11:34:54 AM · #5
Originally posted by tanguera:

During the gtg, all four of us (separately) were asked to stop taking pictures of the buildings we were standing next to. We could take a step or two further and be on the sidewalk and take the pictures, but not while standing on the property itself.


This is understandable, even if it is characteristic of the New Paranoia. It's private property, so you have to abide by their rules. Here in Pittsburgh, the thugs of Grubb & Ellis will ask you to stop taking pictures of PPG Place even if you're on the sidewalk or in the street. They don't have a leg to stand on, of course. I think it's just a power trip.

Originally posted by tanguera:

Then he explained to me that I was not to take pictures of the children under any circumstances, and made me delete the image in front of him.


I would have apologized and explained that I hadn't seen the children there, but I don't think I would have deleted the picture. What if you were shooting film? Would you have exposed it in front of him? The way I see it, he had no more right to ask you to delete the picture than you had right to take it. It was clearly an accident on your part. He should have kindly asked you to not take any more pictures of the room and ended it there. The children could not have been clearly visible in the picture if you couldn't even see them when you took it.

Please understand I'm not criticizing your handling of the situation; it's just how I think I would have responded. If it turned out to not be a very good picture, and you were eager to defuse the situation and put it behind you, then maybe it was the right thing to do. The only problem, then, is that it makes them think they have this right. The next guy may not be so cooperative.

As I reflect on your anecdote, I wonder why they allow cameras on the tour at all.

Message edited by author 2010-11-13 11:43:12.
11/13/2010 11:42:17 AM · #6
I'm a father and a photographer and to be honest i just think it is utterly ridiculous. I think the overt paranoia and fear of peodophiles has made some people completely irrational and just slightly mad. I've had this line of reasoning from some of my mothers friends... 'You shouldn't put photos of Matilda (my daughter) up online and on Facebook etc... You never know who going to look at them....peodophiles could see them.' To which i tend to reply something along the lines of 'Please stay away from my mother. You are quite clearly insane' or perhaps on a good day i might point out that 'A: A peodophile looking at photos of my daughter online isn't actually a form of child abuse. What they going to do? Steal her soul with their greedy peodo eyes? and B: If peodophiles did want to look at clothed children they don't know then they could just turn on children's television or even just look at the baby food packaging in supermarkets.'
11/13/2010 11:51:53 AM · #7
Originally posted by clive_patric_nolan:

I'm a father and a photographer and to be honest i just think it is utterly ridiculous. I think the overt paranoia and fear of peodophiles has made some people completely irrational and just slightly mad. I've had this line of reasoning from some of my mothers friends... 'You shouldn't put photos of Matilda (my daughter) up online and on Facebook etc... You never know who going to look at them....peodophiles could see them.' To which i tend to reply something along the lines of 'Please stay away from my mother. You are quite clearly insane' or perhaps on a good day i might point out that 'A: A peodophile looking at photos of my daughter online isn't actually a form of child abuse. What they going to do? Steal her soul with their greedy peodo eyes? and B: If peodophiles did want to look at clothed children they don't know then they could just turn on children's television or even just look at the baby food packaging in supermarkets.'


Well said. The parental paranoia is quite irrational.
11/13/2010 02:02:07 PM · #8
Originally posted by tanguera:

It has never quite been brought home to me quite as clearly as in the past two days, that our country has entered a rather sad State of Paranoia. First in a downtown LA gtg, and yesterday at Crystal Cathedral.

During the gtg, all four of us (separately) were asked to stop taking pictures of the buildings we were standing next to. We could take a step or two further and be on the sidewalk and take the pictures, but not while standing on the property itself. No reason is ever given when asked. It's just "the policy". It's very Cold War.

Then yesterday, you cannot imagine the furor I caused with one image. We were being toured around Crystal Cathedral (for a work project). I was along to photograph the property and all the various buildings and their uses. One of them is a school. I'd gotten separated from the rest of the group for a couple of minutes, and in searching for them happened upon a very colorful schoolroom filled with kid's artwork hanging from the ceiling. It was backlit and very pretty. I took a walk-by shot (didn't even stop). I didn't notice any children, but later found out they were on the floor, about to nap. Apparently, a teacher behind the desk near the door saw me and thought something sinister was afoot.

By the time I'd caught up with the group 3 minutes later, there'd been some alert issued, and the maintenance man who was touring us was answering non-stop calls and telling the various callers that he'd "take care of it". Then he explained to me that I was not to take pictures of the children under any circumstances, and made me delete the image in front of him. For the rest of the tour (about 45 minutes), he continued to receive calls about this horrific transgression.

Yes, we need to be careful about predators and such, but sometimes I think we have truly swung into the extreme end of things...


