War on Street Photography Moves to Boston

Everyone run! He's got an Olympus PEN camera!

We thought our local news was sensationalistic but get a load of this story out of WBZ-TV in Boston. According to the news anchor in this video, “it is strange behavior and it is raising red flags in downtown Boston.”

So what exactly has got Beantown in an uproar? People are taking pictures! On the street! Or, excuse us, according to the anchor, these photographers are taking “unusual pictures of people going by” in Boston’s Downtown Crossing.

What’s worse? Some of these guys are of the older set and they have cameras. Are they dirty old men? Perverts? What could they possibly be doing with these photos?

You’ll find no real incriminating answers in this piece. To us, they just seem like photographers taking pictures for their own artistic enjoyment. Or maybe they’re aspiring Bill Cunninghams snapping photos of fashionable shoes?

The point is WBZ-TV, the same laws that protect you from filming your TV news segments in downtown Boston, protect those guys’ rights to take pictures in public places. Film at 11.

UPDATE: Here is a response from one of the photographers who was a focus of the WBZ-TV piece: http://thephotorecession.webs.com/index.htm

(Via Gizmodo.)

(Further reading: “Street Photographer Harassed by Police for Taking Photos in Times Square” in PDNPulse.)

18 Responses to “War on Street Photography Moves to Boston”

  1. Tony Gale Says:

    Maybe its time for a newspaper to do a piece on TV news, filming unsuspecting, law-abiding photographers

  2. Bill Rogers Says:

    The video clip from WBZ looks like a parody, especially considering that it is TV news that is passing a value judgment about the legitimacy of street photography. “Men are taking photos in Boston!” “Well, then, go take some video of them.”

  3. Blanko Says:

    Just think, the city of Boston is depending on that blockhead news anchor to bring them a fair and unbiased news report every night. I’ve seen high school news programming that had more integrity and common sense than this schmuck and his cracker-jack operation. Good luck Boston! You’re gonna need it!

  4. MarcW Says:

    Mainstream media have zero incentive to give independent media and/or artists the benefit of the doubt and numerous incentives to play up the fear angle on them. Things like this are the inevitable result.

  5. Marco Fiori Says:

    Remarkable. I do love the US, it makes the UK sensationalist media look like nothing.

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  8. Chris Says:

    A couple of notes:

    (1) The WBZ story was quite one-sided, with plenty of unsubstantiated innuendo.

    (2) There’s nothing wrong with legit street photography.

    (3) The photographer’s response was intelligent and well-written.

    (4) The photographer’s response leaves behind many clues that convinced me that all is NOT legit… (a) He can’t get the name of his 2010 photo series right, once calling it “Small Feet, Big Feet, High-Heeled Shoe Feet” and once “Big Feet, Small Feet, High-Heeled Shoe Feet.” (b) Searching for his name, “Henry Joe Henry” or email address “Streetshot33@yahoo.com” results in no hits referring to him outside of that webpage. (c) His web page contains a single entry, and no apparent history or outside references (according to Bing, Google, and Archive.org), and so was likely just set up for this one response. SO, what kind of Internet-savvy photographer is so proud of his work that he leaves no trace of himself or of his work online anywhere?

  9. Andre Says:

    Joe used an alias on that site. Also, I have seen him and the others in action. I work at a store in the area, so I have seen them so many times. I have seen them go out of their way to photograph women and teenage girls. They do photograph men, too. Females are clearly their preference. They look like they are stalking and hunting and they gather together. I have seen the bearded guy photograph children. He is in that clip. When they are asked to stop, they give attitude and are rude. They know the laws protect them, so they are cocky about what they do. Many people are defending these guys and referencing the greats in street photography, but these guys do not compare. They are a joke and an insult to street photography and to Downtown Boston.

  10. Marco Fiori Says:

    Right, have written my reaction piece on this. This had me riled and I needed to vent some steam.


  11. JSmith Says:

    I abhore those that exploit others for reasons of perversion or monetary gain, though the difference is escapes definition. The news media is certainly the most guilty of this, morally bankrupt in their pursuit of viewership standings. I saw the original piece, which was slanted only to to newsworthyness.

    I’d like to see a piece dedicated to the street photographers, capturing random publicly visible actions and events.

  12. JF Machado Says:

    Ahhh, Love the smell of paranoia in the morning!

    It is NOT illegal. If anyone is pissed against having their picture taken, man-up and tell it to the photographer!
    We’re not exactly the most menacing figures.

  13. VCE Says:

    Wow. It’s a revelation. Male photographers like photographing women! SHOCK! Horror! I’d never have guessed that from all the awful magazine shots that get published every day. So what if someone’s taking photographs on the street. If you’re outside, you’re on CCTV and I guarantee you that more harm could come to you from being on CCTV footage than from being on the SD card of some guy with a DSLR and a rubbish web presence.

  14. Bill Rogers Says:

    Here is the comment I left on the WBZ website:

    The video clip from WBZ-TV looks like a parody – something that should be seen on “The Onion” instead of a TV newscast. When WBZ interviews someone, they are pointing a camera at someone’s body parts. If only the WBZ people were smarter, they’d recognize that they are attacking their own rights. As I said, unintentional self-parody – it would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

  15. mike penney Says:

    First of all… forget about anything serious on TV unless you;re talking frontline or independent lens or similar….

    TV and TV “news” is nothing but BS entertainment around which to wrap advertising…

    I challenge anyone to wring out anything of substance from a 30 minute TV news program… It can’t be done.

  16. k l freeman Says:

    rights or no rights, photographers who do this kind of crap should not be surprised to get smacked around by somebody taking offense at the percieved violation of their personal space. IMO, too bad for the shutterbug… should have exercised a little common courtesy, if not common sense. if anything, it’s a pathetic use of the word “art”.

  17. Stephen Praibin Says:

    Reading about this down here in OZ…I have to smile.
    We have zillions of tourists in our city at any one time. The city fathers tried to make you get a permit at one stage to do your street photography, but gave up from the sheer outrage from ordinary people.
    Down here we are all getting a bit sick of the “terrorism” risk excuse. You had your 911, we had our Bali. Now lets get on with life.

    So my advice to street shooters….Follow the HCB creed and take your pictures unnoticed. Anyone can walk down the street taking snapshots. No skill there.

    As a pro shooter for one of the big media agencies, I find that you either show up with a couple of 600’s on monopods etc and look like its our job and so it must be ok, or be quite inconspicuous.
    The guy in the photo is a wanker….no genuine street shooter walks around with his camera hung off his neck like that.

    Happy Easter everyone

  18. robinsons Says:

    oh!!!! what a serious kind of photography. Its really feels nice to see this unique kind of photography. I really like see more photos like these………..!!