The site Amateur Photographer reports that the Long Beach, CA police department is enforcing a new rule where officers are now stopping citizens for capturing images ‘with no apparent esthetic value.’  The goal, according to Police Chief Jim McDonnell is not to stop the ordinary tourist from photographing the city but stop would be criminals and terrorists from photographing subjects “…with no apparent esthetic value, i.e. camera angles, security equipment, security personnel, traffic lights, building entrances etc’.

In my view, this begins what could be a very slippery slope.  There are way too many variables that put the police in the position of stopping anyone from photographing and put innocent photographers at risk of false accusations.  How does one tell the aesthetic value of a photograph from any perspective other than that of the photographers?  According to Chief McDonnell, “officers are able to make a judgement about the aesthetic nature of a subject ‘based on their overall training and experience’. ”  But the aesthetic value is in the eye of the artist, the photographer.  A building entrance?  A traffic light?  These are common, everyday subject to the majority of people, but someone with a good photographer’s eye can certainly turn them into an aesthetically pleasing photograph with no ill intent.  This ruling has the potential to put enormous amounts of subject off limits as well as leaving very broad interpretation of aesthetic value up to one individual’s interpretation and pre-conceived notions.

I contend that the criminals and terrorists in America are not walking around our streets with the latest DSLR snapping photographs of their next target.  If I had criminal intentions wouldn’t it be much easier and less risky for me to use the details of a Google Map to find my targets?  My point is that I think rules such as this being enforced by the Long Beach police are misguided and presenting a false sense of security.

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