Taking pictures is against the law

Man Photographing Daughters Accused of Suspicious Behavior by Man Claiming to be DHS Agent

By Carlos Miller

A man taking photos of his teenage daughters on a New Jersey ferry was interrupted by a stranger, who asked his daughters if they were being exploited.

The photographer, Jeff Gates, was taken aback, but told the stranger that he was their father, which may not have been so obvious at first considering he is white and his adopted daughters Asian.

But that still wasn’t enough reason for the stranger to intervene.

However, the stranger later claimed to work for the Department of Homeland Security, which means he is trained to view anybody with a camera as a suspected criminal.

He later told Gates that he found him suspicious because he had been taking photos of his daughters hugging for 15 minutes.

But Gates has been taking photos of his daughters for more than a decade on the family annual retreat to Cape May as you can see in the above collage, so he obviously wanted to take the time to snap the perfect shot.

Gates wrote about the incident in a column for the Washington Post.

Would this man have approached us, I wondered, if I had been Asian, like my children, or if my daughters had been white? No, I didn’t think so. I knew I’d regret not going back to speak to him about what had happened. My wife warned me I might be asking for trouble, but I reassured her that I would be fine.

I walked outside to where he was standing and calmly said: “Excuse me, sir, but you just embarrassed me in front of my children and strangers. And what you said was racist.”

The man didn’t seem at all fazed. He replied: “I work for the Department of Homeland Security. And let me give you some advice: You were standing there taking photos of them hugging for 15 minutes.”

I see. So we didn’t fit the mold of what he considered a typical American family, and he thought my picture-taking was excessive, possibly depraved. How long should family snapshots take? He thought he was qualified to judge. I told him I was a professional photographer and take lots of photos.

“My wife’s a photographer,” he said. “I understand.”

“Then you should have known better,” I replied.

He agreed to consider everything I had said. But he didn’t sound very sincere. When I had questions about his observations, he deflected them, hoping to manage my reaction with simple apologies, except they weren’t simple at all: He apologized; he criticized; and he apologized again.

There was nothing more I could say, nor did I need to hear any more explanations from him. I thought about asking for his business card or his name, but instead I just walked away, feeling exposed.

Gates should not only have demanded identification, but should have snapped a photo of the man, just to remind him that photography is not a crime.

However, several of the people commenting on the Washington Post article, reposted below, tell Gates he should have been grateful for the stranger’s intervention because he was only trying to keep his daughters safe.

But if the man couldn’t have figured out that nothing was amiss after 15 minutes of observing them, then he really has no business working for the Department of Homeland Security, if he was even telling the truth.