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My first 'photojournalist-like' experience... a bad one at that...
Old 02-09-2008   #1
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My first 'photojournalist-like' experience... a bad one at that...

So I was driving home tonight and there was a major traffic accident at an intersection... so I had my camera and got out and started taking photographs from the sidewalk (where all the other pedestrians were). Anyway, to make a long story short, I took like four steps out onto the street and took a photo of a lady being put into an ambulance and a cop stops me and says "since you are so adamant about taking photos, you just made yourself a part of this accident investigation. " and proceeded to make me give him my information.


So anyway, a huge part of me thinks he's just trying to be an asshole and scare me... I mean seriously I was not in anyones way and was doing nothing different from what a photojournalist would have done. I wouldnt be surprised if I get a call next week saying "you have a date in court, blah blah blah".


God I hope not. -_-;

Last edited by jbf : 02-10-2008 at 21:24.
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Old 02-09-2008   #2
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Govt meddling at its best. Beware.
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Old 02-09-2008   #3
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"Adamant"? A policeman said "Adamant"?

/T
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Old 02-09-2008   #4
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Tuolumne. that's the best thing I heard all day.
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Old 02-09-2008   #5
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Being a witness is not being guilty :-) and in case you'll end-up with a date in a court, well, you know.. it's not always like Kafka's "The Trial"..

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Old 02-09-2008   #6
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I expect he was just trying to scare you. Some folk don't take well to photog's shooting these types of events. As long as you weren't causing an obstruction I don't see what he can do, it just down to a matter of taste....

I think most PJs develop a pretty thick skin and a good understanding of their rights pretty quickly
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Old 02-09-2008   #7
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Yeah I think your right there Silva.
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Old 02-09-2008   #8
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jbf-
Maybe you should visit the police station and give a written account of what you witnessed. Like:
"Driving home, I came upon the scene of an accident at which an injured woman was being loaded into an aid car. I got out of my car and took a couple of pictures of the possibly newsworthy scene. At that point I was detained by Officer ______ _____, number _____ of your department. After being detained for approximately _______ minutes I was told that I was free to go, which I did."
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Old 02-09-2008   #9
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Well, now someone wants the pictures. Have you sold them to a paper?
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Old 02-09-2008   #10
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We live in a well traveled resort area, sometimes high speeds on the highway can result in terrible accidents. Our local newspapers can be on the scene often at the same time as the police and ambulance yet they publish only a photo of the damaged vehicle if anything.

I can understand a PJ chasing this sort of stuff, that is their job but why take a picture of someones misery if it helps no one, but seemingly only to satisfy a certain morbid curiosity.

If I were in a accident and someone thought it a good idea to take a picture of me I'd be somewhat upset.
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Old 02-09-2008   #11
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Over the years what has served me best in these situations is yes sir, no sir, no excuse sir. The police hold all the relevant cards now, especially in light of the Patriot Act, to argue much with them. Smiles, politeness, and keep moving...
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Old 02-09-2008   #12
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If you didn't recieve a citation on the spot, nor were you arrested, that court date will likely be justified by the police officer claiming that your pictures could be used as evidence. In truth the officer was trying to cause a problem for your. If he really needed photos he could get them from the detective on the scene.

That is a very unfortunate experience to have though. The officer really didn't have a right to cause a problem for you.
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Old 02-09-2008   #13
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Photographer Bill Emery ran into trouble taking pictures on the sidewalk outside the White House. He has an audio recording of his encounter with a federal officer. In the situation you don't have a lot of options.

Here is a link to BUSTED

A friend and her husband were recently detained after photographing a sunset with view cameras over a chemical plant in Galveston. First detained by plant security, then State Police, and finally the FBI. They were released after a couple hours but were told their names would be on a watch list now. They'll find out what that means the next time they fly somewhere.

