By Jim Armstrong, WBZ-TV

CBS (BOSTON) – It’s legal for someone to snap your photo while you’re walking down the street, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t annoying.

A WBZ-TV viewer passed along some video he recorded at Downtown Crossing this week.

The viewer told us he sees a group of six or seven men, armed with fancy cameras aggressively hunting down and photographing women and children nearly every day.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports 

The video he shared shows what seems to be some sketchy behavior.

His story was backed up by other people at Downtown Crossing, who tell WBZ-TV these guys are constantly getting in peoples’ faces and acting very defensively when someone asks them to stop.

“Those guys are out here every single day, following people up and down the street, nonchalantly taking pictures of women’s body parts,” said Craig Caplan, who owns three kiosks selling various items not far from where these men hang out.

Caplan says he’s seen them focus their lenses on women’s breasts, legs, and behinds. As for what the men do with their pictures, he has no idea.

“I’d love to know,” said Caplan. “I mean, if it was my wife, girlfriend, daughter, I would have a big problem with it.”

WBZ-TV’s cameras were rolling as some of these men darted in and out of crowds on Friday afternoon, snapping away.

When confronted, a man who identified himself only as “John,” said he and his friends were simply ‘street photographers’.

He acknowledged that he does “have to be a little aggressive to do this type of photography” and that people shouldn’t be bothered by it.

Asked if he specifically targets young women or children, John said, “false.”

Another street photographer, Pierre Philippe, admitted he could “understand that people are bothered by this” but also denied taking any kind of obscene or inappropriate pictures.

A third man, named Joe, called it “ridiculous [and] absurd” to think he and his fellow photographers would target children or women. “We don’t do anything that’s suspect or could be considered suspect,” he said.

“There’s no law against taking pictures of anything in the street,” pointed out Andy Klein, another man in this group.

When asked why so many of their subjects are put off by being in their pictures, Klein responded, “Well, people imagine things.”

The men claim that none of their photos ever ends up on the internet as part of pay site. They say their pictures go into their private collections; some, they say, will be part of an upcoming art show that focuses on the work of local street photographers.

Comments (166)
  1. YellowJournalism says:

    WBZ, Jim Armstrong, Ron, Jonathan Elias, where are your responses to this? Clearly the way you all have handled the framing of what these photographers are doing has come into question. The journalistically responsible thing to do is to comment and explain what happened. To me, you have clearly insinuated that these guys are pedophiles and pornographers, and are doing your best to frighten people. Based on the blog posting by one of the photographers, they are clearly working in the long tradition of street photographers in this country and trying to make art. And they explained that to you. Why did you present the story the way you did?

  2. Jeremy says:

    Unfortunately, with all the comments posted and with this story, there is bias. Only the photographers truly know what they are doing when they photograph people and what it is they are doing with their photos. I have looked at the photographer’s blog. I do feel he got dissed by Jim Armstrong, but I also know he’s not being entirely upfront either. It’s great we are all given this forum to debate and to agree or disagree. Street photography and all forms of art should be protected. Still, there should be some level of class displayed when going about your art. A bit respect and consideration can go a long way when dealing with others. Hope this has opened up a lot of eyes to the subject.

  3. btezra says:

    wow, here I thought I was on FauxNews.com (Fox “news”), just another example of a tv station promoting fear through sensationalized “story”

    no facts, no actual reporting just assumption and fear mongering

    pathethis piece of “journalism”

    a photographer has every right to photograph what she or he chooses on public property, if the images are used for commercial reasons I am sure the photographer’s got signed consent forms from those individuals in the photographs

  4. Rich says:

    From another site regarding that photographer’s online response:

    “April 18th, 2011 at 4:16 pm
    A couple of notes:

    (1) The WBZ story was quite one-sided, with plenty of unsubstantiated innuendo.

    (2) There’s nothing wrong with legit street photography.

    (3) The photographer’s response was intelligent and well-written.

