An update on those obscure street-photography regulations: In response to objections from the National Press Photographers Association, Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan said the licensing regime for commercial street photographers will stay.
But, Nathan wrote the photographers’ group, the regulations will be amended to define what exactly constitutes a street photographer.
Under current city regulations, persons or businesses that “engage in the business of taking photographs of any person or persons upon the streets, sidewalks, or other public spaces of the District of Columbia, for profit or gain” must hold a city license and follow a number of rules governing their conduct. Breaking them happens to be an arrestable offense.
After I publicized these rules, the NPPA became concerned that the regulations might be broadly construed to apply to journalists or others beside the street hustlers the rules were intended to apply to.
In a Oct. 31 letter, the NPPA General Counsel Mickey H. Osterreicher asked for an outright repeal, but Nathan wasn’t having that, noting in his Nov. 23 reply that the regulations were “of a type regularly accepted as within the government’s proper sphere of economic and professional regulation.” That said, Nathan wrote that he saw the need for clarification and pledged to “emphasize the intent of these regulations to police officers.”
In a letter back, Osterreicher said he’d like to see just how “street photography” will be defined.
“Our concern continuing is that without proper language, instructions and examples the regulations may still be open to misinterpretation and unintended enforcement by police officers against citizens and photojournalists,” he wrote, adding that he’d like to see an “exemption for newsgathering and documentary photography.”