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Black and White Photography, New York: Friday, May 21, 2004

Unless it's raining, or I fall down the stairs with my new rig, I will be out at the Met. on Saturday.  Hopefully at my usual station (day 5) just south of the entrance.  You really need to get out early to get a good spot on the weekend - probably around 7 a.m.

So far - the better my rig - the less I've sold.  So we'll see.  Also, everyone has been telling me that May is just not that good for sales.  All sorts of reasons are given, but who knows.  The vendors have an explanation for everything.  Oh, it's too close to Tax Day - no one has money.  Or - too close to Christmas - they are saving their money.  On the other hand, if sales are good, no one has a need for explanations. 

8:34:48 PM    

Subway Officials Seek Ban on Picture-Taking

May 21, 2004

Citing the security of 7 million daily riders, 48,000
employees and its transportation network, New York City
Transit yesterday proposed a ban on unauthorized
photography, filming and videotaping on city subways, buses
and Staten Island Railway trains. The press and businesses
or individuals with permits would be exempt.

Transit officials also proposed a tougher rule against
turnstile jumping, banning it even if a miscreant has a
fare card and acts out of frustration when the card or a
turnstile malfunctions, and they suggested new rules
against walking between subway cars, putting feet on seats
and misusing student or senior reduced-fare cards.

If approved by New York City Transit's parent, the
Metropolitan Transportation Authority, next fall after a
public-comment period, the changes would become the
system's first new rules of conduct in a decade, joining
prohibitions against graffiti, littering, spitting,
smoking, panhandling, loud radio playing, drinking
alcoholic beverages and going onto subway tracks or into
tunnels or other unauthorized areas.

"The world we live in has changed dramatically since 1994,
so has our operating environment," said Lawrence G. Reuter,
president of New York City Transit. "These changes to our
rules of conduct are intended to enhance security and
safety, not only for our customers but our employees as

The proposed ban on photography, filming and videotaping
drew immediate objections from the New York Public Interest
Research Group Straphangers Campaign. "We think it's a
mistake to turn the subways into a scary underground where
you can't take pictures," said Gene Russianoff, a staff
lawyer. "We respect the need for security in the transit
system but believe that there are important values in
having photographers document life and conditions on the
subways and buses."

He noted that the M.T.A. was sponsoring an exhibition at
Grand Central Terminal of photos taken over decades of life
in the subways.

Mr. Russianoff said the proposed ban on picture-taking
could raise First Amendment issues as well. While members
of the press with identity cards issued by the police would
be exempt, other people and businesses would need written
permission. "No standards are detailed in the proposed
rules for issuing such authorizations," he said.

But Charles F. Seaton, a spokesman for New York City
Transit, brushed aside such objections. He said any person
or commercial enterprise with legitimate needs, including
film and television producers, advertisers, artists and
others, "would all be allowed" to take pictures as long as
they obtained written permission in advance.

While transit officers would make common-sense judgments
about issuing summonses to tourists who take pictures
without knowing the rules, even visitors would be subject
to fines, Mr. Seaton said, although there is no provision
for confiscation of cameras. He said taking a picture or
filming without authorization would be subject to a
relatively low $25 fine.

Spitting, smoking and littering carry a $50 fine, he said,
while vandalism and other more serious offenses are subject
to penalties of $100 or more.

The rules of conduct on the transit system are as old as
the subways, which mark their centennial this year.
Officials acknowledge that enforcement has always been
something of a problem, with a few thousand officers
responsible for 468 stations, 660 miles of track and a vast
network of bus routes. The use of cellphone and other
miniature cameras may also complicate enforcement of a
photography ban.

But Mr. Seaton noted that this would not be the first ban
on filming and picture-taking in the city subways. One was
imposed in the early 1930's, he said, for reasons that are
no longer clear, and was in force until 1994, when transit
officials decided to relax it after embarrassing news
reports that a woman had been given a summons for taking a
picture on a subway in the Bronx.

Since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the bombing that
killed hundreds on a commuter train in Madrid earlier this
year, tighter security has been a high priority, Mr. Seaton
said. The other proposed rule changes are also needed, he

After the proposed rules are published in the New York
State Register early next month, a 45-day period of public
comment would ensue. Modifications might then be offered.
Finally, New York City Transit would seek final approval by
the board of the M.T.A. The board does not meet in August,
but would probably consider the rules in September or
October.  [as brought to my notice by B.B.]

