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Thread: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

  1. #1

    Default [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Hi all,

    I have a question regarding the rights to shoot at urban buildings (ie. shopping malls, condos, etc).

    I had a look thru the newbie articles, in particular this one:
    http://www.clubsnap.com/forums/artic...hy-public.html

    So, while its pretty clear that there are no specific laws against photography in public, the specific question i have in mind is:

    Do building managements (security guards & such) have legal basis to prevent photographers from shooting their property whilst standing in public spaces (ie. public road, pavement sidewalk, etc)

    If we were inside their property, trying to photograph their interiors, then logically they would have every legal right to deny us from shooting.

    Let me list a few of the experiences I've had so far, to illustrate:

    1) Joo Chiat: I was doing a short urban walkabout shoot, shooting mainly the unique heritage shophouses there. And there was this security guard from Joo Chiat complex who practically shadowed me all the way as I walking & shooting the shophouses from the public pavement sidewalk. When I turned around to snap a shot of Joo Chiat complex, he came rushing up to me, saying I cannot take pictures.

    2) Maju Mall @ Serangoon Gardens: I happened to visit Serangoon Gardens once, and was quite amazed at the transformation. In particular the new Maju Mall which replaced the older building I remembered. The architecture was rather stunning with the green concept & all, so I whipped out my compact (not even my dslr) & took a series of shots from the public roadside. Once again ... the resident security guard came rushing up, saying the building management does not allow photos of the building to be taken ... I was shocked .... considering that IF I were any of the residents living in the nearby landed houses there, would it be ILLEGAL for me to say open my bedroom window on a nice sunny day, whip out my iphone and take a picture of the neighbourhood that has Maju Mall in it!!??

    3) Un-named Condo ### : Walking along this anonymous public sidewalk next to a public road, I happened to be intrigued by the architecture. This time, I used my iPHONE to take some random shots. And once again ... the ever-vigilant member of the security guard species came rushing out of his 'cell' (the dirty little guardhouse), to warn me not to take pictures ... this time with a verbal threat to call the police ...

    I'm rather disturbed by these incidents, as these were all non-government or military installations.
    I'm really curious as to the extent of the building managments' legal rights ... considering that I was on public area the whole time.

    I would like to garner some comments/opinions from forum members regarding this issue (preferably with legal references).

    Thank you for viewing.
    Last edited by KoSS82; 29th July 2012 at 10:30 AM.

  2. #2

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    just ask him to try to stop you. that will clearly test the boundaries. just kidding!

    as long as you are in public space, there shouldn't be anything to stop you other than public ordinance against photography. besides, the jurisdiction of security guards only covers the property they are guarding.

    "management don't allow". you should agree wholeheartedly with the security guard on this (as it is his job and ricebowl). but then, management is not managing the road outside. so tell him that also. eg "Sir, I know you doing your job, management has expectations, but I am not on the property the management is managing. Sorry." (here you may "apologize" if you are a nice person, being security guard is not easy job too)

    One of the most ridiculous signs where " no photography is allowed " is Cantonment Police Station where this sign is prominently displayed in front of the entrance ...the entrance of Outram Park MRT station! alamak. how to be tourist?
    宁愿遇见丢失幼崽的母熊,也不愿碰上做蠢事的愚人

  3. #3

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Thank you for replying, Shizuma.

    Well, I have to say that, in all the 3 cases I stated, I gave full benefit of doubt to the security guards, and just stopped shooting & walked away.
    I didn't have any legal knowledge to back up myself and I was definitely diplomatic .... even to the point of being apologetic about the incident.

    Its not so much about trying to make life difficult for security guards or building management.
    But I just felt that they were overstepping their boundaries.
    I would respect any person's job responsibilities if he/she were doing correctly ...
    But I felt that these security guards are being "GEI GAO" (aka ... bored in their 'cell' ... nothing better to do, and try to *funny*, or impose their misplaced authority upon others as a measure of temporary self-satisfaction to compensate for whatever frustrations they have in their life...). <---- sorry for OT rant

    As a matter of fact, I was told off in a very rude manner in these cases ...
    And to be threatened by calling in the police is just plain ridiculous ...

