Thursday, August 25, 2011

Another Picture That Caused Trouble

A Certain Financial Services Company, 2011

You know me. I can find trouble with a camera just by walking down the street. Which is exactly what I was doing when I took the picture shown above. I was walking up Vanderbilt Avenue in New York. I noticed this building and admired the clean lines of the entry way and the warm light indoors.
Normally, I might have taken this picture and later discarded it. There’s not much of a story in it. There’s little I’d want to keep.
But not this time. There’s principle involved here!
Just as I lifted the camera to take this picture, a security guard stepped out from the curb behind me and attempted to put his hand in front of the camera. When I recoiled, I got a reproachful wag of the finger and was told that I shouldn’t be taking this picture.
The building in this scene happens to be the headquarters of a very large financial services corporation that’s been taking a lot of heat lately. I won’t name the company—though there are two conspicuous cues in the picture—because whoever owns this building had absolutely nothing to do with why I photographed it. I photographed it because it’s a wonderful example of 1960s corporate design from Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. It was originally the headquarters of Union Carbide and is still know by some as the Union Carbide Building. It served as the headquarters of the Worldwide Wicket Company in the 1967 movie How to Success in Business Without Really Trying. So it’s not exactly a shrinking violet when it comes to being photographed.
Perhaps the security guard, an imposing man in a tailored suit, thought I was hoping to catch some kind of corporate malfeasance with my camera. Nothing could have been farther from the truth, of course. And even if it had been my motive I wasn’t photographing anything that wasn’t visible to the thousands of other people who walked by this same place and looked into these same windows on the Saturday morning I was there.
So you’ll just have to forgive me today for having no more story nor reason to show this picture than to thumb my nose at the security guard and his employer.
The laws regarding the photography of privately owned places aren’t as cut and dry as you might think. Many people believe that if you take a picture of a private structure—i.e. a residence or even a big commercial building like this—you are free to do what you like with it. However, even if you’re standing in a very public place when you take a picture of a privately owned building, you do not have the right to market that photo for commercial purposes without the permission of the building owner.
I do not intend to make any commercial use of this image. No money was paid for this mention. So there, Mr. Security Guard!

1 comment:

  1. haaa! Reminds me of when I was at the Bellagio in Vegas once. I asked a security guard if I could take a photo in one of the game rooms, and he said as long as it wasn't a video, I could. So I started snapping away from a distance, and then another guard stopped me and began reprimanding me. I figured they were afraid I was planning my next counting cards venture, or something equally nefarious, but what he said to me was "A lot of the folks who play here are with people other than their own spouses, you know, and we don't want them to be discovered on film somewhere." ????!!!

    What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, you know...