A Web of Trouble

Today’s Post by Jack Neubart

Jack Neubart is a noted writer/photographer and an old old friend. In today’s post, he tells about the problems photographers face in the post-9/11 world even when photographing something as simple as a spider web.

En route to a forest preserve in an Illinois suburb, I stopped to photograph a spider web that caught my eye. The web was attached to the railing on an overpass stretching across a stream. A short distance beyond lay railroad tracks and a trestle, and further beyond that the forest preserve.

spiderSuddenly I sensed a presence hovering at my left. I looked up, and there was a policeman. He asked what I was doing. “Photographing a spider web,” I replied. Why? he asked. “I’m a photographer, that’s what I do,” I replied. Then he proceeded to ask for my ID. Now, mind you, I was not in violation of any local ordinances. But that did not stop him from hassling me.

I pulled out my wallet and gave him my Passport Card. What’s this? he asked. “A passport card,” I said. Never heard of it, he remarked. “It’s like a passport, but it’s a card,” I explained. Do you have a driver’s license or state ID? No, I replied. (I don’t drive, as some of you know. And I never bothered with a State ID, since I had the passport card. (Lesson learned there.) He asked where I was from and where I was headed. I told him, Skokie and headed for the preserve. So he calls in to the station with my information.

As we’re waiting for them to check with Interpol about any outstanding warrants, we engage in light conversation. He asks if I work for National Geographic. Why does everyone assume that if you’re a photographer, you work for National Geo. I guess I didn’t look the part of someone who might work for Playboy. I told him I work for Shutterbug magazine. Never heard of it, he commented. So, we continued chatting till the all clear comes in from the station. We chatted a bit more, then we each went on our way.

As a young Asian man who was waiting for the bus with me at the end of the day, on my way home, said when I told him this story, Good thing you weren’t black. How true, sad to say. Whatever happened to our inalienable rights as American citizens in the pursuit of life and liberty to go about unhampered! And as photographers to practice our craft and trade?

Author: Joe Farace

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