Photography Is Not Terrorism

Seriously America, stop it.

This one makes me sad. The short version: It’s a story about a Japanese tourist on an Amtrak train between New York and Boston. While passing some scenery and taking some photos, he is commanded by the conductor to stop shooting. Well, not speaking any English and not understanding what was going on, eventually the situation lead to him being escorted off the train by police officers at the next station.

Can’t security officials can exercise their judgement about what constitutes a security risk? I suppose that allowing a gray area could cause some problems, but really, is a helpless Japanese tourist snapping landscapes from a moving train really going to raise the threat level?

If not, can’t we expect at least a little bit of courtesy or perhaps some effort at crossing language and cultural barriers? That situation didn’t need to reach such an unsettling conclusion for the photographer. A little patience and courtesy go a long way when trying to communicate without a translator. I’m willing to bet that a couple of hand gestures would have gotten the “no pictures” point across without a fuss. Make a camera snapping motion then shake your head/wave your hands – he’ll get it. And if he doesn’t, politely try something else until he does. An extra minute of calmly talking would have spared countless minutes of the police and the passenger in the end.

Diplomacy isn’t actually that hard if you’re willing to try. Especially not when you’re just dealing with a confused tourist who will happily comply with you provided he can understand you.

One Response to “Photography Is Not Terrorism”

  1. Miguel Marcos says:

    Darby, I completely agree with you. I was raised in the US and now live in Madrid. I know what that lack of tact or sensibility is. I’ve even suffered it myself when going back to visit family, the way they treat you in Customs That’s not to say Americans are all like that, but too many who are in a public position certainly are. It’s a social issue, however, and changes to social habits change only in the long term.

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