Such A Great Day :: Arrest Threats & All

May 19, 2012 | Editorial Photography

Yesterday was an amazing day. It was the kind of day that I got to do everything that I love to do. First, I got to shoot a new artist named K-B. I love working with emerging artists of all genres but hip hop is one of my favorite genres to work in right now. I’m really immersed in hip hop these days. I can’t release the cover images we were working on but here are a few press shots.



While this was all going on I had a camera trained on me. I had the honor of having Jonathan Lees from Complex Magazine come down from NYC to do a profile on me. Jonathan said he wanted to do a bit of an interview and then hit the town for some street photography. I was hoping we could show a New Yorker that shooting on the streets of Atlanta can be an adventure. Atlanta did not let us down.


First we got hassled by some GSU police officers who claimed they had jurisdiction off campus. We were just walking around shooting some photos and video and we were told we were loitering. We were not loitering but the cop was persistant. So we were persistant. He said we could tell it to a judge. I asked if he had jurisdiction there. He put his hand on his cuffs and gave me the “do you really want to find out if I have jurisdiction here or not” kind of look. We moved along.


This is Unknown. He told me to check out his music at That web site is lacking raps. He was quite the character. He may or may not have been just a bit under the influence of a controlled substance.


I went on down the street and came across this lady and her three adorable kids. As I was trying to find my frame on them, this guy comes running up on us and starts screaming that I’m trying to take pictures of the lady’s backside. Well, I mean, I was technically but that was not the subject of the photograph. This dude was pissed and got in my face. Quivering lips and clinched fists in my face. Jonathan dropped his camera and flanked him to the left, Dan was at his back, and he was right in my face. I held my ground and he finally went on his way. Here’s the family.


Then I started to find my frame and was just waiting for the girl to peek back at me. Just a move to the right and a bit of a left dutch and I could have framed her between that white line and the curb, got her sleeping brother, and balanced her with the fire hydrant… Oh well. From the guy’s perspective I’m sure I looked like I was up to something naughty.


Didn’t get my shot. But I also didn’t get shot. So you take the good with the bad I suppose. Moved on down the street and interacted with some great people. I’ll save those for the Complex video. Here’s a detail I like. Zone 3 is a local police precinct.


Loved all the colors going on here. I just had a thing for shooting backsides yesterday I guess.


I demonstrated how to act like you’re taking a photo of one thing when you’re actually taking a shot of something entirely different.


I see people. But more than that, I see stories. What are all the stories to be told here? When I was shooting this I was drawn to the gentleman in the overalls. But now I’m fascinated by the man in the brown shirt. What’s the story? I want to know but I like the mystery. See how his face is looking in the opposite direction his feet are? I love it. I’m going to take a cue from this for posing portrait subjects. It’s an odd tension that I’m drawn to.


Did all that and was home in time for dinner and our nightly bed time ritual. Can you believe that Hawke Danger just turned three this week?


I got to do what I love and pay the rent. I got to do what I love for the sheer love of it. I got to share what I love to do. I got it all done and still made it to dinner. There’s never been a more perfect day. And Jonathan… thanks so much. It was such a pleasure to work with you. Between our time on the street, and Dan and Erik taking you to the Clermont, I hope your trip to the A was a memorable one! Thanks for having my back. New York would be proud. :)



Gear Notes :: Press photo shot with the Phase One IQ140 and Schneider 55mm LS. Lit with an Einstein and a 50″ Westcott strip box with egg crate grid. Second press photo shot with the same strip box and two Nikon lights on the side for just a hair of fill. The mirror leaning on the apple box was not there by K-B’s request. It was there as a reflector. I don’t want anyone to think he has a vanity complex! The one stop scrim flying in front of the overhead light was there to reduce part of the exposure on the top frame of the photograph I was taking without cutting light in the bottom of the frame. The mirror was kicking light back in from that overhead light. Two Nikon strobes zoomed to 105mm on the side for rim light. The white B400 had a 10º grid for his face. 30º grid on the overhead Einstein. Set filled with smoke for the final shot. Street stuff shot with the Fuji XPro-1 and the 35mm 1.4 and 18mm 2.0. “Stories” shot with the 60mm 2.4.


