Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words...

...or a little jail time, depending on what you're shooting.

From Police Say They Can Detain Photographers If Their Photographs Have 'No Apparent Esthetic Value'

Ooh we go.

So, the police department in Long Beach, CA is causing some waves in the media this week after detaining a tourist for taking pictures of a refinery last month. In defense of their actions, the police laid down some self serving rhetoric about the need to remain vigilant in the face of possible terrorist plots for the defense of the nation. Indeed. Should a police officer come across a shady individual photographing the support structures of a suspension bridge for a lengthy period of time, or perhaps the security measures for a nuclear power plant, odds are you may want to detain the individual for a moment or two.

However, the words used by the department to outline their responsibilities in detaining possible trouble makers are that it is the responsibility of the police to detain an individual who is taking pictures that have "no apparent aesthetic value." Ho-ho! How's that for an open-ended definition??

Now granted, the images taken of the refinery aren't something that I would immediately frame and hang on the wall. But who am I, or any police officer for that matter, to determine the aesthetic value of a photograph? Sure, I may think the picture is ugly as sin, but that doesn't mean the photographer needs to be detained by the police under suspicion of terrorism.

Kinda brings you back to the golden days of the moral battle against pornography. The Supreme Court, in their infinite wisdom, defined pornography as anything that "causes sexual thought, and has no artistic merit." Sounds like an acceptable definition, until you realize that just about every commercial you see on television is, by that definition, blatant pornography and thus not suitable for our children. Hooray for double standards!

Anyway, while the Long Beach police department have admitted that none of their officers have undergone any sort of specific training to ascertain what may be considered as being devoid of aesthetic value, they still will be held responsible for approaching individuals taking "suspicious" pictures, and detaining these people.

So watch where you point those cameras, kids. You might be a terrorist and not even know it! Or even worse, a pornographer!!

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