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Nikon D5000, Nikkor 35mm f/1.8, 35mm, f/2.8, ISO200, HDR, 1 Exposure 1/80, Handheld

Oh what a day.  I decided to take the train uptown to Center City.  I was able to get some great shots of the underground, and some cool architecture outside.  On my way back I decided to head toward Suburban Station.  As I walked toward the Broad Street line, I noticed a reflection of light coming from the wall.  I was shooting mostly black and white so I decided to fire two shots on my way down the stairs.

I was confronted by two Philadelphia Transit Police officers about what I was doing.  I said I was taking black and white art photos of the tile on the wall. He proceeded to pull out a pad of paper and start writing.  I asked if it was against the law to photograph in the underground, and he said some song and dance about the Madrid bombings, etc.. I figured I was going to receive  a citation, or a warning.  I was asked for ID,  and I cooperated with the officer.  He then began to tell me how I was going to be added to the Terrorism Data Base. I couldn’t beleive my ears, but I didn’t want to start any trouble.  Eventually he asked if I had any other questions and I just wanted to get out of there.  Off I went, now realizing I never recieved any copy of what he was writing.

I can’t understand what is going on in this country.  Here is an article explaining what’s going on. Please read it, it will blow your mind!!!

This shot above was taken a little while before I was confronted by police.  I was able to edit this RAW file as a single HDR.  Once again PhotoTools proves to be my favorite tool to use.  Even though I’m now a suspicious person, at least I got some great shots!

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October 27, 2010 - 9:11 am

Heath O'Fee - Crazy story…really quite sad how photographers are treated these days.

Love the grit to this shot, nicely done!

October 27, 2010 - 9:12 am

Jim Denham - Crazy! I do like the image, especially the lights running away from you towards the background!

October 27, 2010 - 1:26 pm

IceTrey - NEVER TALK TO THE COPS! As a photographer you really need to learn your rights. You are never required to give your i.d. unless you are driving. Some states require you to give your name if you are being detained, it’s known as a “stop and identify” law. Pennsylvania does not have such a law. You could have told those cops to go take a flying leap. You should have.

October 27, 2010 - 1:51 pm

Bob Lussier - I DO love this image!

Get. A. Lawyer.

I’m heading to DC this weekend. While photography is not the primary purpose, it is a strong secondary goal. Your experience worries me.

October 27, 2010 - 2:25 pm

Scott Frederick - IceTrey, I think you are correct in knowing your rights, however you have none if caught photographing in an area that could be used for acts of terror. The Federal building have been cleared but as of Oct.12th the Database is a way to monitor suspicious activity. Because I was wearing a black hooded sweatshirt and shooting in the subway I was deemed suspicious. This is not a state law issue this is a federal override.

@Bob, I would be concerned. Don’t think you can refuse to show ID. If you do they can search,detain you and demand it. If you don’t provide ID you become uncooperative. That leads to more bullshit. Thanks to the Patriot act and the 911 actions we have no more rights. Honestly you can take your photographers rights documents and shove them. Your right’s are gone!

Suspicious Activity is the term you want to become familiar with and photography is considered suspicious in areas of possible terrorism plots.

October 27, 2010 - 2:49 pm

Bill Tracy - Welcome to the radical underground, Scott.

It’s so much easier for you guys today to get in!

Back in the sixties I had to do demonstrations, camp with other anti-war veterans at Valley Forge, openly oppose the government policies, etc. That got me COINTELPRO notice and a nice file in J.Edgar Hoover’s FBI.

Now that we’ve turned the corner of fascism, I have lot more playmates here in radical land.

Well, we can always use good photographers. Look around, make yourself at home, and start shooting, my friend! I’ll keep a lookout for the cops.

October 27, 2010 - 2:57 pm

Scott - Those cops need to find something better to do. I’m glad you made it out ok!

October 27, 2010 - 2:58 pm

Zafar - Scott, truly sorry to hear that. You should do something about it. Great shot.