  • Brian Muntz said on May 19, 2012

    I love that 55mm LS!! sick lens man! It’s sweet you’re shooting Phase One now!

  • Shawn said on May 19, 2012

    I’ve never come across a photographer’s blog post more interesting than this one. It’s insightful, compelling and just a damn pleasure to read.

    And the photos are beautiful and engaging.


  • paulmhoward said on May 19, 2012

    great post, Zack. I love reading your blog. I also love the fact that you still use Paul C. Buff equipment. Keep doing what you do, you are an inspiration to me to keep trying.

  • tomas said on May 19, 2012

    Heading near by Atlanta for summer definitely must visit it! :)
    Great post tough, It’s always interesting to know why, not to how photography is taken.

  • Jakob said on May 19, 2012

    Great post. Says a lot about life!

  • nate parker said on May 19, 2012

    Awesome- love that bus stop shot, and you got a wicked nice w.c! Can’t believe that backside accoster tho- man!

  • Leif said on May 19, 2012

    What a perfect day. You got out, shot a variety of photography and came home to see your 3 year old.

    My little guy is that same age and it’s a great finish to every day to see him. He tells me every night that I’m his best friend so I always try to make sure I’m there for bedtime rituals.

  • hornbeck said on May 19, 2012

    Great article. I can’t wait to see the Complex interview.

  • Dave Kell said on May 19, 2012

    Thanks for taking us along, Zack. I can relate to interactions with cops. I once had one tell me I couldn’t take photos of a “crime scene” when I was standing on a sidewalk which was not taped off. He had a blank stare when I asked him “What about the First Amendment?”

  • Bob K said on May 19, 2012

    Zack’s too gracious to say it… but there have been so many security people hired since 9/11, I think they hassle photographers as a way to keep busy and justify their work.

  • Che said on May 19, 2012

    Pretty sweet, man! and a little dangerous…street photography at its best!! Hope all is well. Greetings from Green Bay, WI.

  • Anthony said on May 19, 2012

    You could’ve got PAID big money had you been arrested. Carry a Photographers Rights card. Also get the DHS report covering photography + Dept. Of Transportation. Check ACLU site for latest updates on where and when photography is allowed and the latest PAYOUT $$$ figures by the govt because of goons with guns violating these rights. And STAND YOUR GROUND. That “explain it to the judge” B.S. is an intimidation tactic.

  • Chris - Smudged Photo said on May 19, 2012

    Great post Zack, wondering how come you don’t need to model release photos of random members of the public? Is it only if you’re planning on selling them commercially that you need to do that?


  • Zack said on May 19, 2012

    @Chris – Correct. If I was to sell these images commercially I would need a release. I can use them for my personal work, personal site, books of my work, and editorial usage without a release.


  • Max Almonte said on May 19, 2012

    Wow! That sounds like a good day to me. I dont know how you keep your calm Z, a dude in my face i would literary be chewing off his head, specially after accusing of something serious like that. Man!

  • Michael Sebastian said on May 19, 2012

    Z, you did the only practical thing when the GSU cop got stupid. Had he cuffed you, you could have snapped a geotagged photo of the scene with your iPhone and proven later you were off-campus. So, one unlawful-detainment suit later, GSU could have picked up the tab for the day’s work you’d have lost, and quite a bit extra for your trouble. Call that the continuing-education bill for the GSU police force; it’s the only thing police forces seem to understand, sometimes.

    But post-hoc vindication wouldn’t have done you much good at that point. This is always the tradeoff; make a stand for your rights when you KNOW you’re right, and then spend much more time and money cleaning up after the morons.

    I’m a great respecter of law enforcement; they are truly the Thin Blue Line. But far too many of them are just butt-ignorant of the law and of the Constitution.

    Hoping to have my own X-Pro1 (and Pentax 645D?) reviews out there soon; I’ll make sure you see the links….

  • Zack said on May 19, 2012

    @MikeSeb – Can’t wait to read them!


  • Daniel said on May 19, 2012

    Always remember, photography is not a crime. I would have told the cop to please cite the crime he wished to charge me with, and called my lawyer on the spot.

