The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for December 23rd, 2011

forgotten hands

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

On another one of the long marches across the concrete desolations of Western Queens, it occurred to me that I should pay more attention to the steel fingers of the Great Machine than has been formerly applied. This is a problematic notion, of course, as we live in the age of terror- and taking pictures of transportation infrastructure is largely frowned upon by governmental institutions such as the NYPD for understandable and prosaic reasons.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Part of my outlandish sense of entitlement, imagined largesse, and pompous self importance demands that I do not allow such entities to inhibit my activities.

I’m happy to be questioned by the gendarme whenever they might approach me with queries as to identity and purpose. Law demands that a citizen must carry some form of identification, otherwise the police may detain you with the intention of assessing your identity (for a limited period of time), which is something I always comply with. No such law allows law enforcement to demand that you show them what you’re shooting (they need a warrant for this kind of search), explain why you’re shooting it (that’s what you tell a judge), or to delete images from your camera- or so I am told by those versed in the finer points of law.

If you are in a place which is “in public”, you can feel free to do whatever you want with your camera, within certain limitations (defined around the commercial use of likenesses and editorial implications implied thereof). If on private property, however, the owner or its representatives can ask you to vacate the locale and you must comply with their wishes or be charged with trespassing (however these private entities are similarly restricted in not forcing you to display, delete, or otherwise explain yourself to them).

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Of course, this is an ideal presentation of encounters between photographers and those who wish that the only cameras which existed were those monitoring the citizenry for criminal transgression and evidentiary collection.

Often, one will experience an encounter with a rookie cop, unusually aggressive private security guard, or criminal who does not hold to this liberal interpretation of constitutionally guaranteed free speech. Refer to the recent controversies surrounding the Occupy Wall Street protests, and the widely rebuffed handling of mainstream press photographers by the NYPD for an example of how things can go wildly wrong in the real world.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Once, whilst capturing an image of the charming St. Irene’s Church here in Astoria, an angry chorus of Greek women took it upon themselves to brand me a terrorist and chased me for several blocks- all the while hurling Hellenic invective. Many of them curled their hands into balls and stuck their thumbs out between middle and ring fingers, and one of them called me “A Bin Laden”.

That’s when I turned around and confronted the group asking “Wouldn’t a Terrorist have a car?”.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Regardless of risk and the malign attentions of both private and public security, your humble narrator is nevertheless highly motivated to capture and record the magnificent transportation infrastructure which forms the fingers of the Great Machine. I’m sure that they won’t let me take the DSLR into central booking with me, but as I’ve never been accused of anything but driving too fast on the Taconic Parkway and Pennsylvania Turnpike by law enforcement, it sure will be interesting standing in front of a judge.

And by the way, Happy Festivus.

Written by Mitch Waxman

December 23, 2011 at 12:15 am

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