Can photography send you to jail?

May 20, 2010 § Leave a comment

Chase Jarvis is a Seattle based photographer.  From the appearance of his Web site and profile, it seems that he has surely reached a high level of success within recent years.  A recent blog post of his caught my eye.  I must say that my immediate reaction was shock.  Never had it crossed my mind that a photographer could actually be sent to jail for expressing their passion through capturing images. 

Jarvis’ blog regarded LA photojournalist Jonas Lara.  In February 2010, he was documenting the work of two graffiti artists.  According to PDNPulse, Lara was arrested alongside with the two artists; the police later charged him with felony vandalism.  Lara tried to convince his public defender that his rights as photographer had some sort of weight in the case.  However, nothing was done regarding this issue.

Earlier this month, the criminal charges against Lara were dropped and he is now waiting for his camera equipment to be released back to him.  Well, it’s reassuring to know that justice was served and professional photographers can be protected under certain circumstances (and usually with the help of a professional law firm).

From what I can gather, Lara did NOT commit a crime; he was purely documenting the moment, not contributing.  Shield laws exist at state levels to protect journalists.  Don’t you think the same courtesy should be given to photojournalists?  I think so.  Photographers create amazing works of art; often depicting what has occurred under the most dangerous of situations.  Therefore, photojournalists deserve support and citizens, like you and me should advocate for their protection and rights.


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