    That's why I posted this topic here, because I want to know the legal truth of the matter ... not the mis-informed opinions of the building managements ....
    Last edited by KoSS82; 28th July 2012 at 01:34 PM.

  4. #4

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    erm.... this is discussed at least once or twice a year in CS...



    you can go dig up the old threads


  5. #5

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    The rules are well documented, as you've said. I would like to point out that some walkways in front of shopping centres are not public land. The boundaries vary (I learned this on a project involving the SLA some years ago). But if you're sure you were on public land, go ahead and shoot. Depending on how much time I have, I would invite the security guard to call the police if he believes I am breaking the law. If they are overstepping their boundaries, I see no reason to give them any consideration.
    Keep in mind the average security guard knows little about the law. If it takes a uniformed cop to tell him he can't stop you shooting, so be it.

    I also think that they sometimes get overzealous about interpreting the instructions they get from building management, which generally tends to be little more intelligent, as a whole. So perhaps "We don't allow photography on the premises" could become "We don't allow photography OF the premises".

    If you wanna save some hassle, I've found dressing like a tourist helps!

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    Member Obelix's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Being in the security industry, I wish to add some comments to this issue.

    Building management are now more conscious on "outsiders" taking pictures on their building. Ever since the crackdown of terrorists caught with photos of building in their possession - pointing to the intention of terrorism act, they are just taking precautionary steps to be extra suspicious of people snapping away on different angles of the building. If I could remember the SPF has also send advisory some time ago to building management and security agencies to keep a look out on these activities.

    Of course there are no laws mentioning the prohibition of taking photos of the building. But being a consencious country, I feel that building management and security agencies have vested interested in not allowing such activities to happen in their area.

    I hope all bros/sis understand the rationale behind this and don't fault the security officers, who are merely acting on instructions.

    Peace!

  7. #7

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by Obelix View Post
    Being in the security industry, I wish to add some comments to this issue.

    Building management are now more conscious on "outsiders" taking pictures on their building. Ever since the crackdown of terrorists caught with photos of building in their possession - pointing to the intention of terrorism act, they are just taking precautionary steps to be extra suspicious of people snapping away on different angles of the building. If I could remember the SPF has also send advisory some time ago to building management and security agencies to keep a look out on these activities.

    Of course there are no laws mentioning the prohibition of taking photos of the building. But being a consencious country, I feel that building management and security agencies have vested interested in not allowing such activities to happen in their area.

    I hope all bros/sis understand the rationale behind this and don't fault the security officers, who are merely acting on instructions.

    Peace!
    And we are just following our entitlement and the Singapore Law too.

    Cheers!

  8. #8
    Senior Member edutilos-'s Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Security guards only have judistriction in the private property they are assigned to. They have no right to stop anyone from shooting the private property from outside (public space). That said, a lot of security guards will overstep their boundaries and are just trying to do their jobs. For example, if a lot of photographers are shooting a condominium and the residents complain to management then naturally the security guard will try their best to stop people whether or not they have judistriction or not.

    I would tell them politely that they have no right to stop me from shooting and are welcome to call the police, especially if I am not doing anything wrong or if the building I am shooting is obviously nothing sensitive. If they are persistent then I will suggest politely that they give me their name and I will write to the management to highlight that they should stop their security guards from harassing members of the public and overstepping their boundaries. The key word here is polite.

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    Moderator Octarine's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by Obelix View Post
    But being a consencious country, I feel that building management and security agencies have vested interested in not allowing such activities to happen in their area.
    I hope all bros/sis understand the rationale behind this and don't fault the security officers, who are merely acting on instructions.
    As long as these so-called 'vested interests' are not put into any laws .. No, I'm not sorry. Anticipatory obedience was maybe fashionable some years back ..
    EOS

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    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by Obelix View Post
    Being in the security industry, I wish to add some comments to this issue.

