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Disney security guards harass and threaten photographer before photographing him

Universal Studios (Photo by William Beem)

You would think that security guards at Disney World would be accustomed to people taking photos.

Maybe they are just not comfortable with people using tripods.

Photography is Not a Crime reader William Beem reports on an incident th

Universal Studios (Photo by William Beem)


You would think that security guards at Disney World would be accustomed to people taking photos.

Maybe they are just not comfortable with people using tripods.

Photography is Not a Crime reader William Beem reports on an incident that occurred to him recently at Downtown Disney – an outdoor shopping center owned by Disney World – where he was trying to capture the House of Blues in an HDR photo.

HDR stands for high dynamic range photos and requires the photographer to take several shots of the same image at different exposures on a tripod in order to merge them together to create a highly artistic shot with proper exposure throughout the photo. See Beem’s photo above for an example.

He ended up being approached four times by security guards who demanded to know why he was taking photos, telling him they were concerned that he may be with “the media”, as if that should make a difference.

The fourth time they approached him, the guards were accompanied by a supervisor named “Don” who demanded his name, place of employment and the reason he was taking photos.

They also insinuated he was a terrorist.

Hoping to show him that I’m not there to cause any problems, I offer up some information in hopes of appeasement. I shared my first and last name. I let him know the name of my employer. I told him the city where I lived. Bear in mind that I was under absolutely no obligation to provide him with any of this information, but I wanted to be courteous and thought, as with the previous encounters, he’d be satisfied and go away.

In fact, Don told me that he was satisfied that I wasn’t there for commercial purposes. I explained HDR photography and he said that he had a passing understanding of it. I showed him examples of my photos, hoping to set his mind at ease that I was just a harmless guy taking pictures of the House of Blues.

That seems to be the turning point. Don started prodding me for identification while congratulating me on being so cooperative and putting his mind at ease. At this point, I asked him why he would need my ID. He expressed concern about my architectural photography possibly being used by terrorists. He never used the word terrorist, but his implications were unmistakable.

Don then asked him for identification, which Beem refused to give him. This made Don even more upset.

Fortunately, Don didn’t try anything physical at all. However, his demeanor definitely changed once I declined to give him my license. His approach changed from the friendly, but concerned security manager into one of threats and intimidation. While he repeatedly told me that he was going to call for a deputy if I didn’t provide my ID, I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what crime he was going to report to the deputies.

So Beem finally got fed up with the harassment and walked off to his car with several guards following close behind.

Don followed me, as did another uniformed guard, Eugene. During the walk out to my car, Don was on the phone calling in more guards and, I presume, the Sheriff’s office. By the time I arrived at my car, at least two more guards swiftly arrived on bicycles, a couple more had walked up, and there was a Disney Security car.

And here’s the kicker. Once he started making his way off the property, the guards started photographing him to keep a record in case terrorists do decide to destroy Downtown Disney, which in a way, I wish they would. Preferably when there’s nobody around.

After all, does Orlando really need two downtowns? Especially one that worships a mouse?

Before Homeland Security raids my home, I am just kidding about wishing terrorists would destroy Downtown Disney. But Disney is the reason I stay the hell out of Orlando as much as I can.

It turns out, Beem is not the only photographer harassed for taking photos in Disney. A guy named James Chapman who used to maintain a blog with photos taken at Disney left a comment on Bleem’s blog about his experiences.

Their BIG issue is taking “guest shots” with cast or costumed members. I found this out a few months back with my own incident, much as William is describing above (except my conversation was with a cast photographer who happened to be in the area), and I DID go straight to customer service management to complain. After 30 minutes of “discussing” the situation (which I really have to hand it to the customer service rep that he did a great job keeping the discussion calm and below a shouting level) I left with this simple understanding…shoot the buildings, parades and fireworks, NOT the customers with the cast members and staff photographers.

What this all boils down to is money. Disney pays a lot of folks, a lot of money to take photographs for their guests at their parks, and they simply do not like anyone else with a DSLR to make money from their “system”. It’s absolutely that simple. And that’s why those people with DSLRs are asked questions and made to feel anything but like a guest…it’s because you may be the competition…not a terrorist.

By the way, my website was a Blog about WDW and my family’s vacations. I took everything down after that “discussion”.

But Beem wasn’t photographing any of the visitors or any of the idiots in costumes either. He was just photographing the House of Blues.

I wish he would have photographed the idiots in uniform however.

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