Seattle’s Power Lines Paranoia


Since 9/11 taking pictures is a dangerous act. If you take a picture of your girlfriend and in the background there is some electrical infrastructure you are under suspicion of planning a terrorist attack. See what  UW Art professor  Shirley E. Scheier didn’t know.

Professor detained for taking pictures sues. Snohomish police handcuffed her, searched car...”Artist Shirley Scheier drove to Snohomish to make the kind of picture you couldn’t get in a city — power lines against an unobstructed sky”…“She wound up being patted down, handcuffed and put into the back of a police car on that day two years ago, in a detention that lasted 44 minutes.”..

The electrical substation she photographed had been identified by the Department of Homeland Security as a “critical infrastructure” target.”…”A camera is not dangerous,” said Scheier, 54, a printmaker who has exhibited at the Seattle and Portland art museums and in galleries across the country. “I was terribly frightened about how I was going to be treated, because everything seemed so completely out of proportion with my activity,” she said.

…”She had been shooting photographs in Snohomish that she planned to incorporate into her etchings. “They have those beautiful high-voltage power lines and support structures that look really figurative, as if they’re marching across the landscape,” she said.””..

She took 17 pictures from publicly accessible spots outside the security fence, including city streets, the suit says. There were no signs warning against taking photos, Scheier said.

..”They asked her to exit the car, searched and handcuffed her, put her in a patrol car and started asking strange questions, such as whether she had children, Scheier said.The Snohomish officers said she would be contacted by Homeland Security, which never happened, Scheier said.”..see here.

For illustration, the following pictures is a good example of an electrical infrastructure,


To get a visual ‘idea’ of artist Shirley Scheier’s artwork see the picture,


For more pictures look here.

In Bangkok, Thomas Kalak ‘s taking urban pictures of electrical wires is an act of Art published by “Polar Inertia“, (and until now he has not been arrested).


See more pictures here.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to transform the above picture in the spirit of Lebbeus Wood.


For the legal side of this storie look at this article:

Misinformation about your photography rights continues to spread. …”The most notable was the story of Neftaly Cruz, a senior at Penn State who on July 19 was not only harassed but taken into custody by Philadelphia police for obstructing an investigation. How did he do this? By taking pictures of the cops while standing on a public street.”…..”‘Last week I received a note from a reader: “Today I was stopped by a security guard with the North County Transit District in Solana Beach, California, and prevented from taking photos of a great new train station they have,” he wrote. “The guard said they don’t allow it since 9/11.” ”  more here.


UPDATE. A casual list of photographers,  police and arrests.

This Was Today? (100)
View Maarten Dors’ mapTaken in (See more photos here)23.09.2007
Today should be a happy day, number 100 in my 365 days set. But it all turned out so different. Flickr decided out of the blue that smoking children can’t be photographed. Of course Flickr can show hardcore porn, violence and poverty …. but smoking, ofcourse not!  see here.
Chicago Police Arrest Photographer at Community Unity Rally Against Police Brutality and Misconduct
On August 6th 2007, 18-year-old Aaron Harrison was enjoying a summer night hanging out in front of the corner store at Roosevelt and Francisco on the West Side of Chicago when the police rolled up. A few minutes later, Aaron was dead, fatally shot in the back by the Chicago police, who claimed he pointed a gun at them. Witnesses insisted that Aaron didn’t have a gun, and multiple witnesses reported seeing police take a bag out of the trunk of a police car and plant a gun near Aaron’s body. Read more about the killing here and here and here. Community outrage over his killing, and that of several other police killings in recent weeks by the Chicago police, reached a boiling point. Many people from the community took to the streets, held rallies, and a group of about 100 people led by Fred Hampton Jr., son of the Black Panther leader murdered by the Chicago police (with assistance from the F.B.I.) in 1969, shut down a Police Board meeting on August 16th. A community unity rally and picnic against police brutality and misconduct took place in Douglas Park today (September 3rd 2007, see here.

Police Seize Cameras, Arrest Photographers and Solicit Information on Other Media at Anti-War Protest
Fairport, NY – Police arrested three anti-war demonstrators for allegedly trespassing at the privately-owned district office of Congressman Randy Kuhl (R – NY), apparently on the orders of Welker Property Management, the landlords. Two of the three arrested were carrying signs related to “9/11 Truth,” including Wendy Painting, one of those arrested, who is a member of “Rochester 9/11 Truth” and an Indymedia reporter.
Painting says all of those arrested were press members. She says that police confiscated her camera and later used its conditional return as incentive to provide information about other cameramen at the event.”I was told that if I identified the other people taking pictures, I would be allowed to keep my camera.”, see here.

False arrest claims photographer plans to sue police, see here.

Sheriffs unconstitutionally arrest KGO anchor/photographer
by KTVU/KGO Thursday Jul 12th, 2007 8:45 AM ,  see video of arrest

“Photography is not a crime; It’s a First Amendment right”
A blog on photographers and police arrests, see here.

City Proposes Limits on Public Photography, Filming (NY city)
The Mayor’s Office of Theater, Film, and Broadcasting, which coordinates film and television production and issues permits around the five boroughs, is considering rules that could potentially severely restrict the ability of even amateur photographers and filmmakers to operate in New York City, see here.

Artists Call on NYers to Send Mayor A Vision of His Crazy New Restrictions on Street Photography
A new group of artists and photographers, Picture New York, has formed to oppose these new insane photography rules created by Bloomberg’s office that would basically criminalize using a cameras and video equipment – of course at the NYPD’s discretion. And they want YOU to send the mayor your images and videos of how insane these rules are! There is also an online petition. You can already see some videos on the site. The rest of this is a press release from the group, it says it all as well as I could. Oh, except one part – where is Chrissy Quinn, The People’s Heroine(TM)? -Will, see here.