    Building management are now more conscious on "outsiders" taking pictures on their building. Ever since the crackdown of terrorists caught with photos of building in their possession - pointing to the intention of terrorism act, they are just taking precautionary steps to be extra suspicious of people snapping away on different angles of the building. If I could remember the SPF has also send advisory some time ago to building management and security agencies to keep a look out on these activities.

    Of course there are no laws mentioning the prohibition of taking photos of the building. But being a consencious country, I feel that building management and security agencies have vested interested in not allowing such activities to happen in their area.

    I hope all bros/sis understand the rationale behind this and don't fault the security officers, who are merely acting on instructions.

    Peace!
    These concerns are quite frankly ill-informed and misguided.

    If someone with malicious intentions were prowling around the property, you think he/she will be spotted that easily? Is common sense a thing of the past?
    Last edited by Kit; 29th July 2012 at 09:10 AM.

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    Senior Member Kit's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Photographers Versus Security Guards in Washington, DC | NowPublic News Coverage

    This writer echoes the same thing I read some time back. Photos of buildings actually serve little purpose for someone planning a security breach.

  12. #12

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Thank you all for your comments & insights.

    One of the consistent points I've noticed from your comments is politeness in dealing with security.
    As mentioned earlier, I've been nothing but polite in all these encounters.
    But somehow, it doesnt makes any sense to be polite to those who were impolite.
    As gathered from comments so far, its clearly NOT WITHIN their rights to stop someone else from photographing their buildings from public spaces.
    So a security guard that attempts to deny is:
    1) Sorely Misinformed (their fault)
    or
    2) Bluffing & using Scare Tactics, tantamount to threats & public harassment, knowing well that they have no legal jurisdiction (definitely their fault)
    plus extra demerit points if they were just plain rude about it...

    They could have been more polite about voicing their legally-unjustified concerns.
    Something along the lines of "Sir, I cannot stop you from shooting our building, but my management is quite concerned about ....... blah, blah, etc"
    Then I being the nice guy I usually am, would reply "Ahhh I see .. I understand ... Sorry ah uncle ... I just take a few more photos, then I will go."
    Rather than threatening to call in the police.
    Makes me feel like replying with "Call police lah ... I wait here. Otherwise shut up, "ziam ji pi", or crawl back to your pathetic dirty 'cell' to read newspaper or looking at your swimsuit calendars."

    Edwin mentioned a good point about the extent of their private property, that some parts of the walkways might actually be private.
    Just to be sure, the next time I shoot, I'll be sure to shoot from the OPPOSITE side of the public road, hahaha.
    Then challenge the resident security guard to cross the road (risk getting banged by cars, lol) to try and stop me.
    And I dont see the point in pretending to be a tourist to take pictures of buildings. What gives a tourist any more rights than a citizen, to shoot a building?
    If I do it, I'll do it in my tshirt, short pants, flip-flops like every other law-abiding, tax-paying Singaporean citizen.

    For a security guard, the definition of "doing their job" is doing what they're paid to do within their area of jurisdiction.
    Overstepping their boundaries to bother/threaten members of the public CANNOT be considered as just "doing their job" (nevermind whatever vested interests they or their building managements might have)
    Whatever "precautionary steps" they want to take, must have legal basis.
    Else its just plain 'stick-waving', like a bully.
    And I sure as hell, would not give face to a bully ...
    Last edited by KoSS82; 29th July 2012 at 10:40 AM.

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    Moderator Octarine's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by KoSS82 View Post
    They could have been more polite about voicing their legally-unjustified concerns.
    Something along the lines of "Sir, I cannot stop you from shooting our building, but my management is quite concerned about ....... blah, blah, etc"
    Something like this needs education on the factual level as well skills on the social level. While the former one can be acquired the latter one usually needs some form of talent plus some training. Now let's have a look at the pathetic salaries whch are locally paid to security guards and it becomes obvious why we only see ill-informed guards 'only doing their jobs' - which sadly often means: 'boss said so, I do so..'
    EOS

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    This has been a recurring topic on clubsnap every once a while, and I suspect it will keep on appearing. Singapore is crowded and it's mostly buildings here. And sooner or later we all encounter such instances which prompts new members to raise the question.

