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Photographer Arrested for Taking Pictures of Kids with Santa

kid-with-santaAn award-winning freelance photographer is facing charges for taking pictures in a mall this weekend. The problem? Some of his pictures captured children in them.

Scott Rensberger says he was in Charleston for a photography gig over the weekend, and he’d gone to the mall to do a little Christmas shopping. He’d snapped a few photos of the mall’s holiday choir and Santa set up when he told MyFox he was approached by a dad perturbed his kids were in the photo.

So Rensberger deleted the photos and showed the parents what images remained on his camera. It was a wide shot of the scene, he said, and he hadn’t even registered that there were a few kids in there. But cops approached him anyway, challenging his right to take photos of children. Rensberger decided to take photos of the officers – which he’s legally allowed to do – but when an officer knocked at his arm, Rensberger says he made a grab to make sure the camera didn’t hit the floor that ended up being interpreted as a slap on the officer.

So the cops took him in for assaulting an officer and resisting arrest.

And this all started because someone freaked that a kid happened to have been caught in someone’s photograph. Sorry, parents, but unless you want to lock your kids in your house for the rest of their lives (not advisable), they’re going to be caught on camera. Someone’s camera.

The New York Post once tried to estimate how often a New Yorker is caught on camera simply for walking down the street – and found it was dozens of time within one day between public and private entities. Go to Disney World with your kid, and chances are they’ll be in the background of hundreds of photos.

Being in public means allowing someone to see your kid – even a creep. And freedom of the press even allows for that kid’s photograph to be taken anywhere in a public setting. In this particular case, Rensberger was not acting as a journalist, but the mall’s failure to post a notice prohibiting photography of children by non-family members will likely stand up in court as protection of his right as a citizen to use a camera in a public place. The mall has the right to deny photography as a private enterprise, but it’s also responsibly for notifying people of that rule.

As a parent, it’s up to you to be aware of the rules and where a child’s photo can be taken. Based on the mall’s rules, the parents had a right to ask for the photo to be deleted. Even without the rules, parents can ask – although they can’t require. It’s up to a photographer to make that decision.

A piece of advice – do it nicely, and we’ll probably say yes.  As a photojournalist,I have deleted a photo simply because a parent asked me to – provided it wasn’t necessary for my story and provided the parent wasn’t trying to be a jerk. It’s called being human. Likewise I don’t go chasing down celebrity kids that I see to take their pictures to sell them to TMZ. It’s called being a parent – no matter how often I see Matilda Ledger, I know what it’s like to be the mother of a four-year-old, and I wouldn’t want mine hounded by paparazzi either.

Treat a photographer like a human, and you might find out they are one.

Image:jencu via flickr

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