August 17, 2011

"Police Say They Can Detain Photographers If Their Photographs Have 'No Apparent Esthetic Value.'"

It happened in Long Beach:
The police officer somehow determined that there couldn't be esthetic value there, and thus, the photographer had to be detained and checked out. The police are defending this policy, saying that while officers don't have any specific training in what qualifies as "apparent esthetic value," they will stop anyone photographing things they don't consider to be something a "regular tourist" would photograph. I actually have to go down to Long Beach next month for a speaking engagement, and I'm now tempted to take a bunch of photographs that have "no apparent esthetic value."
I understand the security concerns at the root of this, but it's just crazily overreaching. And as someone who often takes pictures like this...

P1010894 2

... I feel really threatened.

(Via MadisonMan.)

88 comments:

gerry said...

No worry. All of your pictures have esthetic value.

mariner said...

Obviously you took that picture to figure out how to defeat the padlock and chain on that door.

Terrorist!

Chip S. said...

Does this mean that cops will have to take art-appreciation classes?

traditionalguy said...

They are on to you Comrade Althouse.

Your flower pictures are arranged to send encoded messages.

And pics of ducks standing in a lake are a signal to get ready to attack as soon as the ducks have lined up in a row and sat down.

Ann Althouse said...

"No worry. All of your pictures have esthetic value."

They are not looking at the photographs. They are looking at the real-world thing that is getting photographed. Why are you photographing that? they are thinking. They decide you're probably up to some crime because it's not a tourist attraction or something conventionally photogenic.

madAsHell said...

If you organized a flash mob of photographers, then you could overwhelm law enforcement.

Hey, it works at 7-11!!

Trooper York said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Trooper York said...

Well I do think you should be arrested for some of your photo's.

I mean the photo's of dogs urinating is just perverted canine porn

Matt said...

So now police officers are expected to be art critics as well?

Scott M said...

This trend has GOT to stop. It's starting to move from Annoying Anecdote to Creepy.

traditionalguy said...

I see your point, Professor.

What tourist would ever take multiple pictures of men in shorts.

Oh, my God. I hope the police in Long Beach don't wear shorts.

chickenlittle said...

I mean the photo's of dogs urinating is just perverted canine porn

Only if you're into golden lab showers.

viator said...

I've seen your photos, you are in deep trouble

$9,000,000,000 Write Off said...

If you're not taking unaesthetic photos, what are you worried about?

Besides, you look like the kind of person that takes aesthetic photos, and the cops are only hassling people who look like they aren't into aesthetic photographs.

AJR said...

PHOTOGRAPHY IS NOT A CRIME.

DADvocate said...

What do you have to worry about if your only photographing things you should be photographing for the reasons you should be photographing during photographing season?

Next only speech with esthetic value will be allowed. We'll all be poets before long.

I'm really gettting tired of the police state mentality.

Trooper York said...

I mean look at all the photos of the strange fruits she took at the farmers market.

Plus the produce.

It's ugly I tells ya.

Paul Zrimsek said...

At the You Have The Right To Remain Silent Café...

...anything you say can and will be used against you.

Carol_Herman said...

Made worse, if the cop gets to keep the camera. (And, destroys the video card, too.) Because you captured his face ... "which has no esthetic value.' But can really cramp his ability to get promoted.

This crap has nothing to do with seeing some islamist putz videotaping bridges ... Because it would clue in the FBI to be on the lookout for what would happen ... IF terrorists saw a "target's value" ... is some street theater antics. Or bridges.

The cops? They're fighting to keep evidence against them at a minimum.

That's all.

But IF they choose the wrong target, themselves? What happens if what they do shows up on a blog?

As to "artwork" ... how far could you carry a jar of piss with a Christian cross in it? (Could you carry it into the Whitney?) Would it then go on "exhibit?"

What about Jackson Pollack's drip cloth canvases? Do police have to get special training to tell "art" apart from "non art?"

lasckbounce said...

That policy won't last. If your out in public you have no expectation of privacy. COPS INCLUDED.

Carol_Herman said...

Then, there's unintended consequences.

If towns find themselves with taxpayers footing the bills for the legal action. When the cops confiscate cameras. And, then lose battles in court.

The top brass can get fired. City Halls will defend against taxpayer funding these lawsuits.

And, City Halls can also disband the local police forces; deciding, instead, to "farm the work out."

Unintended consequences shouldn't go unnoticed.

