Debate Over Street Photography Regulations in Washington DC
The question of what constitutes a street photographer is disputed among photographer’s groups and city officials in the nation’s capital
Establishing one working definition of street photography can be a nebulous pursuit. Some like Steve McCurry engage with and establish a connection with their subjects, while others like Eric Kim barely stop to acknowledge the people that they’re snapping.
But defining what legally constitutes a street photographer is the subject of much debate in Washington D.C. Under current regulations, people that “engage in the business of taking photographs of any person or persons upon the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia, for profit or gain” must hold a city license and follow the rules governing their conduct (including a rule that limits photographers to no more than 5 minutes at any one public location). Breaking these rules is an arrestable offense.
The rules appear to be aimed at photographers who solicit tourists near landmarks, reportedly amateurs shooters aren’t restricted, nor are journalists, professional photographers who take pictures of buildings or scenery, or wedding photographers taking pictures of couples on D.C. streets.
But the National Press Photographers Association is concerned that the regulations might be broadly construed to apply to journalists or others that the rules were intended to apply to, and asked for a repeal of the regulations. To which the Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said that he saw the need for clarification and pledged to “emphasize the intent of these regulations to police officers,” but that the licensing regime for commercial street photographers will stay.
The NPPA is concerned with how “street photography” will be defined, and NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher said, “Our concern is that without proper language, instructions and examples, the regulations may still be open to misinterpretation and unintended enforcement by police officers against citizens and photojournalists.” Their main request is that an exemption be written for newsgathering and documentary photography.
Via. The Washington Post