The Photography Problem at Gunnison Beach !
I have been to Gunnison four or five times so far this season. During those visits I have been purposely photographed several times by people who didn't ask permission, seen one angry verbal confrontation between a guy coming out of the surf and a guy sitting on the beach with a cell phone whom he accused of taking pictures of people on the beach without them knowing, and I witnessed two young women who were at the beach together nicely ask a nearby husband and wife if they would take a picture of the two of them together. The wife's angry response was "No, you're not supposed to take any pictures on this beach. Cameras aren't allowed here!"
Clearly, there are lots of potential and serious problems with cameras and picture taking at Gunnison. With every cell phone now containing a camera, and no cost of film, people are taking a lot more pictures than they used to, especially at Gunnison. And the problem is with the internet, you have no idea of where that picture you didn't even know was taken, might show up.
With Twitter, and Facebook and other new technology, pictures taken of you in your birthday suit at Gunnison can literally be flashed around the world and copied long before you even leave the beach. And with the new multi-megapixel cameras, and editing software, pictures of you taken from a distance can show every individual hair on your body, veins under your skin, food specs on your teeth, and knowlegeable viewers can tell the difference between a mosquito bite and a sand fly bite on your backside. The pictures can easily be life sized or even bigger.
Over the winter, I was warned that pictures taken of unsupecting visitors to Gunnison were being posted on various internet sites, and one major pay site in particular. I went looking and found that thousands of pictures, mostly taken in secret with telephoto lenses, were behind a pay wall on that one website that charges a monthly subscription fee, and that most of the photos were taken by one or two photographers in particular with professional equipment. And some of those pictures were being released and copied to other internet websites where they were again being copied and spread.
Other than those, I found less than two dozen other Gunnison shots in general circulation, and some of those were of a young couple who visited in 2002, posted their own nude pictures on Flickr and later gave permission for those pictures to be displayed on other websites where they went into the pubic domain.
The surprising thing about the pay site professional quality telephoto pictures is that the targets of the shots appear not to be attractive young women, but straight males, some way past retirement age, and especially those strolling on the beach with their wives.
Looking at the background buildings way across the water in Brooklyn and Long Island, it is clear that the pictures were taken from the South end of Gunnison, probably from a tent so that the photographer, his tripod and big long lense couldn't be seen. The pictures tightly focus on the male individual or couple. I didn't see any close shots of just females, even though there were some very attractive women in the background. The website runs regular features sometimes with hundreds of pictures titled "The Men of Gunnison."
Pictures that have leaked out, for paysite promotional purposes, were found on a website that "specializes" in pictures of nude straight males. I wonder how many husbands would feel seeing themselves and their wives walking hand in hand in the surf nude, and the caption reading something like: we wanted to leave out the picture of that horribly ugly creature with this man, meaning his wife, but we left her picture in out of respect for the photographer's work and copyright. That site features those kind of pictures from Gunnison with similar comments on a mostly monthly basis.
Another set of promotional "Gunnison Guys" pictures appears on a website that features older men smoking cigars.
I guess it doesn't take much imagination to figure out the symbolism of the tough looking straight male with his wife in tow and a "cigar" in his mouth. Looking at those guys in the pictures I am sure they would flip out if they ever saw what the pictures of them smoking a cigar were being used for. Flip out is likely too weak a description of their anger.
There are thousands of pictures, and some videos of visitors to Gunnison on that one website, and if you have been to Gunnison in the last ten years you may be in some. And if they get out from behind that paywall they could be all over the place.
I am not the only guy who looked into the existence of these stealth pictures, and has noticed other people taking his picture at Gunnison. I have talked to other guys at Gunnison who have grabbed cameras out of clowns hands and thrown them like a football. I have read other postings on other boards by guys who are concerned about the photos of them this guy in the tent or the weeds might have.
I have talked to professional photographers and experts in professional photography, and I have heard some very misguided assumptions from people at Gunnison.
Trying to make this simple, the unfortunate situation for beach goers is this:
In the US, a photographer has the right to take a picture of anything he can see while standing on public land, with exceptions like using a telephoto lens to take a picture of you in your bathroom from the street.
Legal standards are that you can have no expectation of privacy while standing in a public place or on a public street. Think of the problem if you wanted to take a picture of Times Square and had to ask permission of everyone on the street. This public standard unfortunately applies at Gunnison.
A photographer has the right to take a picture of anything he can see there, but he doesn't have the right to harrass a subject or make a nusiance of himself.
There is a difference between taking pictures for your own private and personal use, and publishing them for a profit.
There can be a legal question of a person in the photographs rights to their own image, and these closeup telephoto shots zero in on an individual, when the public street photo standard is that a person must be "incidental" to the picture.
In other words, the person on the street just happens to be passing in front of a building and isn't fully recognizable, just incidental to the bigger picture of a street scene, not the focus of it.
The pay website claims it is a news documentary. But anyone who has seen Ken Burns "Baseball" or "Civil War" documentaries on PBS knows a stack of pictures of naked people taken at a federal beach that has been there for decades is not a documentary, nor is it a newsworthy event.
I have been told by several people on the beach that there is a federal law prohibiting the taking of pictures of people there without their permission. Again, unfortunately, this is not true.
This is a link to a New York Times story on a legal case last year where the federal government settled setting a precedent that photographers can't be stopped by security guards from taking pictures on federal property.
Unfortunately, that precendent applies at federal places like Gunnison and that is why the Rangers are reluctant to get involved in stopping picture taking.
Commercial photography at Gunnison requires a permit, and usually commercial use of a person's picture requires a legal document called a "model release" in fact, porn sites must keep very accurate records of the real names and model releases of all the people who appear on their website, even if it is just a person's hand or foot.
So, these pictures taken from the tent at Gunnison are being used for commercial purposes, and are not newsworthy, which would be the one exception that would allow unlimited use. And people in them don't even know the pictures were taken, so they couldn't have signed a model release. Its a question for the courts to decide if anybody gets angry enough to file a lawsuit when they see the pictures of themselves on the internet.
I just wonder if people shouldn't be more aware that all this picture taking is going on, and that pictures taken of their one day at the beach may wind up circulating on the internet and popping up again and again for years to come.
The friends of Gunnison statement about leaving cameras home and etiquette is nice, but delusional. The cameras are all over the place on the beach, and used all the time. Thankfully, most people are taking the pictures for their own private and personal use.
The Rangers hands are tied, unless somebody talks the local Congressman into having a special law written for Gunnison, but that would still likely not withstand a legal challenge, just like the Homeland Security law didn't stop the guy from taking pictures at a federal courthouse in NYC.
There are, no doubt, hundreds, if not thousands of people who have been to Gunnison and had their pictures taken without them knowing it, and those pictures have been on the internet for some time. It's too bad you can't just go to Gunnison and enjoy the beach for that day, and be seen only by those who are there. Worrying that your pictures might be seen by thousands of people all over the world for years to come shouldn't be a cost of admission to Gunnison for an otherwise enjoyable day at a taxpayer supported beach.
(sorry this was so long, there was much more I could have said, but this is something beach goers should be aware of, rather than finding out that pictures of you have been out there for years, and its already too late)