Archive for September, 2010

Story in the Isthmus

September 16th, 2010

The story of my experience at the Kastenmeier Courthouse has gone mainstream.  There is an article in this weeks Isthmus, a weekly local paper here in Madison, WI.

Much of the story is taken from my blog and an interview I did with reporter Bill Lueders.  However, Lueders was able to talk with Chief Deputy U.S. Marshall Kirk Papenthien.

Chief Deputy U.S. Marshal Kirk Papenthien notes that many people photograph Madison’s federal courthouse, with its distinctive steel-blue façade and whimsical touch of red neon. Not all are asked who they are and what they’re doing. (Isthmus wasn’t, in taking the photo that accompanies this story.)

But Papenthien says some picture-takers trigger inquiries, "to let people know there is a security presence." He admits people can come after hours and other times the building is closed without this occurring.

But if taking photos of the courthouse is allowed, why did the guard tell Zytkiewicz to stop taking pictures and threaten to summon police? Papenthien, who’s read the blog account, says, "I have no knowledge as to whether that is an accurate transcript." And even if it were (it is — Isthmus heard the recording), Papenthien isn’t saying the guard overstepped because "I have no knowledge what he [Zytkiewicz] was taking pictures of."

Interesting quotes I would say.  How many people don’t know there’s a security presence at a federal courthouse?  You can see the guards and metal detector while standing on the sidewalk across the street through the large clear glass front entrance.SONY DSC And there’s at least 8 security cameras.  They’re not little either, those are about twelve inches long.SONY DSC And after hours this won’t happen?  Really?  So Saturday’s the court is in session?  Cause that’s when another photographer was stopped and questioned.  And that was back in 2007.

And if you’re that concerned about security why only question people during business hours?  Do terrorists only work during business hours?  And then to come out and say it in the paper, almost inviting people with malicious intent to come out at night, you won’t be questioned.

And then he questions my accuracy while seemingly defending the guard while protecting his own ass.  Saying he has “no knowledge” of what I was taking pictures of.  With all those security cameras they no exactly where I walked and where I pointed my lens.  Is there no communication going on among security personnel at the courthouse?  You would think that if i was deemed a threat they would have a record of it somewhere. 

So would you like to see the pictures I took Deputy U.S. Marshall Kirk Papenthien?  Can you tell me exactly what type of pictures would allow a guard to tell me “Don’t take one of the building.” and “ I’ll get a hold of Madison PD they’ll come and talk to you.”?  Is there some part of that building, a building which is set right along a public sidewalk, a building that anyone can walk up to and touch, a building set in the heart of Wisconsin’s capital city, a building next to a parking garage that holds over 600 cars, a building that is seen by hundreds, possibly thousands of people each day, is there some part of THAT building that is so important, that a picture of it is a security threat.  Tell me Deputy U.S. Marshall Kirk Papenthien, what part of the building would that be?


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September 16th, 2010

Lyjya is a new model here in Madison.  She contacted me on ModelMayhem

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Liz and Mike

September 16th, 2010

Liz and Mike contacted me through Craigslist about wanting some pictures.  They were looking for something intimate and romantic, and had never posed before.  We started out in one of the balconies overlooking the Capitol Rotunda.

Liz_Mike_DSC9871 Liz_Mike_DSC9871bw Then we moved into one of the upper floor hallways near the elevator

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Then I changed the lighting so that they were backlit.  These almost silhouettes really capture the feelings they share.

  Liz_Mike_DSC9951 Liz_Mike_DSC9951bwLiz_Mike_DSC9960 Liz_Mike_DSC9960bw Liz_Mike_DSC9963 Liz_Mike_DSC9963bw The Capitol was closing as we shot these last few so we headed to Edgewood Drive.  Edgewood Drive follows the shore of Lake Wingra from Vilas Park to the opposite side of Edgewood College.  Though I’ve been to the area many times (I drove through Vilas Park daily when I worked on Part Street) I had never explored this path.  It’s definitely a place I’ll be returning to.  If for no other reason than pictures like the ones below.

Liz_Mike_DSC0049 Liz_Mike_DSC0049bwIn the spirit of full disclosure, we did cheat a little.  The leaves weren’t actually falling, Liz and Mike through them in the air, then quickly embraced.

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Update on my experience at the courthouse

September 16th, 2010

If you haven’t read it check out my previous post on my experience at the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse.

