In this era of terrorism fears, if you pull out a camera on a New Jersey train or the New York subway, or even at an innocuous bank building from a public sidewalk, you might find security guards or law enforcement officers telling you it’s not allowed, the Christian Science Monitor reports. “Is photography becoming illegal in the United States?” asks Jim McGee in the the online photo magazine Vivid Light Photography.
Last year, after the Madrid train bombing, New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority proposed a ban on photography on its subways and buses (New Jersey already had a ban in place). Public protest was such that now, more than a year later, the proposal has stalled. “Just because it’s not law yet, doesn’t mean there aren’t people trying to enforce it,” says Alicia Wagner Calzada of the National Press Photographers Association. Part of the problem, she suggests, is police officers and security guards who are uneducated about the law. The USA Patriot Act, with a broad definition of “suspicious activity,” has cracked the door wider to individual interpretation. If security is sometimes overzealous, the rules can also be vague and ad hoc. Overlapping law enforcement agencies, new restrictions imposed by local municipalities, and beefed-up security have all added to the murkiness.