One Bush

One Bush So I’ve been hassled and harassed many time in the past for shooting photographs in privately owned public spaces (Starbucks, PF Chaings, Toys ‘R Us, the new burger spot on Sacramento St. at Drumm, Tosca, Grand Central Terminal in New York, etc.) but yesterday was the first time I’ve actually been harassed on a public street over photography.

Yesterday I was shooting some photos of One Bush St. (the building where Bush and Market Streets intersect) when their security guard came out of his little glass jewelbox lobby hut to ask me to stop taking photos of the building. He said it was illegal. I moved to the sidewalk and continued taking photos and he again asked me to stop. When I told him I was on a public street sidewalk he said that actually they owned the sidewalk and that I was going to have to stop taking photographs.

At this point I told the little guy to call the police and have me arrested which he said he did. He then proceeded to follow me around the building, from Bush St. to Battery St. to Market St. to Sansome St. and try to physically put his hand in front of the lens of my camera as I shot the building. Fortunately I was taller than he was so I was able to hold the camera out of his range. It was kind of comedic actually.

Although I’ve been harassed many, many times for taking photos (the camera goes with me virtually everywhere) this was the first time I was accosted by a security guard on a public sidewalk.

I was looking forward to the interchange between myself the security guard and a cop (who I doubt he could really get to show up even though he kept insisting they were coming to arrest me) but I had to get going and was done shooting the building. So after about 10 minutes I was on my way.

I’d encourage anyone with a camera to stop by One Bush if you’re in the neighborhood and fire off a few more shots to annoy this guy.

I know I’ll be back.

Update: Boing Boing picked up this story and of course from there the traffic goes nuts. There is now a photo contest to shoot photos of the building and a meet up planned on Saturday at noon to shoot the building. Also if you think it’s stupid that a building’s owners would try to prohibit you from taking photos of it from a public street feel free to drop them a line. I got a couple of bounce backs (apparently Jerry Speyer and Peter Berg are on vacation, go figure) but here’s some contact info:

Alfred Palmer,
Peter Berg, Managing Director,
Jerry Speyer, President and CEO,
Robert Tishman, Chairman,
John Miller, Regional Director – West Coast,
Theodore Schweitzer, Chief of Staff, Assistant to the President,
Carl Shannon, Regional Director for Silicon Valley and San Francisco,

SF Muni Photo “Ban”

PhotoPermit: SF Muni Photo “Ban” So let’s see, it now appears, according to SFist and BoingBoing that folks are being hassled for taking photos in the Muni system in San Francisco. Wow, after being hassled personally by the police in Grand Central Terminal in New York and reading about not being able to photograph “The Bean” in Chicago, I didn’t think this one would hit so close to home.

I do have to say that I’ve taken hundreds of pictures of both BART and SF Muni and have yet to be hassled but still, this one just hits a little too close to home.

“After walking over to the group of Fare Inspectors and BART Police Officers, Officer Ryan returned to speak to me. He expressed his frustration at the situation and me by saying: “Would it have been so difficult for you to just stop taking photographs when these guys told you to stop? If you weren’t on your soapbox, I’d be out fighting real crime rather than standing around here dealing with you.” He expounded further, “Even if there is no law forbidding photography in the MUNI System, the Fare Inspectors have the right to refuse you service for any reason they choose, including taking photographs. Once they refuse you service they can swear out a citizens arrest for trespassing. I, or other officers, will book you and you’ll spend the rest of your weekend in jail. It won’t be for taking photographs, so your weekend would be ruined yet you’d never get a chance to argue the matter of taking photographs before a judge.”

Who is this Officer Ryan and is this type of intimidation really legal?

Personally I’ve also been hassled and told I couldn’t take photographs at Starbuck’s and PF Chang’s China Bistro here locally in the Bay Area.

This is not good news. Guess I’ll have to add SF Muni to my Directory of Bay Area Photo Policies. SFist is putting together a little rally on Saturday at noon to look into this story deeper.

Clampdown on Photographer’s Rights in New York City

Autumn is a wonderful time for photographing one of the great cities of the world, New York. There is something magical about falling leaves in Central Park, the crisp chill in the air, the rain, the noise, bundled up families on the Upper East Side and of course the spectacular sights that are only New York – The New York Public Library, The Subways, Gramercy Park, The Empire State Building… the list is endless.

This past weekend I embarked on a visit to New York for the purpose of shooting a retrospective entitled, Reflections on Manhattan.

One place that I always like to visit for shooting in New York is the famed Grand Central Station. Grand Central Station’s architecture is stunning and there are few other places in the world to catch the hurried pace of human traveling with such stunning natural streaming light

So imagine my disappointment when, as I began assembling my small tripod in Grand Central Station, I was accosted almost immediately by one of New York’s finest. “Who you with?” were his curt initial words. I fumbled for what to say as he asked again, “Who you with?… or are you just a tourist here takin’ pictures.”

I began to explain to the officer that I was a photo artist and was in New York doing a series on the images of Manhattan at autumn time, that I had a blog and posted art on the internet. “A what,” he said. “Put the tripod away, tourists can’t use tripods, only professionals can use tripods and you have to have a permit.”

“So how do I get a permit?” I asked. “It takes a long time,” he said. “You have to apply for it in advance.”

“Now put the tripod away.”

I thought about trying to explain how beautiful the natural light could make photographs in Grand Central Station, but that in a low lighting environment it could be difficult to get the right shots without the steady and trusty companion of a tripod… but decided against it.

I packed up my tripod, bit my lip and went on with my business.

One of the beautiful things in New York since 9-11 is the canopy of American Flags that cover and adorn the City. You can’t go 10 feet without running into one. They are beautiful as they blow in the wind and remind us of the sacrifice that our Nation has made in the war on terror. They are extremely photogenic.

At the same time, since 9-11 a new assault has taken place on the rights of the photographer as an artist. Recently the New York Times ran a piece on a proposed ban by the MTA on all cameras in the New York subway system. To lose the amazing art that has been created by photo artists like Bruce Davidson would be a tragedy. We would lose a little piece of New York culture by losing this important right.

As I finished my visit through Grand Central Station I stopped off at the fine exhibit currently on display chronicling the history of the subway in New York and reflected on what had just happened to me.

Although I understand the position that the City of New York has taken in regards to using tripods in Grand Central Station, I don’t think that it would be unreasonable for an artist or journalist to be able to apply for an on the spot permit.

Certainly terrorists would be unlikely to request an on the spot permit and I would even be willing to give up certain of my privacy rights in order to get one. I’m sorry that as my weekend in New York was short I did not get to take all of the photographs that I would have liked of Grand Central Station.

Leafing through the latest outstanding issue of Esquire magazine – its first photo issue in its history – on the flight back home to San Francisco, I was struck by the impact of the images of photographer Martin Parr of tourists at Ground Zero. Parr chronicles the new Ground Zero as tourist site and the commerce that has followed our tragedy through the kitsch and the tacky. I was reminded that all tragedy has unintended and unfortunate consequences. It’s noteworthy that so much of Esquire’s first foray into photography is centered on New York.

Although I can understand the significance and importance of public safety in light of the 9-11 terrorist attack, I also believe that a balance must be maintained between safety and art and journalism in our country. To not maintain this balance would mean that the terrorists had indeed won – not won the war itself – but won by taking away a little piece of our joy and life and culture and art.