St Vincent’s photographs policy seems out of proportion

By Calvin Palmer

For the past 10 days I have been part of Blipfoto.com, a Web site that allows the posting of a single photograph on the day it was taken. From my point of view, it has proved to be a good way of getting out of the house by giving me a purpose – to take photographs.

Yesterday, I wandered along King Street, in the Riverside district of Jacksonville, and followed it to where it joins with St Johns Avenue and then continues on into the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital. I have never been sure whether the road is an actual continuation of King Street — although Google Maps suggest that it is — or private property but the public is granted access.

The road leads to the St Johns River, where a paved walkway affords a splendid view across the river. I took the shot below yesterday and it was my  January 18 picture on Blipfoto.

St Johns River, Jacksonville, Florida. ©Calvin Palmer 2010. All Rights Reserved.

I also photographed a religious statue by one of the hospital buildings but was not very happy with result. I decided to go back today and try again. I had just finished taking a shot when I heard what sounded like a skateboard behind me. Glancing round, I saw that it was one of those electric carts and did not give it a second thought.

Moments later the cart pulled alongside and the man at the wheel shouted across to me. I stopped and he got out of the cart.

“I am Calvin Daniels with security,” he said. “What’s your name?”

I inwardly smiled because I have never before in my life come face to face with someone else called Calvin.

“Calvin Palmer,” I replied.

“Why are you taking photographs? The company doesn’t allow photographs being taken on campus without permission.”

I thought the choice of “campus” and odd description for hospital grounds but I am in America.

I explained all about  Blipfoto and what it entailed, assuring him that the photographs were not for commercial gain.

“Well you can’t take photographs without permission,” he said. “Even the newspaper photographers have to get permission to take photographs.”

I told him that taking photographs was a way for me to get out of the house and since I didn’t have a job or the prospect of employment — only having British qualifications and being over 50 — it was a way of giving me something to do.

The security man seemed a little embarrassed by my explanation. Once I had satisfied him that I did not intend to take any more photographs, and I was clear that permission was needed to take photographs in the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital, he let me carry on.

Statue at St Vincent's Hospital. ©Calvin Palmer 2010. All Rights Reserved.

It was all very polite and amicable, but kind of killed my enthusiasm for taking any more photographs.

It also got me to thinking whether this incident was another example of the paranoia that is gripping Western countries regarding people taking photographs.

One architectural photographer in London was confronted by seven police officers when he refused to give a security guard his name and an explanation of what he was doing with a camera.

And why is permission necessary to photograph the outside a building. I can accept the need for permission to photograph inside hospital buildings but an ornamental statue?

I guess the security guard was only doing his job. It might just be easier for St Vincent’s Hospital to make everyone instantly aware of its policy with a series of  “No Photography” signs along its perimeter.

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