My Photo
Blog powered by Typepad

May 2005

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31        

« Tsunami and Citizen Journalism's First Draft | Main | NY Times to Charge for Online Viewing? »

January 07, 2005



Greetings. Congratulations on having the courage to drive your career in this exciting new direction. I read you religiously before, and I'm glad I'll still be able to do so here.

As an avid amateur photographer, I often carry my camera with me so I can take pictures of whatever strikes my fancy when I'm in the field. The new rule almost stands as a challlenge to anyone who values freedom of expression. From banning cameras, it's only a short jump to banning speaking from a soapbox and, gasp, actually looking at felling travellers.

It's yet another reaction of knee-jerk security by officials who lack the creativity to implement anything remotely effective.

Although I don't live in New York, you can bet my camera will be in my pocket and readily available for use the next time I visit the city and head underground.

Ewan Grantham

Another question here is will the Bureaucrats turn on themselves. For example, if I read this correctly, then if the Subway system has monitoring cameras then they will need written permission for each and every one of them, and that permission filed somewhere.

However, having a file that says where each and every one of them is rather defeats the purpose of the surveillance in the first place, doesn't it?

Perhaps the real question is who is going to be willing to stand up, take a photo, and go through a couple years of legal "fun" to get this overturned?

Sean Gilligan

The law could even stop amateur photographers from taking pictures of suspicious persons who look like they're casing an area. ;-)

Tim Porter

Dan ...

I was struck by the same story today. Ridiculous. What's next? Notepads? Sketchbooks? Staring too long at the Statue of Liberty?




I don't know if you are aware of the story of the nepali resident who was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for 3 months after being arrested for taking video clips of NYC prior to returning home to Nepal. THis was covered last summer in the NYT and a description is here:


Utterly outrageous.

I propose a flashmob-style protest on the day it takes effect, a'la the Starbucks photo ban protest.

Lawrence Lessig: "It is bizarre that we increasingly live in this world where every movement is captured by a camera, yet increasingly, ordinary people are not permitted to take pictures with cameras. This is yet another part of a growing obsession with control that seems to mark so much of this society. At a minimum, we have a right to take note of this control, and criticize it where we can."


So they're trying it again? This has been going on since May of last year and it sparked a lot of resistance. Here are some protest photos:

With all the tourists in the subway, I wonder how they'll make it work.

If terrorists flew two commercial planes into two slivers, why wouldn't they find a way to take a simple picture in an underground subway at rush hour?

Hmm, we'll see.

Tim Andonian

I remember trying to take a picture in NY subway of some graf on the side of a train and a police guy wagged his finger at me. This was pre 9/11 NY too, 2000. The next two times I had been there I notice that I had that feeling of dejection and fear(how ever small it may be) of that incident, when I was underground.
I think the type of equipment you are holding at the time has a lot to do with how you are perceived, ie. little digital camera vs. large SLR rig. But I agree with the overall sentiment here, this is rediculous in any frame of current state of the nation. It damages our freedom of speech and our freedom from fear.
Sunnyvale, Ca


With all these suppressions of basic, everyday actions being instilled in the name of Security, I keep waiting for the actual news story that shows to the world how a act of terrorism (hell, I'd even take pety theft at this point) has been stifled by such extreme measures. I wish we had a mainstream media with enough guts to proclaim, "Okay, it's been some time and we still haven't seen how the Patriot Act, increased airline screenings, and not taking pictures has effectively prevented acts of terrorism. What gives?"

I know pleny of people out there are saying this already, but it's far from the general public sphere of consciousness.



Banning cameras has been a pretty consistent practice at railroads and transit agencies all over the U.S., especially since 9/11.

If you search rail newsgroups, like misc.transport.rail.americas, you'll find lots of stories about railfans being harassed over taking pictures of trains and railroad landmarks.


I imagine the irony of the parallel between banning our citizens from taking pictures of their own publicly accessible facilities and similar cold war era constraints in the Soviet Union and Red China is lost on these people.

