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March 15, 2010

"F-Stop That!" More Fallout From Church Street Photography

Localmatters-photographer This week's story in Seven Days"A Photographer Is 'Banned' for Taking Pictures on Church Street" has generated enormous reader interest, both here in Vermont and elsewhere. Several photography websites have jumped on the story. One, Photography Is Not A Crime, highlights the fact that the Church Street Marketplace, which endorses the Burlington Police Department's universal trespass program, has received federal funding in the past.

But what about the fallout for the subjects of the article themselves, namely, amateur photographer Dan Scott, and Brenda Vinson, owner of the Church Street coffeehouse Uncommon Grounds? They don't agree on much, but they both wish this story had never happened.

"I haven't picked up my camera since this story ran, mainly out of fear that I'm going to be assaulted," says Scott, 32, who used to spend his lunch hours twice a week shooting photos on Church Street. "I've got a real job and a family. What am I going to do, get myself beat up or killed?"

According to Scott, he's received threats in the virtual world as well, including one posted on Craigslist last week suggesting,  "It'd be a real shame if your camera got smashed." Fortunately for Scott, his boss at the Social Security Administration office, where he's worked for 10 years, is supportive. As Scott puts it, "They know who I am here. I can't tell you how many background checks I had to go through just to get this job."

For her part, Vinson isn't exactly thrilled by the article's blowback, either. She says both she and her employees have fielded numerous threatening phone calls from people, including some who have shouted profanities at them. (When I called Uncommon Grounds this morning, the woman answering the phone didn't even identify the business.) 

Apparently, those comments have also bled over into the virtual world, where the store's Facebook page has been inundated with angry posts. 

People, people! Can't we all just get along? Besides being rude, hostile and misguided, such responses are clearly coming from people who know nothing about the business itself, which has supported local artists, including photographers, ever since it opened. (Ms. Vinson declined to comment further on this story.)

As for the letters to the editor from our readers, last Wednesday's issue generated more responses in one day than any story we've ever run. As a result, this week's issue will include an expanded letters section, where the responses have been all over the map. All  of the responses will be posted online.

Incidentally, anyone interested in seeing Scott's photos can check them out here.

Photo of Dan Scott by Jordan Silverman.

An unfortunate situation all around.

What's bothersome is the generic ban placed on Mr. Scott by the Marketplace Community. There is a legitimate venue for an individual to claim harassment, as was done by Jacqueline Onassis vs. Ron Galella. He was required to stay a fixed distance away from her. But he wasn't banned from every building from 59th St. to Madison Sq. Park.

I don't have a good answer for the good folks who work at Uncommon Grounds, although I sympathize with them. When they are standing out front, they are there as individuals on a public street, and the coffee shop does not have party status in whatever problem exists between the photographer and his subject.

The Constitution does not protect any of us from being creeped out. It does protect us from being harassed, and if you can get the law to agree, then they will issue a piece of paper preventing the guy from harassing you--and ONLY you-- with a specific prohibition . . . like staying 150 feet away.

Burlington is not as urban as we like to think.

This is what I'd love to see:

1. Illuminate the root cause of the ban by interviewing complainants. Was it really about the camera or other behaviors?
2. Find out if any other photographers have ever been banned from the Marketplace.
3. Ask a few lawyers with relevant areas of specialty if what has happened is legal.

Is there anything in the no-tresspass order that bans him from continuing to take pictures on Church Street? I doubt it. Nobody is trampling on this photogropher's constitutional anything. Correct me if I'm wrong but this is just a bunch of businesses who have privately come to a ban-reciprocity agreement. They don't like him so they don't have to let him in. There doesn't have to be a crime in involved. They don't have to let this person in their stores any more than you have to let him in your apartment or house. The cops are correct to enforce the ban at a business's behest, however they are silly to harrass him at work, when they have no evidence of any crime.

Way to go 7 days. You have taken a great local business (Uncommon Grounds) and dragged them into a very public fight. I'm sure they really appreciate your coverage of this story.

I think Molly's first point is the one we need to focus on - was it solely the fact that he was taking photos, or the behavior that accompanied the photography? As a photographer with a long, incident-free history of photographing strangers in public places, I'm inclined to wonder what his behavior was like if it inspired a ban.

