The photograph above is entitled Delayed and is by Ryan Coleman. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons License. The photo above was taken (in 2007) roughly where I was standing yesterday afternoon.
Yesterday, after our excursion to the Exhibition, we took a streetcar to Union Station to catch the train home. While in Union Station, I stepped away from Vivian and the grandparents to look at the board announcing when our GO Train would board, I happened to take out my camera and snap a picture of the crowd streaming through the station. I wasn’t thinking much about it; I thought the picture was interesting, and might be good for a project that I’m working on (I’ll tell you more about this some other day).
As I was doing this, three men walked past me, wearing suits with a somewhat security-uniform feel, who were talking about protecting public places against terrorism. The head of the group, seeing my camera, turned to me and politely said, “Excuse me. There are no photos allowed down here.”
Now, the guy was polite. And, technically speaking, I was in the fare paid zone for GO Transit, which is something other than public property. So I politely and truthfully replied, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” And I put the camera away. He turned to walk away, as he was clearly in a hurry, but he stopped long enough to ask me, “What were you taking pictures of? The trains?”
“No,” I replied. Again, truthfully. “The streams of people.”
“Oh,” he said. “Yeah, that’s definitely prohibited.” And with that, he left.
As I said, the man was polite. And I didn’t want to make a scene. It seemed neither fair to the guy, nor wise. But I cannot help but be disturbed by the conversation. It seems that we have lost something if we cannot innocently take pictures in public areas, even though I know why we should be concerned about the not so innocent taking pictures in the same public areas.
Although there were no notices to this effect that I could see, taking pictures in the concourse area of Union Station is probably prohibited because Union Station is a busy transportation hub, and thus a potential target for terrorism. I’m forced to ask: the next time I come to downtown Toronto with a camera, where exactly am I allowed to take pictures? And where am I not?