Friday, June 29 2007
NYC to Street Photographers: Drop Dead
Reported today in the New York Times: The City of New York is considering a new law that would require all photographers--including street photographers--to obtain a permit and $1 million in liability insurance before taking pictures, filming or shooting videos on city property, which includes the sidewalks.
Under this rule, street photographers such as Street Photography legend Garry Winogrand, pictured above, might have been discouraged from shooting his influential, ground-breaking work in New York City. Hundreds of currently active street shooters, for whom a permit and liability insurance would be a prohibitive cost, would continue their creative efforts without a permit at the risk of arrest by newly empowered police.
The new rule, being considered by the Mayor's Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting would require any group of two or more people who want to use a camera in a single public location for more than half an hour to get the permit and insurance. Street photographers often informally walk the streets and shoot together. This ruling could potentially make such a practice illegal.
The Times article quotes the New York Civil Liberties Union, which expressed concern that the proposed rules could effectively discourage families on vacation from taking pictures in New York--which a spokesperson for the City says is not the intention.
The language, according to the Times, is reportedly vague, giving police broad discretion in enforcement. For instance, Times Square and Rockefeller Center--both popular shooting spots for street photographers, could become off limits. Who's going to argue their rights with a cop in riot gear?
Ironically, the ruling comes just a month after the city settled a NYCLU lawsuit that forced a clarification in New York law that now allows handheld photography and videography without a permit in New York City. The suit was brought after an Indian filmmaker was arrested for shooting a video.
The sidewalks of New York have served as an inspiring canvas for generations of street photographers, and some of the most memorable images in the history of photography have been shot there by street photographers. It's part of the city's charm and attraction. Is it time for a citywide shoot-in, before this poorly conceived, creativity-impaired set of rules has a chance to become law?
Photo © 1976 by Mason Resnick
This editorial represents the author's opinion only, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of Adorama ownership or management.
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