When you photograph people in public, your approach and your attitude is paramount. Sure, from a legal standpoint, you're perfectly within your rights to do that, but I feel you also have a responsibility to be courteous and a good representative of the field of photography. Yes, you'll always come across people who flat out want none of it, but in my experience those are much less common than people who are surprisingly ok with being photographed when you approach them in an above-board manner.

My technique has always been to start with candids, and then as soon as I see that my subject has noticed me, walk over, introduce myself, and explain why I'm taking pictures of them. For example: "Hi, My name is ____ and I'm a photographer for ____; I've just been taking some shots around Burlington in this gorgeous weather, and your son looks so joyful playing on that statue." About 8 times out of 10, the person will react positively, and not only will you get your shots, but you might also meet some awesome people. Plus, if you start shooting them again at that point, they become comfortable with your presence and you often get even better shots than you would otherwise.

Again, while I'm obviously a supporter of photographers' rights, it seems to be that something must have been amiss in Scott's approach to warrant such a backlash. That said, Scott should never have to feel guilty about not deleting his shots - as they say, the danger of being in public is that you might be photographed.

Haik, where a private business has private reason to issue a tresspass order, that in itself is protected and legit. Agreed.

But this is a defacto community persecution of one person for doing something legal; a total ban (67 businesses!) that was initiated, orchestrated and ultimately enforced by a public, taxpayer funded branch of government. Most of the businesses who banned this guy probably had no idea who he was . . . but they were told (or asked, if it makes a difference) to by the Marketplace District Commission, that much is clear.

If the Marketplace can ban him from an entire street, can the City Council ban him from every business in town? How about just those in Wards 4 and 7? I bet he never goes up there anyway. I also bet he doesn't photograph in front of some businesses on Church St., but even if he dares walk in one of those--without a camera--they will arrest his ass.

The actual issue has nothing to do with Uncommon Grounds. They are a great business and I will continue to be a daily customer. And Seven Days has done a great job of reporting on this.

Ah, "Bob" -- I was struck by your comment the other day on another thread. It seemed so familiar -- the three-letter first name ID, the "7 Days should be ashamed" language, the focus on Burlington politics, and now, the insistence that Seven Days somehow beat up on a local business while doing our jobs, reporting a story.

So I checked the Typepad interface, and sure enough, I had seen your comments before -- only posted as "Sue", "Jen", "Dan," "Ron," and "Ben," starting in July, 2009. The comments are all similar in tone, some more pointed than others -- like when I published a post saying that we would be going on break between Christmas and New Years, and you left us a little note saying, "A 7 day break from 7 Days and Cathy. Thank you."

Yes, you're leaving a digital trail behind you every time you post a little nastygram to us, even if you're changing your "name."

Come on, what's so hard about using your real name? We all do it here at Seven Days when we write something, which is why you can then hold us accountable for what we say. Is it that you don't want to be associated with your comments?

Sorry you feel so powerless against us that you feel the need to hide your identity while snarking at us so consistently. I would email you directly, but I don't trust any of the email addresses you've registered with your fake names.

Haik, where a private business has private reason to issue a trespass order, that in itself is protected and legit. Agreed.

The businesses have privately agreed to honor each other's bans. What isn't legit about that? They can do whatever they want. They're private. He is still free to take pictures on Church Street. It's a public street and that is is constitutionally protected right. He's exercising his rights and the businesses are exercising theirs.

I don't see an issue here.

Cathy, how do you know it's only one person? It could be a whole cave full of trolls with monosyllabic names who share the same computer.

Molly! Have you seen such a cave? Is that what's in the Donovan sea caves? I've always wondered.

I think it's one person because all of the comments come from the same IP address. The writing style is consistent across all of the comments. The tone and often the subject matter is the same, even when the names have changed. And the names are all three-letter first names. There are literally 18 comments, spread across a several month period. And those are the only comments from that IP address.

The writing style and mode of attack is pretty distinctive, I think, because even though lots of our commenters take us and each other to task, very few of them are as consistently sarcastic and mean-spirited as this particular individual.

I could be wrong about this, but I'm pretty sure this is one person. Please feel free to poke holes in my theory.

It will be interesting to see if that pattern changes now that I've outlined it.

Thanks for the flickr link. The photographs are great.

