Getting Hassled for Photography in a Public Place

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Getting hassled for photography in a public place isn’t something that happens to me very often, but it’s always frustrating when it does. That’s because photography isn’t a crime and anyone in a public place has no expectation of privacy. So why do some people think they have a right to hassle photographers when we aren’t doing anything wrong?

Why Were We Photographing in a Public Place?

I honestly never expected things to go south so quickly, and for such a silly reason. Here’s how it got started.

Lee is out of town for a marathon. Our daughter, Tové, has a high school art class assignment. She needs to visit the local art festival, engage with some of the artists, take a few photos, and then write a report about her experiences.

The festival is far away enough that I needed to drive her, and it was a really nice day for a walk around the park.

It also provided me with an opportunity to create something for another blog – Orlando Local.  We recently ended the podcast for that site, but announced that we still planned to add new information on the blog and YouTube channel. A walkthrough video of the art festival seemed like something interesting and useful.

It also gave me an excuse to play with my new DJI Osmo Mobile 2 gimbal for the iPhone.

What Happened as Soon as We Arrived?

Tové and I were about 20 steps away from the first tent when I assembled my phone and gimbal. I started walking toward the tent and recording video of the paintings on display.

The DJI Osmo Mobile 2 worked extremely well. The video smoothly scrolled up and everywhere else. I had a bit of a learning curve to keep it pointed in the direction I wanted, as it seemed to rotate toward the right. That’s probably because I didn’t balance my iPhone 8 Plus correctly.

What happened next, you can hear on the podcast.

The vendor in the tent was talking about people taking photos. How would they feel if someone walked up and took a photo of their child?

As if any of his art was as valuable as a child.

At that moment, he noticed me and yelled out “No photography, please.” So I immediately complied. I moved along and heard him mutter about how he felt violated.

So much drama. I replied and told him that I was sorry he felt violated. Then Tové and I moved on to see what she needed.

Then things got a bit more tense.

The Aggressive Artist Confrontation

We’re walking down the sidewalk and an angry man comes right up to me, finger pointed straight at me as if he’s going to do something to my gimbal and iPhone.

“Sir, don’t do that!”

Seriously, that’s his first approach. I don’t know him and he doesn’t know me. We’ve never seen each other before. He doesn’t have anything nice to say, he’s just rapidly coming at him with that damn finger and trying to tell me that I can’t do what I’m doing – taking video in a public place.

He tells me that most of these artists have signs saying “No Photography.”

To be honest, I hadn’t seen any of those signs yet. I’ve been there less than 60 seconds.

After telling him not to point his finger at me, I remind him he’s in a public place.

He immediately turns to a few police officers and asks them, “You going to do anything about this?”

The cops calmly tell him “It’s a public place”, which I also repeated to him. Then I moved on down the sidewalk.

As I walked away, I could faintly hear some more banter. Another vendor joined the discussion with the cops and said that they pay money to get these spots and people come along taking photos of their art.

That’s about all I heard because I had no interest in this pissing match. I actually felt bad for the police officer, because they were doing a great job, were very friendly, and now he’s dealing with some angry artists who don’t understand that photography is not a crime.

How to Deal with Getting Hassled for Photography in a Public Place

Let’s start with the basics.

If you are in a public place, you don’t have an expectation of privacy. Photography is not a crime, so it’s perfectly legal to photograph anything that you would see with your eyes while in a public space.

Photography on private property is another matter. You’re at the discretion of whoever owns the property as to whether they wish to permit your photos or not.

These vendors at the art show were in a city park, so they didn’t have any ownership of the space. Renting space to put up your tent does not provide the right to tell others that they can’t take photos.

So instead, they put up signs and behave rudely to anyone with a camera. Not good for business, but maybe that’s why they’re shilling stuff from a tent.

Although I had the right to continue taking my video, I stopped shortly after the last confrontation. My intent was to create something that highlighted the artists and their work, ultimately to promote them and the kind of experiences people can have in Orlando.

The experience, however, was not something I want to recommend. I stopped recording because this was no longer something I could recommend to anyone on my site, and not because of an angry artist with a silly sign.

If confronted like this, my advice is to be police, but remain firm in your rights. I had no interest in discussing the matter with either of these folks. Their minds were fixed and would not change.

How do I know this?

After walking the full loop around the park, they were still talking about it when I came back. One of them said:

“If the police won’t do anything about it, we’ll have to take matters into our own hands.”

Now there’s an interesting comment. Just what does he intend to do with his own hands? Is he going to get physical or do something to damage your camera?

Now that would be worth calling the police.

I Noticed Something When it Was All Over

At the time when the vendor accosted me, I wasn’t really paying attention to the video. It wasn’t pointed at him, I was just holding it up in my right hand and looking at him on my left side.

It turns out that there was nothing of him or his tent on my video. In other words, I never did what he accused me of doing. His art wasn’t on my video at all – just the sidewalk and a lot of tents on either side.

These angry people don’t even care if they’re right or wrong. They just hate the idea of anyone taking photos or video of their “art.”

I honestly do not understand why. If I were at an art festival promoting my art, I would absolutely LOVE for someone to help me spread the word. Instead, they viewed me as a threat to their very existence.

The absurdity of this attitude truly escapes me. So I’d love to know your thoughts on this issue. Was I out of line? I truly don’t think so. If you understand why they find a photo or video so threatening, please let me know in the comments.

It’s not like you could recreate and sell their art from a 1080P video on YouTube. So I ask you with all sincerity, why are they so angry with photographers?

Getting hassled for photography in a public place just ruined my entire attitude about this art festival and the people who participate. Outside of another school assignment, I don’t think I’ll ever go to another one.

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