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Tuesday, 31 March 2015


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Unfortunately, dimmer wits are prevailing on bigger legislation in Arkansas.

Not just a question of common sense, but a massive win for freedom of expression.

Hmm. Interesting discussion and it raises some quite interesting issues. As an English barrister and photographer I have always assumed that the common law (at least as comparable in the US and the UK (although I do not fully understand the subtle distinctions between Federal and State Law as regards common law)) was firmly on the basis that if you appear in public you run the risk of being photographed and thus cannot complain unless of course the use of that photograph is somehow defamatory or involves some other tort such as passing off. See the Philip lorca dicorcia case. So the Arkansas proposal seems hugely inappropriate and very worrying.

However I was reading a large book on Diane Arbus the other day - Revelations - in which it was stated that when John Szarkowski organised the seminal "New Documents" exhibition (Arbus, Winogrand and Freidlander) in 1967 he insisted that Arbus went off and got model release forms from everyone who appeared in her photographs. So she got on her bike and whizzed round Manhattan doing so. Fantastic image.

But what is the legal position over the famous photographs of the kid with the toy hand grenade (Arbus) or the couple with the chimpanzee (Winogrand)? Although both made in public spaces (and I remember the kid has been located and given interviews) were release forms necessary?

The Arkansas proposed legislation was clearly misconceived but in a highly litigious 21st Century is there a clear legal position?

Common sense and cool heads prevailed. Too often these days folks react and fuel the fire rather than try to get it under control.

Thankfully someone listened with reason to reasonable people making a reasonable argument. This made me wonder if it was against the law to photograph anything in public from a public location in these United States. I was about to tell myself no when I remembered reading somewhere that it is against the law in New York City to photograph any bridge. An offshoot, I'm sure, of the panic after 9/11. Even around Washington DC I recall someone saying you couldn't film anything with a camera mounted on a tripod. To much like a gun taking aim, I guess. In the words of the that great? American, Rodney King, "Can't we all just get along?"

I saw the headline and thought the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was vetoed. Well, one down, one to go.

It's still sad that it required an uproar to make the governor see what was wrong with the legislation. Aren't laws reviewed by legal staff before being passed?

Common sense prevailed? No!

This wasn't rejected because it was a bad, unjust, or unworkable law, it was rejected because it attracted negative attention.

These cretins will try again.

Only for the moment. The Arkansas Governor is still debating if he'll sign the Pink Crow bill like Indiana's into law. SMH.

Just a note that today Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson has asked the Arkansas state legislature to repeal the recently passed "religious freedom" bill due to the amount of flak that the state is receiving, very similar to the debacle that the Indiana religious freedom bill created when passed and signed by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week.

That so-called law would not have held up in court to even the most superficial challenge, (state law cannot override federal law) so really, much ado about nothing.

Well, it's over, I hope. The privacy law, which would have potentially affected photographers everywhere, at least those whose work could be viewed in Arkansas, was vetoed, and an attempt to override the veto was unsuccessful. Thanks to all those who wrote and e-mailed, and thus limited my elected representatives' efforts to protect us all. I should note that this whole debacle originated because of a concern about the privacy of a single family, albeit one with considerable notoriety in the state.

The Governor also did the right thing with the bill which would have restored Jim Crow to Arkansas [check online for a Charles Mingus composition, "Fables of Faubus"], and vetoed it, as well. As it happens I was mistaken in that he had already decided to allow it to become law without his signature. With considerable political pressure, he encouraged the legislature to rethink this. I suspect it was a decision based on economics and in response to the events in Indiana.

"letters from photographers". Whoa! Photographers can write? That doesn't sound right.

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