Tuesday, July 31, 2007

On a More Upbeat Note

While blogs should not be local, sometimes, a local issue has national (ne, international) implications. Previously I wrote about the NYC permitting issue - why? Because, as NYC goes, so goes other jurisdictions. Now comes a glimmer of hope.

The Washington Post is reporting, in their article "Developers cannot prohibit people from taking photographs on public-private space in downtown Silver Spring, the Montgomery county attorney declared yesterday..." Developers cannot prohibit people from taking photographs on public-private space in downtown Silver Spring, the Montgomery county attorney declared yesterday...".

It came down to this - an area of the city of Silver Spring, which was run down and essentially forgotten was completely redeveloped by a major developer. The project, on it's own, was not worth doing, from an economic standpoint. So, the city, seeing the long term benefits invested monies and gave the developer tax breaks to redevelop the area. Somehow or another, that area of Silver Spring Maryland became classified, according to some, as "private property", and thus, access, or the restriction thereof, was governed by the developer, despite being patrolled by city police, and more importantly, appearing as any other city street - public property. Enter photographer Chip Py, looking to snap some images of his community, only to be told be rent-a-cops that he couldn't do it without permission from the developer.

As The Washington Post initially reported, everyone was up in arms. A photographer protest ensued, and now, the restrictions have been removed, and Mr. Py, and anyone else, may happily now make some art.

I previously ran into this in the great state of Virginia, where, out in Reston, near the homes of AOL, and other major dot-com and high-tech companies, I was to make portraits of an executive for a story inside a magazine.

The subjects offices were in their "towne center" and we opted for an outside portrait. While I was setting up my lightstand and power pack, a private security guard approached, and told me I needed permission to make photos there. I showed him my press credentials, told him the subject's company's name was on the top of the office building behind him. "You gotta get permission", came his response. I caught a break though, because I'd not been a smart aleck and I showed him my press credential, and he said "I'm going to walk over there where I have better reception on my cell phone, and call someone. Hopefully, you'll be done by the time I get back", and I was. The photo (to the left), isn't the best, nor was it the one chosen for the story, but it's illustrative of the environment.

More and more, the public spaces we enjoy as citizens will be usurped by corporations , even though those spaces were made possible by our tax dollars. When someone tells you you can't take photos in a public space, don't back down, stand your ground.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


BACHarbin said...


This past February I got banned from Reston Town Center for 1 year because I was taking pictures during a snow storm. No idea that RTC was private property until 1 of the 3 police officers who showed up after being called by security explained it to me. Who knew?

I did get the ban lifted by talking with management but have since been threatened by the same security who banned me for "trespassing."

Here's a link describing what happened: http://nvps.org/main/component/option,com_joomlaboard/Itemid,72/func,view/id,13/catid,6/

I have not let this incident stop me from enjoying photography; I just don't enjoy it at RTC any longer.

Thanks for a great blog! Loved your book too!


Robert said...

::Stands on Soapbox::

I know very little of the photography business, but I do take and incredibly minor issue with your opening statement "blogs should not be local".

First off, "should" or "supposed to" mean nothing in and of themselves. They are statements intended to carry some kind of intellectual or argumentative weight without the need to provide evidence or support for their claims. I use those terms as little as possible or not at all.

Having to assume you have reasons for stating that blogs should not be local, however, I will say that blogs can and have the right to be anything. One thing I especially like in my blog reading is to find VERY personal glimpses into individuals and their lives. I can get a newspaper if I want to know what Romanian foreign policy is, but I need to use a blog to find out what a specific Romanian might have for breakfast. This kind of micro inspection of the world community is to me, what makes blogging so atrtactive and interesting.

::falls through rotten boards of soapbox, collapses in heap::

Mike in Reston said...

As a previous poster commented, Reston Town Center is supposedly "private property". Are you aware of anyone actually confirming this fact/opinion? I've been asked to leave too but routinely see people with point-and-shoot cameras and cell phone cameras snapping away while the rent-a-cops stand idly by. It appears they are mostly concerned with commercially viable images which means they stop anyone with a DSLR. Wonder what would happen if one walked thru taking pro quality photos with a $5000 Leica rangefinder? LOL

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