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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Another Photographer Detained

posted by on November 15 at 16:57 PM

Here’s another in the rash of tales since Sept. 11 about all sorts of photographers being questioned and detained for taking perfectly legal pictures.

KING-5 reports today that the Snohomish police cuffed an associate professor of fine art at UW, Shirley Scheier, for taking pictures of power lines.

Now the ACLU is suing the department.

Here’s a good primer on what you can and can’t shoot when you’re out there—and with few exceptions, the cops and the security guards crying “security” are wrong.

Keep shooting.

(Thanks for the tip, Betsey.)

RSS icon Comments


A rough rule of thumb is, if you can see it from property that's open to the public, you can photograph it. As Kantor points out, it's legal to shoot in a shopping mall, for instance, but it's also legal for the shopping mall to bar you and make you leave. They CAN'T stop or confiscate your photography, though.

I always carry this document with me:

There was a case last week of a tourist on Amtrak traveling from New York to Boston who was photographing from the train, and the asshole of a conductor told him to stop. He didn't stop, because he didn't speak any English and didn't know what the guy was saying. So the conductor had the cops come on at New Haven and take the guy off the train for questioning. He was Japanese. Through a fellow passenger they were able to determine that he was going to see family in Boston who would be worried if he didn't show up on time, which interested the conductor and the cops not at all. They put him on a later train. That's the definition of a police state. Don't let them do it to you.

I was physically threatened and followed in a car by a homeless guy in Georgetown whose "home" -- a shopping cart -- I had inadvertently photographed. I didn't feel like discussing the finer points of the law with him!

Posted by Fnarf | November 15, 2007 5:09 PM

i'm sick of the homeless and their police state!

Posted by infrequent | November 15, 2007 5:15 PM

Friends don't let friends take pictures of power lines.

Power lines are for throwing shoes over to advertise drug dealer locations.

Posted by Will in Seattle | November 15, 2007 5:31 PM

Some friends of mine got confronted by a cop (or some sort of security figure employed by the gov't) two years ago for taking a picture of the outside of the federal court building downtown from the street. Being on a photo scavenger hunt, they weren't really in the mood to get arrested. They stopped taking pictures and were left alone, but it's still very troubling.

Posted by Jeff | November 15, 2007 6:00 PM

Thanks for the info and the links Jen and Fnarf. Useful stuff.

Posted by neilcrocodile | November 15, 2007 6:15 PM

I misspoke. We don't live in a police state. We live in a minimum-wage security guard state. And people eat it up, because Americans LOVE being ordered around by a retard who failed his GED with a sewn-on patch on his shirt and a radio on his belt.

Posted by Fnarf | November 15, 2007 6:34 PM

Yeah, Dance for me you photo-taking scum, then bring me some pork rinds and red bull, you yuppie bootlick. You know you LOVE it... feel my power.

Posted by retard who failed his GED with a sewn-on patch on my shirt and a radio on my belt. | November 16, 2007 1:09 AM

So what do you do if the police arrest you, take your camera, and destroy the pictures?

Posted by Greg | November 16, 2007 7:42 AM

Do what THIS GUY did. Fight back. And become an ACLU member.

Posted by DOUG. | November 16, 2007 8:31 AM

Let me try that LINK again.

Posted by DOUG. | November 16, 2007 8:44 AM

oh man, doug, that story is crazy. he's lucky he could prove (or they admitted) that they actually arrested him.

Posted by infrequent | November 16, 2007 9:22 AM

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