A widely distributed image used to illustrate stories about Monday’s horrific shooting at the Washington Navy Yard likely had nothing to do with the tragedy, offering a cautious tale of modern media overreach. Read more…
Here’s the last planned installment of the Empty America time-lapse series by photographer Ross Ching and Thrash Lab. The video takes us on a journey through the capital of the United States, showing what various landmarks (e.g. Capitol Building, Jefferson Memorial, the White House) look like without the ordinary hustle and bustle of tourists (and security guards). Read more…
DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier (left) and Earl Staley (right)
Well, that didn’t take long. Just one day after Washington DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier issued a directive ordering officers to leave photographers alone (PDF here), a police officer reportedly snatched a man’s camera at a crime scene and later returned it without the memory card. My Fox DC writes,
Earl Staley says he considers what happened to him Friday, July 20, a robbery.
“I know that I could take these pictures of these guys,” Staley tells Fox 5 News. “I know it. Especially when they’re doing something wrong.”
Staley says his smartphone was snatched by a D.C. Police officer last Friday evening along Raleigh Place in Southeast D.C. Staley says he saw police punching a man they were arresting and another plain-clothes officer harassing the people watching.
“So I go and grab my phone and start trying to record it,” says Staley, a 26-year-old employee of a private, non-profit mental health agency in the District. “And once I do that, another vice cop reaches over my back and grabs my phone and tells me he’s not giving my phone back.”
One of the reasons photographers raise a fuss when their rights are infringed upon is to create awareness in the general public and among law enforcement. A recent lawsuit between a photojournalist and the Washington DC police department has done just that. The Washington Post reports:
District police cannot interfere with citizens as they photograph or videotape officers performing their jobs in public, according to a new directive issued by Chief Cathy L. Lanier as part of settlement in a civil lawsuit.
The six-page general order, similar to one published by police in Baltimore in November, warns officers that “a bystander has the right under the First Amendment to observe and record members in the public discharge of their duties.”
[...] “It tells police to leave people alone,” Spitzer said. “It makes it clear that if a person is in a place that interferes with police operations, the officer can ask or tell them to move to another location, but they can’t tell them to stop taking pictures.”
With most camera companies moving towards robotic assembly lines and online storefronts, it shouldn’t come as a shock that the one company resisting this revolution is Leica. Not only do they still make many of their products by hand, but they also recently released plans to increase the number of worldwide Leica retail locations from 37 to 200 by the year 2016.
This announcement comes alongside the grand opening of their first US store in Washington DC, and will mean two more Leica stores in the United States by the end of the summer — one in New York and another in Miami.
Last week we wrote about an obscure law in Washington DC that can land a person in jail for doing photography for “more than 5 minutes at location”. The Washington Post published a clarification stating that the law is targeted at people who make a living taking a portrait for strangers on city sidewalks. However, the National Press Photographers Association isn’t satisfied with the explanation, and has written a letter to the city requesting that the “vague” law be repealed:
[...] these three vague and incrementally overly broad sections taken together could be interpreted to mean that any photographer taking a photograph of anything, be it a building, person or inanimate object for longer than five (5) minutes would be in violation of the regulations and subject to fine or arrest [...] We contend that this licensing scheme, based upon regulations that are facially inconsistent with the protections provided under the First Amendment, is unconstitutional.
[...] these facially defective regulations will only further contribute to the erroneous belief by law enforcement that public photography may be arbitrarily limited or curtailed.
The NPPA also writes that they’re concerned that the law could be used against photographers covering events such as “Occupy Wall Street”.
Update: Apparently this isn’t something ordinary photographers need to worry about. See below.
The Washington Post has published a list of 160 misdemeanor offenses that can land you in jail in Washington D.C. While most are quite reasonable (e.g. “Sale of Cigarettes to a Minor” or “Unlicensed Driving Instructor”), there is one that is troubling. Under the category “Photographer Violations” is the entry:
Photographer – More than 5 minutes at location
The entry is quite vague and, as Carlos Miller points out, leaves a lot of room for police officer interpretation.
Update: The Washington Post has written a followup article addressing this issue (thx Darrow). Apparently the law is directed at full-time photographers who photograph passersby on the streets:
”Our policy has been that the street photographer license would apply to persons who are stationed on public space to take photos of passersby,” said agency spokesman Helder Gil in an e-mail. Amateurs aren’t covered, he said, nor are “journalists, professional photographers who take pictures of buildings/scenery, or wedding photographers taking pics of happy couples on D.C. streets and sidewalks.”
So as long as you don’t make a living hustling tourists for snapshots, you can snap away without keeping an eye on your watch.