Is a Photographer a Suspicious Person? by Joe Pellicone

Text and photos by Joe Pellicone

I’m sure you have heard the saying “If you see something, say something”. It’s regularly advertised on TV and Radio. It’s about common sense security for the safety of all in public places, especially in public transportation facilities like Train Stations and Airports.

My idea of a suspicious person is one who might put down a backpack or package and walk away, or maybe loiter for a long time for no apparent reason. But the definition of a “suspicious activity” can cover almost any activity that is out of the ordinary. Unfortunately, in our over-cautious world a tripod and a photographer now fall into this category!

What I really don’t understand it that no one gives a second thought to a photographer with a cell phone, but big lenses, tripods and professional looking cameras seem to fit the profile.

You probably have heard stories from your photo friends or may have even been stopped yourself by police or security for carrying a camera or taking a photo in or around a place that might be deemed sensitive, not to mention crowded places that prohibit the use of tripods. It has happened to me several times…most recently, a few days ago.

My friend, Fred, has been working on a photo project in Long Beach, NY. He decided to go to the Long Beach Train Station, and I decided to tag along. Fred had all his gear, his backpack and his tripod too. I chose to go light and just had my camera with wrist strap mounted to my Platypod Ultra.

After a while, Fred decided he wanted to get the a shot of the train leaving the station with some motion blur, so he set up his camera on his tripod for a long exposure and waited for the train to depart the station. It wasn’t long before Fred was approached by the conductor, who inquired why HE was taking photos. Fred was questioned by two train employees for several minutes. One of them actually mentioned the “tripod pointed right at the train”! At this point the conductor called his headquarters, who in turn called the police!


While all this was going on, I was standing right next to Fred holding my camera and Platypod, and the conductors completely ignored me!

Luckily the train had to leave the station in order to depart on schedule. Fred got his shot and we got out of there before the police arrived.

The whole point of this story is that we both got some shots, but Fred had to stop shooting while he was being questioned. Had the police arrived before the train left, Fred most likely would not have been able to take the shot he wanted. He was hassled because of the tripod and I was ignored because I was carrying my camera in my hand with the Platypod.






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