Security Guards Harass Photographer and Erase His Photos During Infuriating Run-In

“This crap is why I can’t make a timelapse landscape of Chicago.” That’s the title of a video and Reddit post by Chicago-based photographer Benn Jordan that shows the scary situation he found himself in recently while trying to capture a time-lapse of South Chicago.

This isn’t the first time that Jordan has had issues while trying to capture “the landscapes of South Chicago,” but as he puts it in the video’s description, this altercation “takes the cake.” Here’s how he describes the incident:

Security guards who refused to identify themselves [turns out they work for Acme Refining (website and Twitter)], claimed the sidewalk area between their property and the street was private property, damaged my gear, and formatted my memory cards containing the previous 2 days of work without my permission. I wish I could get to my phone sooner when they initially approached me, as I definitely have grounds for assault.

They then lied to the police and claimed I was on the other side of their fence, refusing to leave, and tried to have me arrested for criminal trespassing. Upon showing the police the 20+ minutes of video I have of the incident, they told me I would have to take it up with civil court.

Screen Shot 2014-04-30 at 8.44.08 AM

There are, of course, two sides to every story, and so we have reached out to Acme Refining for comment to see if they can offer any official explanation or excuse for how these guards behaved. We will update this post as soon as/if we hear back.

In the meantime, check out the video at the top to see the altercation for yourself, and remember to be careful when you’re out shooting. You never know who you might run into and it is always a good idea to try and get permission from a company (even if you’re just shooting their factory from the sidewalk) than take your chances.

(via Reddit)

  • superduckz

    The “Chicago” way.

  • mthouston

    “You never know who you might run into and it is always a good idea to try and get permission from a company (even if you’re just shooting their factory from the sidewalk) than take your chances.”

    No, it is better to take a second person with you who has a video camera, and have your lawyer on speed dial on your phone..

  • lemmohr

    i dont know, sounds/looks to me like the photographer is more aggressive than the security guards.. they were just standing there.

  • markz

    Sounds like Acme Refining has a bit of history with harassing side walk photographers and video crews:

  • basslabbers

    …Documents Destruction – Document Shredding… says the twitter profile of @AcmeRefining

  • lemmohr

    the company is into Document Destruction. this means they have a lot of highly sensitive and private/confidential documents coming in and out of that building. this PROBABLY explains the security

  • Photos4u2c

    The bigger crime was shooting the video vertically. Dude belongs in jail for that.

  • Nuno Cruz

    A taser for every photographer!

  • Francis Estanislao

    it seems that the moronic virus, a type of virus affecting security guards originated from the philippines already reached chicago. they affect the brain and it makes security guards hate photographers and if you ask them why you cant take photographs they dont have any answer, they dont have any reason for it. its just that you cant.

  • Francis Estanislao

    they got his memory card

  • Francis Estanislao

    im assuming they do that inside and not outside where the photographer is making his time lapse project.

  • Mojo

    Screw that. A .40 Cal.

  • Adam Cross

    well…they took his memory card (illegal), stopped him from leaving (illegal) /and/ clearly wasted police time. they weren’t “just standing there”.

  • Adam Cross

    looks like the same “security” employee guy

  • Brett I

    We don’t have it all from the start of the incident. However, it looks like he is in a parking lot and not on a sidewalk.

  • Karol Wyszynski

    great advice to take company permision – What about street photography etc all those buildings and people on pictures and then displayed in the art galleries ??? Buildings got more rights then humans LOL – You could post what rights photographer have in difrent countries – and can somebody erase your memory card this is the question ???

  • walkerfilm

    He lost 2 days of work from his card? I reminder to back up your media whenever you can especially where there is potential to run into problems.

  • gochugogi

    Pretty sure he can recover the images as long as he doesn’t overwrite them.

  • Vancouvercam

    In future maybe photographers should use social media and organize a Flash Mob (Excuse the Pun) to turn up at offending company the next day! See how they handle 200 photographers doing timelapses and short films.

  • C Sab

    Typical security guard power-tripping.

  • Rob Elliott

    Few issues.

    often in industrial spaces there isn’t a “sidewalk” area and sometimes the property line and the fence are not the same thing, so it is possible he was, as there is no sidewalk in that area. Don’t know but that could be an issue.Even if that was the belief of the security guards that is where the issue would reside.

    Taking a time lapse of a building.. particularly for a long period, particularly of a company that had a police raid just a little over 6 months ago.. is likely going to attract attention. In this case talking with police, or the city first, and the company, would have been a good idea.

    The security guards were out of line in any case, but this could have been avoid. We may be free to do things, but we should some times take the extra steps to ensure we don’t get hassled.

    If I owned a building in that area, or worked for a building in that area.. with the gear he had.. I’d be confused to… they should have called the police right away, would have been a quick easy situation.

    Of course only one person had their rights violated… and no matter what could have been done to make things go smooth.. there was no call for the behaviour of the security guards.

  • Burnin Biomass

    I was going to say, it does not look like a sidewalk area on the vid (they might have moved).

  • Burnin Biomass

    He can. It’s why, if you want to deescalate the situation, just saying “ok, look, I’ll erase the images” might work. Just go and recover them later.