    (4) The photographer’s response leaves behind many clues that convinced me that all is NOT legit… (a) He can’t get the name of his 2010 photo series right, once calling it “Small Feet, Big Feet, High-Heeled Shoe Feet” and once “Big Feet, Small Feet, High-Heeled Shoe Feet.” (b) Searching for his name, “Henry Joe Henry” or email address “Streetshot33@yahoo.com” results in no hits referring to him outside of that webpage. (c) His web page contains a single entry, and no apparent history or outside references (according to Bing, Google, and Archive.org), and so was likely just set up for this one response. SO, what kind of Internet-savvy photographer is so proud of his work that he leaves no trace of himself or of his work online anywhere?”

    I know that the photographer is not being entirely upfront; others may catch on to that,too. Ask the many witnesses to these guys in the Downtown Crossing area and hear their side before being so quick to take sides. Don’t let your love for street photography make you so biased that you’ll feel for anyone or everyone taking pictures. Not everyone is in it for the art.

    1. B. Vasquez says:

      You KNOW the photographer isn’t being up front? Really? Are you a WBZ employee??? If not they might be looking for a reporter like yourself.

      You cracked the case wide open!

      Nice ghost hunt, Sherlock. Guess what I’m not using my real name or e-mail either. People like to stay anonymous on the internet ya know.

  5. JT says:

    I think the funnier thing is that all those crying foul on the art of street photography don’t seem to mind that the news does this every day. When was the last time you saw a news report that doesn’t show random shots of people to help cover the story. They’ll show footage of people walking on the street focusing on the overweight people when they are doing a story on obesity, for example.

    In these cases they ARE often showing identifiable footage of people. But I don’t hear you screaming about that. In fact they even did it for this story. Just as they have laws in place that allow them to do this, so does the average person.

    There is no expectation of privacy in a public space. And you should also consider that your every move is recorded on video cameras from traffic stops to shopping malls.

    In short, those of you who would declare these men perverts, get over yourselves. They aren’t hiding, they aren’t using long lenses to capture these images without being seen. They are out there, among the people capturing the story of the people.

  6. f8bethere says:

    I found some more incidents of photographers photographing underage women from behind without them knowing about it. Have a look: http://boston.cbslocal.com/2011/04/11/salem-teachers-recorded-unknowingly-in-classroom/

    The difference is that it is the CBS TV photographers doing it. Shots like that are par for the course for almost every single story involving an elementary school. Where is your outrage CBS TV!

    Also what the hell was this? Could the lead in and lead out by the anchor sound any more biased. Is journalistic integrity not necessary for anchors or producers at cbs tv?

    I am not defending the street photographers. I find the whole pack thing a bit odd for starters but if it is true that they willingly showed the reporter what they shot then how come we weren’t able to see that in the story? Aren’t you supposed to tell both sides here? Or did the images not fit your editorial decision to make them look like they just may be possibly perverts or at the very least ‘odd’. You just lost a viewer and contributor to your advertisers.

  7. f8bethere says:

    Okay, I am done with defending these guys. I gave them the benefit of the doubt until I clicked on the gallery listed on their response. What are there? Terrible photos of girls in bikini’s from far away. Typical creepy photographer shots. Thanks for giving real street photographers a bad name you idiots.

    Real classy
    http://thephotorecession.webs.com/apps/photos/album?albumid=11417236

    1. B. Vasquez says:

      Not so fast. I KNOW Joe personally, and those are NOT his photos. I’m not sure whats going on. If you look at the original pics of legs and feet you can see yourself the style is completely different.
      I can’t explain this myself, but I know for a fact those are not Joe’s photos. Account hacked? i mean, seriously, why would someone describe the situation so eloquently, provide pictures to support his case……… then out of the blue produce completely different type of photos of young girls and kids like that? (that are terrible images btw) It must have gotten hacked. Profile says hes from Florida too.

