Is photography a crime?  There is a keen website dedicated to answering that question when it comes to recording the public activities of the police — Photography is Not a Crime! — and we need more sites like that one dedicated to freedom and transparency.

The “PINAC” website reminds me a lot of Retraction Watch — where the public are forced to take on the watchdog role that the mainstream media used to own.   Now it’s up to us, the regular folk, to preserve our freedom on-the-record and when we’re told we cannot record the public actions of the police, and other officious totems, we have a serious problem in the community.

The PINAC cause especially reminds me of the PATH Train ban on photography in the name of “Homeland Security:”

The other day, I was riding the PATH Train from New Jersey to Manhattan and the Conductor — he’s the guy who manages opening and closing the doors and making announcements while the Engineers “drives” the train — came up to an Asian couple and demanded the woman delete the photograph of the train she took right before boarding. The woman was confused and embarrassed, but she followed the order and the Conductor watched her remove the photograph from her cellphone.  If she’d been using a traditional film camera, would the Conductor have confiscated her entire film roll?  The woman’s boyfriend took a more aggressive perch, and said, “There are no signs prohibiting taking pictures.”

The Conductor brusquely retorted, “There are signs everywhere.  Look for them.”  Then the Conductor left the car.  A few minutes passed and the Conductor came running back into our car to retrieve the train keys he’d left dangling in the control panel switchbox so he could bawl out the woman.  I thought to myself, “Which is a greater threat to the people riding a PATH train?  A tourist taking a photograph, or a Conductor who leaves his keys behind for the taking?”

I can understand why a private citizen would not want to be photographed in public against their will, but I have never understood why the police — or airports or train stations — try to forbid photography.  What are they trying to hide?  You can’t stop the photography.  You can only drive it underground where it will gain more surreptitious mass and power against the punishing authority.  Information, and the public behavior of public servants, demands to be held up for tight scrutiny in the full light of day or we risk repression and a revolt of the populace against a false, but menacing, civic cudgel.

The police need to take the purview of Anthony Weiner as he tries to resurrect his political career to become Mayor of New York City by re-penetrating the body politic in the wake of his own private penis envy.  Weiner is not hiding from his self-destructive viral wang shot — he’s now, quite smartly, bringing up the topic of his bulge at every opportunity, with lots of apologies, and he tells every interviewer who asks that he’ll gladly chat about his infamous crotch shot ad nauseam.

This — “Weiner Effect” — quite quickly turns from a verboten, and lurid “gotcha” topic in one man’s skivvies, to one where you begin to moan, “Anthony Weiner, please take your cock out of your mouth and put it back in your pants, and stop talking about it.”  Now that’s a political genius at work:  Take your most vulnerable asset and beat it off in public.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the next contributor to “Photography is Not a Crime” is Anthony Weiner, as he offers up his classic dick shot as ongoing evidence that, unlike the police, he has nothing left to hide and absolutely no shame.

6 Comments

  1. Interesting comparison of Homeland Security paranoia to Anthony Weiner’s parade of “no shame, nothing to hide”. If public officials like cops (and train conductors, apparently) can hold power and influence over so many people, we should be able to trust them… and how can we trust them if they won’t even allow photographs at their surface, let alone present themselves for deeper scrutiny? The idea that you shouldn’t care if you have nothing to hide does not sit well with me for private citizens, but for figures who work in extremely public and authoritative position, absolutely!

    I feel bad for that girl on the train. Unfortunately I think I would have taken the same route as her and simply deleted the picture without arguing so that the rest of the trip wasn’t unpleasant. The conductor didn’t exactly seem open to new ideas.

    1. There has always been a “security push and pull” between photographers and public officials and transportation hubs. After 9/11 draconian laws were passed to forbid any and all photography of trains and airplanes and airports in the name of “National Security.” It’s a bit silly.

      If you’re a cop or firefighter or other public servant — and you’re on the job in public — you’re fair game to any photographer. If you have something to hide, then you aren’t doing your job right. A photograph can protect you as much as it can punish you.

      That PATH conductor was in a terrible mood. I used to ride with a lot on the trains, and he was always looking to bust somebody for something — usually for standing in his box on the train… one toe over the painted line on the floor and he’d call you out — most conductors are pretty laid back and bored, but not that guy!

      1. I’ve experienced that a couple times too while taking the train home from school and I hate it! I just want to get through public transportation as quickly and easily as possible. I know the job isn’t always ideal or fun, but still.

  2. Public servants of all varieties need to remember who pays their salary – the public. The public through taxes also pay for new public spaces and existing public spaces. We should be free to photograph both our public servants and our public spaces.

    Yes I know there is a security line to be walked – that line is covered by CCTV cameras , officers on the ground, patrol cars and the ever present eye in the sky. We also pay for that.

    As for the aptly maned politician showing his goods on twitter ………….. how tasteless in one sense but how invigorating in another – in that he “cocks up” like the rest of us humans and that he is owning his mistakes – that takes balls. It is a breath of fresh air – and I guess it will remain to be seen how long that new energy lasts .

    1. That’s a good point. The Police have no problem watching us from every angle, but if we turn the camera on them — somehow there’s now an offense afoot!

      I’m sure nobody can out weiner joke Anthony Weiner — he’s had to deal with that his whole life. His big mistake was not confessing he was the one in the photographs. If he’d done that, instead of denying, he might still be in Congress. It was the cover-up and not the original act, that ended his career. His wife is a power cog in the Hillary Clinton camp, so he messed up a lot of things with his amateur photography thrill. I still prefer him as NYC mayor, though.

      His brother’s endorsement is one for the laugh riots:

      Even before the Twitter scandal broke, Weiner was disliked by many in his own party for his pugnacious, attention-grabbing style. There’s a new Weiner now, he says. “I don’t remember some of the skill to, like, be that guy,” he told the magazine. His brother Jason suggests that’s a good thing: “I wouldn’t stand for other people saying this about him, but there was definitely a douchiness about him that I just don’t really see anymore.”

      http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2013/04/10/the-best-of-the-new-york-times-anthony-weiner-profile/