When I was young it was possible to go almost anywhere and take pictures. The “Cold War” was still a reality, so, I couldn’t take pictures around certain military installations, but no one ever hassled anyone for taking pictures of bridges and other famous landmarks.
I remember a Popular Photography issue that addressed the problem of photographers being hassled by law enforcement, having cameras and film confiscated for simply taking pictures of the Brooklyn Bridge and other public places.
I wrote an editorial for DSLR-MAG, an online photo magazine, at the time that PopPhoto ran their piece on the subject. In my article I mentioned that I had never been bothered when I was taking pictures, but, I was in Columbus, Ohio.
While I shoot primarily wildlife, wildflowers, and landscapes, from time to time I’ve written tourism and travel articles (have to make a living, if you know what I mean). My concern, however, was that the United States of America has always been a free country. Here, you never needed traveling papers and you never had to worry about carrying a camera in public places.
On that fateful day, September 11th, 2001, terrorists hijacked four airlines and flew them into the World Trade Center in New York City, the Pentagon, and another was heading for the White House when it went down in farmland over Pennsylvania in an act of courage by some of the men onboard. America was forever changed. Freedom was forever lost.
The Magna Carta was written in the year 1215 in the reign of King John of England. It guaranteed the rights of common man. That philosophy was embraced by the “Founding Fathers” of the United States of America when the Declaration of Independence was drafted July 2nd, 1776 (made public July 4th). It was also preserved in James Madison’s “Bill of Rights” –the first ten amendments to the new constitution of the United States some years later.
What started under the reign of King James and was further guaranteed under the US constitution was the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That includes taking pictures on any public land in America.
To this day, there are people harassed for taking pictures along highways, taking pictures of certain bridges, tunnels, national landmarks, oil refineries, power plants, and other places publicly owned or visible from public land. It doesn’t happen as frequently as it did in 2001, but, it does still happen.
Terrorists still strike fear in the hearts of men. 9/11 forever changed the world, not just America, not just New York City. On that day, we lost freedom. In that way, those nineteen terrorists robbed us of that which truly made Western civilization unique in the history of the world. We lost our liberty.
As long as a threat of terrorism still exists fear will hang over our heads. It’s up to us to push government to restore perfect liberty and, at the same time, find a way to ensure safety for all. Those beautiful bridges, monuments, and landmarks (The Space Needle in Seattle, the St. Louis Arch, the Golden Gate Bridge etc…) exist on public lands and should inspire the next generation of photographers to forever preserve them in pictures.
One day those landmarks will be gone, replaced by newer, perhaps far less picturesque works. Let us take our pictures while these places still stand. One day, whether terrorism or simply age, they will be gone.