“Private Security Guard threatened to stand in all of our photographs if we refused to leave”

by Prince Of Petworth October 26, 2016 at 12:45 pm 51 Comments

Photo by Cassidy DuHon DuHonPhotography.com

“Dear PoPville,

A private security guard from Union Market attempted to remove me from a public sidewalk yesterday. I was taking engagement photos of a couple who’s been coming to the market since it opened, and really loves the FOLLOW YOUR HEART mural painted on the side of the building.

Since everyone involved was obviously on public property, I refused security’s request and tried to explain that a public sidewalk is fair game. The guard said that we weren’t allowed to use ‘big cameras’ there (I use a handheld but normal professional size camera) and then actually threatened to stand in all of our photographs if we refused to leave. After things got heated and I threatened to call the police to explain public property laws to her, she called a supervisor and backed off without apology.

Multiple colleagues of mine have been harassed by security in unusual ways at Union Market, both on and simply near the property. There’s no posted photo policy that I’m aware of, and let’s just say that the White House campus photography policy is less strict than this place.”

Photo by Cassidy DuHon DuHonPhotography.com

  • anon_1

    I know EXACTLY what you’re describing. it’s even worse when there are special events as rental security acts like the place is a club. It’s all a bit much.

  • kapitolhill

    Those “security guards” are a waste of $$ and time. They usually just walk around looking at their cell phones.

    Glad you stood up to their misinformation and attempts to bully you.

    You’d think that Union Market, which relies so much on social media and photography, would realize the importance of having educated “security” guards walking around.

    • Rich

      We’re talking rent a cops. Are you expecting civil libertarians as guards? Of course they’re a waste of money, but lots of people need security fig leaves to feel “safe”.

      • kapitolhill

        Nope, but I’m expecting them to be educated on what they should enforce.

      • zeeeeee

        ‘Security guards/rent-a-cops’ have nothing to do with feeling safe. They exist to allow companies to pay lower insurance premiums.

        • LittleBluePenguin


      • Anon

        A lot of security guards in DC are actually very capable. Contracts for security guards can and should set expectations for training above basic legal standards, and cross reference more flexible post orders that establish what they can and should be doing during their tour of duty. So it could be that the guard was not good, but based on other comments, it sounds like a not uncommon issue at Union Market. If that is the case, I would guess either that this is the expectation of order maintenance by UM, or they are failing to oversee and manage their own security contract.

    • lm

      I believe at Union Market, the security guards have either cell phones or cell phone looking devices that are connected to the security system. I’ve seen them use it on several occasions to “scan” it at certain points around the perimeter. So I don’t think in this case they are just texting or something.

      • Anon Spock

        Those devices prove they did rounds.

        • Ashy Oldlady

          Yep, otherwise known as a watchman’s clock.

        • lm

          interesting… always wondered

  • Victoria

    Even if it’s private property, if something is visible from the street, it’s fair game in DC. That even applies to people’s homes (if you really want to be indignant)

    Good for you for standing your ground.

  • zeeeeee

    This is public space, but get out of my way so I can take a picture.

    • Jesus. H. Christ.

      Anybody got the time to explain this to zeeeee? I know you’re probably just being an obtuse jerk for the sake of provoking people, so I’d rather not bother trying to explain the concept of no tyranny like petty tyranny.

      • Anon

        Pretty sure zeeee just took a massive bong rip and is otherwise having trouble keeping it together right this moment. Cut them a break!

      • navyard

        I thought zeeeee’s response meant that even though the public has a right to be there, there is no right for people to require other people to move out of the way of other’s pictures. No? Then I have no idea.

        • U Streeter

          Yes, it’s the same thought I had. OP’s reasoning: it’s public property so we have a right to stand there! So, when OP called police, she was going to tell them what? To remove the other person from public property bc she was in her picture? Good luck with that. Rent a cop is a jerk on a silly power trip, but if she wants to stand on public property and it interfers with your picture…tough. (Take it up with her boss – not police)

    • Anonymous

      This is such a George Carlin’esque response. I like it.
      I so wish he was alive to comment on the twee social media-driven culture of today.

  • shaw

    GOOF FOR YOU for standing your ground here. DC is the WORST for private security who doesn’t understand the basic laws governing public space. I’d love to see a formal apology on here from the security company and from the Market representatives. I think I’ll go over there with my DSLR and take a couple photos sometime soon :)

    • anon

      It’s not just that they don’t know the laws, it’s that they’re dangerous. About a month ago, the Washington Post ran an article about private security in DC. They can legally detain and and even injure you on the private property they’re guarding. Private security is the wild west of law enforcement. Treat them with an abundance of caution.

  • From twitter:

    “Deputy Mayor Donahue ‏

    Residents can file a complaint about this kind of conduct by calling @DCPoliceDept’s Security Officers Management Branch at 202-671-0500.”

    • bruno

      This is good to know. If there were no photographers, Popville would only be half as good as it is, right?

  • Anon

    Well it is a crime against originality.
    …kidding, but I’ve seen that mural used as a backdrop soooooo many times. Guard was doing you a favor.

    • stcohi

      Ha! YES

  • 1st Amendment Guy

    If you are on public property, call the police next time.

    • U Streeter

      And tell them what? Someone else is threatening to stand in public space and it interfers with your picture? (Tough.) Someone gave you a command that you don’t think you have to follow? (Ignore it.) Not a police issue. Rent a cop is on dumb power trip, but that’s something to raise with her employer. She isn’t braking a law.