Freder Frederson said...

You should, you are not a very good photographer.

Chip S. said...

Clearly it's time to require licenses for camera ownership. Background check, waiting period, the works. I mean, where exactly in the Constitution does it say anything about cameras?

Bruce Hayden said...

... I feel really threatened.

You should feel threatened.

On the one hand, they do seem to be somewhat concerned about espionage and saboteurs. Real ones, not pretend. Homeland Security stuff.

On the other hand, the police, esp. over the last couple of years, seem to becoming more and more willing to seize cameras, etc. when caught crossing the line and acting either non-professionally or illegally. And, that is my bigger concern. They are happy to use cameras, etc. to get convictions, but much less so if they are the subject of the filming.

Sixty Grit said...

Instapundit will be arrested - his pictures are total crap.

Scott M said...

Technology is on our side. Cameras will continue to get smaller and smaller while at the same time getting more powerful and less expensive...ah, capitalism.

Once cameras are basically the size of a button, this issue will go away completely.

Carol_Herman said...

Just another reason, Ann, to make sure you've attached your wrist strap to your camera. And, you get used to using it.

AND, you also clip "audio" ... to your waistband. Just in case you get verbals, you could teach that particular policeman ... that audio recordings work too.

Revenant said...

Any cop who says that should be immediately fired.

Preferably from a cannon.

Henry said...

I suspect that the first thing police will check is if the photographer has any apparent esthetic value.

To do a real test, first Althouse needs to take pictures off the tourist route, then Meade needs to do the same. Let's see who gets questioned (sorry Meade ;)

Triangle Man said...

I am looking for the list of appropriate photographic "targets" on the Long Beach web page but can't seem to find it.

Scott M said...

Preferably from a cannon.

...into the sun.

chickenlittle said...

Althouse wrote: They are not looking at the photographs. They are looking at the real-world thing that is getting photographed.

OK, they invoke the policy to harass someone photographing ordinary things like buildings or cars that could be looted or stolen.

Aren't you also saying that the policy could be used to prevent/harass people photographing inconvenient truths?

Anyways, the policy should be challenged and eventually litigated.
_________
wv = "writed" No, it's not hillbilly for "wrote"- it means "rewritten" in order to correct (right) an error.

Writ Small said...

Crooked cops think police misconduct has no esthetic value.

Perhaps the recent grabby protester was just making a citizen's arrest. After all, there's no esthetic value to thuggish behavior.

Chip S. said...

Once cameras are basically the size of a button, this issue will go away completely.

Consider the likelihood of a ban on assault buttons.

Carol_Herman said...

When James O'Keefe goes in to record stuff ... for some reason I think his paraphernalia is disguised.

It sits on a desk as a pocket book. Or a bowling bag. Or a student's knapsack. Doesn't it?

If the recordings are surreptitious, they end up on the Internet, before anyone knows the content holds "less than esthetic value" stuff ...

We, out here, watch everything. Nothing the cops can do about it "after the fact." Maybe, someday, we will be able to say: Just ask Officer Calhoun. 2nd shift. First name Jeff.

Chip S. said...

Let's be reasonable. Haven't all the esthetically valuable photos already been taken?

Henry said...

BTW, that's a beautiful photograph you posted. It's beautiful as a minimalist study in blocks of color (bluish green vs the complimentary orange of the board in the window; yellowish green vs. the complimentary red of the door). It's beautiful in the details -- the craquelure in the green paint, the hand-lettered signage, the staining of the concrete, the oxidation of the sheet metal. It's evocative in content. Good work.

chickenlittle said...

Revenant said...
Any cop who says that should be immediately fired.

Preferably from a cannon.


Preferably shot by a Canon or a Nikon and dispersed to smithereens on the internet.

Scott M said...

First name Jeff.

You know...the cop with the crappy Facebook page and the blog with fewer hits than J's.

Chip S. said...

Any esthetic value in
this
?

Seems like just the sort of photo a terrorist would take.

alan markus said...

Three years ago our family convened at a hotel (Hampton Inn) in Hoffman Estates, IL for several days to attend a wedding. It was in one of those modern "office park" settings, and there was a nice pond and walking path. Early Sunday AM some of us went for a walk & I had my camera handy, and was taking some pictures. A security guard from one of the office buildings came out and told me not to take any pictures of the building - he was nice about it so we didn't give him any lip.

