Photographer grills security guard about dumb policy

From Dave Farber's IP. Found on a photograph group:

So yesterday I was walking around downtown Pittsburgh with my camera.
When I found myself next to the PPG building, I pointed my camera upward
like a tourist and took a shot.

(If you've ever seen a skyline shot of Pittsburgh, you've seen this
building; it's the distinctive mirrored one with the points on top.
If you're a photographer, you've probably seen a shot of the Pittsburgh
skyline, since it's the best view east of the Mississippi.)

I had time to shoot *one* frame before I heard, "Excuse me, sir, but they
don't like it when people take pictures of this building."

I looked over and saw the private security guard there. I said, "Um, oh.
Okay. That's kind of too bad, isn't it?"

"Excuse me?" he said.

"It's a public area," I said.

"Well, technically it's private property."

"It's open to the public," I said, looking around at the hundreds of people
milling around and/or playing in the fountain. "Are you telling me to leave?"

"Well, no."

"All these other people are taking pictures, too."

"Well, they don't mind eye-level stuff, but when you point the camera up, they
start to get nervous. Since 9/11, you know, terrorism."

At this point, I lept on my opportunity. "Oh!" I said, a shocked look on my
face. "Is it a secret building? Because if it is, I'll stop."


"The building. Is it a secret? Because I really thought the cat was out of
the bag already, since you can see it from ten miles in every direction, but
if it's a secret I'll stop. I wouldn't want to be the one to get the word
out to the terrorists about it."

At this point he realized it was a rhetorical question. "I don't know, sir,
that's just what they tell me."

"You know it sounds absurd, right?"

"Well, I don't know about that."

"You said that eye-level pictures are okay."


"So if I go around taking pictures of the best places to plant explosives,
or ways to break into the building, that's okay, but if I take a shot of
the 25th floor, which I can't reach, that's bad. This kind of tells me
the policy isn't very well thought out."

"I don't know, sir. That's what my boss says I'm supposed to say."

"Well, I guess you're just doing your job, but I'm not going to stop unless
you order me off the property. I mean, the police don't seem to have any
problem with it." (There were police visible, who were entirely uninterested
in my activities.)

He shrugged, clearly not knowing how to respond to that. At that point, I
walked away from him, and he did not pursue.


Reader comment: John says: "I read your entry on the dumb policy prohibiting photographs of a building in the Pittsburgh skyline. I have a similar story… I was in Atlanta, staying at the Ritz Carlton.

"The building next to the Ritz Carlton, is the Wachovia building. One of the lobbies of the Ritz Carlton actually opens into the lobby of the Wachovia building. In the Wachovia lobby they have really really cool chandeliers. I was standing in the lobby of the *hotel*, taking a picture of the chandeliers through the window – and the Wachovia security guard ran over and told me I could not take pictures.

"I asked him why, and he simply kept repeating pictures were not allowed. He even asked me to delete the picture I had taken. The front of the building is glass, so the entire lobby is clearly visible from the street, and from within the Ritz Carlton. In fact, from my room I could take all sorts of pictures of the building through the room window and the Wachovia lobby glass roof… Anyway, here is an unauthorized picture of the chandelier in the Wachovia lobby. Please don't share it with any terrorists."

Reader comment:Mark,

Cybele says: "I also posted on this morning about getting hasseled here in LA on Wednesday.

"More interestingly, I also was confronted by the
security folks at the PPG complex in downtown
Pittsburgh on two different occasions… way back in
1991! They did not say anything about security
concerns at the time, only that I was not allowed to
take ANY photos of either the buildings or the people
in the plaza. This seems to be a long standing
practice with PPG security and aren't they clever to
use the buzzwords of the day to intimidate