One of the most pernicious escalations against media creators in recent years has been the war on photography in public places. Again and again, we hear how overzealous law-enforcement people—and private security guards—have challenged people who are doing nothing more than taking pictures in public places. They claim to be preventing terrorism, but the evidence for this is at best thin.
A number of websites have sprung up to catalog and protest infringements on our rights to take pictures and videos. One of the best is called, unsurprisingly, “War on Photography,” and it’s full of depressingly familiar tales of harassment by officious transit workers, police officers, and security guards, among others. (UPDATE: The War on Photography site appears to have gone offline; here’s a substitute called “Photography is Not a Crime” that is even more comprehensive.)
The U.S. has nothing, in this regard, on the police-state tactics that become more obnoxious every year in the nation that gave us the Magna Carta: the United Kingdom. The horror stories there are enough to make you leave your camera home on a tourism visit, or, perhaps more wisely, visit a less paranoid nation.
Fear aside, there aren’t many legal restrictions on what you can photograph from a public place that’s already in public view. If you’re harassed, it’s almost certainly a law enforcement official, public or private, acting way beyond his authority. There’s nothing in any post-9/11 law that restricts your right to photograph.
This is worth fighting. Search “photographer rights” on Google and download one of the several wallet documents that can help you if you get harassed; I found one for the UK, US, and Australia. Don’t cede your right to photograph in public. Don’t propagate the terrorist photographer story. Remind them that prohibiting photography was something we used to ridicule about the USSR. Eventually sanity will be restored, but it may take a while.