Street Photographer Harassed by Police for Taking Photos in Times Square

Posted by on Tuesday November 23, 2010 | Photojournalism

Resnick was questioned by a police officer moments after he took this photo. ©Mason Resnick

Mason Resnick, a photographer and editor of the Adorama Learning Center, was shooting in New York City’s Times Square yesterday when he felt a tug on his camera strap. His first thought was that someone was trying to steal his camera. When he looked up though he saw the stern face of a New York City police officer staring back at him.

“What are you doing?” the officer grilled him.

When Resnick explained he was a street photographer who was capturing candids of people in Times Square, the officer pressed him by saying he had received “several complaints” about Resnick.

“I was following you for several blocks,” the officer said. “There are a lot of school groups here today, lots of children.”

Resnick was nonplussed.

“That inference was pretty clear,” Resnick wrote in his blog for Adorama. “I was being not so subtly being accused of being a pedophile.”

Resnick was able to able to quell the situation by showing the officer the images he had shot — even though he was no way legally obligated to do so. In the end, Resnick, who was testing the Leica X1 and D-Lux 5 digital cameras for Adorama as part of a Street Photography Stress Test, decided that arguing further was not worth it.

“Even though I know I have the legal right to take pictures in public places (this has been challenged many times in U.S., Canadian, and UK courts and in every case, the photographer’s rights have been affirmed), I also advise my students that when an officer tells you to stop taking pictures, you stop, and don’t argue Why? Because he is armed, and has the power to arrest you—and he may not be well-versed in the rights of photographers.”

What do you think of how Resnick handled the situation? How would you have handled it? Have you noticed more harassment from police officers for taking photos in public places lately?

(Read more about Resnick’s experience in Times Square here.)

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