Thursday, January 21, 2016

Street Photography Declining Due to Fear and Pranoia

A popular chain of Coffee Shops

October 15, 15

I have had enough of the abuse I get from taking images in public places. Many of these images are taken during the daytime and the target image is the REFLECTION of what is lit behind me. The customers and the shop keepers are so ignorant and uneducated that they do not understand that almost nothing INSIDE the store shows on the taken image.  Basically only lights are recognizable; and, people are at most dark shadows totally unidentifiable.

This explanation does not phase the attack on “you can’t take pictures of my store, my customers are  afraid of you and your pictures”.  Even showing them the pictures and explaining the laws governing photography does not mitigate the attack. At least 50% of the complainers will not even look at the images, which is the only “hard” evidence” available. 

The management frequently threaten to call the police and threaten to have me taken to jail for trespassing.  In Texas, trespassing enforcement gives the police power to take an accused offender to jail for 24 hours; and, THEY DO NOT HAVE TO JUSTIFY THE REASON THE PERSON WAS ARRESTED AND THE PERSON IS NOT EVEN ALLOWED A PHONE CALL. A murderer is given the opportunity to make a phone call.  This extreme paranoia about a crippled old man taking photographs that are lawful, has become totally out of hand, and it keeps getting woese.

I am in poor health, and if disappear for 24 hours my loving wife will go through “the tortures of the damned” thinking I am lying dead somewhere.  So, I have no real choice but to leave and abandon the photographic opportunity.  This may seem trivial to most people, but photography is the one remaining “hobby” (which I studied diligently since 1969 while I was a student at UT obtaining a BS in Radio-TV-Film.)  I KNOW THE RULES and abide by them.

In addition, street photography (which is the term applied to the type of photography I do) has a long and noble history.  It is a major source of our knowledge of our past.  For example, Dorthea Lange’s images of  people and places during the Great Depression and Dust Bowl, speak a thousand plus in describing the suffering that Americans endured.   So, there is great value in street photography.  Yes, it is a serious hobby for me and one of the few activities I can still do and enjoy. But it has greater importance.  In the future these image that I capture will describe the situation in our current era of rapid cultural, economic and political change.  My slill level is very high, since I have been an avid student of photography since 1969, and I have a degree in Radio-TV-Film from the University of Texas.
A BS degree in 1971.  So I am not an amateur hack who doesn’t know what he/she is doing.

Even murderers are allowed a phone call!!  .On a daily basis, some one with delusional magic powers, complains to a shop keeper that I am taking pictures of them with nefarious intent. The shop keeper then comes out and gives me the 3rd degree about my behavior. I recently took a photo of a magnificent ancient live oak skillfully integrated with the store deck and building architecture, this occurred at the coffee shop at the corner of Parmer and Mopac. Under the tree was a group of Middle East/Hindus, who came and asked me not to take pictures of them. I explained that I was not taking pictures of them. They were in the shadows and could not be identified from the image, which I showed them. They persisted, and made a vague demand to erase the image. I explained that taking images of people in public places was not unlawful. The issue had been argued before the Supreme Court 4 times. In each instance the court ruled that even without permission, the photographer's right to photograph them was protected by the First Amendment. I said that I was not going to erase a good image of the tree, just to make them comfortable.

 Out came two store employees, who sided with the complainant, stating in a loud voice : "WE HAVE HAD COMPLAINTS FROM THE OTHER STORE.", which implied that I was a known criminal. Pure slander. They said "Are we going to have to call the cops?" I said, “This has gone way too far and I am leaving. I will not waste a police officer's time explaining to you that no crime has been committed. “

The "complaint" at the other store (which occurred several months ago), involved a paranoid schizophrenic (having worked for 8 years at the state mental hospital I can recognize a schizophrenic in 2 minutes.) Same scene as the tree incident. She was sitting in the background of a young couple that I photographed with their permission. She demanded that I destroy the image. I told her I would blur her out of the image, but would not destroy the elegant portraits. She, went ballistic, and in her delusional state "knew" I had some nefarious intent. She cell-phone imaged me and my car, which didn't bother me because that is typical behavior for a paranoid schizophrenic. No doubt she complained to the staff; and, the staff, with no knowledge of the law or psycho pathology,  put me on some black list which they apparently passed on to the staff at the store with the tree. No one spoke to me about the episode; so,my right to face my accuser was ignored. The Starbucks’ staff has no training in law enforcement and has no business monitoring behavior once the customer leaves the store. To make the matter even more disgusting is the fact that I am a regular customer (daily) and am known on a first name basis by most of the staff. I am certain the schizophrenic has not returned. So, I am cutting way back on my public image- making. Corporate abuse of power is ruining this country. Their arrogance and inappropriate  use of power to control people, is disheartening to those of us who were raised and taught that we had civil rights,

One more important point, corporations record the behavior of every square foot of their property (even the bathrooms), and people don't complain about that; but a gimpy old man with a real camera is an easy target to exercise their “False sense of power over my behavior”
In order to make their delusional customers more comfortable.

Please investigate my public record.  If you are going to play “cop”, do it right. You will find a profile of an ideal citizen.  In a high risk profession, medicine, I have never been sued or even been threatened with a law suit.  Never arrested.  Sum total of my “offences” to society: 3 speeding tickets, all for 10 miles over, over 50 years and at least a million miles driven.

“My good Flickr friend, Dave, who lives in a small farming town in southern Minnesota put it “

I have often wondered if you encountered negative reactions from your portrait subjects, Morris. I assumed that sometimes you did. Now I know.
I certainly feel bad about the accusations you have faced, and I hope it will not put a damper on your night photography.
By the way, you are correct about video cameras constantly recording us, even in the small town where I live. This bothers me much more than having my face show up in a photo somewhere.


 Here are my demands:
1)   Written and signed apologies of all Starbucks personelle who were involved in this fiasco of robbing me of my First Amendment Rights and slandering me in a very ugly way.  By the way, this issue of photographer’s rights vs privacy rights, has been argued before the Supreme Court 4 times. As I stated earlier, in every case it was ruled that the photographer’s rights were protected by the First Amendment : Freedom of Speech.  I have enclosed documents to make this task easier for you.
2)   As a gesture of good faith, one year of gratis coffee and pastry on  a daily basis.
3)   PLEASE do not complicate this by bringing in corporate lawyers who will only do everything they can to obfuscate the issues.  If I receive such  a letter, I will consider it a clear sign of ill will, and I will not read it.
4)   This is really very simple: you made some mistakes, we all make them, both intentional and unintentional.  A mistake can be transformed into a “good” thing if we learn from it.
5)   I am not going to sue you for slander or anything else.
6)   I just want a safe place where I can go .  Starbuck’s WAS that place prior to the events at “the other store”.  I know and am known to the majority of the staff on a first name basis. I have given the store many photographic prints, as one employee, Ellis, expressed interest in what I took pictures of.
7)   I believe that Howard Schultz is a brilliant and caring business man.  I lived in Seattle 1980-2000 and watched Starbucks’ stock rocket upwards. Meanwhile, the New York boys who think they know everything, underestimated Starbucks’ earning EVERY QUARTER FOR 20 YEARS.
8)   I do not believe Howard Schultz would approve of the events in question.  If my demands are not met, I will do whatever it takes to get a copy of this letter in his hands.
9)   “I am sorry.” Still works.  Please do not make this issue more complicated than it needs to be.

Morris Creedon-McVean,DO
A gentleman and a scholar
Austin, Texas

Note: I did not deliver this letter because I do not believe the managers would understand it.  I just gave up another fertile place for image making.  My photographic world keeps shrinking, which is tragic, both for me as an individual, but to society.