A blogger PSA

All of us living in NYC may see an un-welome change in our ability to capture photos for our blogs, and personal use in general. I received the following in an email from a filmmaker friend.

ALERT: Ban Taking Photos and Video in Public in New York

Many of you have probably heard about this already but for those who haven’t, please sign the petition (link below)or write to the Mayor’s
Office for Film and TV (address below) and forward it to any others who care about this important matter.


All of a sudden we, as photographers, filmmakers, students and teachers, are facing serious restrictions by The Mayor’s office about NYC street photography.

Please sign the petition. We don’t have much time with an august 3rd deadline.

Here is the URL with the petition to sign:


Introduced quietly just before Memorial Day weekend, the regulations could severely impede the ability of even casual photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City. A group of two or more people who want to use a
camera in a single public location for more than a half hour (including setup and breakdown time) could be required to get a city permit and $1 million in liability insurance. According to the NY Civil Liberties Union, “these regulations violate the First Amendment right to photograph in public places, and open the door to selective and discriminatory enforcement.”


PDF of the proposed changes:


NYCLU Response:



Excerpted from an email by artist and filmmaker Jem Cohen:

The Mayor’s Office of Film deals primarily with big film shoots (ie. commercials, features, t.v.) where permits and insurance are, understandably, a given. However, many photographers and filmmakers carry on an equally vital tradition in which spontaneous documentation of the urban environment is at the very heart of our work. Being a street photographer often means standing in a random location and
waiting: for the right activity, the right light, the break in the traffic;
the countless other unpredictable factors that need to fall into place
to make a shot worthwhile…

Permits would have to be obtained for specific dates and times and exact locations, and the insurance would be out of reach for many individuals. The fact is that we simply CANNOT predict where, when, and how long we are going to film or photograph; we CANNOT afford expensive liability insurance policies; we occasionally NEED to work with other people or to use tripods to support our gear. (The regulations would, for example, effectively rule out a great deal of time-lapse photography which depends on tripods and cannot possibly be done with time limitations of 10 to 30 minutes, as well as the use of large format still cameras and long lenses).

Especially in the current climate, official clarification of photographer’s rights could be a positive thing. (Many of us have been shut down by police or other authorities who do not seem to understand that we DO have rights to film and photograph in public places). That said, if these regulations go through, it would invite if not require police to harass or shut down both professional artists and amateurs.

Unfortunately, I believe that we must see the proposed regulations not only as a blow against New York as a city that welcomes and inspires art-making (and historical documentation), but as part of a continuum of broader attacks against civil liberties and free expression.

Please contact the following person immediately and
express your concerns.

Julianne Cho
Associate Commissioner
Mayor’s Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting
1697 Broadway
New York, NY 10019
ph: 212.489.6710
fax: 212.307.6237


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