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insurance regs to the rescue



Once again, I've been busted for entering and carrying a camera around "private" property. The question that I am asked most frequently: "Who are you with?" I find it increasingly difficult to not look around me, throw up my hands, and give my questioner a look of incomprehension, wondering if their senses are fully functional. Instead, I answer in the manner I know is expected. My response might not be what they expect, since I am always alone. This curious assumption, that an individual with a camera could not possibly be simply an individual with a camera, leaves me wondering. What are the expectations for picture taking? Does it (the picture taking) always have some ulterior profit seeking motivation involved?

The next question tends to be, "What are you doing?" An explanation of the aesthetics of New Topographics and its relationship to the ManMadeWilderness in twenty-five words or less is not what they are looking for. Nor would they expect me to ask what they are doing to the land we are standing on. Even the slightest objection to their authority is not usually necessary to hear the rationale for exclusion, the inevitable "If/when you fall down and break your head open, you're going to sue for damages."

It is interesting that the camera - the cause for the exploration of the private property - is not a contested item.  It is mere bodily presence that constitutes offence. Land owners don't object to photographs of whatever they are doing to the land. They are concerned that trespassers will injure themselves and come after them (the owners) for damages. We have become a nation of litigious land owners looking out for our individual rights to exploit that land however we desire. The guy who got there first(?) or has the biggest pile of cash gets to control access. We've reached the point that there are no common areas, other than park lands owned by the State, and small tracts along roadways and around water features that are owned jointly by neighborhood associations, all courtesy of our common law heritage of land tenureship.


Reader Comments (2)

It's tough to explain New Topographics to many people that ARE interested in photography. Probably best to keep it simple and just say you're an artist. That's a bite sized idea more people can understand. Insurance can be helpful for negotiating location access - the liability issue is one of the most common reasons for people saying no. A $2 million liability policy that includes coverage for your gear and computer is about $550 per year.

January 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoe

The liability issue is of course the prime one whenever entering private property. What fascinates me is how we have come to be a nation of land ownership in which there is no land, in a country with 3.79 million square miles, that is not owned either by individuals, companies, or the government. Prior to the arrival of Europeans there was no private ownership of land.

I have a hard time self applying the term "artist." But you're probably right, that "developers" are most likely to get that term in the mildly confrontational climate in which I find myself during these encounters.

January 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterKMW

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