We put the Flickr link in the story, but I took it out because it was a bad link. I assumed he had taken the photos down... but maybe it was just a bad link?

Anyhow, I fixed the link in the story now, too.

My guess is that the smoker was embarrassed by her actions and didn't want them photographed. As a photog with 25 years experience, I have found that not many smokers care to have their photo taken when they are on a cigarette break while at work. It's usually that simple. Having said that, he could be a little less surreptitiously, if he was indeed acting that way. A lot of people just don't want to be photographed doing something that they know they shouldn't be doing, like smoking (public perception of smoking has really gone down in recent years).

Cathy, you seem to have it all figured out. 7Days should focus on putting out good articles, not destroying solid local businesses.

Thanks, "Bill," "Stan," "Shad." I think I have it figured out pretty well, actually.

Bill, if you think that it was either the intent or desire of Seven Days to "destroy" a local business, then clearly you don't have the vaguest inkling of how we operate, where our revenues come from or where our values lie. Seven Days is, and always has been, a locally owned business that focuses its attention on local issues. The bulk of our revenues come from locally owned establishments, upon whom we depend for our very survival. To even suggest that we'd want to see Uncommon Grounds go under, a business which many of us, myself included, patronize on a regular basis, is utterly naive.

I'm sure you're right, Cathy. I was just amused by the mental image of a troll cave with a bunch of paranoid personality disordered simpletons sitting around watching Fox News and taking turns on their trollputer.

Banning people from private businesses when they haven't done anything illegal makes me feel uncomfortable. Where do you draw the line? And what next? Banning women who breastfeed because it makes other people feel uncomfortable? Banning folks with Tourettes because their outbursts make other people feel uncomfortable? Banning people preaching their faith on a street corner because it makes other people feel uncomfortable? Banning black people from a restaurant because it makes you feel uncomfortable?

Sure, the photographer may have been rude and disrespectful, but that's not a crime. Unfortunately for the Marketplace's pocketbook, taking away someone's civil rights is.

The businesses have privately agreed to honor each other's bans

To the extent it was a private effort, sure. But to the extent that the ban was initiated or orchestrated by a public, taxpayer funded agency--The Church Street Marketplace District Commission-- and on account of behavior that is perfectly legal, that is something completely different.

My understanding is that the action taken against Mr. Scott was via the same process used against . . . shoplifters.

So Cathy, all the IP numbers of the troll are the same?

Morgan, even if it was orchestrated by a public body the agreement itself is still private. You might argue that it isn't goverment's role to facilitate such arrangemets, but that is a political, not a legal debate. Regardless of who proposed the idea, each business freely agreed to it. Both parties involved are on firm legal ground. He can still take pictures on Church Street, and Uncommon Grounds and its partners in the reciprocity ban don't have to let him in. That's it.

Sometimes there's a cost for standing up for what you believe in. It may not be fair but life isn't fair. For example it may be an unfair photography advantage for Eva the Deadbeat to be way less creepy than the guy in this story. But that's just not going to change. What are you going to do?

This guy should just be proud to stand up for his constitutionally protected rights and take his lumps like a man. Accept the ban, grow up and move on. Don't invoke the Constitution and then go cry to a lawyer. Especially when you're a Federal employee. Jesus.

And Charity is right. Those are great photos at this guy's flikr page. Come to think if it the cops who wasted both city and federal wage time to uselessly harrass him, should probably thank him for catalouging that list of suspects. Oh.

I wonder how many Church Street businesses have hidden cameras aimed at the public 24/7 -- recording our every movement ...

I just re-read the article. It is very well written.

I'm glad to see that Ken did mention that a number of Church Street businesses have surveillance cameras. It doesn't matter if Dan Scott is on the street or not. If you walk down Church Street, your picture will be taken (many times).

I too wonder if this is about what the photographer does or if it's about how he does it. It’s a very interesting story.

"Besides being rude, hostile and misguided, such responses are clearly coming from people who know nothing about the business itself, which has supported local artists, including photographers, ever since it opened."

Except this artist, right? UG was the rude hostile and misguided party here. Your stories betray your personal feelings, which is not particularly journalistically correct. If they are in fact supporters of the arts, that means more than hanging local pictures or giving a dollar or two. It also means supporting the creation of art.