      1. f8bethere says:

        I looked and it says the photos were added today and yes by someone in Florida allegedly. Fair enough BUT why don’t these street photographers post some of their work and settle this finally instead of posting one or two pics of feet lets see their whole take from the day they were video taped.

      2. Rich says:

        Looks to be more “members” on there now. May be a’holes hacking the site to exploit what is going on and to tarnish Joe’s rep. It would be nice,btw,so see his work up there,besides what he has provided. He should represent himself with his art. A bio would be nice,too.

  8. Rich says:

    Here you can see photos from a brilliant and amazingly talented street photographer: .http://www.google.com/search?q=bruce+gilden+photography&hl=en&sa=X&rlz=1C1CHMZ_enUS375US375&prmd=ivnso&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&ei=IuSsTarULofv0gHCgpXACw&ved=0CCcQsAQ&biw=1360&bih=667

    Street photography is a great art form, so it shouldn’t be feared. I don’t believe this news story was attacking street photography. This particular group has made many uneasy in the area. Perhaps we (in the area) have reacted too strongly to them. It would be nice to see there efforts online or in print. It seems practical these days to have an online gallery to show off artwork and photography,especially because not everyone can attend an actual gallery. Hey,Vasquez,I have no beef with you. We disagree and see things differently. My mind is fairly open,though it may appear otherwise to you. You know the man,so you know much better than I do. Right now,I am jaded about this group. My mind can change,however.

    1. B. Vasquez says:

      I met Bruce Gildon about a year and a half ago, it was a pleasure talking to him. If you like and respect Gilden’s work, than you should have NO PROBLEM with what these guys are doing. Gilden gets into peoples faces with FLASH, how do you think he gets the dramatic images he gets? You can’t be shooting from across the street, or politely ask permission first. You have to put yourself on the line. John shoots no different than Gilden, as I’ve seen them both shoot. Except Gilden uses flash……. (how would that go down in Boston?)
      Let me just say, the way these guys are depicted in videos is NOT the way they normally shoot in a group like that. (Yes it can make them look a little foolish to some, but that’s not the norm by a long shot) They are dedicated street photographers and take it seriously. I know one of the guys could probably out talk anyone when it comes to photography He’s like an encyclopedia on the subject. Photography is his LIFE. (drives me nuts talking about it haha)

      Whether they decide to show anything is up to them. But frankly, I can’t blame them if they don’t. Not with the lynch mob that’s been assembling in this forum. I wouldn’t post a link to my website either. Not with the sheer ignorance going around.

      And I would just like to say to all the people that keep bringing up children and calling them pedophiles. Some of them have been shooting there for over 10 years! As the news report said, the police are well aware of it as they have been over the last DECADE. Certainly if they were some sort of pedophile ring they would be in jail by now. Use some common sense people. They are out in the open, not hiding from anyone.
      Whether its art, hack photography, garbage photography, or even “CREEPY”, that’s not the issue. No laws are being broken, “if you can see it, you can shoot it”. Frankly, i don’t think they should have to prove anything to anyone. The fact remains if they were doing anything wrong after all this time, the police who see them shooting constantly would have arrested them. That should be enough proof in itself.

      Oh also, I believe one of them spent the night at Gilden’s house once (maybe invited to stay the night, I can’t remember), but I KNOW he was visiting his house at least. So I hope I didn’t just tarnish your love for Bruce Gilden at all :)

      The Photographers Rights
      http://www.krages.com/phoright.htm

      1. B. Vasquez says:

        By the way, I took an image of Bruce Gildon also when I met him….

        http://www.imagebam.com/image/3dc81b128569978

  9. Robert M Johnson says:

    70’s Massachusetts Street Photography …. http://www.fullframeimages.com/

    1. Archie says:

      Robert Johnson… I’m a big fan of yours. What do you make of all this?

  10. Rich says:

    Here’s an interesting site regarding street photography. Definitely worth checking out : http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2010/09/the-death-of-street-photography-and-what-you-can-do-about-it/

  11. pjb says:

    Unless WBZ actually saw photographs of women or children taken by these photographers they should not even have run this story.

