Security Alarm

The above image is a close up of a concrete trash can that sits outside the main doors of our local shopping mall. The texture and geometry appealed to me and I am pleased with the abstract nature of the final image. But, after taking the shot, as I was heading back to me car, a mall security guard waved me over to his vehicle. He wanted to know what I was doing. I explained that I had been working on an assignment for my photography class, taking advantage of the opportunity to shoot indoors with lots of subject matter variety that a venue like the mall provided. He informed me that taking photos in public places like the mall was a security concern and not really allowed. Luckily, he didn’t make me delete my images nor did he clap on the cuffs and cart me off to the pokey.

It makes me sad that, in our world today, a middle-aged woman bending down on creaky knees to take a close-up photo of a trash can raises security concerns. Understanding the reasoning behind those concerns doesn’t lessen the feeling; that queasy feeling of being caught doing something wrong. You have to understand that I am definitely NOT a rule-breaker nor do I have a rebellious streak. No, the song “Goody-goody Two Shoes” was written with me in mind. Speaking to someone in “authority” like this turns my insides to jelly, even if he was just a “mall cop”.

I have a new-found respect for the photojournalists who venture into dangerous situations, putting their lives on the line in order to bring us the important images; images that have the power to change the world. I’m not that brave.

But at the same time, I wonder – what are my rights as an amateur photographer, taking photographs in public spaces? I would be interested in hearing your input.


Posted on March 11, 2011, in Photography and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Are you freaking kidding me? This makes me so angry. I am no legal expert, and in my line of work – which does involve large video cameras – we wouldn’t be able to set foot in a private place like a mall without having a signed location release first. But as a private person taking pictures for private, not-for-profit, use? Maddening.

    Of course, I don’t believe “security threats” are half as seriously as They would have us fear. And, though I’m no expert on public safety either, I can’t imagine how it is well served by discouraging people – middle aged women or otherwise – from making art.

    • Yes, the experience was all rather “George Orwell 1984” and it doesn’t help that I am a wimp when it comes to confrontation with authority figures. But the friendly folks at Digital Photography School provided two very helpful links which provide some clarity on our rights as photographers:

      Krages Photographer’s Rights
      Legal Rights of Photographers

      Very helpful information – which will help make me a little braver the next time.

  1. Pingback: Rights of Photographers

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