When I got home, I looked at the building on Google Maps & Bing Maps. Can see every window from various angles, and the rooftop HVAC equipment. I can even enter "Safeco Insurance Hoffman Estates" in Google Images and get a picture of the building. So, I'm not sure what the security guard was trying to accomplish.

t-man said...

At the Behind Bars Cafe ...

t-man said...

... feel free to make one phone call.

Chip S. said...

I'm not sure what the security guard was trying to accomplish.

I believe it's called a "shakedown." For 50 bucks you probably could have taken all the photos you wanted.

ricpic said...

Wow, we really are entering police state territory.

Lincolntf said...

I might end up testing these waters here in NC. A friend from back home is coming down in the Spring to do some sort of film project. He asked me to be on the lookout for certain potential sites, i.e, "old stone bldg w/odd angles", "abandoned factory (skeletal)", "abandoned and/or old-fashioned movie theater". I plan on keeping my webcam handy so I can send him clips of potential spots. We'll see.

edutcher said...

Courthouses or other large government building, iconic skyscrapers, or something similar, they may have a point, but, otherwise, this is a roust, pure and simple.

By union cops, no doubt.

The next time the creeps jump Ann at the Capitol, this will be their excuse. She's a terrorist trying to blow up democracy.

Freder Frederson said...

You should, you are not a very good photographer.

More proof, if anyone needs it, Freder is always wrong.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)

So now police officers are expected to be art critics as well

EVERYONE’S a critic….

rhhardin said...

Wingstem, which plays the aesthetic role of goldenrod.

Levi Starks said...

This policy is just an addition to their "tool kit" of ways to stop/harass/detain at their own discretion any citizen they see doing anything anytime for any reason.
And in the civilly disobedient future they will need every tool they they can get while trying to maintain social order. It won't be pretty picture.

Chip S. said...

Courthouses or other large government building, iconic skyscrapers, or something similar, they may have a point...

There's always a point. It's just not necessarily a good point.

Joe said...

(The Uncredentialed, Crypto Jew)



I can hardly wait until there’s a discussion of Modernity, Industrialism, and Post-Modernism on the corner between Officer Friendly and Rocco…”No, Rocco, that is such a BOURGEOIS notion of ‘art’, where is the ‘class struggle?’” “OMG, Officer you’re not advocating ‘Socialist Realism’, again, are you?”

ricpic said...

Keep Walking

Door suspended, door from hell,
Padlocked so that none can tell
What transpires inside the room
That you shut, oh door of doom.

MadisonMan said...

I've a relative who plays instruments for a living, so maybe not surprisingly, he has a decibel meter on his cell phone (!). One day in the mid-2000s, he was in a park near Reagan National and he was using his phone to read the sound of the planes, holding it up at arm's length to do so. You can imagine this looked pretty suspicious in a pretty-close-to-9/11 world. He was accosted by a Park Ranger, I think it was, who inquired into what he was doing (and said Ranger then got a maybe-not-welcome treatise on sound). That kind of thing makes sense to me.

Asking photographers about picture-taking? Long Beach must be a crime-free zone if their officers have time to waste on this pursuit. Why would taxpayers put up with this waste of money?

Oh, right. For safety's sake. It's for the children.

FWIW, I find the picture in the linked-to article extremely interesting.

Shanna said...

FWIW, I find the picture in the linked-to article extremely interesting.

Me too! I like it. And I'm not sure what high security target they could possibly have been protecting.

If they just asked a few questions of the photographer to try to gauge if there was any ill intent, I might, might understand. But to actually take someone to jail, take camera's or photo's? That's crazy town.

chickenlittle said...

It is possible to read the lower court's opinion in Althouse v. County of Dane in variety of ways. In saying this, I imply no criticism of that Court, which in those cases was faced with the task of trying to define what may be indefinable. I have reached the conclusion, which I think is confirmed at least by the Court's invoking Khalil Gibran in Dawson et al. v. Towns of Jackson & Cedarburg, that under the First and Fourteenth Amendments criminal laws in this area are constitutionally limited to "acting together." I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of actions I understand to be embraced within that alleged "artistic expression"; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know asthetics when I see it, and the videography involved in this case is not that.

Chief Justice Surly Abrahamson, writing for the Majority, 2012.
lockstep. cit.

Lucien said...

What is the underlying rationale for the policy:

a) The War On Terror

b) The War On Drugs

c) If photos are oulawed, only outlaws will take photos?

deborah said...

