Boycott Washington DC’s Union Sation — Photography is Not a Crime

Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth: Almost Arrested for Taking Photos at Union Station

I read with dismay this morning about yet another incident of photographer harassment here in the United States. In this most recent case Andy Carvin was demonstrating a new Gigapan panorama camera in Washington DC’s historic Union Station.

Unfortunately for Andy, his crime of photography almost got him arrested.

From Andy:

“I managed to shut the camera, and started to disassemble the Gigapan from the tripod as a fourth security person arrived. He was dressed differently than the other three people, and had a former-marine-turned-middle-management air about him. I twittered as he spoke:

Official saying Union Station is a private space, no right to photograph without approval.

I asked for his business card and he handed it to me: Robert H. Mangiante, Assistant Director, IPC International Corporation. He then summed up the situation: pack up your gear and leave now, or we’ll arrest you. It’s our choice. Our gear was already packed up at this point, and Wright and his friend had an event at the National Press Club anyway, so that was that. The Gigapan went into my backpack, I folded the tripod and we went our separate ways.”

This is sad. Union Station is a beautiful and classic example of Beaux-Arts style architecture in the United States. It is over 100 years old and was built with $125 million of taxpayers money.

In 1981 Elizabeth Dole developed a plan to redevelop the station using a public/private partnership.

The station today boasts over 32 million visitors a year and claims to be the most visited destination in Washington DC. Yet, don’t plan on taking any photographs inside this historic building if you visit DC.

Photography should not be a crime. Photography in historic places like Union Station should not be illegal.

One thing that I know is that I won’t be spending any of my tourism dollars at Union Station in the future. If they want to hassle and harass photographers, the next time I’m in DC I just won’t visit them at all.

Digg Andy’s original post here.

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11 Comments

  1. Dave Zatz says:

    It’s pretty standard operating procedures here in the DC area for buildings, parks, etc – if you’ve got a lot of gear, they’re going to make you get permission and/or a permit. Not saying it’s right, but this is not unusual. Security threatening them with arrest is pretty uncool, but is labeling the article “almost arrested” an accurate statement? Seems like arrest is a binary thing – arrested or not arrested.

  2. Andy Frazer says:

    Better yet, go ahead an visit Union Station and enjoy the beauty that someone’s tax dollars built. Just don’t spend any of your money in the place 🙂

  3. the monk says:

    I agree with Dave – if you have a large backpack and are taking pictures in a public place in DC you may be asked to leave. That being said I have taken a ton of pictures there, I just chose to roll with just my camera.

    I understand it’s a pain but if you live in DC you always have a feeling that the city is a target. That being said I think it should not matter if you have a point and shoot or DSLR but the DSLR sticks out a bit more. I will admit that I depend on those security guards and law enforcement in the area to keep me safe. So far they have done a great job so I can’t complain + technically it’s not a public place.

  4. arex says:

    Perhaps he’s a lot more high-profile than I was with his equipment, but no one batted an eye when I was shooting profusely when I was there, both inside and out of the terminals. Possibly policies have gotten stricter lately?

  5. Aaron says:

    I’m certainly no expert on this subject but just to play devil’s advocate for a moment: Isn’t photography indeed a crime if it’s inside private property and the owner of said property has forbidden it?

    May not be “cool”, but cool doesn’t always mean legal.

  6. Kendrick says:

    Unless I researched it ahead of time, I wouldn’t know that I need to get permission to photograph inside Union Station, even for individual, non-commercial projects (like for fun). Even with a permit, one can only photograph on the management company’s (Jones, Lang and Lasalle’s) terms. For example, no photography is allowed of anything in the boarding area or of any train operation.

    I don’t agree with having to jump through these hoops to photograph in a public place and on someone’s arbitrary terms, but I feel like I don’t have much of a choice if I want to photograph without a hassle.

    I’ve been researching the procedure at Union Station specifically so I can plan a group photowalk through Union Station for my photography meetup, but the logistics are getting tedious as I have to plan precisely submit information for every person who wants to go on the photowalk. Kind of goes against the spirit of the photowalk I like to have where people just show up and shoot photos.

    Anyway, it’s sad, but here in the “capital of the free world”, it’s ironic that freedom has been quite limited lately when it comes to photography in public places.

  7. Joe says:

    I visited DC for the first time this past March and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. Admittedly, there were a couple instances where we weren’t able to take shots of certain areas and I thought it was a nuisance at the time but it really wasn’t that big of a deal to me. The city offers an amazing archive of our nation’s history and no picture can ever take the place of actually going and being there to take part in the atmosphere set forth by our founding fathers of this great country. I had a great time there and if anyone is interested in reading some of our blog entries on our adventures in DC the website is http://coast2coast.blacklotusweb.com/ you wont be disappointed!

  8. Don says:

    This is outrageous! Union Station may be maintained by a private entity, but it is still a public place, and people should be able to take pictures of anything in there they want.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Are photographers so self centered that they can’t comprehend the position of the people who have to maintain security in these large public areas ?

  10. Hi–I should not have written that angry post when I was tired (which I think I sent twice) and would like to retract it. The bottom line is the management company has backed down somewhat.
    Marty Katz

  11. This is very bad to know. I really don’t know that photography is not allowed there. But it should not be. We are US Citizen then why we have been behaved like this?