The manager of UG has no defense, that's why she makes no more statements. UG was wrong, and your entering the fray on their side is pretty poor for a newspaper.

Cathy, is 'Torgeaux' part of your 'bill' 'stan' 'shad' conspiracy now that this person has called out 7Days as well?

It is his right to take pictures in public places. I feel bad he got banned. But the other 7 Days article about this stated that the employee of Uncommon Grounds caught him taking a picture of her and asked for him to delete it. He refused. That seems wrong to me. I would have gotten pissed. I think if he just said "Hey, you mind if I take your picture?", people wouldn't react so hostile. Some people are private and wouldn't want some stranger taking their picture while they go about their daily business.

The story does not paint Uncommon Grounds in a bad light at all. In fact, it actually shows that UG management stands up for it's employees and is willing to go to bat for them when someone makes them feel uncomfortable while they are at work or on break. They care about their employees. That's a good thing.

If Dan was making employees feel uncomfortable, it was just a matter of time before customers started feeling uncomfortable. That's not good for business.

Oh, and speaking of lack of journalistic integrity, where's the condemnation of the people who have threatened the photographer? Your silence says volumes.

Oh, and "they asked him to delete and he wouldn't." Yes. He doesn't have to. "He should get permission." Sure, that's going to make for some compelling street photography. I guess Henri Cartier-Bresson is just over-rated.

They're not standing up for their employees, they're attempting to intimidate a photographer (arts lovers my butt). Since his shots NEVER took place in their shop, and the ban only keeps him out of their shop, it's just a punitive measure to punish legal behavior they don't like. By the way, the same laws that protect his right to make photographs are what protect real journalists. Not that you'd know that.

Torgeaux, just read your post. On what basis are you questioning my journalistic integrity in this story? I endeavored to write a balanced and impartial story that accurately and thoroughly represents both points of view in this conflict, in the space I was alloted by my editors. Unlike you, I don't hide my identity behind a screen name. If you'd like to insult me or challenge my journalistic integrity, I'd request that you to call the Seven Days office at (802) 864-5684 and ask for me by name. You can identify yourself only as Torgeaux and I'll take your call. In the meantime, I have neither the time nor inclination to respond, in writing, to all your uninformed and asinine assertions.

Ken - I think you did a great job with your article and the follow-up; however, I can't say I'm a fan of you responding to an anonymous comment with name-calling, nor am I a fan of Cathy's response to the anonymous comments.

It's my understanding that newspaper letters to the editor and (in today's society) online newspaper comment forums are there strictly for readers to voice their opinion and for editors to clarify misleading information or correct any misinformation. If editors use this forum space to respond to authors (anonymous or not) of letters by calling them asinine (even if they are asinine) or by giving their opinion in anyway, it only serves to discourage other readers from writing in to voice their opinions lest they put themselves at risk of a public lashing. Editors/authors have their forum (the articles/op-eds/columns) and readers have theirs (letters to the editor). Mixing the two sets a dangerous tone.

Well, after speaking with Mr. Picard, I'm satisfied that any slant I perceive in this is unintended. Still firmly on the side of the photographer, but I'll keep my comments confined to the issue, rather than my perceptions of the reporting.

It's interesting how Rorschach-y this article is. Everyone who feels passionately about this seems to see preferential treatment of their opposing viewpoint! I did too, at first, but now I just crave additional information.

Good job, Ken! (I do not mean that sarcastically, BTW)

The manager of UG has no defense, that's why she makes no more statements.

Torgeaux, she doesn't need a defense. The inside of the coffee shop is private property. If somebody creeps out an employee, she can ban him from coming inside. That's it. The guy is still free to photograph UG employees hanging out front, or even (yes) through the glass.

Nothing has been done to this guy that affects his right to take pictures.

If you have a small business . . . you can keep someone out, too.


Point taken. One problem with posts of this sort is that it's easy to read hostile intent even if none is intended. And, after speaking with Torgeaux on the phone, I realized that our points of view aren't as divergent as I initially suspected.

That said, I will say that I take it personally when people question my professional integrity in a public forum. In all my work I try to be as accurate, thorough and fair in my reporting as possible, even when I personally disagree with certain views expressed in that article. Obviously, I can't include everything I'm told by sources, but I do try to represent their points of view as accurately as possible.

