(View more photos in the slideshow "Barred From Shooting Pacific Park Pier: The Photographs")
One surprise in Sunday's pre-Inauguration Day celebration at the Lincoln Memorial came when Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger and others sang once-expurgated verses from "This Land Is Your Land." Woody Guthrie's lyrics, heard Sunday, speak of being confronted by a Private Property sign, beyond which stretches the American Promise Land. After his Kafka-esque run-in with Pacific Park officials, however, Venice photographer Anthony Citrano may well feel those once-suppressed lyrics are just as meaningful today as during the Dust Bowl. Last Friday Citrano visited the Santa Monica Pier to test his night-shooting skills, when he was asked to cease and desist.
Photo by Anthony Citrano
Citrano's account, which is by turns humorous and disturbing, begins when a low-level park employee tells the photographer the taking of pictures of family members is permitted, but not the shooting of "random" images -- not without signing a waiver and showing identification, that is. When Citrano asked for a definition of "family" the pier drone brought in someone higher up in the security apparatus.
"It was a 10-15 minute encounter that escalated," Citrano tells L.A. Daily. "The first guy was used to not being
challenged on the issue and was confused by my questions about policy. Look, These guys are two steps from wearing Batman underwear."
Citrano was told by the higher-up that everything in the park -- which is located on public land -- is private property. Yet Citrano says the park is not posted as private property. The man gave Citrano this simple rule: You can take pictures of people but not things.
This is when Citrano was told about signing a waiver that would state he did not intend to commercially profit from his photographs. The problem is that people taking pictures of the park were swarming all about the three men and no one was asking them to sign waivers.
Finally a man Citrano identifies as "Gerald" appears on the scene and, after sizing up Citrano's Nikon D700 camera, declares, ""Look, with a camera like that, I can see why these guys approached you." Citrano, who describes himself as courteous, professional and nonconfrontational, then asked Gerald if the park's photography policy was determined by the equipment visitors carried with them.
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"I can understand," Citrano says, "to some degree requiring photogrphers to go through
certain hoops if they're making money from an assignment or obstructing
the public in some way." But he was just there testing his camera by shooting neon signs. The colloquy over cameras and property rights fizzled out and Citrano, who notes that the three men were entirely courteous and non-confrontational themselves, eventually left when he was all talked-out.
"All of this is absurd, uncodifiable and probably illegal," he says of Pacific Park's private property claims and is seeking clarification from the city of Santa Monica.