That must be a new policy at Crystal Cathedral, because two years ago I was able to shoot from anywhere on the premises including inside the buildings without any problems. I think you really need to gauge the situation before you shoot. Before crossing any boundary be it private property or someone's personal space, you should first make some kind of connection with the individuals involved before you start snapping away. Now you may not get the shot you intended or even gain access to the subject itself but by doing so you at least break the tension that builds when they only see you as a stranger. Besides, it'll help your photography if you do so. Intimacy breeds authenticity. So whatever you capture there's a good chance it'll be far better than what you can achieve via a drive-by snapshot.
11/13/2010 05:21:20 PM · #9
@ 21.gif bvy - I was with high-powered clients, and the photo wasn't actually part of their needs (sort of took it for MY needs). Under different circumstances, and on my own, I may have handled it differently, but I did not want to escalate an already ridiculous situation.

@ 31.gif yanko - they do allow photography everywhere, and we were on an escorted tour so we got into places not otherwise accessible by the public. And I could take pictures of everything. It was when we got to the kids that all hell broke loose.

@ 21.gif clive_patric_nolan overt parent paranoia indeed. Verging on mass hysteria.

Message edited by author 2010-11-13 17:21:32.
11/13/2010 05:36:32 PM · #10
Originally posted by photodude:


Well said. The parental paranoia is quite irrational.


Irrational yes - but I wonder, do you have kids? It is hard to stand by and let strangers in the street take pictures of your kids. As a photographer I understand WHY people do it and generally I am pretty cool, but the other night I was at a fireworks display and my daughter was playing with a couple of sparklers - a guy there with a camera taking photos of the display, turned his camera to her to get some (I assume) slow shutter speed shots of her playing with them - but next to me I felt Angelas hackles rise and was waiting for her to say something - I had a moments trepidation, but ultimately let it pass. But I can understand WHY parents are worried - but I blame that on the media shoving the bad incidents down our throats all the time.. I mean, if they reported... "And today, 4.5 million children went about their business without any bullying, knife crime, drugs or pedo interference whatsoever" then we wouldnt be so worried - but thats not sellable news.
11/13/2010 05:40:47 PM · #11
Paranoia is an issue in Australia as well. The question of banning photography on public beaches has been raised here, but thankfully rejected (for now at least).
11/13/2010 05:51:23 PM · #12
Originally posted by tanguera:

@ 21.gif bvy - I was with high-powered clients, and the photo wasn't actually part of their needs (sort of took it for MY needs). Under different circumstances, and on my own, I may have handled it differently, but I did not want to escalate an already ridiculous situation.

Understood. Those are unique circumstances.

11/13/2010 07:21:52 PM · #13
Originally posted by Simms:

But I can understand WHY parents are worried - but I blame that on the media shoving the bad incidents down our throats all the time.. I mean, if they reported... "And today, 4.5 million children went about their business without any bullying, knife crime, drugs or pedo interference whatsoever" then we wouldnt be so worried - but thats not sellable news.


But why? I have never understood the worry. Has there been a rash of child abductions based on images posted on the internet? We have learned to be afraid of people taking pictures of our children, but what is it we are afraid of?

The same goes for images of buildings. I was asked to stop taking images of a biotech building, I asked to talk to a manager because the policy is dumb. He said the images might be used to plot a bombing or something. I pointed out that the building plans can be viewed and copied at the department of building inspections, and that they company publishes images of the building. He admitted that it was the case, but that the no photography policy was the policy.

When we learn to fear, it is sometimes difficult to be rational about what we are afraid of.
11/13/2010 07:39:24 PM · #14
Yes & the thing I am most afraid of is being attacked by a paranoid parent.
11/13/2010 07:45:47 PM · #15
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

When we learn to fear, it is sometimes difficult to be rational about what we are afraid of.


Yes, definitely. It is quite odd and fascinating really. Almost like superstition, like the idea that the camera could steal a part of you, your soul or something as i joked about before. I find it particularly interesting because at the same time we are also the most watched people ever in terms of CCTV, the reality tv craze etc. I can't help but think it's all connected really. We're like the Victorians who were both extremely prudish and massively obsessed by sex at the same time.
11/13/2010 09:42:50 PM · #16
i wasnt allowed to take pictures of my daughters christening becuase another one of the babies could be in the photo.

the church had an incident and now bans photography, they allow pictures after the ceremony is over.

this was 5 years ago. things are getting much worse.
11/13/2010 11:35:49 PM · #17
Originally posted by tanguera:

and made me delete the image in front of him.


Or what? He'd detain you illegally? That could've been a nice little pay check for ya if you'd have played your cards right :)
But, considering you had clients with you, you probably made the right decision by not causing a fuss.
11/13/2010 11:36:51 PM · #18
Originally posted by mike_311:

the church had an incident and now bans photography, they allow pictures after the ceremony is over.


