Thursday, July 31, 2008

more infringement of my rights...

okay, this isn't the first time we've talked about this on my blog or on other photo blogs, but it happened again, and this time it got a little crazy.

this image is of pasadena towers - an impressive building with a some fascinating mosaic artwork right under the entry arch. this artwork was so eye catching that i pulled out my camera to take a picture - from my justified location on the sidewalk. as i raised my camera an employee raced up to me and the following took place:

1. she demanded that i delete the image i just took (even though i had not taken one yet)
2. she requested to see the photos on my camera
3. she informed me that if i took an image she would call the police
4. she told me that she didn't want me to get in trouble, so i better just leave

of course i informed her politely that she needed to tell me why i was not allowed to take a picture in a public location. i reiterated that i was allowed to take a picture while i was on the sidewalk. i encouraged her to notify the police so that she could learn why it was legal for me to take a picture.

i really should have stayed around and pressed the issue further, but due to time limitations i left without resolving anything, or taking a picture (at least not the one i wanted). it was pretty fun to argue knowing that i was in the right and that employee had little to stand on.

petrea (of pasadena daily photo) has already pointed me toward this website. my plan is to print off that very helpful document (which hints that this particular person could be charged for harassing me!) and return to the scene of the crime (?) and try again to get that photo.


Petrea Burchard said...

Oh Ben! I've encountered the rudest, most ignorant security guards at this very building. These people have no clue as to the law, and have been completely unkind and even threatening to me.

They have a no-photography rule in their building, thinking that people will use the photographs to "make money" off the building's looks (as if!). The last time I tried to take a photo of one of the mosaics, I told the guard who stopped me that I could take a photo because I was standing on city property (the sidewalk). I had that information from a friend in the mayor's office. The guard said even if I took a photo from across the street (as it seems you did), he would call the police. Then the guard played the terrorism card, which is stupid because no recent act of terrorism has used photography that we know of. (My husband told him you can take pictures of the White House and the poor guard was incredulous. "You cannot!" he said. John said, "I've done it myself, with security right there.")

The guy got really mad and threatened to call the police, which John wanted to wait for, but we had to be somewhere and I don't need those photos that badly.

I've printed out a list of my rights as a photographer and I carry them in the car. But I don't think I'll take more photos of that building. I don't want to give them the satisfaction. The building's not that attractive.

Unless you and all the other local photographers want to get together with me and storm the place, all taking photos at once. Maybe take a few cops with us.;)

Anonymous said...

Wow. You really should gather a bunch of photographers at once when you have time to wait for the police to be called :) Heck, they don't even have to be "photographers", just people with cameras. That is ridiculous.

Laurie Allee said...

I am really tempted to go take pictures there now...

I don't understand why they are so protective of this place. I mean, sheesh, it's an office building, right? Maybe it's not really office space but a cover for one of those shadow prisons we keep hearing about.

Gotta love the reaction when the security guard said you can't take pics at the White House. I'm amazed that this happens so often. I had no idea. I guess I've been really lucky so far.

ben wideman said...

Petrea - glad to find this isn't the first time there have been issues at this building. Your comment makes me wonder if they have structured their own rules with the city? Meredith sent an e-mail to Pasadena City to see if there are any laws in place for this building. I think she's hopeful that I don't get arrested :)

Pat - do you want to join the photographer army? Maybe we should pick a day and time. I love it. Activism at its finest. Imagine if a reporter showed up for the demonstration. Would they be able to take pictures??

Laurie - you'll run into this eventually. I think because of how infrequently it happens, it always startles me. I can't help but wonder if these places have had trouble with mystery shoppers, undercover reporters, etc. There has to be an incident in the past to make someone so hostile. You don't just threaten people on the sidewalk for no reason.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

Still be careful and stay cool. An artist friend of mine was confronted by a security guard at a Los Angeles RiGht... AidE... I imagine my friend questioned "said guard" and probably got got cocky with him. The guy hauled off and slugged him in the eye. Damaged his eye sight permanently and it went to court. R A paid up. The guard was a thug with gang affiliations. Turns out many of these guards are poorly paid, poorly trained and harbor a past which may explain why "diplomacy" isn't their strong suit.

Wayne said...

