Harassed at the TCW Group building in Los Angeles

Today, July 24th, 2008 at 3:40pm, I got harassed in Downtown Los Angeles at the TCW Group building on W 8th Pl and S Figueroa St. I got nine photos in before I got approached by Daron [last name withheld]. He told me I couldn’t take photos of the building, despite my being on the sidewalk.

He radioed in and said something.

Me: Am I being detained?

Daron: No.

Me: Well, I guess I’ll wait.

A few seconds later, someone else arrived. Nick stated that he was the head of security and reiterated what Daron told me. Plus:

  • This building is proprietary and is prohibited from being photographed.
  • He muttered something about since 9/11, we can’t take photos of buildings like this.
  • If I didn’t stop taking photos, they would call the police.

I mentioned Google Maps and he said that it wasn’t as detailed because it’s a bird’s eye view. (Apparently, he hasn’t heard of Street View. I could see it from the street perfectly — without even being there!)

He gave me the phone number to the property management and told me to talk to them. (Want to call? It’s 213-389-0813) They would confirm what I was told.

I could have stayed to shoot more, but I didn’t have the time to wait for police and stuff. I introduced myself (just my first name, though) so I could get Nick’s name. He didn’t have a name tag like Daron.

Nick: What’s your last name?

Me: I just go by Bryan.

I told them I’d leave and I walked away. (Again, only because I didn’t have time to wait for police and whatever else.)

This isn’t a gigantic deal because I wasn’t arrested. I didn’t take photos of the security personnel, either. I’m sorry. But, I’ll definitely go again and draw the “fight” out longer.

If you want to check it out for yourself, the building is close to the Metro Red Line (public transportation friendly), a couple blocks off 7th and Metro Station.

Photography is not a crime. (See the Photographer’s Right guide in PDF format from Bert P. Krages, Attorney at Law.)

Published by

Bryan Villarin

Bryan works at Automattic. Cat whisperer. Sometimes, a photographer and card magician.

28 thoughts on “Harassed at the TCW Group building in Los Angeles”

  1. I swear, shit like this just makes me see red. I think all buildings that “can’t be photographed” should get gigantic tarps and cover themselves up. Make everyone inside suffer for their idiotic “privacy” policies.


  2. I think that you guys should host a photowalk in that area and invite everyone to meet at the TCW Group building. That should draw some interesting reactions. ^_-


  3. +1 ~ organize another photographers’ rights rally like the one at union station on june 1 and go there as a group. i am sorry you had to go through this, it’s unfair and frustrating. lol about the tarp comment though, i wholeheartedly agree. keep up the awesome work you do with your photos. ciao.


  4. @Brian: Thanks for understanding. Some people might side with them, but there honestly isn’t any merit in their arguments. They should cover up! =/

    @James: I’m 95% sure we can photowalk around any of those huge corporate buildings in downtown LA and get harassed.

    @Nico: Thanks for the understanding and the support. (I’m stoked you’re liking my photos!) I think I’ll ask Shawn for suggestions, or maybe if he’d like to organize another event. Annual protests just won’t cut it.


  5. that is a great idea actually, to get some authority backup on the issue, or expose it to the public. i’m out of the country until mid-september, but after that, i can offer physical support, and not just moral. i agree that annual protests are not enough ~ i wonder how feasible it is to turn it into a monthly thing, or every other month…

    (and yes, big fan, check blog and flickr daily)


  6. @Joel Lawson: I know attorneys and a friend in the media that I hope will help. I’ll definitely work on that, thanks. 🙂

    @Nico: I hope you’re having a good time! I’ll try to keep my Flickr photostream fresh for you. 😉


  7. I went on a photo tour with my class. We were accosted at nearly every building. Security came out each time telling us that we could not photogragh. Something about homeland security. I was lucky I had digital. Just sanp as fast as you can. The students with film, got very few shots.


  8. @ Heather:

    I’m sorry you got harassed.

    Don’t take any lip next time. Write down the time, names, location, etc. As long as you’re on public property and its in public view, you’re not doing anything wrong or breaking any laws.

    Like I said, I would’ve stuck it out and continued, but I didn’t have any time.


  9. thats ridiculous, i hope the same stuff doesn’t happen in vegas. i would totally be down if some one organized a photo walk around the area!


  10. I tried calling the property management group, BUT the number is disconnected. What is going on? I am ready to fight to good fight IF…


  11. I am glad you guys are sticking this out. So many people succumb to fear when threatened by those who appear to be in “authority”. Fear is the opposite of freedom.

    While the tarp idea is a little ridiculous, so is the idea of building a beautiful piece of architecture in full view of the public and expecting no one to want to or be allowed to photograph it. I understand security, but if pictures of the outside of your building are actually going to cause a security risk for your company, then you need to 1) reconsider the design of your building and your lame security force and 2) have your building photoshopped out of all postcards everywhere.

    Anyways, good luck with it all. I think step one would be start a flickr group of pictures of the TCW group building and invite (challenge) photographers to get the best shots of the building. Bonus points if someone can get some good shots from the top of a nearby building.


  12. bryan-
    got your message. i am out of town until september 15th but i will gladly organize a rally in downtown. this time we will keep it to ourselves so we can get genuine reactions from security and the police.


  13. I ran into this problem a little while back, but found that the local council had passed local laws that meant infringement notices could be issued. Although this “law” has to be validated by the Federal Government in Australia, I didn’t feel like testing my luck whether it was or not.

    The problem was that they had issued this “law” to cover almost their entire electorate.


  14. As to the security guard’s first claim, the right to photograph a building visible from public space is specifically protected in US copyright law. US law specifically knocks down these absurd claims we hear sometimes from security guards, shop owners, and others that their building cannot be photographed:

    “The copyright in an architectural work that has been constructed does not include the right to prevent the making, distributing, or public display of pictures, paintings, photographs, or other pictorial representations of the work, if the building in which the work is embodied is located in or ordinarily visible from a public place.” [17 U.S.C. 120 (a)]


  15. Will this crap never stop? I’m glad you at least let them know it was fully within your rights to do what you were doing. I think the idea of going down there with a bunch of people lined up photographing stuff (from the sidewalk) is a great idea.


  16. I just discovered your blog and photo stream, and came across this post.

    I’ll keep an eye on your blog for updates. If you are able to organize a photo walk I will be there (work schedule permitting). I hate stuff like this and would be glad to participate in a photo walk.

    Sorry you had to deal with this.


  17. that was so stupid!

    but I gotta say my favorite part was when the head security guard kept saying random stuff into his lapel-mic. just loud enough for us to hear in some lame attempt to make us think he was calling the police department.

    and this conversation.
    after the initial “argument”

    Bryan: we’re going to leave now.

    Security Guard: Im going to ask you to leave

    Me: good night (and we cross the street)

    LOL that was great!


  18. Just because you could does not mean you should. I’m all for taking photographs but obviously in light of post 9/11, security wants to prevent photos that may end up in the wrong hands. Stop testing security out as you may just be aiding those that do want to do harm. Btw your photos stink!


Talk to me, Goose

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s