- - -

Well, the rules that are currently in place, the last time I asked which was a few years ago, was that you couldn't use flash in the subway, and you couldn't use a tripod.  If you did want to use a tripod or flash you needed to get permission - which I did a couple of times.

I doubt very much whether such a proposed ban would stop a terrorist from photographing in the subway as it is fairly easy to do without anyone knowing with automated cameras.  You really should ban cameras from hanging around people's necks, or shoulders or being visible at all.

At any rate, maybe we should just ban photography in the city altogether.  I mean, with a telephoto lens, you could be blocks away from any major building and still be photographing it.  And since suicide bombers may eventually even go after your local bodega -- it seems reasonable to just stop photography altogether, and possibly painting and sketching as well for as long as this hundred year war goes on.  And another thing you might want to consider banning is writing in a public place, as it is quite possible that the terrorist is taking notes on where to place bombs, or how many people are there at a certain hour.  So, yeah - if we are going to do it, let's do it right.  No photography.  No sketching.  No writing.  And what about banning cell phones since these are often used to detonate bombs?  Since a cell phone can be used as a fuse, let's ban them as well.  Oh, you worry that this would turn the city into some sort of Orwellian nightmare?  Ah, not to worry - it is for our own safety.

- - -

"the proposed MTA ban on photography in the subway is a moot issue. these rules are pointless. if a terrorist is going to case a subway line or platform, etc, they're not going to do it by taking pictures out in the open. if anything they'll do it right along with the subway photographers, undetected. it's not allowed on Madrid's Metro either (since way before the commuter train terror attacks) and those trains are even equipped with cameras in each car. a determined and resourceful picture taker can continue to take as many pictures as she likes. discreet is the name of the game, only now it's about applying the same discretion in front of authorities. police state or not, photography will never be intimidated by these kinds of regulations. if anything, there will be innovation!"  R.

1:29:07 PM    

Sasha went on about how important it was for the artist to make some attempt to dress well - though I couldn't say his threadbare gold jacket was exactly the height of fashion.  But every day, he and some of the others (including myself) try to figure out what works and what doesn't.

The jacket idea, he believes, works because it differentiates you from the other "vendors" who are selling other peoples' wares.  And he talked about another artist who always sold a lot and always dressed very well.

Mitch is convinced that there is a general, sort of unconscious uncertainty in the air, and that it makes it harder for people to part with their money.

But the experience continues to be one related somehow to farming.  It's not only the dependency on the weather, but somehow you are just at the mercy of the fates.  You don't know what is going to happen.  And I'm mostly talking about it from the artists point of view -- not the guy who is out there selling prints for a larger organization.

Another subtle thing that goes on, is that each vendor tries to see how close they can get to a sort of imaginary line that runs parallel to the trees.  The closer you can get to "the people" without crossing that line, the thought is the better your chance of a sale. 

Then there was the guy who came by, looked at some of my prints, and began to give advice about what the best way was to sell on the street or anywhere else for that matter.  He knew printing, and he knew just about everything.  Everyone thinks, he said, that the more prints you have, the better.  This is not true for you.  You are selling fine art prints for a specialized audience.  You shouldn't try and compete with the guy next to you who is selling mass produced work for the tourist.  You should have a few things out. 

While he was telling me all this, I was thinking that what he was saying made sense.  But after he left, I continued to notice that there had to be enough things on display so that if one print caught someone's attention they'd easily be able to look at other prints without having to flip through something.  The flipping, browsing thing is the last part of the sales operation.  If you put a few thngs out, it seems to me (and this may change the next time I go out to sell) that it will be very difficult to get a person to stop and go into phase two of the sale which is looking, but not yet touching anything.

Once they get to the touching phase - where they can pick things up -- then you are almost there.

One other thing I was told was that it is probably better to announce your price somewhere.  That tourists, especially American tourists feel that you will just make up a price if they don't see it posted and try and rip them off.  And that a lot of people won't ask how much something costs because they are embarrassed to.  So I think having the price posted is important.

8:14:19 AM    

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