If I were in Pasadena I would be inclined to press the matter. Who manages the building? Who are the tenants?
My guess is that the police would only show up once and probably tell the guards not waste police resources on something so juvenile.
By the way, are there any signs posted indicating photography is prohibited?
If I were there I'd come along with the gang and and snap away.
I can't think of a building in Vancouver where I couldn't take all the exterior shots I want, including the court house, police station, RCMP headquarters and even an unmarked building in an industrial area the cops use for who knows what?.
I look forward to seeing this tile work, you've got me intrigued now.

Pasadena Adjacent said...

I think the art work you speak of is by Eagle Rock ceramic artist Ralph Bacerra. He died back in June at the age of 70.

ben wideman said...

Palm - great advice to keep a cool head. Nothing worse than being in the right and ending up getting into trouble for losing your cool. As far as actual physical harm, the woman who addressed me barely came up to my elbows...

Wayne - no signs posted. I really should look into the companies involved and contact them about their so-called policy.

Unfortunately I'm heading out of town next week, this whole thing may have to be put on hold for a little while.

Petrea Burchard said...

I agree it's best to keep a level head. After all, the law's on your side. Let them be the ones to lose their cool, if anyone must.

Remember, too, the difference between trespassing and taking photographs. It's legal to take photographs wherever the public is allowed, even on private property. But if the guards ask you to leave you must. However, you may continue to take photographs as you do so, even if they ask you not to. This is your right under the law, whether they say it is or not.

They have no signs posted that I recall. If they posted them, I might be inclined to obey them.

I'll be interested to hear what Meredith finds out.

Petrea Burchard said...

At another local building I was asked by a security guard not to take photos. I was on their property, and the guard told me I could take photos from the sidewalk. He was very polite (and he also knew the law). He even offered me management's phone number, in case I wanted to contact them and ask questions. It made such a difference in goodwill.

ben wideman said...

here is the response Meredith got (note the reference to the article we already knew about):

Ms. Wideman,

In answer to your question about taking pictures of an office building in Pasadena, there are no laws in the Pasadena Municipal Code about photographing public or private buildings. I also spoke to someone in Pasadena's Public Affairs who indicated there were no local ordinances specific to photography. However, she indicated that if the building was private, permission should be requested prior to taking pictures. Searching in general regarding legal rights of photographers, this seems to be the common procedure.

You may want to print a copy of The Photographer's Right as a reference:

I hope this information is useful. Please let us know if we can be of further assistance.


Jane McMahon

Reference Services

Pasadena Public Library

285 E. Walnut St.

Pasadena, CA 91101

Petrea Burchard said...

So the city has no policy about it, basically. You are within your rights to photograph anything, as long as you're on public property and not invading privacy. It would be nice of you to ask permission to take photos, but legally speaking you're not required to.

If you trespass to get your shot, it's a different story!

By the way, this is true of taking a photo of a private home. You can legally do so, as long as you're not on private property and don't (for example) use a telephoto lens to shoot inside the windows. But if you can ask the homeowner's permission, it's nice to do so.

The Real Zajac said...

I will gladly ambush a building in Pasadena with you if you want. The FC Blog stands with you!

Link One

Link Two

Link Three

Link Four

Anonymous said...

Whoa, that's nuts. I've worked in the Pasadena Towers for going on six years and I had no idea they had such silly rules.

I just went downstairs to ask the guard about this. He said that because there were "government agencies" in both towers pictures of the outside of the buildings were forbidden. Which they can't really enforce, but that's the rule that the guards are asked to have people follow. (They're all quite nice people in my experience. Although I've never been hassled for taking pictures, so....)

Petrea Burchard said...

Excellent links, Zajac. I understand things are worse for photographers in the UK. There was some kind of poster campaign, asking people to turn in photographers they saw on the Tube. I'll go find USElaine and direct her here, I think she has that link.

Corey, I'm not surprised the guards are nice to you. They probably get up in arms about this issue because it's their territory and they've been told to protect it. Interesting, though, the explanation they give you is not the one I've been told. The two different guards I've spoken to at that building have each told me they don't want photographers exploiting the building for advertising or monetary purposes.

Government agencies, huh? And every tourist with a camera can crawl all over City Hall or photograph the White House. People need to get over themselves.

Keith said...

Real estate appraisers take photos of both residential and commercial property every single day. In fact, appraisers must be licensed by the state (some exceptions of course)and a state agency regulates and establishes the standards for the appraisal industry. One of those standards requires photographs of comparables in the appraisal report. I did this for many years. I was chased, I was threatened but I knew it was legal as long as I was on public property, the state of California told me so. That holds more weight than the opinion of a security guard.

ben wideman said...

