Winter is coming
3rd of July on Flickr.
Yashica Mat 124G
This isn’t the greatest picture in the world, but I thought I would share it along with the unhappy incident that preceded it…
I was out taking pictures with my wife Amy and spotted this fireworks stand. I stopped, took a shot, and was about to take another when a guy in a National Capital Security shirt came towards me and motioned his finger for me to walk towards him. He was immediately hostile and aggressive and was obviously doing his best to intimidate me. I told him he could talk to me but that he would need to walk up to me if he wished to do so. I knew I was well within my rights, standing on a public sidewalk, so I wasn’t very concerned about the situation, just aggravated.
Anyway he asked me why I was taking pictures and I told him because it “was fun” and that it was almost the fourth of July so the fireworks stand looked interesting to me. I also mentioned that I was on a public sidewalk and within my rights to take pictures. He told me I would have to explain what I was doing to the owner of the fireworks stand and that I was breaking the law (why a fireworks stand needs a security guard in a strip mall parking lot is beyond me). I told him I didn’t need to do so and he said I couldn’t leave until I did. I asked him if I was under arrest and he said he would call the police or “po-po” as he said in his professional parlance. I said I wished to report his behavior and I asked for his name and “badge” number which he refused to give. I invited him to call the police which seemed to catch him off guard. He kept getting his phone out but didn’t dial. I kept encouraging him to call. He said if I snapped another picture, he would call the police. I pretended to snap another and another, but he just kept looking at his phone.
At this point Amy was talking to him as well and I sneaked in this shot. I had determined that it really wasn’t worth the stop anyway and I didn’t want to waste anymore film. I said he was welcome to call the police but that I wasn’t going to wait around. I planned to only be there a couple of minutes anyway. He took a photo of my license plate with his phone. I pretended to take one of him with my terrible and ancient camera phone and then Amy and I took off.
So this is another situation in which I know I was in the right but where someone took the fun out of an otherwise nice evening. The fact that I was being harassed for taking a picture of a fireworks stand that was selling wares in celebration of our independence from tyranny was an irony that wasn’t lost on me but was obviously beyond the poor “security guard.” I would imagine that his bullying had mostly to do with the fact that he had to work late on a Sunday night guarding a roadside stand, of all things. I also wonder if maybe there was something illegal going on at the stand and he was trying to scare us away because of that.
I looked up this National Capital Security company and it seems to be either a fraud, a front, or defunct. The phone numbers listed on the site don’t seem to work and there doesn’t seem to be any legitimate listing for this company. Of course I don’t even know if this man really worked for them anyway.
The whole situation was very strange, but I’ve had enough run-ins of this kind that I’ve been inspired to start a new flickr group called Maryland Photo Rights. There are several other groups online dedicated to the issue of photographer’s rights as well.
DC Photo Rights
Photography is not a crime
Check them out and know your rights if someone tries to intimidate you. The madness of post 9/11 hysteria, or whatever it is that makes people behave this way, must be reckoned with. For inspiration, check out the actions of Christopher Fussell, who faced down several MTA police who tried to convince him that he was breaking the law. His actions led the MTA to officially disavow the actions of their misguided officers. This will hopefully make it easier to take pictures on public property without harassment in the future, here in Baltimore.