Morgan - Hypothetically, what if Torgeaux owns a restaurant and he/she bans an Iraqi man from entering his restaurant because he's deemed "creepy"? And Torgeaux thinks this man is creepy because he talks in a different language and wears "weird" clothing and so he must be a terrorist. The Iraqi man is still free to walk down Church Street but now he's banned from all Marketplace businesses. Torgeaux is perfectly within his rights as a private business owner, right?

"Creepy" is a relative term. Unless the photographer committed an actual crime and/or has a legal restraining order placed on him, it doesn't seem right to ban him from a private business when he's done nothing wrong.

Morgan: No one's talking about the law. All parties behaved legally. However, UG's actions are all about, and apparently intended, to chill legal, constitutional activity. As you say, he can keep shooting, exactly as before. The only impact the multiple bans have is on his non-photographic day to day life. It's frankly despicable.

Bungalow: One cannot act against suspect classes, or based on certain criteria. A ban based on race would be unlawful. However, the real problem here with this story is that UG says, "Creepy" and "aggressive" but those terms mean essentially nothing. What did he do, and why was it creepy? Hiding in the bushes? Legal but creepy. But it seems to be no more than photos without permission and refusing to either discuss it or delete the images. That's neither creepy nor illegal.

Bungalow, of course there are specific rights everyone has in public places that are well enumerated in things like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and subsequent legislation relating to gender, religion, sexual preference, and so on.

But outside of that, the owner has broad discretion on who they allow inside. In this case it is well established that an owner can keep out anyone who tries to interact with a customer in a way that the owner deems unsuitable, such as trying to sell, interview, stalk, stare, photograph, videotape, sketch, sing, preach, or quite frankly anything that the owner thinks inappropriate.

He is not being asked to leave for who he is. He is being asked to leave for what he is doing.

@ Trogeaux:

"But it seems to be no more than photos without permission and refusing to either discuss it or delete the images. That's neither creepy nor illegal."

Wrong. It may not be illegal. But it may very well be creepy. And it's occurring in a private place. I'd keep creepy people out of my business, too.

What if a person came into your coffee shop and started walking up to your employees and customers and asking them about their personal relationship with Jesus? That's perfectly legal. But you'd ban 'em. So would I. So cut the righteous crap.

Webber: You've got an important fact incorrect. It's not occurring in a private place. If you read the original article you'll see the manager admits he never took any pictures in their store, or even entered it. It all took place in a public space.

So, perhaps you should read the original article again. That's what so insidious about the actions of UG...nothing he did was in their spaces at all, or any other businesses, but on a public street. The ban had no impact on the pictures he takes, just on his ability to shop in places he's had nothing to do with.

Ken Picard has the thinnest skin of any journalist I've ever read. I've never seen such utter lack of self-restraint. Have some self-respect Ken. You act like a child. Pick and choose your battles. Have some self-respect. I think you might be in the wrong profession. The first step is admission.

"About a month later, during a February snowstorm, Scott shot some pictures of a woman smoking a cigarette outside Uncommon Grounds on Church Street. Scott claims he was about 50 feet away when the woman, an employee of the coffeehouse, noticed his camera and asked him not to take her picture. Scott claims he backed off. But the woman also asked Scott to delete the pictures he’d already taken of her. He refused."

The above is the very definition of a creep.

There IS a difference between a guy taking a picture of a street scene, in which people are generally present, and a guy taking a picture of a specific, individual woman, with a telephoto lens, who doesn't want to be photographed by a private photographer. Why shouldn't she assume he's a stalker, or will use her image in inappropriate ways? Just because he says, "Oh, don't worry, I'm just a hobbyist"?

It's rude and creepy. Not illegal, but rude and creepy.

Webber: I see you've made up your mind, without regard for the facts. First, it was because it happened "in a private space" now it's because the subject was the person.

I'll have to disagree with rude and creepy. Unless he's hiding or trying to conceal what he's doing, it's neither rude nor creepy.

So, by your definition, we should change the law to require permission for photographs in public. How do you feel about security cameras, such as those used by Church Street? That's creepy, but I don't see you jumping on that.

No, you decided without the facts, and when the facts weren't what you thought, you stuck right with it. Your opinion here is highly suspect.

