I really have no dog in the fight about what does or does not allow the ability for a citizen to take a photo in public. My news friends will tell tales where they were legally in the right and overzealous police stepped over the line. I have heard from my law enforcement friends of tales of overzealous people with nothing better to do but drive around looking for an egregious injustice to their civil rights.
You can just search youtube and find a myriad of examples where it is very easy with editing to create a case for both of the aforementioned idea. A policeman having a bad day, or too much attitude being a dork. Or some guy driving around in a car, baiting an officer to do something while hiding behind his “constitutional rights” which should have an “acting like an idiot” amended to it.
There is one guy who makes me thankful I am not a law enforcement officer. He drives around on video wondering why people are upset at him for going out and looking for trouble. I would take his camera and smash it into the ground and go to court and say, “Your honor, i am invoking the abode defense. The accused was operating a photo and video camera without a license, much less any clue that he knew how to respect, much less, actually use it .”
What is the common denominator? Despite the vast majority of the population, photographers, and law enforcement officers being decent people and doing their jobs to the best of their ability, there will be a few people on both sides acting the fool.
I am not sure if the reason is too much testosterone, or some childhood event that created some need for power. Some people get it behind a gun and badge; others get behind a camera lenses, because technology allows anything with a camera, video recorder, and connection to the Internet to call itself a citizen journalist.
On Saturday evening, I was at a train station after a football game I got to work. It was a new place for me, so I was looking at everything and noticed the Swiss train clocks created an odd symmetry with the darkness and people standing there. When I overlooked a tunnel while waiting for a train, I said “this is a cool picture” and took out my iphone and started snapping montage as an attempt to “try” to capture what I thought the image should look like, and the limits of cheap cell phone cameras operating in darkness.
I saw a group of the light blue shirted Securitas and I saw the darker blue shirts of the police far in the distance, and I started taking the sequence for the panorama when I noticed the police walking towards me. As they got closer, I knew they were going to question me about “what are you doing?”
While I have no idea what the law is for photography in Switzerland, there are more personal rights in Switzerland. While I am not sure if legally there are more, but Europe in general places more value on privacy and intimacy than the USA. There tends to be a much clearer and more defined law than inside the USA where work, play, personal life blend into on container all the time.
Perhaps as I type that, I find it more ironic that American citizens might have more legal protection, with far more laws on the books, yet, the reality of that in real life where fear has pushed “security” issues since 9-11, Americans probably have taken away actual freedom while not getting much in return.
The lead policeman spoke in Swiss German, and I got out that I was sorry, but I spoke very little German and asked if he spoke a little English. He said he did and we started a discussion which would get to the bottom of a) who was I? b) what was I doing? c) did I just attend the match ?
They guy was so polite. Part of it is that it is just how the swiss culture is, they are genuinely polite, yet can give americans a run for their money in being rude if you are rude to them. I didn’t have to produce any documents or papers, yet, he probably was either training a guy, or thought I was some big odd guy scouting locations for future matches and I must look like a hooligan type with my large size and shaved head. I really have no idea. When I said, “You have a really unique photo opportunity off this train station” and showed him the long panorama image I was shooting.” He probably thought, “wtf? Some guy sees beauty in a train station?”
It became apparent I was not a hooligan, or football spy for another team. I was just some odd guy that saw amazing symmetry in the idea for a photograph, yet, I knew the odds of getting what I wanted, were slim because of the limited technology in the cell phone we slim.
There was no arguing, no one reciting laws that don’t exist, nor was I given a ticket for doing something that was either legally right or wrong. I didn’t have to tell him I used to shoot photos for a professional imaging service.
The key elements were he wasn’t a dick, I wasn’t a dick. We had a conversation, he asked questions, i answered them, neither got upset, no one had to produce documents and a simple judgment call not based on “fear” or “recrimination of a lawsuit” was an option to allow or disallow the photos.
What is neatest memory is that the best image of all was the four blue shirted police walking down the tunnel with all the people at the top. The next image I won’t post is the officer waving and smiling. I will print that and keep it on the wall as a cool memory.
This is why I really don’t understand law enforcement people acting a fool. Nor do I understand the idiots driving around with cameras looking to “test” or “prove” something. America seems to have forgotten the meaning of the difference between “rights” and “privileges.” Then again, common sense inside the borders of America appears to have died under the crushing weight of lawsuits.
I understand why the media is fighting for access, as they see access and the freedom to take images is more of a choreographed dance where exposure is controlled and limited to a few people standing like a herd of swine in a pen that are all taking the same image.
The viewer at home doesn’t really get to see how much of a choreographed circus the media has become.
“Peanuts…get your fresh peanuts and snow cones here! Come see the three headed lady and the 16 leg goat, get your fresh popcorn here!” (just turn on any television and watch the content for a bit)
we only have ourselves to blame…”reality tv!”