So don't photograph sunsets. The real kicker is that there are high resolution images of the chemical plant on the web in Google Earth....
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Old 02-09-2008   #14
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I think traffic accidents and the environment they create are rife with emotion and anger. The police have to deal with this day in and day out as they do domestic viloence and all other less charming aspects of police work. I agree he was being a little over the top but around this type of scenario everyone should be cut a little slack in my opinion!
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In Vancouver, amateur photog forced investigation
Old 02-09-2008   #15
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In Vancouver, amateur photog forced investigation

Try to make it short. About 2 months ago, a Polish Imigrant arrived at the Vancouver airport to imigrate and live in Canada with his mother. He got lost, his mother waited for a few hours then left. he had no English. After hours and hours with no help, he got tired and agitated, he threw a couple of chairs broke a computer, but he had lots of moments of been calm. No body helped him find a translater or anything. Any how, after I think around 10 hours, four big cops came, and at this point, the guy was reletively calm, They didnt even try to talk to him. They imediately hit him a few times with pepper spray and had him on the ground. it looked like one cop had his knee on his neck. Anyhow, sadly the guy died right there,he was 40 years old. My point is the whole thing was filmed by a young guy arriving from China with a small video cam. Right away the police said they needed to "borrow" the video to aide the investigation. The police kept the video, refused to give it back stonewald the media. Finally, the photographer got mad, took tkhe police to court and won. He took his Video to the media they put it on tv for the world to see. As a result the airport has spent millions to change there operations and there is a nation wide probe of the police action. Had there not been a video, we would have not heard anything of this major police screw up. It shows that in Canada anyways, people with cameras at police events do have rights.
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Old 02-09-2008   #16
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Honestly, if, say my wife had been involved in this accident and I was reasonably OK and saw you taking snapshots of this misery, I sure would be upset as hell. What were you thinking? I totally understand the cop - what was the point of you taking these pictures? There are moments in life when you put the camera down!
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Old 02-09-2008   #17
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Let me suggest something more benign than previous comments: The photos may be relevant and valuable in ascertaining fault and liability. It may be that the officer wanted your name to give to both parties involved in the accident so that they would have access to this evidence. Dave
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In Vancouver, amateur photog forced investigation
Old 02-09-2008   #18
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In Vancouver, amateur photog forced investigation

Try to make it short. About 2 months ago, a Polish Imigrant arrived at the Vancouver airport to imigrate and live in Canada with his mother. He got lost, his mother waited for a few hours then left. he had no English. After hours and hours with no help, he got tired and agitated, he threw a couple of chairs broke a computer, but he had lots of moments of been calm. No body helped him find a translater or anything. Any how, after I think around 10 hours, four big cops came, and at this point, the guy was reletively calm, They didnt even try to talk to him. They imediately hit him a few times with pepper spray and had him on the ground. it looked like one cop had his knee on his neck. Anyhow, sadly the guy died right there,he was 40 years old. My point is the whole thing was filmed by a young guy arriving from China with a small video cam. Right away the police said they needed to "borrow" the video to aide the investigation. The police kept the video, refused to give it back stonewald the media. Finally, the photographer got mad, took tkhe police to court and won. He took his Video to the media they put it on tv for the world to see. As a result the airport has spent millions to change there operations and there is a nation wide probe of the police action. Had there not been a video, we would have not heard anything of this major police screw up. It shows that in Canada anyways, people with cameras at police events do have rights.
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Old 02-09-2008   #19
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Photographer Bill Emery ran into trouble taking pictures on the sidewalk outside the White House. He has an audio recording of his encounter with a federal officer. In the situation you don't have a lot of options.

Here is a link to BUSTED
I listened to that accompanying audio clip, and I work around that "area" of the White House that Emery refers to, and sorry, what I heard in terms of ambient noise sounds nothing like the area around Pennsylvania Ave or Lafayette Park or H St. NW in front of the White House.

I've taken lots of pictures around there in all sorts of situations and never had a situation where the Uniformed Secret Service, Park Police, DC Police, or even Diplomatic Security, would want to prevent me from making pictures. So I have no idea what Emery is talking about.