You're right. I've made up my mind: I've read the article, and this blog, and all the above commentary. The guy sounds like a real creep. If I owned UG, he'd be banned.

But you've also made up your mind. And if you've somehow convinced yourself that you're bias-free on this issue, think again. Your view seems to reflect some sort of extreme "artists' rights" position on the First Amendment that I suspect would not carry over into other areas of your First Amendment interpretation. Newsflash: just because someone calls himself an artist doesn't mean he's not a creep. Responsible artists would get the permission of their subjects. And I note you chose not to address my question about what you would do if your employees or customers were accosted by a Bible thumper -- whether inside the store or milling about the entrance.

I don't feel good about security cameras. But if you don't see a difference between a security camera generically taking pictures of people walking by, and an individual guy with a telephoto lens taking unwanted pictures of individual women, well . . .

Also, you're a male, right? Perhaps if you were a female, you might be a little more sensitive to the rights of the person on the OTHER end of the unwanted lens.

Webber: First, his photos are predominantly of men...the elderly and the homeless, by my casual review of his photostream.

Second, I have made up my mind based on the facts presented. If someone brings more facts out, like additional actions he took beyond candid photography, I'll reassess my position. I, at least, acknowledge that we may not know everything. However, as reported, the complaints are that he took candid pictures openly, in public, without permission. I'm not only fine with that, I love the works of this guys artistic brethren (Cartier-Bresson, Bruce Gilden). Oh, and Cartier-Bresson was a responsible artist and Gilden still is...highly acclaimed at that. They didn't/don't seek permission. On that note, if someone shows he was hiding in the bushes, or photographing private (not public) moments, I'd be slamming this guy, too. I just don't see that.

My interpretation of the First Amendment is entirely consistent, and legal and constitutional.

I agree, calling himself an artist doesn't mean he's not a creep. But, taking candid photos in public doesn't mean he IS a creep. I keep seeing people acting like he's stalking women (no evidence of that, some evidence to the contrary) or taking "pervy" pictures (no evidence, lots of evidence to the contrary).

So, let me ask you this: If the facts are that he was always standing in plain view, openly taking pictures of people/events only occurring in public, and he never spoke to anyone about any of this unless they approached him, do you support his right to do this, or do you believe he should be stopped? No disputes, if those are the entire facts, where do you fall? Because that scenario is entirely legal and protected constitutional activity.

As for your question that I didn't answer, I didn't answer because it was unrelated to this incident. However, if a "bible-thumper" as inside a store I owned, and harrassing my customers, I'd tell him to leave. If he kept coming back, I'd likely ban him. If he "milled about the entrance" I'd ask him to move on, I'd even ask the police to speak to him, but I wouldn't consider a ban since banning him would not prevent him from doing that which is annoying. Do you see the problem?

Your points are good ones. Some responses.

First, the fact that the photos you've seen (the ones that he's chosen to publish) are "predominantly" of men is irrelevant. Second, as noted, you only can review the photos he's published, not the possibly million other secret or "unsecret" photos of women he may also have taken without permission and not published. I am not saying he's done this -- only that you do not know whether he has or not. Certainly we know that he's done it in at least one instance.

Second, you say your opinion is based on the "facts presented." I'll give you that you're entitled to your opinion on the "facts presented," just as I am. However, your facts are not complete. Did you interview the subject of the photos? Did you interview the store owner? Did you interview any of the other people who've complained about his activities? If you're entitled to think you can form a valid opinion based on only the facts presented, so am I. I hope you will not go so far as to claim that you know "all" the relevant facts.

I'll make a good faith attempt to answer your hypothetical. AS POSED, I think I have no problem with that. But your hypothetical doesn't include an important fact that we know existed here: using a telephoto lens to take a photo of an individual woman.

Let me change the facts. If a review of his photos showed that he was taking closeups of her face and body parts -- just as if she were voluntarily in his studio -- would you be okay with that?

The fact that a person uses public space -- we have no choice in that -- does not necessarily mean we have consented to be the studio subjects of close-up photographers.

But ultimately the issue here is not whether what he did is legal (and I think there may be a gray area on that; you don't; that's fine). What we are talking about here is the appropriateness of the "ban." Based on the "facts presented," I think the ban is perfectly appropriate.

