If you take pictures, eventually it’ll happen. A run in with the law…or the rent-a-law-enforcer.
Today I was shooting some head shots for another startup CEO in San Francisco at Levi Plaza. Levi Plaza is a set of office buildings that have the offices for Levi Strauss and Company. It also happens to be where the office of this startup is located. Part of Levi Plaza is small strip of land between the Embarcadero and Battery Street which was made into a small park. The park is open to the public, and until today, I thought was public property. (there is a sign stating otherwise, but you only see it as you are leaving the park, and there is no mention of no photography…).
The park makes for perfect backdrop for portraits. So I was out there shooting with the CEO. We had just finished up and were standing there talking, my camera with flash in hand and a small folded tripod laying on the bench in front of us (a tripod which I never even used).
And up walks a security guard. He spots the tripod and injects himself into our conversation:
SG: “There are no tripods allowed in here.”
SG: “You can’t have that in here.” (as he looks up from the bench to look at me)
Me: “I’m not using it, it’s just lying there on the bench.”
SG: “Hey, that looks like a professional camera.”
Me: silently looking at him
SG: “You can’t take pictures in here with professional cameras.”
Me: Still silently looking at him thinking: ‘But I could with a non professional camera?’
SG : “You need to get a permit from the management office.”
Me: “Ok.” Still standing there looking at him.
SG: walks off to continue his rounds, totally forgetting about us.
For this specific security guard, he could honestly care less that I was taking “professional photographs” in Levi Plaza. He told me what he was required to, I was just standing there taking to someone, and he wanders off.
Lucky me. It could have gone another way entirely. If I would have confronted him on the “professional versus non-professional” camera aspect or not been so relaxed about the whole thing he could have gotten more forceful.
A lot of times if you let the security guard exercise his power (maybe the only part of his life where he can), they are happy, they leave you and you can continue what you were doing. Other times, it’s all about reading the person and just playing off the way they are presenting themselves; he wasn’t throwing the macho security guard vibe nor did he look the type, so there was no need for me to push back.
Though I’m sure it would have been an entirely different experience if I had a wedding party with me or something…but in that case I would have had my permit (and charge it to the client).