Someone please convince me otherwise.
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Old 02-09-2008   #20
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Fortunately in the USA our constitution guarantees your right to do what you did, although if you get a press badge you might find life a little easier with the cops. If you need proof, just look at the herd chasing Brittany around everyday. All it takes is a good digital SLR and some long lenses. The cops here (in LA) would like to crack their heads too, but they can't -- so they just harass them with parking tickets and other bogus things (I'm not too fond of the police as I think you can see).

I would not get discouraged. Stiffen that backbone and go after it again -- you might be an emerging stringer.




Quote:
Originally Posted by jbf
So I was driving home tonight and there was a major traffic accident at an intersection... so I had my camera and got out and started taking photographs from the sidewalk (where all the other pedestrians were). Anyway, to make a long story short, I took like four steps out onto the street and took a photo of a lady being put into an ambulance and a cop stops me and says "since you are so adamant about taking photos, you just made yourself a part of this accident investigation. " and proceeded to make me give him my information.


So anyway, a huge part of me thinks he's just trying to be an asshole and scare me... I mean seriously I was not in anyones way and was doing nothing different from what a photojournalist would have done. I wouldnt be surprised if I get a call next week saying "you have a date in court, blah blah blah".


God I hope not. -_-;
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Old 02-09-2008   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RF-Addict
Honestly, if, say my wife had been involved in this accident and I was reasonably OK and saw you taking snapshots of this misery, I sure would be upset as hell. What were you thinking? I totally understand the cop - what was the point of you taking these pictures? There are moments in life when you put the camera down!
This is understandable, but what do you say to those same photojournalists who go out in Sudan or other tragedies and photograph people and the events surrounding?


How is this any different? It isn't. You simply label it as such because you think that somehow by taking photographs of a third world country or of a accident of another culture or people suffering it is ok.


What about photographers such as winogrand or any other who photographed sad events or accidents/etc in the U.S.?

You going to say the same thing to them? I doubt it.


Give me flack, but you arnt going to make me feel bad. I know my motives, and I know they are pure.


That being said, I was not in anyone's face, and nor would I ever do such a thing. There is a way to do everything with tact, and I know within 100% that I was extremely tactful with the way I covered the accident.

Last edited by jbf : 02-09-2008 at 19:11.
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Old 02-09-2008   #22
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You are right - this is very similar to those PJs taking pictures of mal-nutritioned children or victims of war or their relatives and friends. But I do indeed have the same reaction to those pictures - most of them are being taken for pure sensationalism (if that is a word) and I do have problems with that (I also have issues with the way papparazzies are going after celebs). I didn't want to make you feel bad, I just wanted to let you know how I would have felt in that situation.

Try to put yourself in the victim's shoes and look over where this guy is holding a camera in your face and snapping away. How would you feel?
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Old 02-09-2008   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbf
I know within 100% that I was extremely tactful with the way I covered the accident.

I guess that's what you call self-confidence.
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Old 02-09-2008   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RF-Addict
You are right - this is very similar to those PJs taking pictures of mal-nutritioned children or victims of war or their relatives and friends. But I do indeed have the same reaction to those pictures - most of them are being taken for pure sensationalism (if that is a word) and I do have problems with that
A "common" automobile accident, while unfortunate or even tragic, generally has no larger implications. The victims of war or famine, however, find themselves in a situation created by humankind's indifference or by humankind's conflicts (which stem from larger injustices). There is room for abuse in every field ("sensationalism") but documenting the plight of victims of war or famine just might raise awareness.
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Old 02-09-2008   #25
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Pablito, you are correct that it does indeed raise awareness - BUT that is not the motivation in most cases. Like so often in life it is a thin line.
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Old 02-09-2008   #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RF-Addict
Try to put yourself in the victim's shoes and look over where this guy is holding a camera in your face and snapping away. How would you feel?
I'd probably toss him one of my cards and hope to receive copies of the images. I think the most impact I've ever received from flipping through my family's various photo albums are the ones that belonged to my aunt. One was of the wreckage that killed only of my uncles in the 60's, and the other was a picture of my grandma's body who died when my mother was seven or so. Course, if I was in a wreck that I could walk away from, I wouldn't put it past myself to snap as much of it as I could.
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Old 02-10-2008   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tuolumne
"Adamant"? A policeman said "Adamant"?