One more for Webber: I'm not trying to convince you to change your mind. There are people who hate the idea of street photography...fair enough. What I'm trying to get across is, one, there may not be much more to this story than that very same hostility to street photography (something I think applies to you). Two, banning him from a place where he didn't do something, while permitting access to the place he did do something is an illegitimate (although legal) use of the no trespass bans since it does not have any impact on his activity. Three, consider that even if he's doing something you dislike, he may be legitimately doing nothing more than pursuing his legal artistic hobby; if so, don't you agree that the police shouldn't be involved in such a thing?

Webber: First, his photos are predominantly of men...the elderly and the homeless, by my casual review of his photostream.

If he had any questionable pictures of women at his flikr page, don't you think he would have taken them down as soon as the story broke? Of course his photostream includes mostly pictures of men now.

I was thinking the same thing, Haik. It makes no sense to point to his Flickr account as evidence of anything.


First, your hypo: I'm fine with a telephoto, also. I'm aware of the artistic/photographic reasons for taking pictures with telephoto, and they don't necessarily have to do with being able to take pictures from a distance. The one picture we know was taken with the telephoto (purported to be a 135mm, a nice lens) was a really nice shot, one of my favorites in his flickr group, the smoking woman. It's a good example of this type of photography. A telephoto used to conceal ones purpose, while still legal, would fall into the creepy category. However, the woman in question says he was openly, publicly, taking that picture.

Second, I've seen several comments about the content of his flickr stream not being proof of anything. I's not definitive proof, for sure, but it's indicative. Look at the run of dates/times. He's a prolific poster. And, look at flickr generally, you'll find that the types of pictures to which you object are openly displayed routinely there. Not to mention, the woman who got him banned (UG manager, i think) says he never took any lewd photos, and that wasn't her complaint at all. Those facts together make me think his pictures on flickr are representative.

Third, your other hypo: Closeups of face? No problem. Body parts, he goes in the creep category to be condemned, ostracized, but not necessarily banned from the drugstore.

Finally, I can assure you there's no gray area, absent additional factors. If he were stalking a particular woman, for instance. Or, if he were interfering with others use of the public space, by either getting in their way, or blocking access to stores, etc...

Your point that you haven't consented to closeup pictures is a good one, but the counterpoint is that consent isn't needed. It is the same legal basis for the security cameras. There is no expectation of privacy in a public space.

That's the thing. If one were opposed to the concept of street photography in general, and many people are, there's no way to make what he's doing ok. Look at the comments here, many people are complaining only of the fact that he didn't get permission and didn't delete the photo when asked. If that's all there is to this, then he really, really shouldn't face a ban. As you say, we can't know (because the story doesn't say, and the people who made the complaint haven't made any further statements) there isn't more.

I don't do this kind of photography...i'm uncomfortable with taking pictures of people who I don't know, but I'm glad some people are, as it's produced some of the finest photographic art I know of.

"There is no expectation of privacy in a public space."

You make some very good points, but then you say this. It is not correct. There may be a significantly reduced expectation of privacy in a public space. But it is incorrect to say that there is absolutely none.

What if the photographer's camera allowed him to see through my clothes? (That technology exists, by the way, but isn't yet commercially available -- but you know it will be.) What if technology allowed you to read my thoughts if I am in a public space? Does my act of leaving my store to go out and smoke a cigarette or get some fresh air constitute consent to be photographed nude or have my thoughts read just because technology allows that?

No. Your absolutist position on the "public space" issue is wrong. Even on Church Street, in a mall, or on a crowded subway, I have some privacy rights.

There IS a gray area, and I think it is context-specific, and I think line was crossed in this instance. Of course I can take a picture of Church Street, a picture of a subway car, or a picture of a mall. No problem. But I can't take a closeup picture of an individual, studio style, if she doesn't consent. Will this be police-able as technology gets more sophisticated and photographers can take a secret close-up from a mile away? Maybe not. But that doesn't mean we should abandon the principle.

Secondly, while I am not a cig fan, where was this barrista supposed to go to smoke a cig and still maintain the right not to have a close up of her image stolen? Where does "public space" begin? Does privacy end completely once you step out of the confines of your own apartment? What if this women had gone into the alleyway behind the building? Is her closeup then fair game for anyone who wants to capture it?

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