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John Palcewski's Journal

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Save The Children

“Excuse me. Excuse me, but why are you taking these children's picture?”

I rose from a kneeling position, startled by the intensity of the woman’s voice, which was in a British accent.

“Because I’m a photographer,” I said. “Do you find that odd?”
“I’ve asked you a question very politely, so there's absolutely no reason for you to react so strongly. You have to understand that these children are my responsibility.”
“Exactly what is your concern? There’s a security guard posted every two feet in this plaza and it’s under constant live TV surveillance, so this is a safe place. Your implicit suggestion is that you question my integrity or my motives. What leads you to that conclusion?”
“Don’t you understand we have to protect our young people? Especially these days?”
“I’m entirely in sympathy with you on that issue. But you have no evidence I pose your children any harm.”

A stocky man with a reddish face suddenly appeared at my interrogator's side. He looked grim and suspicious, and aggressively moved in close to me, in the manner of a man who feels a great need to give aid to a woman in a potentially dangerous situation.

“You ought to know,” he said, “that it’s a violation of privacy laws to take pictures without people’s permission.” He, too, spoke in a British accent.

“That’s certainly the case in England,” I said, “But here in America photographing people in a public place requires no permission.”
“Well, then, I’m simply asking you, if you’re willing to extend a friendly gesture, not to take any more pictures of them.”
I paused a moment. “Very well, then,” I said. “I won’t.”

Thank you very much indeed, he might have said, but he didn’t. Nor did she.

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Where does one go in NYC to get a permit to use a medium-format camera? Is that the same place that issues licenses for the use of an 8 x 10 view camera? Well, scary as all this is my reaction is that we just have to learn to get around the craziness, and just keep shooting.

The other day an investment banker told me yes, all this alleged "homeland security" BS is getting nearly out of hand, but then these things reach a high point on the pendulum's arc and start swinging in the other direction. As for instance how all the anti-communist paranoia of the McCarthy era eventually ceased. My question was, how long do we have to wait for it to swing back? And at what cost?

it has gotten extremely out of hand, but i do think it will subside. things will never be the same again of course, but i don't think that the paranoia will continue to be the norm. i wish i had an idea of when that might be happening, though. i can't even begin to speculate.

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