October 27, 2010 - 4:21 pm

IceTrey - Philadelphia Transit Police do not work for the Federal government. There is actually a Federal law which says you don’t have to talk to the police, it’s called the 5th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. You DO NOT have to cooperate with the police. You absolutely can refuse to provide I.D.. The police CAN NOT detain you (legally) unless they have a “reasonable suspicion” based on “specific and articulable” facts that you have, are or are about to commit a crime. If you are detained the police can pat you down only if they, again, have a “reasonable suspicion” you are armed and dangerous. If you are detained and are in a state with a “stop and identify” law all you have to give the police is your name. If you gave the Philadelphia Transit Police your I.D. willingly and are now on some terror watch list, it’s completely your own fault. NEVER TALK TO THE COPS!

October 27, 2010 - 7:11 pm

Beniamino - Dude – you think you have no rights “in an area that could be used for acts of terror”? That pretty much means you have no rights anywhere, right? I agree with Icetrey – federal laws may “override” state / municipal laws but they don’t override the U.S. Constitution. Of course, if you’re doing photography around government buildings, you have to expect to get harassed, regardless of the First, Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments, because the security goons don’t know or don’t give a shit about your constitutional rights, and they know most people will cave when they get harassed by security personnel.

Next time this happens, your first question should be whether you’re being detained or you’re free to go. If you’re free to leave, do so, unless you’ve got some compelling reason to hang around, because they will try to bait you. If they tell you you’re being detained, tell them you choose not to speak without a lawyer, and if they ask for your I.D., don’t hand it over unless they claim you’re under a legal obligation to surrender it. What sucks about the way you handled this was that your surrender of your I.D. was apparently voluntary – next time at least get the douchebags to clarify that they are demanding your I.D. under threat of arrest so that you at least have the option of a Section 1983 suit.

October 27, 2010 - 7:26 pm

Rance - Icetrey is 110% correct. You DO NOT have to talk to the police, or show them ID of any kind. Scott, you willingly gave away your rights, and you got royally screwed because of it. NEVER talk to police!

“Suspicious Activity is the term you want to become familiar with and photography is considered suspicious in areas of possible terrorism plots.”

I suggest you read “Photography is NOT a Crime” on

You might learn that you are dead wrong in thinking that you have to bend over and take it just because an authoritarian fascist cop invokes 9/11 as the reason he/she stopped you. What happened to you is akin to what Orwell wrote about in “1984″.

October 27, 2010 - 7:43 pm

Scott Frederick - Hey guys if I was in the wrong then there is nothing I can do about it, but I am familiar Photography is NOT a Crime. You can all go on about your legal garb but at the end of the day, we the people should be left to go about our creativity without being blindsided. It’s my fault!!! :)

Here is my article

October 27, 2010 - 7:45 pm

Rance - I should also add, that this photo, along with all of the other photos I have seen on your site, are OUTSTANDING! You have a great eye!

October 27, 2010 - 10:06 pm

Scott Frederick - Hey thanks Rance. I must admit I don’t know much about Photographer’s rights when it’s mixed with authority trying to adjust the system. I do come from the school of not playing hard ass with the police. As I look back at what I could of or couldn’t of done, and I honestly thank all of you for your input! I chose what I chose. I can say this much in Philadelphia the cops don’t fuck around, and I could of chosen to refuse my ID. HOWEVER!!! I never thought I’d be submitting it for a Terrorism Data Base document. I was more concerned about getting home to pick up my little girl from school. So forgive me all you hardcore know it alls out there about RIGHTS. What I know is photography, and I know it damn well. I encourage you to learn a few things from me.

Now we’re even, Peace!

October 28, 2010 - 12:42 am

Rance - Scott,

It’s all gravy baby. I just hope this database you’ve been put on doesn’t cost you any headaches down the road. You most certainly do not deserve to be on a list like that. I may have come across a little strong (I’m known on PINAC for being an asshole and saying what’s on my mind), and if I did, I apologize. I tend to get bent out of shape when I see, or read about someone, especially an artist of your caliber, getting harassed while doing something that is constitutionally protected like photography.

October 28, 2010 - 12:59 am

Rance - Sorry for the double post.

