Targeting photographers as potential terrorists
Written by: Tiffany Joyce
I read something disturbing the other day about a hobbyist photographer who was harassed by guards at Disney World for taking pictures. It’s not the first time I’ve heard of such a thing, but it’s just as depressing each time I read an account of people being targeted as potential terrorists for photographing something just for the love of photography.
You can read the full story over here on his site but the basic gist is that he was using a dSLR camera, had it on a tripod, and was working on some HDR photography which required him to really take his time. On top of that, he wasn’t even photographing people, he was taking pictures of a building and enjoying the light. It ended with a lot of questioning until he finally left of his own free will – but was escorted out.
It bothers me tremendously to think that photographers are continually suspected of being potential terrorists. I understand that people want to feel safe and that precautions do need to be taken, but does anyone honestly believe a band of terrorists are going to walk around with big, hard-to-miss cameras, tripods, and take a lot of time to set up shots? I would assume that a terrorist would be more interested in remaining inconspicuous and would take shots as quickly as possible if they were bothering with photos at all.
I’ve also had friends harassed for taking pictures even though they were out in public. To date I’ve been lucky to never get questioned in any way (other than the “what the heck are you doing?!” type of curiosity questioning, but that usually only happens when I’m lying on the ground with my camera), but I wonder whether it’s just my good fortune or perhaps because of the laws in Canada. Maybe it’s a bit of both.
If you’re curious about your own rights as a photographer here are some links:
Some of those provide links to handy PDF files as well which is great, because you can print them up and carry them in your camera bag to use as a reference should a situation arise. If I’ve missed your location you can also go to Google and type in “photographer rights in [your country]“.
You should also do a quick search on rights and laws if you’re planning a trip to another country just to make sure you know what you are and are not allowed to do.
Have you ever been harassed for taking photos? How did you deal with it?
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