  • Ridgecity

    Any person that does this has something to hide. Bet they had guns and were ready to use them.

  • OtterMatt

    Recuva has saved my bacon more than once. Everyone should have it on a flash drive for safety’s sake.

  • OtterMatt

    No, no one can erase your data or force you to erase your data. The US courts have upheld that under the Fourth Amendment, saying that would constitute an unlawful search and seizure.

  • Guest

    Wait… what? I dont know if this is from a real account or not, just passing it along.

  • superduckz

    If I lived near there I would swing by at least an hour or two ever day, make myself as visible as possible, set up on public property and just film away for the hell of it out of general principal. A$$hats.. Oh and I’d get an OSHA handbook and report anything suspicous just to be a bigger dick about it.

  • Procentje20

    Erasing pictures is no big deal. Theres always runtime getdataback. Also fun to use on second hand memory cards :)

    I and how I live to live in europe where private security firms have no power at all.

  • Truth Teller

    My usual response to arrogant jerks like this is, “Are you willing to kill me to do it?” Then I ass, “I am willing to die to prevent you.” The unspoken part that they always seem to understand is, “Or see you die in the attempt.”

  • Tobias W.

    I disagree with DL Cade on this:

    “You never know who you might run into and it is always a good idea to try and get permission from a company (even if you’re just shooting their factory from the sidewalk) than take your chances.”

    If you’re shooting in public space where permission is not needed, you should NOT ask permission from third parties who are not authorized to either permit or deny you legal behavior. That is just supporting the bullying and illegal actions of these bullies and will worsen the situation for everybody in the future.

    Stand your ground if you’re not breaking the law. Call the cops. Take notes. Record the incident. Try to involve witnesses, that can be pedestrians passing by or call someone you know who can come quickly to the scene.

    Know your rights. Be prepared and ready to explain your rights. Maybe even have them printed and laminated.

    Be vocal. If you are assaulted, state that this is assault and you object.

    If you know you’re going to shoot in a location where trouble is likely, bring someone with you who can help protect you, be a witness (maybe with a video camera, documenting).

    The only entity you should ask for permission are the authorities. The police. The city administration. NEVER ask for permission from companies that have no authority to deny your legal rights anyway. That only makes it worse for everybody.

  • Thanasis Maikousis

    Brainless monkeys. If the photog was really illegally there they should just call the police. They had no right to touch his equipment whatsoever. There should also be a warning sign.

  • Edgar Allan Bro

    Acme Refining?

    He is lucky no one dropped a safe on his head, or laid dynamite under his tripod.

  • Edgar Allan Bro


  • Joe

    Dude needs to grow a pair and learn how to say “no” and dial 911.

    He can’t stand up for himself or argue worth sh!t.

    No sympathy for 2 days of lost work. I pitydafoo who don’t backup.

  • David Patch

    Good luck getting “permission” from a refinery or a steel mill, to name
    two. Both of those industries are paranoid about photography and are
    generally under the impression that since 9/11, taking pictures of or
    near their factories is illegal.

  • Zos Xavius

    I kind of have to agree. Some security guard is only going to be formatting my card over my dead body. If they want to escalate things they can call the police and we can have a lesson in first amendment rights.

  • Wuz nt Me

    Ah, but it’s Chicago.. proof that, without your 2nd amendment rights, the rest of your rights are just suggestions.

  • dan110024

    I usually agree with such a statement, but I think in this situation he just wanted to have something rolling to capture their actions.

  • Christopher Eaton

    He should have called the police claiming he was being illegally detained and that two people in plain clothing were claiming to be security guards and were stealing his equipment.

  • Dave Oliver

    Just use photo recovery on the card, even with formatting my card before every shoot I was recently able to retrieve some photos from 6months ago. So aslong as he doesnt shoot onto that card before he retrieves the photos he should be fine.

  • Heath Hurwitz

    According to the photographer, they broke the card in half so that he cannot recover the photos.

  • David

    I agree and don’t understand why “security” guards think they can just delete evidence?!?

  • Jonas M Luster

    “Take [my] chances” with what? Photography from a sidewalk is not just allowed, it’s more or less the American way. In a sense I am taking my chances every time I photograph someone — namely a chance that I’ll be illegally detained, assaulted, manhandled, or worse. The only solution is to impose stiff penalties to those who overstep the law, not to require photographers to ask permission before they act completely legal.

  • Richard Ford

    You guys in the US have the freedom to hold firearms. So why don’t you? At least pepper spray…

  • gearbox123

    Asshole thugs like that will go as far as you let them. Don’t put up with their horseshit. You should have called 911 immediately and told them you were being robbed (which is perfectly true.)

  • gearbox123

    You don’t need “permission” from ANYBODY to film on public property.

  • gearbox123

    You don’t need permission from ANYBODY to film on public property. Know your rights.

  • gearbox123

    I love this idea. (Writes it down)

  • Razedbywolvs

    I don’t agree with how the security guards handled the situation at all! But talk with the construction foreman before you try photographing. If the foreman thinks your from OCEA or the EPA you will have a problem. Any one of those agency’s can walk on to a gob and bankrupt the company and put everyone out of a job and home.

    On second thought I hate the Union. Call the EPA and tell them you saw them pouring some kind of fluid down a storm drain.