/T
It was probably a new-wave way of asking "Friend of foe?"
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Old 02-10-2008   #28
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Old 02-10-2008   #29
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Personally, when I was run over a few years ago, I'd have loved somebody with a camera to be on the scene. I got nothing, no help, no compensation (for a right arm that was so shattered it had to be set and re-broken three times to get it straight, and my right hand still looks like it's being inflated) because I had no evidence.

You did nothing wrong, and even if you do get a court date, it'll be good for your CV.
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Old 02-10-2008   #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jbf
the way I covered the accident.
You are not a PJ, correct? So you were not covering the accident. You were a spectator who walked "four steps" or 10 feet into the road to take pictures.
The difference is that you are NOT a PJ and do not have the "right" to be in the street taking pictures. Most likely the crowd had been told to stay back (maybe before you arrived) and you did not.

Steve
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Old 02-10-2008   #31
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I've been shooting car crashes, fires, 'bad news' for five years and the cops tend to be protective of victims (understandably so). You weren't doing anything wrong and the cop might have simply been irritated (they often are) at you and your camera.
It's my job to shoot car crashes, but I try to use discretion. I once had to shoot a vehicle that still had a dead body inside, and I chose an angle that showed much more of the damage to the car. People can figure out the rest.
I agree with Pablito's opinion. And, before I press the shutter, I ask myself if my photo is telling the story without causing undue misery to the victims.
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Old 02-10-2008   #32
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sjw617
You are not a PJ, correct? So you were not covering the accident. You were a spectator who walked "four steps" or 10 feet into the road to take pictures.
The difference is that you are NOT a PJ and do not have the "right" to be in the street taking pictures. Most likely the crowd had been told to stay back (maybe before you arrived) and you did not.

Steve
I'm not sure your argument is relevant. How would earning a living as a photojournalist change things? His actions would be the same, and the outcomes, ie. photos would be the same. Is there a part of the law that mentions that the only people who have the right to photograph news-worthy events are photojournalists? If he sells his images after the fact is he then a PJ with retro-active rights to photograph the scene?


While I can understand that seeing spectators photographing scenes of suffering may seem unpalatable to some, it is still newsworthy.
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Old 02-10-2008   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PJRiley
I've been shooting car crashes, fires, 'bad news' for five years and the cops tend to be protective of victims (understandably so). You weren't doing anything wrong and the cop might have simply been irritated (they often are) at you and your camera.
It's my job to shoot car crashes, but I try to use discretion. I once had to shoot a vehicle that still had a dead body inside, and I chose an angle that showed much more of the damage to the car. People can figure out the rest.
I agree with Pablito's opinion. And, before I press the shutter, I ask myself if my photo is telling the story without causing undue misery to the victims.
Well said.
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My first 'photojournalist' experience... a bad one at that...
Old 02-10-2008   #34
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My first 'photojournalist' experience... a bad one at that...

Steve,
And you live in NY? Must be tuxedo, NY.



Quote:
Originally Posted by sjw617
You are not a PJ, correct? So you were not covering the accident. You were a spectator who walked "four steps" or 10 feet into the road to take pictures.
The difference is that you are NOT a PJ and do not have the "right" to be in the street taking pictures. Most likely the crowd had been told to stay back (maybe before you arrived) and you did not.