  • bruno

    I take pictures. I get versions of this from time to time. I simply politely assert my rights. If people get aggressive, you can call the police. Anyway, you have to assert your rights. It’s part of being an artist/photographer. Cameras make people edgy for reasons that defy logic, so you can try to reason with them to; for example, “What do you imagine I am doing?”

    • Hill Denizen

      I understand getting touchy if you were taking pictures of people without their permission or taking pictures solo of details of the building (might look shady), but it def defies logic that someone would be touchy about taking engagement photos in a public place. Considering how popular it sounds like this place is, UM should make these laws known to their guards so they don’t harass their customers.

      • bruno

        In the United States, you do not need permission to take pictures of anything in public. Diane Arbus said that’s one of the risks of going outdoors — someone might take your picture :^) And think of all the photos you look at each day, as a consumer, that required a photographer getting out there and working. I was taking a picture down an alley last Christmas and the homeowner came out and started hollering at me. her house was not in the picture!

        • navyard

          I used to work in NY and no one was allowed to take pictures of the windows at Tiffany’s and another Jewelry store in Trump Tower ( I guess where Ivanka Jewelry is now). Imagine the chaos when a group of Japanese tourists would come down the street. Yeah, this was back in the 80s, so they were definitely Japanese, not Chinese.

          • bruno

            Perhaps if you were “in” the Tower and thus on private property… maybe. But not sure that would work if you were on a public street aiming at a publicly exposed window. Seems unlikely.

  • palisades

    Maybe the guard was just taking a stand against the same generic engagement photos that pop up on facebook once a week.

    • SMGC

      ha you beat me

    • ExWalbridgeGuy

      I get that the wedding industry can be over the top or whatever but it’s still classless and jerky to hate on people’s engagement photos.

      • kd

        Seriously. Maybe it’s cliche to you but who cares? I’m sure you’re engagement photos were sooooo original. It makes them happy. Let them be.

  • SMGC

    maybe she was trying to prevent you from taking corny pics in front of a corny “mural” done by a fraud.

    • go on…

      • anon

        Anon is referring to the mural artist. He’s pretty heavily criticized for copying Banksy, and was featured in the documentary “Exit Through the Gift Shop”. Just check the wikipedia for Mr. Brainwash. Hope that helps!

    • Kevin

      Mr. Brainwash and Michelle Obama are frauds? Who knew?

  • I encountered a similar situation at City Center over the weekend, where a woman with a walkie talkie told me that I could not pass through a certain area because there was a “photo shoot” going on.

    • Q

      That’s not so much a similar situation as it is the opposite situation.

      • palisades


  • BrooklandBabe

    we were there (presumable same day – for the same reason, there were about 3 couples there when we went!)!
    We were only stopped once by security, for being in the back area that’s “private” (where the first All Things Go Fall Classic was, near where the events space is) and the security officer kindly told us we could take photos in front of the murals just not in the back. She was very nice about it; wonder if they had just switched shifts! It stinks that they can’t all agree on one way to handle things!

  • Anon

    They shouldn’t have been asking you to leave. But threatened to stand in your picture? Public place swings both ways. He can stand where he damn well pleases. I hope you weren’t getting insisting that people cede passage to you for your shot. If so, you were violating their rights as much as the security guard violated yours.

  • Sean

    The public/private property may not be entirely crystal clear. It’s really up to the photographer to figure out whether or not the shoot location is on a public sidewalk or on private property. Standing that close to a building, you are running some risk that you might actually be on private property. Sidewalks are not always public property. Either way, you should make sure you have adequate. If you’re on private property, you need a permit or property release for a commercial/wedding shoot. End of discussion. Even on public property, DC professional photographers know you need to figure out which of the many government agencies you might need to deal with to obtain a permit for a commercial shoot at any given location.
    If you were shooting an engagement session for hire you should know better. Also, on a related note, you should also consider the copyright implications of the use of that mural so brazenly as a derivative work in your photos.
    While non-commercial photography is generally granted broad 1st amendment protections, commercial photography (including retail/wedding photography) is different. Professional photography isn’t just about being a creative with a camera. It’s a business, and if you’re going to run a business you should understand the rules and regulations that apply to your industry.

    • Petworther

      The way this was handled is unprofessional on many accounts.

  • The Photographer

    All parties were indeed standing on a public city sidewalk, though it’s true not all sidewalks are public. No, we weren’t asking anyone to move, and it was an empty sidewalk in NE on a Monday. Even if the shoot had violated photography laws / copyright / etc. it still wouldn’t be a private security guard’s job to enforce those laws, or really any laws outside of their perimiter.

    • bruno

      The right to take a picture “at all” is what I was on about, and that “is” often under attack. Copyright comes in after you take pictures and possibly market them, but as to taking pictures, I think you are free in a public place.

  • Park Viewer

    Complain to Edens (http://edens.com/), they’re the developer that owns/runs Union Market. Tell them their hired security is harassing people that are getting pics taken in front of public art which is obviously meant to beautify/attract people to the building. Of course people will have their pic taken in front of it…

  • Union Market
  • anon

    Many local photography groups have ongoing discussions about where you need a photo permit in DC, and it seems that in DC, you do in fact need a permit in many public places if you are shooting as a professional (AKA if you’re being paid).

    So while you are dealing with the issue of being removed from public property, you may want to cover yourself with a permit as well, since I believe it is required to shoot in most public places around town.

    I can see some security service using anything they can to try and remove you, so be sure you’re adequately covered! Good luck.


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