Today, I went over to do something tax related at the Marvin Braude Center. After my license business was done, I walked around and snapped some photos of the beautiful Valley Municipal Building, which is spread at the top banner of this blog.

I went on the front sidewalk and snapped some images of the building. Then I saw an old, fat woman pointing at me and a Latino guard come out of the building. (Oh, no I thought. Here it goes again. The 9/11 paranoia).

“What are you doing,” the old lady asked. She didn’t even work there. The guard started to say, “Sir.” and then he was interrupted by other people. I walked away and went west down Sylvan as the old lady yelled, “He’s walking away! He is escaping!”

Two blocks away, I noticed a white Toyota sedan, driven by the same old lady, tailing me. I walked right up to her. She rolled down her window. “What are you doing?” she asked me.

“I’m a photographer. What business is it of yours?” I asked.

“There are people OUT THERE who want to harm our country!” she said.

“If you don’t stop harrassing me lady”, I said, “I will take down your license and call the police.” I stepped in back of her car and took down her plate numbers. She drove off.

Later on, just to satisfy my curiousity, I called up the LAPD Van Nuys Division and asked them if I was violating any law. “No, you are not doing anything wrong. People take photos of the White House and the outside of the Capital.”

If there is any law which prohibits photography of the exterior of government buildings when standing on the public sidewalk, let me hear about it.

9 thoughts on “Joe McCarthy in Van Nuys.

  1. I was on a walking tour with the L.A. Conservancy last year and as we walked past the US Bank building people of course began taking pictures. A security guard rushed out to remind the tour guide that were not “allowed” to take pictures. I feel like going downtown to take a pictures of the First Interstate building just to piss them off. I like the idea of a big group of people showing up to take pictures at the same time. Andrew, if you organize, I’ll attend. Perhaps after that we can begin a nationwide movement of people who bring knitting needles and finger nail clippers on airplanes. By the way, is there a law that says we have to submit to a frisking by a TSA agent?


  2. Sokrates-
    I’ve always like “Courier” font. Sort of the old-fashioned, news print style that is easy to read. It is intentional.




  3. A somewhat similar incident happened when I did a short film (as an actor) last month. We were shooting at a bus stop across the street from the main TriMet (Portland’s mass-transit authority) bus depot. A TriMet security officer approached us on foot, followed by a TriMet security truck. We learned that since 9/11, filming near a public-transit facility sets off a terrorism alert. So the director explained that we were doing a student film, etc., etc. The security officer said we didn’t look like terrorists and let us finish the scene. Ah, the joys of guerilla filmmaking.

    I noticed that the font on your blog changed, by the way. Was that intentional?


  4. I had an eerily similar incident two years ago in downtown L.A. I was parked in a metered spot outside of the Main Library on 5th Street. While my partner was gathering her books, I decided to take some pictures of the Library Tower across the street. A few minutes later, a private security guard double-parked next to our car, got out, and proceeded to write down our license plate number while looking inside of the car. When I asked what the problem was, he stated that, through the security cameras (apparently hidden) at the Library Tower, he saw me taking pictures (from across the street, mind you) and deemed the activity suspicious enough to “investigate”. I was told that this was “routine” and that “we can’t be too safe after 9/11, right?”. (Wrong!) He then went on to say that if I continued to take pictures, he would call LAPD to have them come “talk” to me. No amount of reasoning or explanations of my rights would dissuade him. At the time, I thought this was an isolated confrontation with an over zealous security officer, and let the incident go. I continue to regret that decision!!


  5. OMG! I met that lady at Van Nuys today, too. I saw you taking pictures inside, too, right?

    Ayway, I found her to be such an interesting character, I inteviewed her with Mayor Sam for Mayor Sam’s blog podcast. Hear the hilarious interview where Mayor Sam realizes he is speaking to the lady you described in your story. (He read your story, and put two and two together. Don’t worry about her. She’s a paraniod conspiracy theorist, but I don’t think you need to lose any sleep.



  6. I’ve been thinking about going over and taking some night photos of the tower sometime. It actually looks pretty neat when it is all lit up.

    I feel like I need to carry The Photographer’s Bill of Rights in my bag at all times.

    Maybe we should hold a mass photo shot at the tower? I would guess that 20-30 photographers would actually feel less intimidating that one, lone, “oh my God, they’re trying to kill us” photographer. Sheesh!



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