Pretty, rh, thanks for the aesthetic value :)

Chuck66 said...

Unfortunatly, this story is far more common than you think.

Peter Hoh said...

A fellow whom I've come to know through the interwebs has made a hobby of photographing every bridge on the Mississippi and its tributaries, as well as nearly every other place he travels, or so it seems. Along with lots of other photos that have little aesthetic value, like photos of the Fortune 500 headquarters buildings in Minnesota -- and the Forbes 500, too. It's quite the photographic accomplishment. But the Walker won't be hosting a retrospective anytime soon.

I suppose he'd better stay out of Long Beach.

Cedarford said...

There is a public safety basis not to just shrug shoulders and accept that the 12 Yemeni are just doing their bit as "Freedom Lovers" enjoying the 1st Amendment as they video tunnel security in an alert, where the vents are, what sort of vehicles command extra scrutiny, what vehicles don't.

I'd say, try photoing, but be ready to be questioned by authorities with no recourse to huffy outrage about it.

One of the 9/11 teams was reported by someone to the FBI - Actor James Woods no less - concerned he was witnessing 4 Muslims doing a hijacking "dry run". He was told it would not be investigated since "no law is being broken", but would be referred to the FAA to ensure whatever the muslims were doing on the Vegas flight did not violate "in flight safety rules".

ET1492 said...

I think it's ok for cops to ask questions. Of course, if you don't feel like it, you shouldn't have to answer or surrender your camera or stop taking pictures. That's where I draw the line.

If he thinks you seem suspicious, he's entitled to watch you and report your behavior to higher authorities.

george said...

Having a standard based on aesthetics is in every particular the same as having no standard at all.

Carol_Herman said...

Well, it's true 9/11 "changed the rules."

But if a cop comes over to ya, you can always say "AM I FREE TO GO?"

If the cop says "NO," then you say I want to call my lawyer. (I'd want to call Ken Thompson.)

But you do have a right to call your lawyer! As soon as the cop says "you're not free to go."

That's in the training manual.

Hazy Dave said...

A "flash mob of photographers"? I see what you did, there.

Carol_Herman said...

I love the picture of the red door!

It seems to be missing a staircase, though. And, if it's for a truck to back up to ... Then, the door opens "funny." The correct door would be a roll up one.

Here? It could be the door to a parachute school.

Hazy Dave said...

"Having a standard based on aesthetics is in every particular the same as having no standard at all."

That's why it's important to enjoy both kinds of music.

If you can't count on your betters to tell you what's good for you, what's the alternative? ANARCHY?!

Mary Beth said...

I have read several reports of photographers getting hassled by the police but can't remember any where the photographer was a woman. Have I just missed these? Do women not photograph things that make police antsy? Or do they not look like as much of a threat?

Calypso Facto said...

Shouldn't a lawyer worth her salt be able to talk her way out of a charge as flimsy as that?!?

Peter Hoh said...

Mary Beth, here's one for you.

William said...

The policeman is a blunt instrutment, and a fair amount of time he uses brute force as a negotiating lever. It is very easy to make him out to be a fascist bully because his job entails acting like a fascist bully on occasion. I suppose cops have now got to realize that if they lose it, there's a possibility they will lose more than just their temper.....Right now they're in a state of denial. It's going to take a while for this to sink in.....In partial defense of cops, I don't think very many people like to be photographed while doing their work. A student who posted edited videos of your lectures would soon learn the parameters of the 1st amendment, especially if he included any upskirt shots in the videos....In this instance the cops are wrong, but they're acting like humans and not like fascists. They've got the kind of job where it is very, very easy to lose it on occasion.

Carol_Herman said...

It's harder to break into a home that loses its staircase!

mythusmage said...

Madashell,

My thinking exactly.

All Longbeach CA readers, get together with friends and family and go out enmass to take photos. Remember to insist on jail time, and jury trials.

If the authorities want to be ridiculous, then you be ridiculous right back.

sorepaw said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
MadTownGuy said...

This has been an issue out East for a while now. Linked article is from 2007 and I know there are other municipalities in MD that have similar prohibitions.

I wonder how long it will be until Madison outlaws photography/videography in public places. There are also laws all over the place prohibiting photos/videos of police activity in progress - one woman was arrested in her front yard (!) for video taping police at a search down her street.

wv = unbsee. Once you've videorecorded something you can't unbsee it.

MadTownGuy said...