    And regarding photographing people from behind, this country has no concept of street photography, but with the access to sketchy photos online has thrown every one into a chicken little syndrome. I would have shown the person the photo and given them my business card. Also helps to have a small 4×5 photo book of your work.

    Btw, what camera were you using to do street photography, the xpro1?

  • Jawsh said on May 19, 2012

    Love the blog and really loved your “One Light” DVD. It’s the best tutorial DVD I’ve seen and I have many. Since I think you’re awesome I will give you some tips from a cop who is also a photographer. Sometimes the cops are wrong and sometimes they are right and you think they are wrong. I will be the first to tell you there are many cops who don’t know the laws regarding photography. There are however times that photographers want to flex a first amendment moment not realizing they’ve violated a law regardless of whether they have a camera or not. So in an effort to bridge the gap between the two lives I live, I thought I would explain a few things to help us all live in harmony.

    First I will start with the Campus Police. They actually do have State wide jurisdiction. The reason they do is that students may commit crimes on campus, but don’t live on campus so their investigations may cover a larger area. In actuality though, police can arrest you anywhere in the State where they are sworn. Jurisdiction has more to do with who gets to do the paperwork. I once had a guy in a gas station outside my city try to call me on in a fight, then did a cool tire squealing doughnut (yes I said doughnut…yum!) in the gas station parking lot where he almost hit a pedestrian trying to walk into the store. He kept yelling “What are you going to do about it pig? This aint your city!” Well I arrested him and took him to jail…he now has a better understanding of jurisdiction verses arrest authority.

    I’m not sure if Atlanta really has a loitering law, but I actually doubt it. You can be trespassed from a campus if you’re not a student. However, it sounds like you were not on a campus so I’m not sure why campus PD was there other than the property may have been a satellite building owned by the university and they were there checking it. Most places no longer have loitering laws but they might and it’s best to know if they do. You can get into trouble if you’re on private property that is posted or not posted. Many businesses sign something like a letter of intent with the city saying that they want anyone on the property who is not doing business cited. Luckily most cities provided a standard sign for this, so you can clearly see it’s no trespassing. Police can then site you or in some cases make a physical arrest. It’s best just to move along if asked to do so and you don’t have permission to be there. Public property is fair game for the most part. The only exceptions are during park curfew hours. Many photographers go into parks late at night and then claim first amendment on public property. As of now the courts do not say you have a first amendment right in a park when closed. Maybe one day that will change.

    As far as the guy who posted that they had an officer tell them not to photograph at a crime scene. The officer may have been wrong, but could’ve been right. I’ll explain. It’s true you actually can shoot photographs of a crime scene as long as you are not inside the tape. However there are times that crime scene tape cannot or was not used for various reasons and during those times an officer will be posted in lieu of crime scene tape. If an officer tells you that you are “in” the crime scene…key in on that specific word…then you are even if you don’t see tape. Any photographs you take will be seized along with your camera gear and you can work to get them back when you get out of jail. This is a pain. The best thing to do if you’re not sure is simply to ask the officer “Where can I shoot from?” Most will tell you what the crime scene boundaries are. Some will be jerks but many will not be. I have had cameras and news crews on more calls than I could count. Rarely have I had a problem and more often than not the ones who don’t know where they can be will ask. When they do I explain the current perimeter and tell them they are welcome anywhere outside of that as long as it’s not private property. Another thing to be aware of is that police can at anytime lawfully extend their crime scene. For example…we start looking for shell casings in the road, but later learn the shooter may have fired rounds farther down the street. At that point the crime scene is about to get bigger. You as a photographer may be asked to move as they get ready to extend the scene. You likely will not know this is going on. If you then decide to start a scene and say you have right to be there, you will probably get arrested for interfering. When I’m about to move a crime scene I explain that to the stringers as a courtesy not because I have to.

