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July 2016

Is Street Photography Legal?

Trolley-New-Orleans-1320x865An interesting article in the Art Law Journal discusses the legality of street photography. The full article can be read here.

Since the birth of street photography, there has been a clash between the photographers prowling the streets trying to capture the lives of ordinary people to turn them into works of art, and the subjects of those photos who feel violated by the unauthorized use of their likeness.  In fact, the development of right to privacy laws began over fears that “yellow journalists” might abuse the newly developed handheld camera for sensationalist news reports. From the street photographers’ perspective, privacy should not inhibit their freedom of expression.  From the legal perspective then, street photography is about balancing a photographer’s First Amendment freedom of expression against a person’s right to privacy.  To complicate matters further, there are several other legal doctrines that impact the outcome of the expression vs. privacy battle, such as national security, trespassing, harassment, or even governmental regulations.

The result of these conflicting elements is confusion among street photographers and the general public regarding what is permissible under the law. There is even more disparity on the ethics of publishing photos of strangers without their consent.  Yet, street photographers need some guidance.  While it may be effective to download a reference to carry around, containing a synopsis of your right regarding street photography such as in The Photographer’s Rights by attorney Bert P. Krages II, (which I encourage you to download and put into your camera bag), it also helps to understand the underlying reasoning behind these laws so you can should be able to tease out potential outcomes of your actions, without wasting time referring to a rule book.

Freedom of Expression vs. The Right to Privacy

Article by Steve Schlackman

As a photographer and Patent Attorney with a background in marketing, Steve has a unique perspective on art and law. Should you have any questions on Intellectual Property contact him at steve@orangenius.com. His photography can be seen online at Fotofilosophy.com or on display at the Emmanuel Fremin Gallery in New York City.

Street Art in Gowanus, Brooklyn Marks Revolutionary War Mass Grave

Gowanus mass graveAccording to Altas Obscura, buried in a mass grave near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn are the remains of the 1st Maryland Regiment, a group of brave soldiers that changed the course of the Revolutionary War. This place is marked with a beautiful street art mural.

The Maryland Regiment was integral to the Battle of Brooklyn on August 27, 1776. Vastly outnumbered against a force of 2,000 British, "The Maryland 400" as they became known bravely charged against the enemy, holed up in the Old Stone House, six times so that the rest of Washington's army would have time to escape. Only 10 returned to American lines, and 256 were dead, with another 100 either injured or taken prisoner. 

The Maryland soldiers killed in the struggle were interred in a field in six trenches, an area that eventually became Third Avenue in Gowanus. Their grave was originally marked with a memorial that stated: "Burial place of ye 256 Maryland soldiers who fell in ye combat at ye Cortelyou House on ye 27th day of August 1776." Yet as the years went by, their story and burial place faded from public memory. 

However, not everyone has forgotten the Maryland Regiment, and their grave has been rediscovered where it remains in a fenced-off lot at the intersection of Third avenue and 8th Street in Brooklyn. Despite previous plans for a memorial park, merely a simple placard on the adjacent American Legion building indicates the site from the street.

Mural in Abandoned Philly Building Becomes Wall Art for Future Condo

IMG_4358Talk about my ambivalence here. Here we have a situation that is becoming more and more prevalent. A developer buys a building to turn it into luxury condos and discovers a piece of street art, decides to preserve it for their new moneyed class tenants. This is not unlike the greedy developers who tore down graffiti mecca 5Pointz in Long Island City Queens to build a couple of 80 story glass towers that will be named ... wait for it ... 5Pointz! While I like the idea that the art is being preserved I am not especially happy that another center for street art is being turned into luxury housing and not, (how about this idea) a museum dedicated to street art.


