My photography encounter with law enforcement
Recently there’s been a number of well-publicized stories about photographers having run-ins with the police. In a number of different cases, photographers has been detained, questioned and in some cases threatened with arrest.
Here’s a couple of examples of recent cases, as reported on DWF.
I watched those videos on the weekend and must say that although the police did seem to push things a little far and were pretty harsh, in 2 of the video I watched, the photographers were – in my opinion – being pretty hard to get a long with and in one case, almost seemed to be looking for a fight (Um, I think I’m going to take a photo of some cops while I happen to have my friend with me video taping).
I’ve had a couple of discussions with people about this whole situation and agree with the concern many raise that often the law enforcement people seem to take things a little too far, a little too quickly.
So imagine my surprise when I had my own photographer/law enforcement encounter in San Jose yesterday this week. Here’s what unfolded….
I was walking along a downtown street with my camera over my shoulder, at this point really just walking, not really thinking about shooting. I crossed the street at a point where the light rail system runs, realizing as soon as I got to the other side that I probably shouldn’t have walked where I did. About 30 seconds later in my peripheral vision I saw a sheriff’s car stop, the deputy get out and I hear “Excuse me Sir”. “Oh boy”, I thought, “I’m going to get a jay-walking ticket”
Instead the officer says, “What are you taking pictures of?”. As my mind races, thinking about those harassment stories, I find myself becoming defensive saying ”Nothing Really. Just looking for interesting things to photograph. Haven’t taken many photos actually”. He gets closer and after a brief pause he says, “Well you might want to check out City Hall – it has won awards for architecture and it’s a really interesting spot to photograph”
Now I’m pretty much speechless until he asks, “What are you shooting” (gesturing at my camera), to which I mumble “D300”. Officer: ”What lens?” Me: “18 – 200”.
Well very quickly it was clear that he was a photographer who’s “real” job was a Deputy Sheriff. We chatted for about 10 minutes about studios, lighting etc, at which point he mentioned that he was still trying to learn more. So I told him about D-Town TV and our other pod casts, and he pulls out his pad to write down the name (I realized later than observers probably thought I was about to get a ticket).
Here’s where it gets even more interesting, from a small world perspective: I tell him all our pod casts are on Kelby TV.com to which he responds “Oh, I just bought a couple of Scott Kelby’s books and joined NAPP”.
We exchange business cards, he invites me to shoot as his studio next time I’m in town and I walk away thinking, “How cool was that!”
So thanks Deputy Sheriff Robert Eng for making my law enforcement encounter have a much different ending then I imagined when I heard “Excuse me Sir”