    Just like any job you have nice people and jerks. The bad part about cops is that if a cop is a jerk to you, then all cops are jerks. However, if the guy at Starbucks is a jerk, you never think to call all Starbuck Employees jerks. Even if you visit three Starbucks and three people act like jerks, it’s never going to be all Starbucks Employees if you catch my drift. Trust me when I say I work with some officers who are tool-bags and treat everyone like crap….including their co-workers. These officers normally give the rest of us a bad rap and honestly are not like by most other cops. They’re typically miserable people who just happen to wear a police uniform. Personally when I do come across photographers I am polite and explain they need to move along if I have lawful right to do so AND I was called to deal with them. If a property owner did not call I likely won’t even stop. On a rare occasion I may check to see why people are behind a closed business late at night. If they are taking pictures I ask if they have permission to be there. If they do I leave. If they don’t I ask them to leave. The problem for police is that if we find people on private property where they do not have permission and we don’t make them leave we can get into legal trouble. I’ll explain…If I stop a group of people taking photos and they do not have permission to be there, but I let them stay I can be in trouble for a few reasons. First I only have permission to make them leave and have no right to tell them they can stay. That right remains with the property owner. The second problem is that if I allow people to stay and they later break into a business or damage the property, the police are now liable for this. Depending on who’s property this is an what political and media storm may come from it, you can get suspended or even lose your job. Hopefully you can see why cops ask you to leave sometimes.

    Occasionally cops get it wrong and when you think that is the case I have a much better way to handle it than to argue. Simply talk normal and polite but agree to move along or leave. Before you go ask for a case number or a business card from the officer. Explain that you are more than willing to leave, but want to check into what the officer told you because you thought it was different but you respect him giving you a break and not a citation or whatever thing keeps the conversation civil. Then call the PD and ask their internal affairs or civilian review board to check into it. The one caution I give is that I would only do this if you honestly believe your rights were violated. The situation will get investigated and if you lie about the details many police departments will file charges against you. So go in, be honest and it will get sorted out.
    So here is the short list of do’s and don’ts:
    1. Do get permission to be on private property. (Have written copy if the owner is not with you)
    2. Don’t argue with the 5.0 if you’re on private property and you don’t have permission.
    3. Do ask where the crime scene boundaries are before you take photos if the scene is not clearly marked.
    4. Do treat the officer the way you want to be treated. If you don’t like people arguing with you don’t argue with them. You may be surprised how well “most” cops react to being treated kindly. Cops are human and getting in their face can result in them flexing any authority they have. I’ve had people get under my skin and arrested them on petty stuff before, but I try not to let little things bother me. Every once in a while people just piss you off….try not to be the one to piss off the cop.
    5. Do get a case number if you feel the officer violated your rights and follow up on the situation.
    6. Don’t stick around if you think you’re rights were violated, sort it out latter.
    7. Do look for “No Trespassing” signs.
    8. Don’t shoot where there are no trespassing signs unless you’re willing get a citation for it an possible be accused of property damage or theft you didn’t do.
    9. Do know park curfews and don’t be in the park if it’s closed. Some city building also have hours they are open or closed. Just be informed.
    10. Don’t go on railroad tracks..(which I hate in most photos by the way) are all private property. The railroads will not give permission for you to be on them.
    11. Don’t go around abandoned buildings without permission. Many of these building are problem areas for police because they attract transients and vandals. Often times the building owner will be a bank or some corporation. Given the issues empty building cause the chances are that a letter of intent was signed by the owner and is on file. So you can get cited. Most cops will just ask you to leave unless you get lippy.

    Anyway…that was really long winded….sorry. I just find myself caught between two worlds when it comes to this stuff.


  • Zack said on May 19, 2012

    @Jawsh – Man. Thanks so much for the well thought out and detailed comment. I really appreciate it!


  • Rex Gigout said on May 19, 2012

    I cannot cite the name of the actual case(s) from memory, but the SCOTUS struck down loitering laws decades ago. One does, however, need to be careful of trespassing laws, when on private property, and also to be mindful that campus cops’ jurisdiction does not necessarily end at the campus boundary; this will vary by state. (I am in Texas, so will not speculate on Georgia law.) I don’t see how one can trespass on a sidewalk or similar public right-of-way, if that is where you/y’all were standing at that time, but again, my frame of reference is Texas, not Georgia, and I am not a lawyer, just an humble public servant with a badge.

    Great images!

