Photographing Architecture is Not a Crime, Thomas Hawk vs. Building Security Episode 118
So today there I was minding my own business shooting 45 Fremont in downtown San Francisco when all of a sudden a Shorenstein Company employee security guard decides to give me the finger in my photographs of the building. Next thing you know I get the typical hassle. Except normally when the guards come out all polite like and all this guy instead comes out middle finger a blazing and telling me that I’m not allowed to photograph the building from the public space.
He goes on to tell me how he doesn’t like to have his photograph taken, etc. (hint, if you don’t like your photograph taken, probably best not to come swaggering out of a public building middle finger a blazin’, remember any old asshole can have a blog these days). And insists on telling me how if I want to photograph the building I’m going to need to get approval from building management. blah, blah, blah.
Well, this guy got off on the wrong foot with me in the first place so I politely inform him that despite his objections that I’m on public property and as such have every right to photograph whatever I want and if he’d like he can feel free to call the police and the three of us can have a conversation. Of course he asks me why I need to be such an asshole and I remind him that he was the one giving me the bird, etc. etc. All I am is a lowly photography hobbyist but that since he was being so nice and all that he could look forward to his photo being on the internet.
He asks me if I *really* want him to call the police. Again, I answer nicely, yes. At this point he goes back inside. I go around to shoot the other side of the building and his boss comes out and he’s pissed. You’re not allowed to photograph this building he says. “Says who,” I say. “Says me, I’m the owner,” he says, you’re on my property.”
Now I’ve seen Walter Shorenstein, San Francisco’s real estate mogul, before and this guy definitely ain’t Shorenstein. So I object. I remind Mr. fake Shorenstein that I’m on public property and that I have every right ot shoot the building. He asks me why I’m shooting the building and (only because I’m pissed at this point) I tell him that this is none of his business. Now with this he flips it. Some third party seems it’s his business to chime in and sides with the security guard and tells me, you know he’s right, your not allowed to take photos of this building (um. ok Chet).
The security guard then seems fit to chime in, post 9/11 you know. They don’t want photos of the building.
So I politely tell this 2nd security guy, the fake Walter Shorenstein, that I’m actually allowed to take photos of the building and suggest that he call the SFPD if he’d like and he gives me one of these straight on looks and asks me if that’s *really* what I want him to do because I’ll be arrested and all that and I say yes, please. He then asks me if I’m going to be there when they arrive and I say, certainly of course, and with that he pouts off and heads back into his building.
I then finish my shots and when I’m done go about my way.
Now. First off, this happens to me all the time. I’m not sure why I feel so inclined to post about it today. Perhaps it’s because my blog traffic’s down. But probably the fact that the first security guard decided that his initial approach to me was the finger thing and that the second one was such a prick that I figure what the hell, may as well blog it. Can’t hurt after all and I did tell the finger security guard guy that I would post his photo to the internet so a deal’s a deal and all.
But. What the hell? Post 9/11? What’s that supposed to mean? Let’s see, ok, so I’ve got photos of a building. Yep, there’s the door, yep, guess what, it’s got glass windows. Wouldn’t want those top secret photos of the building’s revolving doors to get out there now. Just imagine the strategic advantage that that door shot would give a terrorist! He could, well, he’d know how to get into the building for pete’s sake.
It’s just stupid. I’m tired of dealing with security at almost every single building that I shoot. News Flash! Photographing architecture is NOT a crime. It’s not illegal! And while 98% of photographers probably just let these fake Walter Shorenstein type cops push them around it shouldn’t happen. And I think that from now on I’m going to start a collection of these mugs and hopefully, at least in San Francisco, after a while the harrasment stops.
In the meantime, I got my shots today which you can see in this Flickr set and do plan actually on going back in the next few days and especially at night to try and get more shots of this building. Oh and the other good thing that came out of this is that about two weeks ago lovely figment on Flickr invited me to the flickr group GFY. You might be able to figure out what it stands for but it’s basically a flickr group devoted to people flipping the bird. Since I haven’t got a shot of myself flipping the bird yet I guess I finally got myself an official submission today. Thanks dude.
Oh, and by the way, I’d definitely recommend the latest issue of JPG Magazine, #5, Photography is Not a Crime. Not only is it a great collection of issues (disclaimer, I’ve got a shot in there of another of my run ins with building security at One Bush St.) but it’s got a great photographer’s rights pull out card by Portland attorney Bert Krages which does a great job of spelling out what your rights are as a photography enthusiast.
Update: I just spoke with Andrew Neilly who handles media relations for The Shorenstein Group with Gallen.Neilly & Associates. According to Neilly, the individual photographed here is not a Shorenstein employee and he advised me that Shorenstein outsources their security guards — while admiting that the action on behalf of the security guard was inappropriate. He said that hopefully my experiences with Shorenstein properties would be better in the future and said that while he could not guarantee that I would not be approached by guards in the future that by explaining who I am and showing them a card that he felt I should not have this type of problem shooting their buildings in the future.
He also referenced an advisory by the Department of Homeland Security sent to real estate firms regarding photographers shooting buildings but was unable to site or reference the specific advisory.