May 1st, 2014

George Steinmetz Wonders: Was It Worth Getting Arrested for National Geographic Cover Story Photos?

Brookover Ranch Feed Yard near Garden City, Kansas, with adjacent crop circles of grain used to fatten cattle. © 2014 George Steinmetz/National Geographic

A picture worth being arrested for? Brookover Ranch Feed Yard near Garden City, Kansas, with adjacent crop circles of grain used to fatten cattle.                © 2014 George Steinmetz/National Geographic

This month’s cover story of National Geographic, about how to meet growing worldwide demand for food, is the story that got photographer George Steinmetz in trouble last June, and he’s still stinging from the experience.

Caught in the political crossfire between animal rights activists and agribusiness interests trying to make it illegal to photograph factory farm operations, he wound up in jail in Kansas while on assignment to shoot the story, called “The New Food Revolution.”

“It was quite a surprise to me,” says Steinmetz, who is renowned for the beautiful aerial landscapes he shoots all over the world, and who is used to encounters with authorities. “I’ve been detained in Iran and Yemen, and questioned about spying, but never arrested. And then I get thrown in jail in America.” (more…)

August 27th, 2013

Police Intimidation Watch: Cop Charged with Lying About a Photographer’s Arrest

A New York City police officer has been charged with felonies and misdemeanors for lying about why he arrested a freelance news photographer, according to a report in The New York Times.

The officer, Michael Ackermann, claimed that he had arrested Robert Stolarik, a freelancer for The New York Times, because Stolarik had repeatedly flashed a camera strobe in Ackermann’s face, thereby interfering with another arrest Ackermann was making at the time. On the basis of photographic evidence and eyewitness accounts of the incident, the Bronx district attorney concluded that Ackermann was lying, according to the Times story.

Stolarik was arrested in August, 2012 when police got angry with him for allegedly refusing to stop taking pictures of an arrest, according to an earlier Times report.

At the time, Stolarik was accompanying two reporters who were conducting street interviews when they came upon a street altercation. When police at the scene ordered Stolarik to cease taking pictures, he identified himself as a journalist for the New York Times, and continued to shoot. A police officer then “slammed” Stolarik’s camera into his face. Stolarik asked for their badge numbers, at which point they took his cameras, dragged him to the ground, and arrested him.

According to a police report, police said they had ordered the crowd and Stolarik to move back “numerous times,” and that Stolarik had resisted arrest “violently.”

Stolarik received minor injuries during the arrest. Police returned his gear about a week after the arrest. The charges against him were eventually dropped.

The Bronx district attorney investigating the case concluded that Stolarik didn’t use a flash during the incident, and didn’t have one on his camera, despite Officer Ackermann’s claims.

Ackermann was charged with filing false records and official misconduct. If convicted of the most serious charges, he could be sentenced to prison and lose his job, according to the Times report.

Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Arrests Times Freelancer
Police Intimidation Watch: NYPD Returns Cameras to Times Freelancer