  • Matt said on May 19, 2012

    Looks like you guys were using a fog machine. (top photo)

  • Zack said on May 20, 2012

    @Matt – Yep!

  • Collin Atnip said on May 19, 2012

    Man did I picked the wrong day to eat lunch at the food court. You were right down from my office.

  • Patrik Lindgren said on May 19, 2012

    Oh i really like picture eleven, with the three dudes. Two sitting and one standing next to them.
    I just think there is a lot going on, even though it doesn´t really seem like it.

  • s.moll said on May 19, 2012

    I hear ya’ll on everything, great comments.
    It is true esp these days after 911 photogs gotta stick together and know citizen rights. Just saying “first amendment” to an officer of the law, or an underling thereof, more than likely will instigate aggression because you as a photographer, amateur or pro, haven’t done your research into those said rights and therefore have false thoughts or misleading info. ACLU is probably the first step to start after a basic understanding of the constitution, and then probably googling or browsing a fav photog’s site like this one. Even David Hobby of Strobist, as known as he is, is still dealing with authorities on a constant basis; but like any prof.photog, relays to us learners what one’s proper reactions should be, and the preliminary actions to prevent such action in the first place, from their own experience.
    Personally, I also think that possibly looking into getting a Press Pass through AP or another known national press synd is a good idea. Even if the final decision is down to no, I guarantee that some knowledge will be gained for rough times.
    And speaking personally, I can tell you that if you are a state resident -that is your permanent home location on your driver /photo ID- is the same state as the university property you are on, and so long as it is state-funded (like ‘MainName Univ-of-State’), and it is within curfew and not a restricted area (like a research facility, a lab, or student resident quarters), you basically have every right as a tax payer of that state to walk the grounds and buildings, and even checkout main library items; So long as a pass or letter is NOT normally required.

    Just my thoughts from my perspective. Peace.

  • Jawsh said on May 19, 2012

    Any time Zack! You’re my favorite photog…so I got your back! I’ve learned more from your training than anything else I’ve given my money or attention to. I appreciate you reading my exteremly long post. I guess at times I feel caught between my photography family and my police family. Like a goofy kid in the middle of fighting parents, I see that there is a lack of understanding and communication on both sides at times.

    Anyway…keep up the great work. Your video that posted on Scott Kelby’s site with your wife’s awesome music is great motivation when I feel like giving up the photo stuff and think my work sucks. I watch that video and find my way back.

  • Zack said on May 20, 2012

    @Jawsh – No problem. I imagine you’re really good people! Are you familiar with David E. Jackson? He was a full time police officer and is now a full time photographer. He’s good people too. Check out his work if you haven’t already.

  • robert, quiet photographer said on May 20, 2012

    For sure it was an “interesting” day ! The photo with the three guys could be the starting point for many different stories…grazie

  • Mars said on May 20, 2012

    Hiya Zack,

    Just wondering why you used the mirror as a reflector rather than the standard reflector or bounce card?

    Are you getting getto on this?

    Cheers :Z> (note the > , its your gotee)

  • Zack said on May 21, 2012

    @Mars – A standard reflector would not have had as much punch as I needed or it would have had to be in so close to K-B that it would have been in the frame.


  • Jawsh said on May 21, 2012


    I hadn’t heard of David E. Jackson yet. I checked out his work and it’s great! I really appreciate you passing that along. His site will also be good inspiration for improving my photography skills. I love looking at other people’s work; it make me feel like my own work stinks in comparison, but it also drives me to get better. That’s what is so great about photography…you can always get better and learn.

  • Bret said on May 21, 2012

    Re: The shot of the lady and her three kids. As the good professor once said, “Zack, this is possibly one of the most beautiful pictures I’ve ever seen of the back of people’s heads.”
    You should call that pic, “SUV Town.”

  • Ed said on May 21, 2012

    Every time I stop by, I learn something new. Sounds like it was a great outing Zack and thank you Jawsh for your comments! Wow!

  • Anthony said on May 21, 2012

    major props to Jawsh (officer/photographer) … dude you brought the other side into the melee … THANKS

  • Dorean said on May 21, 2012

    Awesome post! My favorite of the photos is the one with the three dudes. It’s stunning. It draws me in to want to know these guys’ stories.

