Wednesday, February 26, 2014
60 - Principles Versus Pragmatism
This morning I had to take a different route into work and I saw this kidney-shaped building on the drive in. It looked pretty cool so I stopped to get some pictures as I'm wont to do. It took me a few photos to get the proper exposure and since I was on my way to work I didn't have time to take any more. However, moments after the keeper shot, a security guard came walking up to tell me I had to stop taking photos of the building.
I should mention here that photographer rights are a really big topic right now in photographer's circles. A lot of businesses, institutions, individuals, and even governments have been trying to clamp down on people taking photos, including situations where the photographer has every legal right to be doing so. I've been fortunate that I haven't ran into this much, but today I did. I sympathize with the non-photographer side of it. A lot of photographers are jerks about what they're doing, disrupting people, trampling on grass, disregarding reasonable expectations of privacy, and taking photos when they should be rendering aid to people in need. On the other hand, in many situations the photographer is completely within legal rights and accepted ethical standards. That was my situation: I'm in a public place. I'm not on the property associated with the building, I'm in a Waffle House parking lot next door. The building's owner has no reasonable expectation of privacy for the exterior of the building as it sits in a public place. I'm not even aiming my camera at people and I'm in no way disrupting people or business at the building. My photography falls under the category of "fine art" from a legal standpoint; it's not for commercial purposes. Bottom line: I have every legal right to take the photos, and I'm not even being inconsiderate about it.
When the security guard approaches me I know what's going to happen, and I handle it my usual way: I'm very, very friendly and open. I explain that I just thought the building looked cool and I wasn't spying on anybody or anything, and even show him the above photo to reassure him that I mean no harm. He sheepishly responds that he's been instructed by his manager to tell me that unless I'm hired by their marketing group I'm not allowed to do it and that I need to stop. I can tell he doesn't really want to be doing this, but he's compelled to by his over-reaching manager.
Okay, now I have a choice. Do I stand up for my rights, or do I comply? On one hand, as a matter of principle it does bug me that these people think they have some kind of sovereign right to govern the direction that people point their cameras on property that doesn't even belong to them. On the other hand, I have my photo and I need to get to work. I really don't have the time or the pragmatic need to take a stand.
In the spur of the moment I said, "Sure, no problem. I'll stop." I knew he wasn't going to attempt to confiscate my pictures. I would have certainly drawn the line at that. ("Hey boss, I'm going to be a little late getting into the office this morning...") The security guard got out of an uncomfortable situation. The building management ran that pesky photographer off. And I got my picture.
My stand on this issue, if there's ever going to be one, wasn't today.