Posted by: David Vernon | October 8, 2009

Photographer’s Rights

Sun, Wind, and BarnHad an interesting albeit pleasant encounter out in the country the other day. I was hanging out down by the Rail Splitter Wind Farm – just minutes from my front door. There’s a shot I’ve been interested in. One of the big wind turbines sits on the same visual line as a working old-school windmill. A wonderful contrast to say the least. The windmill itself sits on the backside of a piece of property owned by a local farmer down here near Delavan, near some out buildings and about 200 yards from their house. The good shot of this windy duo is ON the property, closer to the windmill. From there you get some interesting angles and can remove a power line from the shot that distracts. I took some simple test shots from the road just to see what I could get but I stopped there. I wasn’t about to walk on someone’s property for a shot without asking.

As luck would have it, one of the homeowners was walking down to the road to collect their mail. I hiked over to meet her and and see if she was willing to let me go explore their windmill. And in a word – the answer was an emphatic NO! We actually got to talking for a few minutes and she recounted the number of other folks who are finding the shot concept interesting and who just go right on up and take it. With another shot idea squashed (man – how many photographers are hanging out down here in Delavan?) she actually really softened up and we had a nice talk. She was quite relieved to see that at least one person had the manners to ask and she was willing to reconsider her original NO. I’m not too worried about it – I can find plenty of publicly accessible shots down here – or anywhere – but it does kind of bring up a subject that is near-and-dear to my heart:

The Rights of the Photographer

Now I take the rights of the photographer and the rights of the individual/subject pretty seriously. I know what I can and what I cannot do. I try not to stretch the boundaries at all – and if I do I try to do it as respectfully as I can (when it comes to property – I try not to stretch it all when it comes to people). Public photography has always been a wonderful right in our society – in spite of any rumors to the contrary you might have heard. But since 9/11 some people have been a lot more defensive and this has occasionally made it harder on photographers. I really appreciate shooters like Thomas Hawk who seem to relish a good fight over Photographer’s Rights, but it’s important to know what you are allowed to do as a photographer.

Enter Bert Krages.

Six year ago, Bert – an attorney in Portland, Oregon – put together an invaluable one-page document  on your rights as photographer. You can visit Bert’s site and get a copy. It talks about the general rule of what is legal to photograph, some exceptions to the rule (expectations of privacy), permissible subjects, who is likely to try and violate your rights, what they can and cannot do, your legal remedies to harrassment, and what you should do if confronted.

As I have been saying lately – good stuff Maynard.

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