  • Shannon said on May 21, 2012

    @Jawsh–thanks for your very informative comment. Good info there.

  • Jose said on May 21, 2012

    What I can make on your screen in the first photo looks cool, I wonder if it was left there on purpose….

    Really enjoy your street photography, I’ve been playing around a bit with it myself, your stuff pushes me to get better.



  • Edward said on May 22, 2012

    Just wanted to thank Jawsh for his detailed explanation–it is very helpful. I often photograph in neighborhoods where law enforcement has challenges, and to date I have never had a problem. I’m not a photographer, I’m a numbers geek who works in planning projects, but I believe that one of the best ways to understand an area and the folks in it is to get out there with a camera and look hard. Good will and a friendly attitude goes a surprisingly long way. I was recently in the Pittsburgh neighborhood in Atlanta; the people in the neighborhood were wonderful, friendly and so helpful. The police and firefighters and EMT folks we met were perceptive and helpful as well. Jawsh is clearly one of those guys, the good guys.

    Zack, I really enjoy reading your blog. Your review was one of the reasons I got the X100, which I used to document what I saw in the Pittsburgh neighborhood. You were right, soul. Thanks for doing this.

  • Pete said on May 23, 2012

    Love the third shot of K-B and the image with the paper boxes and the guy with the green shirt. Wonderful work.

  • JInny said on May 24, 2012

    I love shooting 5 Points downtown. I have “backside” days too. LOL
    As I was reading I thought this is one time it’s probably fortunate to be a girl because the cops and bystanders don’t really ever hassle you.

  • Alex said on May 28, 2012

    Love the work! Sometimes when cops show up when I am shooting, I tell them I am blind and taking pictures is the only way I can show people what I see. Of course, I am not but most of them leave me alone at that point. 😉

  • Zachary Long said on June 12, 2012

    Seeing that this post was from May 19th I thought I had deja vu. Were you on Marietta by the Quiznos? A few days ago I was “loitering” I guess waiting outside the GSU college of business (Broad St & Marietta St) on the public sidewalk and saw one of the GSU campus police ask another street photographer to move from his position at the corner closest to the building. He apparently didn’t have to move far because he just crossed the street and resumed shooting and the officer went back to chatting up the building’s security guard. It made me want to research the definition of a public sidewalk in Georgia and come back with a camera… Oh well, keep doing what you’re doing man, can’t wait for the video :)

  • Zack said on June 12, 2012

    Another Zachary shooting on the same street? That was me!

  • Ferry55k said on June 18, 2012

    nice touch the color checker used in a black an white picture

  • Rafael said on July 23, 2012

    Awesome artist that’s soo cool you got to work with him and vice versa .. great work as usual

  • Web said on August 16, 2012

    Another great writing, along with your signature pics. I’ve been making payments on an X-Pro 1 with the 35mm since March. I can hardly wait to make the last two payments. As always, a most enjoyable read.

  • @jonnothin said on September 18, 2012

    Hey guys,

    Couldn’t be more honored to have Zach as our first subject for ‘Shots Fired’. Truly a great storyteller, photographer and human being!

    You can check out the video here:

  • Walter Bauer said on October 15, 2012

    Nice work can’t wait to take one of your workshops ! Walt

  • Tumbleweed Photography Studio said on March 5, 2013

    Ha! I love the lengths you go to for your shot, and it sounds like there is never a dull moment!

  • Diego L said on June 29, 2013

    Hi Zack ! I’m from Argentina. I’m looking for a black background and I’ve done some research I don’t know which material it’s better. (100%cotton, polyester, plush, etc)

    I want something to absorb light so I can have a pure black backfucjjingground right from the camera. I dont want to take it to black after.

    If you see my photos I have a beauty shot with a pure black background but It was beacuse of the distance of the model to de BG.

    What kind of BG did you use for that shot?

    I also have seen a photographer using a BG on direct sunlight with a big scrim jim diffusing the hard light of the sun. And it looks pretty cool but I’m still looking…

    Thanks for taking your time !

  • Zack said on July 6, 2013

    @Diego – You can use any ol’ black material. Just keep as much light from hitting it as possible.


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