I should add that the front yard incident was in Rochester NY and not in Madison... yet.

new wv: miest. All your video are belong to us.

deborah said...

So, if a police action is video-taped surreptitiouly, and against the law, does that mean it will be inadmissible? It would be out in public, so the officers shouldn't have an expectation of privacy...

OldGrouchyCranky said...

Hey, LEOs are Gods in and of their own right! Just, apparently, ask any LEO in Dane County, especially those working in and around the WI Capital building. Why, they know immediately who's at fault during a ruckus started by a UNION hero towards a thuggish anti-union rabble rouser.

See, Broderick Crawford was right, he was the law!

Cheers and keep your cameras at home.

Barry Dauphin said...

Of course, what we basically want as a society is for government workers sitting in ugly cubicles surrounded by velvet paintings of dogs playing poker to decide what does and does not have aesthetic value and determining who should be arrested for this.

Phil 3:14 said...

And so Serrano's been arrested?

NotquiteunBuckley said...

http://www.lyricstime.com/gram-parsons-a-song-for-you-lyrics.html


Oh my land is like a wild goose
Wanders all around everywhere
Trembles and it shakes till every tree is loose
It rolls the meadows and it rolls the nails
So take me down to your dance floor
And I wont mind the people when they stare
Paint a different color on your front door
And tomorrow we will still be there

Jesus built a ship to sing a song to
It sails the rivers and it sails the tide
Some of my friends don't know who they belong to
Some can't get a single thing to work inside
So take me down to your dance floor
And I wont mind the people when they stare
Paint a different color on your front door
And tomorrow we will still be there

I loved you every day and now I'm leaving
And I can see the sorrow in your eyes
I hope you know a lot more than you're believing
Just so the sun don't hurt ou when you cry
So take me down to your dance floor
And I wont mind the people when they stare
Paint a different color on your front door
And tomorrow we will still be there
And tomorrow we will still be there

Conserve Liberty said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
NotquiteunBuckley said...

More likely to play:

http://tinyurl.com/3ck97bv

Methadras said...

It's the same nonsensical premise of what a police officer things is resisting arrest or implied consent. Dubious, bogus, and now police are given the powers of being arbitors of what constitutes an non-esthetic. Why don't you ask any officer squishy's what that word even means?

[you taking a photograph] Oh this looks pretty nice. [click]

[officer squishy] excuse me, but i can detain you for taking that photograph of nothing.

[you] but officer, this is for my own personal taste and it has no apparent esthetic to you or anyone else.

[officer squishy] hey, what did you just call me?

Heart_Collector said...

I have to run away when my mom gets attacked. I cant take a fucking picture.

All I can do is post on Althouse... for now...


wv-Eybarei- The indian knock off company undercutting blackberry.

Michael The Magnificent said...

Photographers say they can detain police officers who have 'no apparent aesthetic value'.

WV: nograb

Indigo Red said...

The Long Beach policy is in line with the Los Angeles Police Department's Special Order No. 11 a March 2008 statement of the LAPD's "policy … to make every effort to accurately and appropriately gather, record and analyze information, of a criminal or non-criminal nature, that could indicate activity or intentions related to either foreign or domestic terrorism."

This case is the second incident in a month. Officer Asif Kahn "had received a call that Wolff was taking pictures of the refinery. Wolff explained to Kahn that he was photographing the refinery for artistic reasons.

"I guess he had [been] observing me for at least a few minutes," recounts Wolff, "because he said, 'I saw you take a picture of [some nearby flora.] I saw you take a picture across the street.'"

Because he found Kahn's demeanor to be low-key and even friendly, Wolff was surprised when Kahn asked for Wolff's driver's license. "I asked him if I had to show him my driver's license," says Wolff. "He said 'yes.' And at that point I did feel detained. Because if he was demanding that I identify myself, then I couldn't just walk away."

Wolff says Kahn apparently ran a check on Wolff's driver's license, then came back and said that everything was okay. "He said because of Homeland Security and new laws, [the police] have the authority to ask for my driver's license and run it when they feel that there's cause."

However, an example of a normal tourist photographic subject would be the Vincent Thomas Bridge which connects the port city San Pedro with Long Beach and soars over the U.S. Naval port and the Love Boat harbor area both of which are classified as terror targets. But, take all the pix you want because it's a normal touristy type sight.

Robin said...

Completely illegal authoritarianism. Where's the Hope and Change?