  12. Bill Rogers says:

    The video clip from WBZ-TV looks like a parody – something that should be seen on “The Onion” instead of a TV newscast. When WBZ interviews someone, they are pointing a camera at someone’s body parts. If only the WBZ people were smarter, they’d recognize that they are attacking their own rights. As I said, unintentional self-parody – it would be funny if it weren’t so pathetic.

  13. Dave O. says:

    This is why other countries laugh at our news coverage. With few exceptions, U.S. news is a joke and this piece of ‘journalism’ proves that WBZ is no exception.

    When recession strikes, it’s the media’s job to provide distraction from real issues and to fear monger. Here’s a suggestion, next week run a piece about those terrorist street musicians and the following week, pedophile street canvassers. Ratings gold! Fear everywhere!

  14. samuel quinn says:

    The fellow who stated “If that where my kid or wife” etc has a hidden agenda. He followed my friend around while photographing in the downtown area, a 19 year old kid, followed him for blocks at a time repeatedly, never stating his objection. If the ignorant people on here think this is “gross” or “invasive”, smash every i phone you see and point and shoot camera. Not to mention that there is no such thing really as privacy anymore anyway, with cameras inside stores, atm’s, sides of buildings, etc. WBZ did a horrible job, very one sided, chopping the photographers response.

  15. Pat says:

    Why Doesn’t WBZ help these photographers do an exhibit of thier work at downtown crossing? Show the people that are there everyday the results of the creativity this artists are employing. Help be a solution for all those people who don’t know the art.

  16. Erin says:

    This is a really pathetic take on actual journalism. There is no story here. Professional photographers practicing their art. The part where WBZ feigns this is news and tries to make a story out of nothing as well as demonizing a group of pros doing their job just makes me realize I shouldn’t take any of their news reporting seriously. Really WBZ, so many crimes and so much actual news to report and this is what you bother with? You just lost a viewer – with a big mouth.

  17. Kevin Mac says:

    People with dirty minds seek out the unsavory and the salacious. When they fail to find it, they invent it. When that happens innocent street photographers get labeled pedophiles and sexual predators. How ridiculous is this? Combine that with sloppy journalism and you’re left with this mess.
    These men, as well as men and women photographers like them are no more pedophiles or sexual predators than anyone reading this comment.
    What kind of world is this where people first look for the monsters in the shadows before they stop and enjoy the beauty of things…..well maybe thats a little dramatic but the point is, lighten up people.

  18. LookinAtTheBiscuit says:

    Obama loves him some booty…… After we find his birth certificate we need to run his name through the police computer. Definitely some suspicious activity here…. he’s got to be a sex offender. No Doubt about it.

    Evidence/Proof
    http://thedanashow.wordpress.com/2009/07/10/obama-butt-looker-or-what/

    This man needs to be stopped! The Horror. Hide your kids, hide your wife.

    1. Ryan says:

      ??? REALLY??? WoW

  19. Zorro says:

    Anyone who takes this story at face value should consider discontinuing their television and/or internet connection, as they are officially media illiterates. This is almost too perfect an example of the lows lazy “journalists” will sink to in order to generate content. Regardless of your gut reaction or feelings toward street photography, WBZ fails to provide anything resembling evidence to back up their assertions that these men are malicious perverts. They play a manipulatively edited blurry video and interview a single person (a kiosk vendor who clearly dislikes the photographers) and show a clip of one photographer asking for the camera to be turned off (as if anyone else would behave differently) and proceed to malign people who are acting completely legally. There is a word for when someone uses a public mouthpiece (in this case WBZ) to defame and vilify someone without providing any evidence to support their claim. Its called Slander. Shame on Jim Armstrong. Shame on WBZ.

  20. fruty says:

    This anchor and the network behind him are pathetic!

