Sunday, June 19, 2011

They came, they saw, they shot

Carlos Miller takes a picture of Ft. Lauderdale attorney Norman Kent.
photo by

Miami photographer Carlos Miller is on a one-man quest to protect our First Amendment rights to take pictures in public.

He runs a blog called, "Photography is not a crime," (PINAC), where he proudly declares that he's been arrested twice while trying to take pictures.

A casual reading of his blog reveals that there is, indeed, some sort of undeclared war on photographers in this country.

But, photographers getting hassled while doing their job is nothing new.

Some of Carlos' battles have included his fight for the right to photograph minimum-wage MetroRail security guards. (He won that one, I think.)

He also fought for his right to take pictures of people handing out cigarette samples on Lincoln Road. That one ended in a stalemate.

And, of course, who can forget Carlos' "Battle Royal" with a woman selling a fish on the side of the road? Carlos ended up getting his ass kicked for his efforts to take a picture of a dead fish.

And because Carlos has sacrificed his freedom, dignity, precious time and hard-earned cash to secure his and your rights to photograph utterly meaningless people, places and things, the media naturally seek him out when doing stories on the erosion of our rights.

The Miami Herald's David Smiley recently turned to Carlos for his story on "The history of cops vs. cameras on Miami Beach." Carlos told Smiley that friction between cops and cameras is a nationwide epidemic. "It's everywhere," said Carlos.

So when Ft. Lauderdale police recently threatened photographers with arrest on a movie set, Carlos sprang into action; hitting the road with his "First Amendment Traveling Minstrel Show."

The fight in Ft. Lauderdale centered around some signs the movie company posted on a street that warned against taking pictures. Apparently the movie company posted the signs without actually checking the law.
The production company's publicist, Claire Raskin, said on Tuesday the area marked off by the signs should be considered private property and off-limits to photographers. "We're basically renting out the place."

The public is allowed to walk into the Himmarshee area to visit bars and restaurants, but taking out a camera is a no-no, city and police officials said.

On Wednesday an officer at the scene told a video journalist and photographer from the Sun Sentinel that they could film and shoot as long as they stood behind the signs.
Carlos organized a passive protest that took place last Friday.

His plan was to show up with several dozen photographers, sit down at outdoor cafes near the movie set, have some lunch and take lots of pictures. The movie people countered by renting the entire street which blocked access to everyone.

So, no one got any pictures of any movie stars.

But they did take lots of pictures of each other.

(At least one photo agency - Splash News - got images. But, they're pros.)

But, Carlos can chalk up another First Amendment victory. Your right to take pictures of your friends on the street is safe!

I do applaud Carlos for calling everyone's attention to the fact that a private company and a government agency - the Ft. Lauderdale police - were trying to bully people and trample their rights.

Kudos also to Ft. Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, who filed an injunction against the police.

But, here's a suggestion Carlos.

Next time a movie shoot comes to town, why not shoot some pictures of actual movie stars? Ignore the jerks who are trying to keep you from getting pictures and work around them.

I've been hassled once or twice over the years, but it's never stopped me from getting pictures. Pictures that sold.

Below are just a few pictures that I've shot on movie sets. I ran into obstacles trying get a lot of the pictures, but I always came away with the shot.

Of course, if all this sounds too difficult, you can always stick to photographing MetroRail security guards and fishmongers.

"Scarface," Miami Beach, 1983

"True Lies." Brickell Avenue, 1993

"True Lies," Brickell Avenue, 1993

"True Lies," InterTerra building, Brickell Avenue, 1993

"True Lies," Inter Terra building, Brickell Avenue, 1993

Sylvester Stallone and Janice Dickinson, "The Specailist," 1994


  1. almost post of the month, but miller fights for civility and who doesn't want that.

  2. @CLJ: you don't disappoint, do you?

    I knew you'd leave a comment.

    Here's the deal; getting the shot AND freedom are both important.

    But, photo editors don't pay photographers to go out and get into arguments with cops on the street. They pay them to get the picture. If hey don't get the picture, they get fired.

    If Carlos goes out on a shoot and someone gives him a hard time, that immediately becomes the story.
    That's why no one will hire him.

    But, I told people that I supported Carlos' little demonstration.

    But I thought with all the photographers there would commit some act of civil disobedience. That would have accomplished something. But all they did was lay down for the cops.

    I'm all for standing up to gov't oppression and stupidity and all that. If you doubt me, then you aren't reading this blog very closely.

    As for your statement, that we're lucky to have Carlos.

    Yup, without him we wouldn't be able to photograph those MetroRail security guards. Carlos is a national treasure!

  3. Why not have a dozen people show up with film cameras and proceed to photograph anything and everything, pointing the cameras everywhere and clicking like crazy. But, NO FILM IN THE CAMERAS!
    You will be hassled and force confrontation - but you are NOT taking pictures.

  4. Love Carlos and fully support his cause!

  5. This seems rather childish, rather pissy.

    What, exactly, are you complaining about? That Carlos isn't photographing superficial, utterly forgettable shots of movies being made while he struggles to ensure that authorities respect the 1st amendment?

    You're making no real point at all, while Carlos' point is obvious and admirable. This really doesn't reflect well on you.

  6. @ Anon @4:01 - What, exactly, are you complaining about? That Carlos isn't photographing superficial, utterly forgettable shots of movies being made while he struggles to ensure that authorities respect the 1st amendment?

    I think I made my point. Carlos is complaining the cops are trampling on his First Amendment Rights by keeping him from shooting "superficial, utterly forgettable shots of movies," as you call them. So my question to Carlos was, why not figure out a way to get around the cops and take your pictures?

    We all know the answer to that and it's that Carlos doesn't really care about taking those kinds of pictures. All he does care about is getting his mug on TV and his name in the paper.

    Carlos made his point a long time ago. He's not going to change anything. Now let's see if he can actually shoot some pictures and compete with the pros.

    I can tell you that while Carlos may have his supporters, most working professional photojournalists look upon him as a clown.


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