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Photography = Terrorism ?????

Here is a recent article written by one of my flickr buddies "Mazda6"

War On People


...so I was ending me shoot of the Verrazano bridge. Before heading back to the car I decided to take a final shot - a shot I'd been planning all along. Between the vantage point - the main area of the park - and the carpark you get a great view directly under the bridge. The idea was to shoot this view with the reflections of the bridge on the water. I'd also get the some water on both sides and the imposing span and pillars of the Verrazano-Narrows bridge.

It was not to be. I notice a car with its lights on close to where I set up my tripod. Being a car expert I see its a newish Chevy Impala, but its dark so I don't think cop. After setting up I start the shot when someone shouts: "You can't do that."

Fine, so I grab my tripod and walk towards the cop. The above shot is the 30sec exposure that results - the light is probably the squad cars headlights. My initial thought is: Shit, he will make me delete all my shots.

Fortunately, that did not happen, but other stuff did. So he explains that as part of the war on terror it is illegal to photograph bridges. Bridges? Well, you can't shoot close to the structure or the adjoining areas he explains. You can shoot the bridge from other places for a postcard type shot. Go to Brooklyn he says and shoot it from areas close to the expressway.

I tell him there were no signs. Sure he says and besides I know you didn't know since you started taking the shot right next to the squad car.

If that was the end of it, it would be annoying but ok. The guy was friendly and sympathetic. He didn't even check an ID or ask dumb questions (like the Chicago police did when I was shooting downtown from an overpass).

...but then he says, you know want we are supposed to do is detain you for questioning. These questionings often takes hours and there is no need for that. I know you didn't know.

Wow. I feel lucky as he drives off.

Think about it. He could have detained me for shooting a picture. How was I supposed to know? It was a public park. There are even binoculars for looking at the view! There are no signs whatsoever anywhere. Yet, if this guy felt like it he could have ruined my evening.

I can understand this if I did something suspicious. Lets say I climbed a fence or refused to cooperate or got caught multiple times. That would be fine, but this?

Think about the stupidity of this. Clearly they want to avoid people studying structures and finding weaknesses or places to blow explosives. But there are many reasons why this type of policing is likely to fail.

1. It would be extremely easy to take this picture. I could just come at day and snap 20-30 pics in 2 minutes. Or I could get a 600mm lense and shoot it from many other locations or from the sea.

2. Any skilled terrorist will know exactly what to say to the cops if they are detained. The only people that would struggle are normal ignorants like me. Also the terrorists - willing to blow the VNB - could probably get a hold of blueprints. In fact, driving a bunch of vans onto the bridge and having them breakdown would be a really easy way to cause massive damage. Any engineer can probably tell you where to blow to vans to inflict max damage.

So the policing achieves nothing and only is a hassle to normal folks.

...or maybe it is all PR. Maybe if people THINK they are monitoring for terror suspect they will feel safer or more importantly not blame anyone when the bridge does get blown.

Whatever it is it ruined my spirits for a while. Lets see how many times I manage to attract police attention. Four times so far and counting...

I think the random light streams in the shot capture perfectly the logic of this type of police work...