Petrea - on point as usual.

Zajac - awesome links! Thanks for sharing.

Corey - nice to have someone reflect from inside the establishment. I can't believe that the "guards" are instructed to threaten, even though there are no grounds to do so.

Keith - I love it. California told me to take this picture. Not sure I could make that work for my blog, but I wish I could say that.

Laurie Allee said...

I really, really, really want to go take pictures there. In all the years I've madly snapped pictures, I've never been hassled by anyone. (Now, when I shot 16mm motion picture film without getting a permit, that was another story.)

Don't you wonder why they are so edgy about this at this particular spot? I mean... really... what are they hiding? Have I watched too many conspiricy theory movies or does it seem particularly bizarre? Especially since the mosaic tile is by a notable artist.

The Real Zajac said...

That does it! I'm going to be down there at 2:30pm on Friday, August 1, 2008. Anyone who wants to join me can do so!

ben wideman said...

Laurie - I'm also very compelled.

Zajac - I can't make it tomorrow, but please let us all know how hit goes! Photography as a right, not a privilege.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

Today, I was kicked out of the Old Mill in San Marino for asking permission to take a photograph inside. The building is owned by the city.

There are some buildings that hold a copyright on any photography of them, ie. the row houses in San Francisco across from Alamo Park (a famous image of SF). No one is allowed to photograph them no matter where the photographer is standing.

USelaine said...

Here's the original Boing Boing article: Cops declare war on photography

And here are the subsequent parodies: Responding to anti-photographer terror

There has been a movement to get formal legislation protecting photographers through Parliament. I don't know where that currently stands. "Curly" of South Shields knows all about it. He was actually questioned by real policemen for taking pictures near a "fun-fair".

ben wideman said...

MH - Kicked out for ASKING to take a picture???? Unbelievable. I had no idea that some buildings could be copyrighted... I actually have an image of those row houses up on this blog...

USelaine - Thanks for the links. Very helpful! There seems to be an endless amount of info on other blogs, leads me to think that this problem isn't going away anytime soon.

USelaine said...

Miss H - I can't believe that pictures of views or even individual buildings could possibly be copyright protected. Only the architect can copyright her or his design, and that probably applies only to his plans. I think someone would like for people to believe they can't take a picture of a view, but there is nothing in the Library of Congress website about the possibility. It is truly a step too far, and indefensible. No way. I refuse.

David Ocker said...

Here's a few of my photos of Pasadena Towers.

I once tried to take a picture in the Pasadena Post Office lobby - of the nifty ceiling. I got yelled at by a clerk (from behind one of those little pass-through windows) "No photos!!". Homeland Security?

ben wideman said...

Docker - good to know that people have succeeded in the past at this illusive location. You are an inspiration to us all.

Patrizzi Intergarlictica said...

Hi Ben,

Someone who smokes waaaay too much pot told me that. I can't find any legal case law to support it.


The Real Zajac said...

Sorry guys, but I ended up having to cancel my recon, I had stuff to do at work. Who wants to "assault" the building?

ben wideman said...

I fly out on Tuesday morning. Any time before then would be fun - oh, and I've got church related activities on Sunday morning/afternoon.

Kim Thomas said...

I think we should all go!I am ready right now!

Anonymous said...

Zejac - How did it go? I had similar thoughts when I read this blog: I'm going to go down there and see if I could get them to pick a fight! Having been a security guard and still being a 6'4 man, I'd like to see what happens. If anything, I'd hope to set the building management straight on the difference between a building policy and a law.

It's like saying that since tenants/guests have to wear visible badges (a common practice in most buildings nowadays), then someone walking on the sidewalk outside of the building has to wear one as well.

Anonymous said...

bw, Just saw your post today.
Pasadena towers? I recognize the bldg. It's new isn't it?
But, I can't place the exact location of it. It's near Lake correct? but North or South?

It seems security ultimately threatens to "call the police". So, have any photographers called the police ahead of time to see what their response would be?

Anyway, did u guys ever carry out your photo-march on that bldg?

ben wideman said...

There are two towers on the corner of Lake and Colorado, on each side of the bank that is right on the southwest corner. This particular shot is the one that is on Colorado.

Not sure if anyone has gone over and tried again...

Tash said...

Good for you to stand your ground, get a great shot & post it too!
I would of just given in & then sneaked back later ... but now I know what to do. Thank you for all of us.

Sarah Jane said...

Whoa, so much good info here. I feel "armed" now!