7 Reasons For Not Shooting 7 Government Buildings, As Quoted From Us Officials


Time and again we shared stories that show how photographers are given random instructions to avoid photographing in public places. I guess after Benny Johnson‘s report on getting kicked away from 7 of the US Government Buildings it is no longer random.

Benny, a Buzzfeed staff member, was doing a piece on The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings In DC. For that story he went ahead and tried photographing 7 concrete buildings. The interaction he had with each of the building’s guards, spokesmen and security personal resulted in an even better story, showing how he was kicked off property or sent away or banned from photographing any of those buildings.

Just to make it clear, Benny’s way of shooting the buildings seemed pretty legit to me, though I am not a layer:

I stood on the public sidewalks in front of the buildings, along with all the other tourists and pedestrians, took pictures, and then hopped on my bike and went to the next building.
I did not cross any police barriers, nor did I ever take any photos inside the buildings.
I did not cross any police barriers, nor did I ever take any photos inside the buildings.
And while it is very obvious that you are being watched …
…there are definitely no signs prohibiting you from taking pictures of the massive, ugly buildings from the street.


The reactions that Benny got ranged from

  • Telling him that “only photos of the front of the building are allowed” through
  • Through telling Benny that he “was no longer allowed on the property and to go across the street immediately” and after he crossed the street he was asked to leave because “You would not want people taking photos of your office, would you?”
  • To a situation where “…three armed guards approached me. “You cannot take photos of the building entrance. You have to delete that,” one demanded”.

You can head over Buzzfeed to read the full tale of the seven skirmishes, and then see the originating post on ugly buildings in DC.

So, what do you think? A collection for random ignorance or a directing hand?

[via Tenchiro]

  • https://www.facebook.com/NIKONGUYJOE Joe Photoguy Spowal

    tell them all to piss off and explain to them that according to the supreme courts, photography in a public setting is not a crime and there is no expectation of privacy in a public setting…..

  • https://www.facebook.com/george.silvaney George Silvaney

    Wow. Do you have an editor? Try proofreading your work before posting it.

    • https://www.facebook.com/andrew.sible Andrew Sible

      Lol, yeah there were a few glaring copy/paste errors in there… :/

      I understand language barriers but I understand language barriers.
      Barriers sometimes you just gotta be more careful.
      :) 😛

      Just kidding, but there are some funny mistakes in there.

    • https://www.facebook.com/DIYPhotography DIYPhotography

      I think I got them all, thanks!

      • Andrew Pledger

        Is Benny Buzzfeed staff, or stuff?

        • http://www.diyphotography.net/ udi tirosh

          little bit of both I guess :) thanks for that catch!

    • https://www.facebook.com/funface Sam Torres

      No, not all

  • http://twitter.com/Sakari_N Sakari

    I’m not sure if they are protective or if all security guys couldn’t get to police school and are still pissed of by that

  • http://www.budzilla.com Bud Simpson

    While there may be no legal reason for being harangued on a public sidewalk by uninformed police or security guards, that doesn’t mean that you might not spend some time in handcuffs if you persist in revealing the offenders’ ignorance to them. You have nothing to gain by butting heads with these people except frustration, legal fees and lost time.

    Your best recourse is to leave, quietly and calmly, and then contact the agency in question later. Even then, in this culture of fear and suspicion, you may find that the ignorance and paranoia extends all the way to the top of the food chain, especially when government agencies are involved.

    I have been rousted from highways, near power plants, airports, rail yard overpasses, civic buildings and yes, public sidewalks. Was I within my rights to photograph these places? Absolutely. Was I in danger of being arrested if I stood my ground? You betcha.

    Pick your fights.

  • Rick

    Apparently no one informed Google Street View of these limitations.

  • https://www.facebook.com/vergounov Вергунов Сергей

    US is a country behind an Iron Curtain.

  • Amaryllis

    That is so stupid, if it were the same here in Canada I’d probably have been kicked out of hundreds of places by now, considering how many government buildings I took shots of in my short (so far) time as a photographer…

  • David Lewis

    So…. I would have told them to get lost and kept taking pictures… Taking pictures inside of a federal building is prohibited (with exceptions), but taking a picture of a federal building from a public sidewalk or street is not prohibited. So if the guy was in the parking lot, he was in a grey area….

    Do I think this was a fight not worth fighting, it depends on the situation. Getting arrested means nothing in real terms, and I would welcome any law enforcement officer to arrest me for my photography. The big issue here, is the photographer willing to fight a legal battle to end the law enforcement officers career. Most law enforcement officers will realize that they don’t know what to cite you with once they talk to you and leave you alone (assuming you convey to them that you know your rights). It is the law enforcement officers that violate your rights that are a problem. A lawsuit against a police department that violated your rights will end the violating officers career.

  • Mike

    ““You would not want people taking photos of your office, would you?”

    Actually I would. It is a most decidedly ugly, but historic building. In fact I saw someone using the ugly brick wall on one side as a backdrop for a photoshoot with a local celebrity. I think it was supposed to look like the old brick walls in comedy clubs, and was a marvelous idea.

    Now if someone was poking their camera into my office window there is a different story. But what is the “national security risk” of photographing a building the taxpayers paid for from public land? Typical mall guard mentality.

  • Fred Smith

    Based upon world and domestic terrorism after 9/11, this is completely understandable. A shot through a window here, and RPG through the right window there, and you have havoc. Heck yes, the photographer has a legitimate right to point out and photograph ugly government buildings. He has no right to infringe upon the perceive safety of those inside. So just walk across the street and take the photos.

  • RustyGadget

    Federal employees get training every year that points out that people taking pictures of Federal Instalations are a possible terrorist risk. I had a coworker that went through this training who tried to get a nice night shot of the entrance to our Instalation who also happened to be carrying a concealed weapon. She was not on Federal property at the time, but she did spend some time in shiny bracelets provided by the MPs on duty.

  • KnowYourRights

    Security guards off property have no authority….just sayin