About a week after that post I sent out letters to Senator Kohl and Senator Feingold, and Representative Baldwin.  I also sent letters to Judge Crabb, Judge Shabaz, and Magistrate Judge Crocker of the Western District of Wisconsin.  I also sent a letter to Representative Norton of Washington, D.C.  because she has held congressional hearings on photographer harassment.  So far I have received three replies.

In the letter I detailed my experience at the courthouse on October 7th in much the same way as I blogged about it, though without accompanying pictures.  At the end of the letter I added four questions.

First, why was I even approached? Everything I saw and photographed that day is visible from the public sidewalk that surrounds the courthouse. Is it the policy of the federal government, this particular building, or an overzealous guard to approach every photographer?

Second, why is a federal employee telling me I cannot take pictures of the building because of “security procedures”? The only federal laws that I know of that actually prohibit photography relate to classified items on military bases and facilities that have nuclear material under the control of the US Department of Energy. Even the GSA’s own rules which are posted in the lobby of the courthouse Title 41 CFR 102-74.420 doesn’t prohibit photography but requires the permission of whichever federal agency is concerned. Also 41 CFR 102-74.420 only apply to those persons “in or on Federal property”.

Third, why was I threatened at the end of our conversation? And I do consider it a threat when I’m told the police will be called because I’m doing something that someone doesn’t like. If I was breaking a law why wasn’t I held, prevented from leaving until the police arrived?

Fourth, is the Robert W. Kastenmeier United States Courthouse in Madison, Wisconsin a more sensitive and potentially threatened location than the Wisconsin Capitol building? After all I was allowed to move freely throughout the Capitol, but was stopped and questioned merely for being outside of the courthouse.

As of today I have received three responses.

First reply

The first was from Senator Kohl.

SenatorKohlClick the picture to see it full size.  He really doesn’t say much, just that he has

…taken the liberty of forwarding your concerns… 

Second Reply

A few days after that I received an envelope from the Judges Chambers at the courthouse.  Unfortunately it was stamped RECEIVED WITHOUT CONTENTS.

JudgesChambersEmpty Since I didn’t know who actually sent me the letter I sent a letter back to the return address, with a copy of the envelope, asking them to resend.  They did and I received this two page letter from Judge Crabb.

JudgeCrabb1JudgeCrabb2 Again, click the image to see it full size.

She brings up a few points.  I agree that courthouses can be “volatile”.  Though I never wanted to, attempted to, or mentioned entering the building at anytime, so I’m not sure why she weapons screening. 

The first sentence of her third paragraph starts

Photographing the building is perfectly acceptable

which is true.  And I’ll be sure to carry a copy of this letter with me if I ever take pictures near the courthouse again.  It certainly refutes what the guard said about not taking pictures of the building because of “security procedures”.

However, the rest of the paragraph is not so nice.

,but you or anyone else who takes pictures of the building can expect to be asked politely by a court security officer about what you are doing.  This is an unfortunate result of greater public safety concerns since 9/11, concerns that have only intensified since the recent discovery of at least two plots to blow up federal courthouses.

First, “politely”?  That guard was not polite.  Polite would be “Excuse me.”  Not “Hey, hey, hey”.  Polite would be introducing yourself, stating your name and position, instead of just assuming I’m going to do what you say because you’re in a uniform.  Perhaps stating the reason you’re approaching me, instead of beginning an immediate interrogation.  And a polite person definitely doesn’t threaten.

Apparently Judge Crabb believes that while taking pictures of the courthouse is “perfectly acceptable” it is also suspicious and grounds for questioning.  The Judge seems to be unaware that terrorists (real ones, not movie ones) don’t use photography.  The 9/11 terrorists did not take pictures.  Neither did Timothy McVeigh when he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.

And in her third paragraph she compares my experience to her experience at an airport.  I just don’t buy that analogy.  Airports and airplanes are private property.  While they are open to the public the owners are free to set any requirements they wish.  An airline could require you to do the Hokey Pokey before you board their plane and it would be perfectly legal.  I was on a public sidewalk.

Third Reply

The final reply I received so far was from Representative Baldwin.

 RepBaldwin BaldwinConner

She has faxed my letter to the acting administrator of the Government Services Administration and asked him to:

…address Mr. Zytkiewicz’s four main concerns as outlined on page three of his letter.

So that’s my update.  I’ll let you know when I receive any more letters.

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Migration complete

September 6th, 2010

My migration from my old servers to the new one is complete.  Unfortunately I didn’t save the most recent copy of the database so it appears I may have lost all my posts after October of last year.  I think I may be able to repost some of them using the local copies from my desktop blogging software.  I’m pretty sure that some of them were created before I started using that software so those are probably gone for good.

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