March 11th, 2010

Canadian PJ gives up fight for photographer rights 0

By Carlos Miller


A Canadian photojournalist who announced he is giving up the trade because of constant harassment from authorities is now getting defensive towards those who disagree with his decision.

The photographer, Jay Black, stated the following on Flickr where he goes by The Blackbird:

The other stressor that has led to my decision to leave photojournalism is the attention I’ve received from police. Being surveilled many times over the past two years while exercising my guaranteed freedoms under the Constitution of Canada, in covering news stories for The Tyee and Megaphone Magazine, freelancing for such local NGOs as Pivot Legal Society and the BC Civil Liberties Association and supplying photos to the City of Vancouver’s Corporate Communications department, has left me with a chill.

War on Photography wrote about Black’s decision, prompting a photographer named Mark Kalan to state the following:

“Never give up – never surrender!”.

Simple words of encouragement, right?

Not in Black’s eyes.

This was his response to Kalan:

I took a look at your blog and your Flickr photostream and found one photo of a traffic cop writing a parking ticket.

Until you start taking some risks as I have done, photographing police at crime scenes in the poorest neighbourhood in all of Canada, in the lead up to and during the most heavily secured Olympic Winter Games in history with 15,000 police, military and security guards stationed in the Host City, and making those photos public with critical commentary, don’t tell those of us who do to never give up or surrender. You sound like a sports fan who likes to take credit for his team’s success because he was at the game. Trouble is, there’s a big difference between the player taking hits and gutting it out on the field and a binocular-wearing, beer-drinking fan in the nosebleed section bitching because a player on his team went down. The sad thing is, that’s where you’ll stay. You won’t jump in and join the skirmish, you’ll safely kick back like any other armchair quarterback and get fat while those in the field go down. Pretty tough not to “give up” or “surrender” when you haven’t even stepped out onto the field, eh?

Before telling others not to give up, why not try getting involved yourself? And by that I mean more than joining a Flickr group called the harasses photographer. At least then you’ll have earned sufficient respect to leave such a comment here. I still feel harassed … by YOU.

Obviously, Black is a little touchy, perhaps a little too touchy to be out there photographing cops and fighting for basic photographer rights.

As a guy who’s been arrested twice in the last three years for photographing cops and who has been harassed countless other times by security guards – not to mention criticized numerous times on this site by anonymous commenters – perhaps I may have a little more credibility in Black’s eyes to state my opinion.

So here it goes:

Jay, you’re nothing but a quitter. And a whiner. And a drama queen. And that’s coming from someone who’s been accused of being the king of drama queens.

You’re a good photographer and obviously very passionate about your work and your cause, but to allow the authorities to intimidate you into quitting casts a negative shadow over all your work.

A true artist would only get stronger under such conditions.

Perhaps that’s the Canadian in you. Yes, I know that’s a cheap shot, but as an American, the best way to define my spirit is to quote from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous Man in the Arena speech:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Now get your ass back into the arena.


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