Sunday, April 08, 2012

Philadelphia Freeze or Problems photographing the police in America

Following my report on photography bans in central London and at the 2012 Olympics in the same city I was emailed by a contact in America about a recent incident.

It seems there are issues about taking photographs of the police in Philadelphia.


When a Philadelphia photojournalism student took an image of a police officer he never expected to be held in custody for 24 hours.

When the student’s girlfriend picked up the camera that had fallen to the ground she never expected to be banged up for 18 hours. And fined. And made to do 12 hours community service (and, yes, I am talking about the girlfriend).

The land of freedom and opportunity. Do me a favour, luv.
Ian Van Kuyk’s mistake was to assert his right to photograph in the public domain when a police officer told him to stop.

The police officer is reported to have said: “Public domain, yeah we’ve heard that before!” then apparently knocking the student to the ground.
Van Kuyk’s subsequent arrest is as comical as it is worrying. For the record, the United States of America has a pretty good record on photography in public (except for bizarre proposals of a ban in New York City five years ago).

These are the photography facts of America right now: Though laws can vary in their leniency from state to state, in America it is generally legal to photograph anything and anyone on any public property, with some exceptions made for military installations.

Photographing a tourist attraction, whether publicly or privately owned, is generally considered legal, unless explicitly prohibited by posted signs (NOTE: as usual when I am talking about photographing, the same rules apply to filming/videoing).

Sensible stuff this. And so it should be. Would any country or city be stupid enough to ban photography at their major tourist areas?

If you see me in London, please don’t take my photograph.

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