    It's all assumed that it is illegal cause we do not know our law very well. Many people scare people to do things using the law when nothing in the law actually give them the power to do so. Like many pointed, there are no restrictions taking non sensitive buildings. However, I no longer have the urge to take such photos in Singapore nowadays. Why bother?
    "Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real" -Ansel Adams

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    Senior Member edutilos-'s Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by blive View Post

    It's all assumed that it is illegal cause we do not know our law very well. Many people scare people to do things using the law when nothing in the law actually give them the power to do so. Like many pointed, there are no restrictions taking non sensitive buildings. However, I no longer have the urge to take such photos in Singapore nowadays. Why bother?
    It doesn't just happen in Singapore. Everywhere...

    I also had a stand-off with a security guard in La Defense, Paris. I argued with him for a while, showing him a number of pictures taken of the building I was shooting and even pointed out that many other people (except me) were shooting the building and he seemed to only target me. His response was "no speak English" and folding his arms and standing in front of my camera and putting a hand to cover the lens when I tried to shoot (it was pointed upwards). He seemed to understand me perfectly fine when I warned him that he would have to pay if my tripod toppled because of his actions and my camera was spoilt.

    In the end, I walked off, looked at him walk around the foyer of the building, talk to a colleague pointing to my direction... And when he was gone/lost interest, I walked back up and took the shot (30 seconds of exposure no less).

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    Quote Originally Posted by edutilos-

    It doesn't just happen in Singapore. Everywhere...

    I also had a stand-off with a security guard in La Defense, Paris. I argued with him for a while, showing him a number of pictures taken of the building I was shooting and even pointed out that many other people (except me) were shooting the building and he seemed to only target me. His response was "no speak English" and folding his arms and standing in front of my camera and putting a hand to cover the lens when I tried to shoot (it was pointed upwards). He seemed to understand me perfectly fine when I warned him that he would have to pay if my tripod toppled because of his actions and my camera was spoilt.

    In the end, I walked off, looked at him walk around the foyer of the building, talk to a colleague pointing to my direction... And when he was gone/lost interest, I walked back up and took the shot (30 seconds of exposure no less).
    Yes, can happen anywhere. Was in Paris once too and tried to take a photo of a skilled tradesman putting on poster. We liked what he was doing but he took offence instead.

    I don't have urge to take photo un Singapore not because I can't take photos of buildings here....
    "Photography is an austere and blazing poetry of the real" -Ansel Adams

  17. #17

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by edutilos- View Post
    I also had a stand-off with a security guard in La Defense, Paris. I argued with him for a while, showing him a number of pictures taken of the building I was shooting and even pointed out that many other people (except me) were shooting the building and he seemed to only target me. His response was "no speak English" and folding his arms and standing in front of my camera and putting a hand to cover the lens when I tried to shoot (it was pointed upwards). He seemed to understand me perfectly fine when I warned him that he would have to pay if my tripod toppled because of his actions and my camera was spoilt.
    An interesting experience ... which reinforces the not-so-positive impressions I have of security guards so far .... (which should be fairly evident from the language I've used in regards to them ...)

    Quite frankly to me, this french security guard was a JACK-A** .... plain & simple ... racist/xenophobic (maybe) .... bored (probably ... like most of their kind), & decided to pick on someone just for amusement (refer to my 2nd post).

    Which brings me to another experience I had at Asian Civilisations Museum near Boat Quay once.
    I was doing a portrait shoot with a group of friends there, and this security guard simply walked in, some distance behind the model.
    He had no regard/ill-feeling whatsoever about clearly being in our frames.
    Initially we thought he might be intrigued by the whole experience of seeing a beautiful foreign model posing on the facade wall, and was just spectating (or ogling if you will).
    We expected that once he was satisfied with his perving, he would walk over to tell us the "No photography on premises" line. (and yes admitedly, we were indeed ON the premises, private property of whoever owns Asian Civilisations Museum, not public space)
    But minutes passed, and he was still standing there smoking & leaning lazily against the wall behind.
    Then I got annoyed, walked over & said nicely "Hi uncle, do you mind standing somewhere else? You're in our photos."
    The bugger din't even reply ... simply gestured at us instead to move off ....

