Sunday, July 20, 2008


What ever you do, don't take pictures of children in parks, even your own. There have been several cases in New York City, where parents have been stopped, scolded and warned by park employees that taking pictures of children in city parks is against the law. The reason: the photographer could be a dirty old man who's looking to molest little boys and girls.

It happened the other day in Park Slope, Brooklyn. A father wanted a few snaps of his kid frolicking in the playground. Next thing you know, A park employee asks him to stop, saying it's a violation of city rules. In the end, the employee was reprimanded because there is no such law. It's a public place and arresting, detaining or otherwise harassing photographers would be a free speech violation. Seems this non-existent rule is somewhat of an urban myth. It's very much like the urban myth that taking photographs in the New York City subway system is prohibited because of terrorism fears.

The other day, I decided to see for myself what type of reaction I'd get if I started snapping pictures in Carroll Park here in Brooklyn. Not a single park employee said a thing, but within minutes, an angry parent asked me to stop taking pictures of her kids. I have no problem with a parent making such a request and I obliged. But, her anger is rooted in the fear of pedophile perverts running amok in our fine city. These people do exist, but here's where I draw the line. If a man with a camera starts engaging children in conversation, makes an attempt to touch a child, asks the child to perform for the camera, then I have a problem. This goes behind harmless picture taking of fully clothed kids.

I remember a classic photo that appeared on the front page of Time Out magazine a few years ago. It was a typical Brooklyn street scene of kids playing in front of an open fire hydrant on a tree lined street of old Brownstones. If any city were to ban picture taking in public places, they'd have a huge lawsuit on their hands. The ACLU would have a field day. It's the job of parents to make sure their kids are safe and there's nothing wrong with asking the picture taker what he or she is doing. That's the way it should be handled..

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