The Evils of Photography–and Street Performance

The Las Vegas PoPo.

Actually, these enterprising young ladies were standing near the Parisian posing for tips. Quite a few men posed with them, and had the lady they were with take pictures. I got them to pose by being charming, but gave them a tip anyway. At least they weren’t hassling people taking pictures, which leads me to my theme for today.

Officious police/rent-a-cops who think photography is a terrorist activity (or who just enjoy hassling people for no good reason).*

I have been asked at various places why I was taking pictures, and told, in some of them, not to do so. Others have had the same experience. I’m not sure how much of this post-dates 9/11, but I’m sure that the Patriot Act (i.e., the “yippee, the terrorists gave us a good opportunity to enact the Restrict Americans’ Freedom Act) encouraged this sort of police-state mentality. The minions of the king (or minions of the corporations) seem to think that terrorists cannot access any information they want, visual or otherwise, on the internet.

When I’m out and about taking photos, particularly shots of buildings/architecture, I fully expect these days to be accosted by some guy with a gut, a gun, and a grudge.

It’s gotten so bad, that some folks with cameras are hassled in tourist areas, like Downtown Disney. Like this guy. Scroll down a bit to read his letter to Disney, and a bit more to read of the encounter. I will say I have not been hassled by the Disney security folks, and some of them have been quite near to me when I was taking pictures, including in the House of Blues area where Mr. Beem ran into trouble.

What’s next? Are theme parks (which already have security checkpoints when one goes in) going to start forbidding bringing cameras?

I know that often those given a bit of authority, or semblance of authority, turn into petty martinets, and puff themselves up, and that many companies and police forces do not actually instruct their employees to hassle photographers (or at least I’d like to think so).

* I have no idea as to whether these young ladies were engaging in an “illegal” street performance or whether they got hassled. Apparently the “powers that be” in Las Vegas (including the Strip which may not technically be in Las Vegas but in unincorporated Clark County) have decided that street performers, buskers, and the like have no place there. They hassle and arrest these performers, although they sometimes apparently just hold them in jail for some hours and charge them with nothing at all. The ostensible “crimes” are operating a business without a license, begging/soliciting alms, obstructing the sidewalk, disorderly conduct, obscene materials (?), and being a public nuisance.

The ACLU has brought a legal action contending that the performers are being subjected to non-applicable and unconstitutional laws. I can testify that the guys who hand out flyers/cards for smut are allowed there (because of an ACLU lawsuit).

If it isn’t apparent, I think street performing and busking and the like are an important party of our culture, and many others. See my next post about this.

I am posting this old pic of the House of Blues in solidarity with Mr. Beem’s travails:


16 responses to “The Evils of Photography–and Street Performance

  • dweebcentric

    Though agreed, the paranoia has been taken too far, I think part of it, at least on major commercial properties like Disney’s theme parks, might have to do with concerns over it somehow being used against them like, for litigation purposes or negative publicity campaigns.

  • david

    if this is the police I’ll give you my address and have them come over to arrest me!

  • introvertimages

    I have very similar, not so pleasant experiences while freelancing in different cities and towns. In general, people are horrified of cameras…probably for good reason for some. I’ve learned to be very sensitive to others as I try to be as discrete as possible in order to get quality candid shots or simply don’t photograph at all.

    Great post!

  • Chandu

    Nice post. 🙂

  • Tracy

    I get hassled all the time with my large gear – I’ve come to deal with it but it’s such a pain!

  • shutterboo

    It’s getting weird. But as long as your in a common area (not private property that restricts photography) then you should be ok. I’ve been stopped on the street and always bust out the “I’m a photography student” line and keeps the conversation light.
    I also carry A Photographer’s Rights with me just in case:

  • C. L. Carver

    Nice pictures.

  • Lillith Kane

    Great photos! Yes, unfortunately paranoia of po po nowadays is a bit much, but I think it’s more ego than actual security.

    I’m a military member, and I know for a fact that unless the photog is taking photos of something secure or secret [equipment, tactics, etc.] like maybe the gate to a military installation or police station [to do a head count on how many people are there/how one could bypass security], you’re fine. The cop is either paranoid, and shouldn’t be interacting with people let alone photogs, or they feel better about themselves.

    Maybe they’re insecure? No likey their complexion? Offer to photoshop their physique and see what the pestering policemen say.

  • Bee's Knees Photography

    I totally agree! Sometimes when I go out with my camera I’m hesitant to pull it out for fear of being singled out and interrogated as to what I’m doing. I think it’s very sad, especially because I love taking photos of everything everywhere I go. Not only to document a trip but to remember what I saw.

  • Metal Chris

    I recommend keeping a copy of the Photographer’s Rights in your camera bag. It helps in just these situations and can often be shown to the bacon that you are within your rights.

  • Pie

    I thought we were the only ones to suffer with that level of harrassment, here in the UK and London in particular. I hope we won’t be the last generation to take photos freely, without the assumption of potential terrorist acts. Given that using a large DSLR will almost certainly attract attention, it doesn’t seem to be the most sensible equipment for a terrorist recconnaissance. You may be interested in looking up a group called ‘I’m a Photographer, not a terrorist.’ It was set up after one photographer hassle too many. I like your photos by the way.

  • gerryrosser

    Thanks for all the comments, everyone.

    With regard to Photographer’s Rights, it may be of use, but I doubt that the average cop or security officer would give a hoot if hassling was what they wanted to do.

  • Chris Pearson

    I was in Vegas for CES this year, and I was not bothered by the occasional street performer. It’s part of the environment. While not a prude by “anyone, anywhere, anytime”‘s definition I was however irritated by the ‘obscene materials’. There are people standing on the street with baseball card sized adds for strippers / escorts. I wasn’t offended by the cards, but by the people trying to hand them to every passerby, including parents with children. I’ll go get my porn from the internet like everyone else, thank you very much 🙂

    Good work on the photos. I try to carry my little Canon DSLR with the 50mm lens if I think I’m gonna get hassled. It looks so much less imposing, and it’s cheap enough that I won’t cry too long if it walks away.

  • thehatlist

    wow i’m definitely adding this to my hat list. Check out my hat list at and leave comments!

  • William Beem

    Thanks for the solidarity post. Check out this three-part post Rex made today about the hassles he’s received in Las Vegas casinos. This nonsense is everywhere.

  • mark

    The world is ours to live work and play in. As a musician, I have been a street performer. I have travaled 40+ states and made a living on the side showing the tallents I possess. It should not matter what medium you employ, you should be respected by all. Unfortunatly this is not the case, our society is back sliding in the values department. What better to do than to showcase your tallent on the street where we all move from our homes to work to play… We are all going to hell, we might already be there.

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