I’d urge you to check out the videos on this youtube channel. They might help put things in perspective for you, should you ever encounter a situation like this again.

October 28, 2010 - 1:04 am

Scott Frederick - Hey man we are all just looking out for each other, right!! I appreciate your support man. Thanks for the link. Stay in touch with my work. thanks!

October 28, 2010 - 2:51 pm

Rail Car Fan - It’s too bad you whimped out, ie: “I figured I was going to receive a citation, or a warning. I was asked for ID, and I cooperated with the officer.”

Just remember.. “The Police are NEVER your friend!”

Now all that’s going to happen is the cop’s going to do the same thing to the next photographer. If you don’t stand up for your rights.. then who will?

Rail Car Fan

October 28, 2010 - 4:32 pm

Scott Frederick - Thanks Rail Car Fan. I really appreciate your input. I did learn something from this experience, it’s just funny how certain people feel the need to attack me! The police are not your friends, I get that. However, I’ve never encountered this situation before so I acted with the belief that I did nothing wrong. Which I now know if I encounter this situation again, I should ask questions and determine if I’m being detained or if I’m free to go. The ID was given out of clear ignorance, but does that still make it ok to put me into a database associated with terrorism? If I could only go back in time!

Lesson learned!

October 28, 2010 - 6:03 pm

Scott Frederick - Thanks for that Rance. I found the link very useful. Much appreciated. Don’t worry about if you came across strong. I understand why one would be frustrated with the system and or the way I ignorantly handled the situation. I just hope that everyone understands why I gave my ID. Because I was ignorant, yes but did I think it was going to be handed back after a terrorism database document was filed. No, and this is why I’m kicking myself!!!

October 31, 2010 - 3:31 pm

Catherine Todd - Scott Frederick, you did want any ordinary person would do, by handing over your ID. You had to pick up your little girl from school, and you had no idea that you were doing anything “wrong.” And you weren’t. The people who have attacked you are hard core troublemakers. We need people like them to test regulations and help change the laws. But many people don’t go into situations to “test” anything. They, like you, are simply minding their own business and going about their day. Then the thugs and bullies who are drunk with power enter the scene and look out!

I have unfortunately found that in America, in particular, whenever anyone says “help!” or “ouch” they are going to be attacked. “You brought it on yourself” is an all-too often cry when people are treated unjustly or find themselves hurt. I don’t know where that awful attitude comes from, but I grew up with it myself and can’t stand it. I won’t tolerate it, either. I think some of the people here are misreading the situation and reacting to YOU instead of the real terrorists which is our government, law enforcement, and security guard goons.

I have always said the only real “terrorist threat” we have is ourselves. We are the terrorists, and we’ve proven that all over the world.

I was threatened with arrest and removal from an airplane just last week as I was in a wheelchair and made the mistake of asking for help with my carryon bags. When it was refused, I said “Fine, I will do it myself” and I was told “I did this to myself” and I said “How dare you talk to me this way? I did not put myself into this wheelchair! I was injured and have to use it!”

That’s all it took. Security guards were called and the incredibly hostile and aggressive stewardess and pilot threatened to have me arrested for “assault.” It wasn’t until I asked the security officer to go back inside the plane and ask the witnesses on the plane if I had ever assaulted her, and she backed down and admitted she had lied. I couldn’t believe what was happening. She then came to me as we were preparing to land and said she was “writing a report about my behavior” and blah blah blah and I had to promise not to take down her name etc etc etc and I’m trying to gather evidence now as to what is going on. Unfortunately I’m finding out that I got off EASY.

I’m 60 years old and have to travel in a wheelchair due to a long-standing back injury. I’ve been flying for 58 of those 60 years with never an incident, until now.

What is going on in this country, and are we helpless to do anything about it? I hope not…

I’m truly sorry for what happened to you and for some of the responses here. You did the right thing in both cases, for if you had refused to give ID, rightly or wrongly, things would only have gotten worse. It’s the actions of the security guards that needs to be corrected, not yours.