From Hyperallergic Philadelphia ---

Mm-partners-philly-caroline-caldwell-768x563Real estate developers whitewashing or tearing down walls covered in graffiti is a familiar narrative, but it appears we may have reached such an advanced stage in the cooptation of street art that those days will soon be at an end. Philadelphia-based real estate developer MM Partners is currently turning the long-vacant (and mural-filled) Pyramid Electric Supply Company building in Brewerytown into condos, and in a post on Instagram yesterday the company promised to save a mural by artist Caroline Caldwell so that it “will be a feature wall in someone’s bedroom.”

“I know this won’t be the popular opinion, but I love this piece and I’m stoked it’s getting to live on,” Caldwell said in response to the news on Twitter. Indeed, aside from the occasional act of accidental preservation, as happened with a long-lost Keith Haring mural that turned up in a $17 million Lower Manhattan loft, a developer choosing to preserve rather than scrub away a building’s street art is relatively unheard of — though that didn’t stop the developer who leveled 5Pointz from trying to use the graffiti center’s name to market the apartments rising from its rubble.

“I used to live a few blocks from the Pyramid Electric Factory,” said RJ Rushmore, a street art authority (and Hyperallergic contributor) who called our attention to the MM Partners post. “It’s an easy building to get into and provides easy access to trackside spots along Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, so it’s a popular building for graffiti writers and urban explorers. Nearly half the time I visited, I’d run into other people inside. Usually not painting, but just exploring or even using it as a dance studio.”

In addition to Caldwell’s neon-hued rat and cobra, which are destined to live on as someone’s bedroom wall art (#betterthanIKEA), much of the rest of the Pyramid Electric building’s murals are also slated for preservation. “[MM Partners have] been supportive of public art for a few years now, working with Steve Powers’s ICY Signs shop, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and independent muralists,” Rushmore added. “Actually, in a way, this is the second of Caroline’s pieces that has fallen into MM’s hands. A few years ago, she was commissioned to paint an interior mural at Brewerytown Beats, the local record store. When they moved their store to a new location, the mural stayed. So far as I know, it’s still there.”

“We 100% intend to keep a good amount of the art that is in the building and integrate into our development,” David Waxman, a founding and managing partner of MM Partners, told Hyperallergic via email. “We as a company are committed to bringing good contemporary art to the neighborhood where we build in Philadelphia, Brewerytown and into our projects. We also happen to love art and are collectors ourselves.”

New Williamsburgh Brooklyn Street Art Project Unveiled

This month was the unveiling of a new QUEEN ANDREA (a.k.a. Andrea von Bujdoss) mural at Ascenzi Square, located in the triangle formed by North Fourth Street, Roebling Street and Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg. In vividly colored lettering, it greets passerby “GOOD DAY” and “HEY YOU” as they approach the intersection, which is adorned in lights.

According to Bedford and Bowery, the mural was inspired by “New York City’s diversity.” This 3,475-square-foot asphalt mural by the influential graffiti artist was commissioned by the Department of Transportation as part of its New York City beautification initiative. Specifically, this mural was part of three “asphalt activations” that have been appearing at certain Citi Bike stations. QUEEN ANDREA was also tapped to beautify the 191st Street Tunnel last year.

QUEEN ANDREA_mural_Ascenzi Square_Williamsburg_Brooklyn_Untapped Cities_Jarrett Lyons

Street Art in Rotterdam

Rotterdam street artThinking of an interesting place to travel to this summer?


Bold, colorful works of art covering walls, stairwells and the sides of buildings take center stage on the new Rotterdam Street Art Tour, which can be followed using an app or by taking a guided tour. The 4.3-mile route starts at Rotterdam Central Station and directs visitors to more than 30 wall paintings created by local artists.

The app has a map and background information in text and audio and also shows the locations of notable graffiti that has disappeared. The route can be downloaded in advance, making it possible to follow the tour without Internet access. Rewriters010, which designed the route, leads guided tours every weekend or by request during the week. Tours must be reserved at rewriters010.nl. The cost is 15 euros ($17) a person. The app is available at iTunes and Google Play.