Friday, July 16, 2004

Freedom to Shoot

Margaret Cho on the proposed ban on photos on New York public transit, and her own experience at the March for Women's Lives:

What vital information could a terrorist gain from a grainy cell phone picture that they couldn’t get from the subway maps available on every corner? The only people that would be hurt by a photography ban are tourists and photographers documenting life in this essential part of New York City. What is the real motivation behind this proposed photo ban?

I guess I reacted strongly to this article because I had an experience of being hassled taking pictures recently. When we were in Washington D.C. for the March for Women’s Lives, I was approached by security guards within moments of arriving at the Lincoln Memorial with a video camera. “Who are you with?” each demanded, in a tone of voice meant to intimidate one into truth telling, I guess. Actually, it inspired me more toward lying, as I tried to figure out who would be good enough to “be with”.

Is an acceptable media outlet? Fox News? CBS? Aljazeera? Am I as a private citizen a qualified journalist? It made me furious that they would ask such a question, as it implied they could deny me the right to photograph these national landmarks based on my corporate or political affiliations. As we left the monument, one of the guards told me we’d better get lost, because a security backup was on the way.

After a brief but menacing interrogation at the rear gate of the White House the next day, an officer told me I only had a minute to get a shot, and then I better move on.

"Who are you with?"