Making a public statement about what happened is the only and best way to make changes at this point. There’s a “Rally for Sanity” or something like that I read about. I’d like to know more and participate, whether I get arrested there or not.

Let me know how things go for you and any updates.

Yours truly, CatherineTodd2 at gmail dot com.

October 31, 2010 - 3:35 pm

Catherine Todd - PS: Is there any way to contest being added to a “terrorism database?” Sounds like the old days with credit reports and all the inaccuracies there. But this time around it is much, much worse. I myself might be added to a no fly list or that same terror database after my own incident just a few days ago, and I would like to find out more about how to check on this and have my name removed if possible. Any info will be appreciated. CT

October 31, 2010 - 4:16 pm

Catherine Todd - PPS: Sorry to keep adding things, but there’s no “edit” button on blog comments! I forgot to mention that I am one of those “troublemakers” I mention above, so I meant no disrespect. I never intentionally place myself in a “troublemaking” situation, but when I find it I try to get out of it and then I make as much trouble as I can. I will get to the bottom of things and take whatever action I can, especially if it means testing or overturning a restrictive, punitive or unfair law. I would like to find organizations I can join to help further these goals. Right now I am very concerned about the state of the “world mentality” now that I’ve had a taste of the “terrorist medicine.”

Thanks again for posting this and for all the comments here. Very terrifyingly enlightening.

CatherineTodd2 at gmail dot com.

October 31, 2010 - 6:44 pm

Cheryl B - Scott, thanks for sharing your story. I was arrested in September ’09 by the police in Philadelphia for taking photos of police arresting protesters. Spent the night in jail and charged with criminal conspiracy. I would strongly recommend you seek out a civil rights attorney and/or someone from the ACLU to discuss this. At the least, they can guide you through the process of filing a FOIA or something similar to find out if indeed you are on some kind of list and what that means. Personally, it sounds like they were just hassling you, but you have a right to know. Seriously, I think you should talk to the ACLU and get some advice. If you want a contact person, I can send you a message back channel.

November 2, 2010 - 6:34 am

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November 13, 2010 - 11:35 am

Bill Wolfe - Hi – I am a NJ environmental activist who does amateur photojournalism and blogging. Two years ago, I was writing about proposed legislation that would provide millions of dollars of subsidies and regulatory relief to refineries. I had a similar experience while shooting photos of the Sunoco and Valero refineries in West Deptford, NJ. I was detained and questioned for almost an hour on the shoulder of Rt. 130. After I was released, I advised police that I was heading further south shoot more photos of the Valero refinery. As I did so, I was again detained, my car was searched, my documents and papers were taken, and I was taken to police station for questioning. At that time, I had a guest column at Statr Ledger “NJ Voices” page. Once police leaned that, they backed off and released me. But 3 days later, Homeland Security officials came to my home to conduct a followup investigation. One suggested I was a suspect for possibly attempting to blow up a nearby school. An FBI/DHS incident report had been filed, and I too am on a terror watchlist. Since then, I have been detained and questioned by police in 4 towns in NJ for taking photos of chemical plants and nearby schools where kids are exposed to air toxics. After shooting a school and day care center next to “brownfield” sites in Paterson (with the Principal’s permission), I was again visited at home by my local police and accused of taking pictures of young children! (from terror suspect to pervert!) Most recently, my work at Bayway refienry in Linden NJ was broadcast on ABC TV news. This is BS!

November 16, 2010 - 9:18 am

Scott Frederick - Hey Bill,

Thanks for telling me your story. Sounds like your in the radar. I wish you luck in removing yourself from it!

December 28, 2010 - 3:50 pm

Chris Kenison - Nice story. Really nice pic! If anything, this post generated a lot of involvment on your blog, eh? :P

I would have done the same in your situation… although, living in Montana, I don’t think that would have happened. I have a couple of family members who are cops and they always tell me it’s usually in my best interest to cooperate with the law… and I don’t think they’re “not my friends”. But, maybe that’s a “little-town” menatality.

Anyways, I appreciate you posting pictures, such as this, for others, like myself, to enjoy and learn from! Thanks, Scott!

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