“Well-known environmentalist Willie Fontenot was giving some college students a tour of an oil refinery recently. They were standing on a public sidewalk, taking photographs of the refinery, when sheriff’s deputies and refinery security guards came over and asked Fontenot to confiscate the students’ drivers licenses and hand them over. Fontenot refused, and as a result, he lost his job as community liasion officer for the Louisiana Attorney General’s office.” [via Boing Boing]
Such stories are quite common in these days of terror alerts and suspicious activity. Photographers earlier were hardly bothered and routinely ignored as they went about their fondness for capturing mundane things on film (now silicon). But this isn’t surprising to us Indians because we are used to seeing signs banning photography in the most public of places (asking me to pay to photograph a monument (common practice all over India) is insanely stupid but I’ll save that rant for a later time).
I remember once being harshly rebuked by a security guard in New Delhi for trying to photography the space frame of the LIC building opposite Palika Bazaar. I couldn’t understand why he would do that when in fact; I could just step few feet outside their compound and take a picture from the pavement on the other side of the road. I got a better picture too. Similarly I was asked not to photograph the atrocious PPG building in Pittsburgh by a security guard (no sign banning photography was to be found though). He didn’t ask for the pictures that I had already taken though; so I have already achieved my objective if I was a terrorist. On a tangential thought, I bet any decent architecture critic would want that atrocious “pokey glass building” to be razed too.
Can you really stop people from taking pictures when they are standing on public property? Of course, the terror concerns are understandable, but frankly no one can stop a determined terrorist. Does that mean, we should not enforce any photography bans at all? According to me, yes we shouldn’t because it doesn’t stop whom we want to and just inconveniences innocent photographers who are merely compiling a holiday album. Also to stop anyone from photographing a building or a dam for that matter is nearly impossible in today’s age of smaller cameras. Heck, even our cell phones have cameras that take decent pictures. Do you think banning anyone from photographing the Twin Towers would have prevented the terrorists from razing them? You could see them from a mile away. Ah! Such a glorious sight that was; sigh!