We probably should ban public photos of all public buildings, shopping malls, office buildings, monuments and natural wonders for similar reasons. As long as we allow access to people, though, the possibility of covert photos will exist, so perhaps we should ban access as well -- in the interest of national security, of course. And, because even employees might be terrorists during their off-hours, maybe we need a curfew and travel restrictions unless you have proper ID. Of course, that can be forged, so we need secure RFID-type implants to track and clear people.

Okay, it's hyperbole...but by how small a margin?


"When journalists need licenses -- when people need the government's permission to ask the kinds of questions journalists (and concerned citizens) ask every day, the government has new kinds of power."

Don't forget the loyalty test required for licensure!


Ewan Grantham: "Perhaps the real question is who is going to be willing to stand up, take a photo, and go through a couple years of legal "fun" to get this overturned?"

1. You obviously don't know New Yorkers!

2. There's always a fall-back to the ACLU!


Beerzie Yoink

What makes this even more absurd is that while the subway goons are harrassing innocent citizens snapping photos, any terrorists are covertly gathering any information that they need.

Steven Ericsson Zenith

I absolutely agree with you Dan. The only possible response to such an ordinance is civil disobedience.

BTW: Congratulations of taking this bold step in your new venture!



Freedom of expression will be banned in all its forms because it disturbs the concentration of security hogs and bureaucrapic types who, as we all should realize by now, cannot chew gum and fart at the same time without provoking cerebral embolisms producing sudden unconsciousness and intellectual paralysis.

Brian Slesinsky

This is slightly off-topic, but what are your thoughts on the "increasingly bogus distinction between amateurs and professionals" with respect to revealing sources? The law doesn't recognize a distinction between ordinary citizens and journalists when requiring someone to testify in court, and yet as far as I can tell, most journalists think it's unjust when a reporter goes to jail for refusing to testify.

Charlie Gordon

"When journalists need licenses -- when people need the government's permission to ask the kinds of questions journalists (and concerned citizens) ask every day, the government has new kinds of power."

Dan, were/are you under the misapprehension that the United States is a free Country. How naive of you. Please pay closer attention.


I'd bet a silent agenda item here is adding another tool to fight upskirt photographers-- terrorists to women in certain clothing...

Jozef Imrich

As you might be aware, Metafilter broke a bittersweet story in relation to the access to unsecured cameras on Google last week.
I usually like to inquire: Who is watching the watchers?

i.e.: CCTV camera allegedly used as a 'peeping tom' tool
Three council workers are under police investigation after they allegedly used CCTV cameras as a "peeping tom" tool.
The randy three men, who work for Sefton Council in Merseyside, are believed to have pointed a street safety camera into a woman's flat.

Steve Rhodes

The Village Voice has an online piece in June where they asked a bunch of photobloggers what impact a subway ban would have on them.


I would also like to hear your take on Brian Selinsky's question. Where is the ACLU on this?


Welcome to the internal cold war.


One other point of view on this question:

- apart from any new "terrorist" concerns, the regulation is also aimed at, for example, fashion photographers doing shoots on subway platforms; filmmakers shooting scenes there (including film students doing assignments).

These sorts of shoots really do get in the way of ordinary pedestrians, and (in the case off pro and student movie crews) drain power from the system to light up the subway enough to get suitable image and depth of field. There is an old practice of "tying in" (directly hooking your lights to powerlines, at the base of lightpoles on streetcorners for example) which is darn dangerous unless you know what you are doing.

It's not *all* about terrorists, folks.

Joe Sixpack

terrorists casing landmarks.I'll bet most of you also want illegal immigrants to get drivers licenses with fake id, so they can take get airline tickets. I am an amateur photog in NYC, and I lost a friend in the WTC. Go take pictures in the park, and stop whining and making it easier for terrorists to attack us again.Better yet, go take pictures of terrorists; I am sure for some of you, they would be happy to give you access.

The comments to this entry are closed.