Steve

Last edited by rlouzan : 02-10-2008 at 11:50.
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Old 02-10-2008   #35
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A friend and her husband were recently detained after photographing a sunset with view cameras over a chemical plant in Galveston. First detained by plant security, then State Police, and finally the FBI. They were released after a couple hours but were told their names would be on a watch list now. They'll find out what that means the next time they fly somewhere.

To be honest the more I read and hear about the USA and the overzealous paranoia that some officials have regarding terrorism the more it tells me not to go there for holidays. (Sorry if I offend any US members but I know quite a few of you feel the same.) I was a little worried that the same kind of issues would happen here in Australia after Sept 11 but people, including officials have been reasonably balanced, thankfully. (Although you might feel differently if you are Islamic, or even just look middle eastern, maintain contacts with family members overseas etc.) It is one thing for security guards and police to question someone about what they are doing but to then put them on a watch-list with no cogent evidence of them being a threat - jeeeze louise! That is dangerously over the top. (Ever heard of "reasonable cause"?)

Maybe two issues are also affecting my thinking . I recently read that Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens as was) was denied entry into the USA a couple of years back. This is Mr "Peace Train" for goodness sake - a man who has also recently won two major awards for his peace work. And get this. He was traveling with Dolly Parton at the time. Two obvious criminal types if ever I saw them! (Yusuf and Dolly I mean, not Dolly's errrr well forget it.)

And I have been also watching some Youtube videos of Naomi Wolff talking about her and some other liberal critics of the current administration being put on watch lists for no apparent reason other than that they are critical of current policy settings. She attributes it to a Nazification of the American body politic but I hope that is just hyperbole on her part. Still sends shivers down my spine.(At least she laughs about it and asks if the administration really thinks that a myriad of short middle aged Jewish women from New York are really a threat - perhaps by running rampant with their credit cards......)

The idea that you are a threat because you have a camera and are photographing somewehere, when there just happens to be something in the background that could in someones wildest nightmare be construed as a terrorism target would be laughable if it were not so serious. I can recall that US citizens used to poke fun at those Eastern Block countries where this sort of thing happened prior to the end of the cold war. And now its happening in your own backyard at hands of your own officials. Like I said, I would laugh it were not so serious.

Last edited by peterm1 : 02-10-2008 at 14:49.
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Old 02-10-2008   #36
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[quote=cp_ste.croix]I'm not sure your argument is relevant. How would earning a living as a photojournalist change things? His actions would be the same, and the outcomes, ie. photos would be the same. quote]

My statements are relevant because he is not a PJ, he has no press pass, he is unknown to the police as a press photographer. Do you think he (or anyone) has a right to just walk into an accident / possible crime scene? Whether or not he sells them later is irrelevant at the time this took place. Retro-active rights..... that's a new one. Still does not change a thing that happened.

Quote:
Originally Posted by rlouzan
Steve,
And you live in NY? Must be tuxedo, NY.
Where I live has what to do with this?????????
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Old 02-10-2008   #37
bcostin
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If you'd taken a photo of anything other than the woman being loaded into the ambulance then you'd probably have been fine. Accident victims may be disfigured, covered in their own bodily fluids, or partially unclothed. I'm sure your motives were admirable, but police and medics tend to be very protective of vulnerable people in situations like that, as they should be. They may contact you for your photos, if they think they're useful to any investigation they have to do, but that's probably it.

And, of course, they're also are charged with maintaining the scene and preventing anyone from interfering with the work of the firefighters or medics. I've talked about this with our local volunteer firefighters, and you'd be amazed at how casually some onlookers treat accident scenes. Again, it doesn't sound like you were doing anything wrong, but a few years of dealing with those sorts of situations I imagine that cops develop a stock response.
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Old 02-10-2008   #38
cp_ste.croix
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sjw617

My statements are relevant because he is not a PJ, he has no press pass, he is unknown to the police as a press photographer. Do you think he (or anyone) has a right to just walk into an accident / possible crime scene? Whether or not he sells them later is irrelevant at the time this took place. Retro-active rights..... that's a new one. Still does not change a thing that happened.
I'm sure many credentialed photographers are unknown to the police. I think that he (and anyone) has a right to photograph anything that is in the public domain, especially if it is newsworthy. I do not think that he has the right to interfere with those whose job it is to save lives, but unless I have read his initial post incorrectly, it hardly seems like that was the case. From his post I understood that he was at a distance taking pictures.