  21. Henri Cartier Bresson says:

    These debates are so ridiculous I have come back from the grave to give my opinion. These street photographers in question should be celebrated as practitioners of a classic art form like myself.
    Anyone that objects to what these men are doing are simply uninformed, uneducated, second class morons.

  22. Robert F. says:

    These guys ARE NOT perverts. Street Photography is an art form as old as photography itself. Photographers have been out there like this for longer than you’ve been alive and you’ve never thought twice about it. Another CBS story recently praised the work of Street Photographer Vivian Maier ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztedsy3E_z0 ). Vivian Maier was doing EXACTLY what these men are doing now. Her work even includes examples of children and legs as well (which seems to be a big issue in this report). Street Photography is beautiful. It captures a real moment in time that is not staged. Please, search the term Street Photography on the internet and look at what photographers have posted. Educate yourself. And if a street photographer snaps your photo on the street, stop him or her and ask if you can see what they’ve snapped. I’m sure they would be happy to show you. And if you don’t like it, ask them to delete it. But please, do not be sucked in to the paranoid ignorance that has been reported here.

  23. Peter Ganick says:

    although it is not a criterion of artistic quality, the shock-value of a photographic image can make it ‘stand out’ or ‘attract attention’. in this manner, the image is foregrounded to a viewer’s consciousness. when the transfer between image and viewer occurs is where the value of the image is considered. to blanket-condone or refuse the practice of street photography is a cop-out. images must be judged as images. as for the matter of how these images are obtained, it is a topic that must be approached carefully. a person, in a public space, is in just that, a ‘public space’. in such locales, one behaves as the law pertains to actions there. one must not expect the privacy of one’s home. as to the taking of an photo in the street, the photographer must be aware of the person’s concept of their own bodily integrity, however, the subject, by being in the public space itself, agrees to bide by the laws of that space as much as does the photographer. it is a stand-off that is best left as a stalemate, as chess afficionados would call it. ‘to each their own’ and ‘live and let live’ would both seem to apply here.

  24. John O. Roy says:

    This is crazy. It was ok for the person to take a video of these guys but not ok for someone to take pictures? The news report did not blur the people faces in the background.

    http://erickimphotography.com/blog/2011/03/5-reasons-why-you-shouldnt-ask-for-permission-when-shooting-street-photography/

    http://gothamist.com/2006/02/14/good_news_for_p.php

  25. Matt says:

    The only problem I have with these photographers, is that they should be smart enough to have business cards with a website listed on it. They should have no problem with giving people information on where to view the photos.

    As a amateur photographer and someone that would absolutely love to get the nerve up to be better at street photography, I’m mixed on this issue.

    As I pointed out, the photographers should be armed with information to give out for those, who might be offended.

    My other mixed feeling is on the reporting by WBZ that seems to latch on to one side of the story. I’m pretty damn sure there was more to the interview with the photgrapher, then him asking to shut off the camera, but we didn’t really see any of that, now did we?

    It’s not illegal to photograph anyone in public. If they’re being that aggressive, then kindly ask them to stop. If you don’t want your photo taken, then just ask them right off to delete it from their camera. If they’re really interested in their photography they’ll have no problem doing this for you. At least, any credible person wouldn’t have a problem.

    Street photography isn’t a crime and people taking these photos shouldn’t be treated as such.

    -TheVisualGeek

  26. Jack says:

    For anyone concerned, John Mac has moved on from using a dslr to using a video camera. Street photography is alive and well in Downtown Crossing.

  27. "Steve" says:

    This is shameful.
    Sure, I disagree with pack street photography, I prefer solo shooting or with a partner if they’re up for it
    Sure, I think requesting the camera be turned off was a bad move.
    However, the judgmental attitude presented here by the news people goes against all media ethics. The bias was incredibly strong here.

  28. I cannot thank you enough for the article.Much thanks again. Great.

  29. credit says:

    Leialak fan bat jaio da. ondo dela zer benetan sentitzen i, zure mezua irakurtzean ondoren.

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