    And we did ... switch to another position ... under a small sheltered porch nearby ... where the same security guard din't even bother to walk over to chase us off (assuming that we were in the wrong to shoot on the premises even ...)
    So basically ... that security guard was enjoying being exactly what he is ... a JACK-A** ... bored ... lame & trying to be *funny* ... utterly pathetic ...

    No amount of excuses like legally-ignorant, low pathetic pay, or "just following management's instructions" can excuse annoying attitude & obstructive behaviour ...
    A security guard, acting like a JACK-A**, is a JACK-A**
    And JACK-A**-es should be treated like JACK-A**-es (be polite, diplomatic?? why??)
    1)told off
    2)put down
    3)threatened back in return, by calling in the police to illuminate him/her on the right of the law

    Excuse my increasingly biased, insulting, negative tone towards security guards ... but I do have a piece of leveled-headed tagline to make.

    Never kowtow to private building security if they try to stop you from taking photos from public spaces.
    Challenge them to produce legal proof.
    If you're a citizen shooting in your own country, no reason why you should let a lame security guard stop you.
    If you're a tourist shooting in a foreign country, then you sure as hell din't spent all that travel money & time just to be stopped by a JACK-A** security guard, from shooting a world-famous building like the Lourve (example) after you flew halfway around the world to see it.

    Heck ... If that ever happened to me ... I'll make it a personal point to take down the name of that obnoxious security guard, go straight up to the reception desk of the Lourve, lodge an official complaint, highlighting that this security guard is overstepping his boundaries, harassing tourists, hampering the tourism industry in Paris, and should be sacked ...
    Last edited by KoSS82; 31st July 2012 at 01:26 AM.

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    Member daren81's Avatar
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    My experience was at somerset, where it just opened, and there was a snoopy resturant where my gf find it cute so i took my dslr and im not in the building. The security came to me and want me that no photography is allowed. Heh i asked him, which article of human right did i breach? He went speechless. Then i told him you are in breach of article 4! he got panicked when i ask him to call the police. afterall im a public in a public space. He just walk off with crappy look. So i just continue. And by the way i am taking photography of my gf and snoopy as background. after that seldom go there le.

  19. #19

    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    Quote Originally Posted by blive View Post
    Yes, can happen anywhere. Was in Paris once too and tried to take a photo of a skilled tradesman putting on poster. We liked what he was doing but he took offence instead.

    I don't have urge to take photo un Singapore not because I can't take photos of buildings here....
    since I am not able to speak French, I would make gestures of my ardent admiration of his work, maybe he will feel flattered and even pose for me...being friendly helps [but the French are notorious for speaking only French even if the person you are speaking with can speak 3 other languages excluding the one you are speaking to him/her in]

    I think sometimes if requesting a security guard to move off does not work it is always easier to change angle. Water is flexible and takes the easiest path... I cannot imagine the security guard purposely hopping into every one of your frame...
    宁愿遇见丢失幼崽的母熊,也不愿碰上做蠢事的愚人

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    Member xllms's Avatar
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    Default Re: [Urban/Architecture] Rights to shoot buildings from public space

    What I normally do in Singapore is that I always challenge them that I am out of the development boundary (I will roughly know since I am in this industry), and tell them politely that they have no rights to stop me from taking any pictures so long I am not in within their property. If they do anything to threaten/harm or damage my personal belongings, including my camera, I have every right to file a police report against them. You can try something cheeky by smiling and taking the pictures of the security personnels. This will always make them feel uncomfortable. But do be wary that they may turn nasty to you. So it is most important that you remain light-hearted and always smile and make sure you are out of the development boundary.

    This is all I know, perhaps someone with more legal knowledge can enlighten us further.
    Canon EOS 50 -> Panasonic LX2 -> Panasonic LX3, Canon S90, Olympus E-P2 + EVF2 + Panasonic 14-140

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