My point about retro-active rights was in order to point out that your logic that only photojournalist may photograph the news. While seeming a little draconian, that line of reasoning is open to understanding the definition of 'photojournalist' which, in its loosest definition, is someone who makes their living selling pictures to news outlets. By selling the photos afterwards, he would have instantly cleared your criteria of being a PJ in order to take pictures. Now it seems you have introduced credentialization into your argument (again, with mildly draconian overtones) I wonder what the freelance or independant photographer is to do? If my local paper issues me press credentials (which are often nothing more than a lazer printed tag which reads press held in a plastic sheath) may I now officially take pictures anywhere in the world? Can I start my own internet news orginization and print my own press passes? If you answer yes, then credentialzation is essentially meaningless, and if you answer no, then you are taking steps to limit freedom of the press.

While I can understand that this situation may raise an ethical quandry, ie was he right to do what he did; it in no way raises a legal one as he was within his rights to do what he did.
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Old 02-10-2008   #39
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You don't have to 'be' a PJ to shoot that type of stuff. PJs do not have any special rights. Anyone who likes to shoot PJ type of stuff can do so freely. Freelancers do not have press passes alot of times.
Walking out into the street to get your shot might get you a jay-walking or obstructing traffic ticket, or as mentioned above, maybe the police had cleared the street before you came on the scene. You maybe should have given the policeman your info and added "glad to of help any way I can, Officer."
Whether it's actually newsworthy is alot of time determined after the fact. One thing is for certain, if it isn't shot , it can't become newsworthy.
If it were my relative being loaded in an ambulance and you were taking pictures, I, too, would probably be upset, but that doesn't make it immoral or illegal.
No one has the legal or moral obligation to justify in advance the taking of a picture of anything that is taken while on public property and not posted as off limits be some real authority.
It's not hard to see how our current law enforcement gets away with doing anything they want. We just stand by and quote the Patriot Act for damn near everything.
When I hear Americans siding with police on these matters, I get that most are probably not interested in shooting that type of photography. But, what about the people shooting the sunset? Will we just stand by and let authorities keep digging further into that which is guaranteed us in the constitution?
What if it became unfashionable to shoot large format landscapes. Will we just nod yes to the mentioning of the Patriot Act, then accept whatever excuse the authorities give for stopping it?
I hope not, but I am not encouraged.
To the starter of this thread - do not be discouraged.
And just so this doesn't make me some type of cop hater, I worked as a part time stringer for The Star (South suburban Chicago bi-weekly owned at the time , by the Sun -Times)in the early 90's. I was on the scene where police had finally stopped a man who had shot his wife. During the chase his car quit,and he had shot himself. After the police had determined he was dead, they pulled his body from the car. I crossed the highway (from way back) and took a couple of shots. The head Illinois State police officer was mad as hell and came to find out who I was. I told him who I was and gave him my driver's license. Another officer said "just take all of his stuff". The State trooper scowled at the other officer and "you can't just take stuff from people", then proceeded to chew my ass out about getting myself killed and goofing up his retirement having to think he had let it happen while he was in charge. I took the ass chewing quietly and then went on my way. The paper didn't use the shot of the body, because they never ran shots of corpses. At the time I shot it, I had no way of knowing the guy was dead. If he had not been, the shot would have been quite newsworthy.
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Old 02-10-2008   #40
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I wish there were as active a photographer's group protecting the right to carry cameras and take pictures in public, as the group protecting the right to bear arms. It seems much less dangerous.

Last edited by tripod : 02-10-2008 at 17:45.
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