Philadelphia Thinks Photographers are Terrorists

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania thinks people who take photos of its SEPTA trains might be terrorists.  CBS3 in Philadelphia prints what I can only interpret as a serious article about a cashier at a train station who reported two men taking pictures near the train lines as ‘suspicious.’ This cashier actually questioned one of the photographers about his activities while waiting for police to arrive.  The photographer understandably left the scene before the officers could arrive.  I would have too.

How do you take a suspicious photograph?  I’ve always harbored ambitions of taking some suspicious photos but I’ve never quite been able to figure out how.  Do you hold the camera behind your back and then flip it out real quick while pointing the other way and yelling, ‘Hey, look at that!  What is that over there?’  Do you take photos through holes cut out of your pants?

Or do you take photos while sporting a beard?  Or dark skin? Do you have to be male?  What makes a suspicious photographer?

Nothing does.

Look at this:  National Terror Alert posts about it in all seriousness.

I’ve never seen a photograph explode.  I’ve never seen a camera explode.  I suppose one could.  But most terrorists I’ve ever heard of use other things – like shoes.

Photographers actually make people safer.  Wherever you see people taking pictures you have more safety for obvious reasons.  Furthermore, U.S. intelligence agencies have made it very clear that there is no evidence that a terrorist has ever used photography as a means to prepare for an attack. I want photographers in my train stations.  At my bank too.  In the department store… wait, there are cameras in those places.  They’re hidden in the ceilings I think.  Suspicious.  Everywhere we go we are photographed for security reasons.  But as soon as one of us regular old folk take a camera out in a train station we are regarded as ‘suspicious.’

I declare the weekend of September 26 and 27 ‘Photograph a Philadelphia Train Station Weekend.’ Everyone should feel free to descend upon a SEPTA station and take some flattering photos of the helpful cashiers.

Here’s a blog written by a photographer who was arrested in Miami, Florida in 2007 for taking photos of police which is a totally legal act in all parts of the U.S.

The problem is that police across the United States are totally out of control when it comes to people utilizing their constitutional right to free speech.  After all, the taking of photographs is nothing more than the exercise of free speech which is protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.  What’s really going on is that all these cameras everywhere, built into cell phones and hidden in sunglasses, are driving police crazy because they get caught doing illegal things.  Cops don’t like cameras.

When I lived in New York City I once pulled out my video camera and filmed a group of perhaps twenty cops who pulled up in front of a brownstone apartment building and ran inside.  One cop ran across the street toward me and screamed, ‘What are you filming?’

I said, ‘You!’

He said, ‘Well, anyone taking pictures when police come on a call is suspicious because sometimes people call us just to film us.’

I said, ‘Yeah, well you never know do you?’

He turned and went back to his job.  And I’ve still got that video.

Suspicious, isn’t it?