Judging by the actions of security forces hunkered in at Semiahmoo Mall, the only places photographers might be going would be the local penitentiary. Had already snapped one shot, which may not have been apparent to the fast approaching rent-a-cop, and was touched lightly on the arm inquiring as to what exactly I was doing. “Why I thought I’d just taken a photo of this sign for my neon blog” was not apparently the correct answer. Was brusquely informed the mall was private property and cameras were not allowed. When I inquired about exterior pictures I was informed that also was verboten, even from off property. Packed up my camera and departed.
Sent the mall owners – First Capital Realty – a customer comment which will probably be ignored. Really, they should drag themselves into the 21st century. For one reason or another there are likely hundreds of photos snapped daily in the mall with cellphones as reminders or for price comparisons. Will the mall begin bag searches?
The above post was for another blog I use to try out new ideas from time to time. Right now my wife and I are working on our own photo a day challenge for both enjoyment and to look a little closer at everything. So for the month of February, I’m trying to get a shot of a neon sign – the ubiquitous ‘open’ ones not allowed – everyday, which is a bit tougher when we no longer reside in Vancouver. So that explains heading to the local mall where three stores still have neon signs.
By chance the same evening I read an online story from the Toronto Star about the city restricting photography in local parks and venues. Even though they quickly went into damage control to pull back on a complete ban, a city official still insisted some picture taking would not be allowed despite not being against Canadian law. Authorities are constantly seizing cameras and cellphones – often illegally and accidentally erasing content – and are later ordered by the courts to return the items as the owners were doing nothing against the law by filming or photographing events happening in public. Most of our public art galleries still ban photography based on outdated practices. There are credible studies which show paintings can be damaged over time from exposure to light flashes, especially years ago when flashbulbs were the norm; however, nowadays most cameras and cellphones are capable of lower light shots without any need of extra light. I have photos taken in The Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Tate with security personnel all around and was never questioned or prevented from snapping away. The usual defense by Canadian museum directors relates to copyright issues, but it’s almost impossible not to find photographs or prints available of every painting or art object in existence. There are likely more copies, photos and renderings of the ‘Mona Lisa’ than there are people on earth.
Like most people these days I use my camera or my Nexus 7 tablet – I may be the last person to not own a cellphone – to grab images of sale items, locations or any number of things as reminders for later use. Much handier than trying to find a pencil and paper. And many of these have been taken in other malls with security people around without any concern on their part. But all bureaucratic levels including municipal have come to regard this as snooping and possible interference with national governance. No matter where you go these days there seems to be a government authorized camera dogging your every step and recording your actions. This is considered appropriate because ‘model citizens’ have nothing to hide.
There’s an excellent opinion piece in the Toronto Star by William Kowalski on the current push to limit public photography. As he states, ‘there is no law against public photography in Canada’ which I’ve always been aware of since I started snapping pics and developing film some years ago. And I plan to keep on in spite of the small minded bureaucrats and self-interested politicians lined up to take away my rights.
As to the mall owners, once I referred to their obnoxious and heavy handed security people on Facebook, they got back to me in less than fifteen minutes to assure me they would look into the situation. Maybe I’ll hear back or then again maybe not.
Thought these new laws brought in by the US Forest Service for my neighbours to the south were controversial but I’ve not had the chance to follow up.