So... what was the nature of this "incident"? What would lead to the banning of photography of your own children and your own memories? Actually, I just remembered that I attended a memorial service a few years back, where the wife of the deceased asked me to take some pictures, but when we went inside, the priest said they didn't allow pictures during the memorial.

This paranoia is growing in so many areas, not just photography. The laws in California have gotten pretty ridiculous over the years, but that's a digression.
11/14/2010 02:30:28 AM · #19
I am a primary school teacher and in schools parents have to sign a consent form allowing their child to be photographed, some children are not allowed to be in a any photo and you have to be sooo careful to make sure that they are not in any backrgounds etc, I can understand why as some 'mothers' have left abusive partners and need to keep their child safe and location unknown from people who may be trying to track them down. You just don't know the situations some of these families may be in! Just a thought.....
11/14/2010 03:47:07 AM · #20
Yeah, ok... I hadn't considered something like that. Thanks for opening my eyes on possible life drama that some people may have to deal with.
11/14/2010 05:21:26 AM · #21
See this same discussion on the same issue.

"Misconceptions about Photography and the Law"
11/14/2010 06:11:56 AM · #22
There are some pretty loony (over)reactions out there, but I'd like to present a little parallel -

OK, more than one, because I may as well lead in with the way we all dislike traffic regulations and breach them deliberately. I don't think any of us are in any essential disagreement about the need for regulation.

The closer example, though, is that of fire and safety regulations. On the one side we have you, me and Joe Soap wanting to leave some garbage outside the door rather than in the appartment so we can carry it downstairs tomorrow, while regulations forbid any obstacles in hallways etc etc. In the workplace it would be really handy to have the printer out in the corridor instead of in a room we use for meetings while everybody barges in for their printouts... (see above reg.)

Way over 90% of the time you, me and Joe Soap are right, but on the one occasion that we are wrong, it's the people responsible for framing and upholding the regulations that drag the charred corpses out of the building and seek out and inform the next of kin.

I know it's all a little over-dramatic, but spare a thought for the social services and those left wondering how they might have prevented it when it all goes wrong and someone has preyed on the subjects of pictures they have seen.

Be cool.
11/14/2010 12:15:27 PM · #23
Originally posted by Natasha:

some children are not allowed to be in a any photo and you have to be sooo careful to make sure that they are not in any backrgounds etc, I can understand why as some 'mothers' have left abusive partners and need to keep their child safe and location unknown from people who may be trying to track them down. You just don't know the situations some of these families may be in!


Originally posted by raish:


I know it's all a little over-dramatic, but spare a thought for the social services and those left wondering how they might have prevented it when it all goes wrong and someone has preyed on the subjects of pictures they have seen.


I know thats the fear. That if an image gets published, some vague awful thing will happen. Some child will be abducted by an estranged father, or such. We know the fear is there because we see it every time we pull out our cameras; But has it actually ever happened? Does it happen so often that we need to react in the manner we have chosen to?

Does anyone have knowledge of a specific example where something bad happened to a child because a photograph was taken? I sure don't.
11/14/2010 12:39:57 PM · #24
Hopefully it doesn't happen because teachers are very careful about not letting it happen! I know that sounds over the top but I have taught children who have been adopted for their own safety as they came from very abusive backgrounds and their natural parents would have caused them emotional and physical pain if they were in contact, their adoptive parents made a huge effort to keep them safe and happy in their new lives and in some cases this needs to be respected, it's not always blown out of proportion and shouldn't be disregarded for the sake of a photo. OK, off the soap box now.

Originally posted by BrennanOB:

Originally posted by Natasha:

some children are not allowed to be in a any photo and you have to be sooo careful to make sure that they are not in any backrgounds etc, I can understand why as some 'mothers' have left abusive partners and need to keep their child safe and location unknown from people who may be trying to track them down. You just don't know the situations some of these families may be in!


Originally posted by raish:


I know it's all a little over-dramatic, but spare a thought for the social services and those left wondering how they might have prevented it when it all goes wrong and someone has preyed on the subjects of pictures they have seen.


I know thats the fear. That if an image gets published, some vague awful thing will happen. Some child will be abducted by an estranged father, or such. We know the fear is there because we see it every time we pull out our cameras; But has it actually ever happened? Does it happen so often that we need to react in the manner we have chosen to?

Does anyone have knowledge of a specific example where something bad happened to a child because a photograph was taken? I sure don't.
11/14/2010 12:58:06 PM · #25
Originally posted by BrennanOB:

But has it actually ever happened?


I don't have any first-hand experience available to report and if I did I just might not tell you. A lot of the specifics are, rightly or wrongly, shielded from public domain. I've certainly had this sort of thing reported to me as fact, and not through journalism or gossip (I work/worked in education).

Just to be ornery, if someone asks you not to take pictures and you think something about you having a camera or being the great artist or investigative reporter or whatever it is you having going on with that thing in your hand, is a reason to ignore the request, then there is a problem right there, I say.
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