Friday, June 19, 2009

Photography And The Black & White Factor

That’s black and white as in police cars.

As I documented over at my blog, I had another encounter with the Plattsburgh PD while taking photos. This has been an occasional but persistent problem. Reaching back into the dusty archives, I found this piece that details the first major encounter.

It all depends upon the officer. Sometimes a police car will stop, the officer will chat a bit with me, and he just drives on. No problem.

Then are other officers who go into paranoid control-freak mode. For example, this article from three years ago…

= = =

Land Of The Free?

Police + Photographer = Problem

Variation On A Theme

When they came for the writers, I said nothing.

When they came for the photographers, I said nothing.

And when they came for me, for some reason there was no record of it.

Land Of The Free (Just Don’t Take Photos)

Saturday night. August 5, 2006. Approximately 10 PM. I’m hanging around a downtown coffeehouse when I noticed some activity across the street in the parking lot. So I walk over, just wondering what is going on. I stand on the sidewalk, out of the way, while the EMTs and city police do their jobs.

I had my small digital camera with me. I decided to take a few shots. I didn’t use flash (it was too weak to be useful from where I was standing.)

Suddenly an officer of the Plattsburgh Police Department came over and asked to see my photographs on my camera’s LCD screen. I changed the subject, replying that I didn’t know there was a law preventing me from taking any pictures. The officer replied that there wasn’t any law, but someone had been injured and that person wouldn’t want a photograph taken. Blocking my view of the injured person being loaded into the ambulance, he ordered me to move along.

"Who's that citizen with a camera?"

"Let me talk to that citizen with a camera."

So what’s the problem? Do any of the crappy images accompanying this essay undermine the investigation? If I had been working for the local newspaper, would I be treated the same way? Does a reporter have more rights than an average citizen?

This is the fourth time I’ve been hassled by the city police when taking photographs at night. On the other occasions I was just shooting scenery, one shot spotlighting an American flag.

What is the Plattsburgh PD afraid of? An amateur photographer with a small point-and-shoot digital camera is a threat?