NYPD promises to scale back on War on Photography

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin



The War on Photography was launched by Rudi Giuliani shortly after George W. Bush launched the War on Terror in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

At least that is what Scott Bourne stated in a recent blog post titled “Who Started the War on Photography?”

And he may be right.

A look back during those turbulent days after 9/11 shows that police began treating photographers as if they were the ones who caused the attacks.

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, several photographers were arrested in the two weeks after the terrorist attacks, including at least four in New York and at least two in Pennsylvania at the site of the United Airlines crash.

Bourne puts the blame soley on Giuliani.

New York Mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, seemed to declare war on photographers. He had the police block off more than a square mile surrounding the World Trade Center, calling it a crime scene. The Mayor ordered that anyone with a camera who even stopped or stood still near the area should be arrested and jailed.

Why did he do this? Was the former Mayor trying to get back at a press who was not always kind to him? Giuliani likes to think of himself as a serious photographer. Did he want to save the photo opportunities for himself?

What Rudy Giuliani did was impose undue restriction on a free press. And the cost of that decision may never be known. What photos did we miss?

And Bourne is exactly right. Here we were in one of the most devastating yet heroic moments of our nation’s history; a moment that will never be washed away from our history books (nor our political speeches for that matter).

And they were arresting photographers trying to document the moments after the attacks?

In other words, Thomas E. Franklin risked arrest in capturing the above photo, an arrest which surely would have been worth the effort. But an arrest nonetheless. All for trying to capture the strength that still united us during those dark days.

But Giuliani is gone. And Bush is gone. Even Saddam Hussein is gone (even though he had nothing to do with 9/11).

And while President Obama promises to maintain the War on Terror, perhaps he is not so concerned about pursuing the War on Photography.

Because all of a sudden, the New York Police Department has “issued a department order reminding cops that the right to take pictures in the Big Apple is as American as apple pie.”

The New York Post reports that the new order is a result of complaints and protests (although it doesn’t mention lawsuits) from photographers who were tired of getting harassed.

Photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City . . . and is rarely unlawful,” the NYPD operations order begins.

It acknowledges that the city is a terrorist target, but since it’s a prominent “tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct.”

The department directive — titled “Investigation of Individuals Engaged in Suspicious Photography and Video Surveillance” — makes it clear that cops cannot “demand to view photographs taken by a person . . . or direct them to delete or destroy images” in a camera.

The title of the new directive does give me pause on this new initiative, so I won’t be convinced until I read the actual document for myself, which is not included in the article, and/or see the results for myself.

For all I know, this could be just be a short cease fire.

Photo by Thomas E. Franklin



The War on Photography was launched by Rudi Giuliani shortly after George W. Bush launched the War on Terror in the wake of Sept. 11, 2001.

At least that is what Scott Bourne stated in a recent blog post titled “Who Started the War on Photography?”

And he may be right.

A look back during those turbulent days after 9/11 shows that police began treating photographers as if they were the ones who caused the attacks.

According to the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, several photographers were arrested in the two weeks after the terrorist attacks, including at least four in New York and at least two in Pennsylvania at the site of the United Airlines crash.

Bourne puts the blame soley on Giuliani.

New York Mayor at the time, Rudy Giuliani, seemed to declare war on photographers. He had the police block off more than a square mile surrounding the World Trade Center, calling it a crime scene. The Mayor ordered that anyone with a camera who even stopped or stood still near the area should be arrested and jailed.

Why did he do this? Was the former Mayor trying to get back at a press who was not always kind to him? Giuliani likes to think of himself as a serious photographer. Did he want to save the photo opportunities for himself?

What Rudy Giuliani did was impose undue restriction on a free press. And the cost of that decision may never be known. What photos did we miss?

And Bourne is exactly right. Here we were in one of the most devastating yet heroic moments of our nation’s history; a moment that will never be washed away from our history books (nor our political speeches for that matter).

And they were arresting photographers trying to document the moments after the attacks?

In other words, Thomas E. Franklin risked arrest in capturing the above photo, an arrest which surely would have been worth the effort. But an arrest nonetheless. All for trying to capture the strength that still united us during those dark days.

But Giuliani is gone. And Bush is gone. Even Saddam Hussein is gone (even though he had nothing to do with 9/11).

And while President Obama promises to maintain the War on Terror, perhaps he is not so concerned about pursuing the War on Photography.

Because all of a sudden, the New York Police Department has “issued a department order reminding cops that the right to take pictures in the Big Apple is as American as apple pie.”

The New York Post reports that the new order is a result of complaints and protests (although it doesn’t mention lawsuits) from photographers who were tired of getting harassed.

Photography and the videotaping of public places, buildings and structures are common activities within New York City . . . and is rarely unlawful,” the NYPD operations order begins.

It acknowledges that the city is a terrorist target, but since it’s a prominent “tourist destination, practically all such photography will have no connection to terrorism or unlawful conduct.”

The department directive — titled “Investigation of Individuals Engaged in Suspicious Photography and Video Surveillance” — makes it clear that cops cannot “demand to view photographs taken by a person . . . or direct them to delete or destroy images” in a camera.

The title of the new directive does give me pause on this new initiative, so I won’t be convinced until I read the actual document for myself, which is not included in the article, and/or see the results for myself.

For all I know, this could be just be a short cease fire.

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Carlos Millerhttps://pinacnews.com
Editor-in-Chief Carlos Miller spent a decade covering the cop beat for various newspapers in the Southwest before returning to his hometown Miami and launching Photography is Not a Crime aka PINAC News in 2007. He also published a book, The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which is available on Amazon.

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