2011/09/11 – A Call To Glass For You Photographers

by Jim on 2011/09/05

9/11 – Jimbaux Remembers

And Jimbaux Asks You To Do Something This Sunday

The 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks is upon us, attacks that were a watershed moment in American history; subsequent events – our varied reactions to the attacks – have revealed both the good and the bad, both the benevolent and the disgusting, in us.  Even though Osama bin Laden was fortunately put out of his misery earlier this year, we must realize that there is a danger that he is still – or can yet be – victorious in his efforts against us, particularly if we allow him to win by losing who we are.

A few days after his death, I wrote about how I was dismayed by some of the reaction I saw to his death, how it signified, in a way, that bin Laden won afterall, and how it related to events in Canada.  I followed that up with this piece on Cinco de Mayo with some of my 2007 pictures in Mexico.  Both of those pieces are great preludes to this article.

Unfortunately, bin Laden has already defeated us in several ways.  I’ve already mentioned in those other posts the nasty jingoistic nature that he has brought out in so many of us.  (Let me reiterate that I totally agree and believe that it’s a good thing that the piece-of-crap low-life was put out of his misery.)  However, there is more.

We’re Letting Bin Laden Win

In the name of “homeland security,” we’ve shamefully actually allowed bin Laden to defeat us by not only making us constantly scared of each other, but by allowing those fears to erode our rights and our civil liberties.

Those of you who are photographers, as Jimbaux is, have probably all had run-ins with overzealous law-enforcement in the last decade, have probably been erroneously told (or made to think through implication) that what you were doing was wrong or even illegal.  I’ve had countless incidents of this nature, and I even mentioned in my previous post about someone calling the cops on my terrorist-like activity when I was wearing my white T-shirt around my head.  Most of these encounters with law enforcement have been very friendly events with professionalism displayed by the officer(s) questioning me, but two very bad incidents stick out among all of them, including one in which I feel as though I can sue for an illegal search and seizure.

It was April 2008, and the Kansas City Southern Railway’s business train was coming into New Orleans, I believe because it was hosting some Exxon shippers, showing off improvements to the yard, but that’s immaterial to this discussion.  I had caught the train at the flooded Bonnet Carré Spillway, and then again at Frellsen, and I knew I had just enough time to get the overhead shot from the Broad Street overpass.  I had only done this shot a few times before, because the only trains that pass here in daylight are passenger trains, and once you’ve shot Amtrak from up here a few times, it really isn’t worth doing again, but this was the KCS business train, a super-rare treat, and I’d be damned if I didn’t get this shot.  This isn’t the safest area of town, but it is far from being the most dangerous part of town too.  Regardless, that shouldn’t be an issue if I’m only there for 10 minutes, leaving the scene as soon as I get my shots.

I got set up to do my shot and saw the headlight approaching me, when from my left side, this trashy-looking white woman starts approaching me and yelling at me.  It startled me.  I don’t remember how the conversation ensued, but she informed me that she was an undercover police officer for the New Orleans Police Department and that I could not take pictures from up here.  I didn’t quite believe this, but I had wondered if I had somehow missed a sign stating that pedestrians could not be on that side of the bridge (most pedestrians walk on the other side of the bridge.)  The train was coming, and I told her I wanted to get my shot.  She relented, and she ‘allowed’ me to do this:

I wanted to snap more pictures of it approaching, as is my right and yours as Americans that we are, but she slapped me on the shoulder and told me to put the camera down and go to my right where another undercover officer was approaching from the other direction, denying me my right to take those pictures from public property.  It would only have taken literally five more seconds, but they apparently couldn’t wait, even though by the time it had all ended, I had been detained for an hour-and-15-minutes, putting an end to my plans to go and meet some friends out that (Friday) night.

Before all of this ended, there were as many as 20 uniformed NOPD officers on top of that bridge as well as Amtrak police, who are federal law enforcement agents.  I got grilled with all kinds of questions, many of them to which I gave rather incomplete answers, such as how I knew that train was coming at all.  I had told them that I had shot it at the spillway and chased it from there, but they wanted to know how I even knew it was there.  Nah, I plead the fifth on that, because this is getting too bizarre, and I’m starting to get really pissed off here, especially as I was shooting at the spillway with a friend who had broken off from the chase just before this point, and I did not want to involve him in this stupidity.

At some point, as the gaggle of officers were doing their thing, as I was sitting on the curb of the Broad Street Bridge, detained, with nothing to do, I started viewing on my camera display the pictures I had just taken, especially as the non-stop driving and running up overpasses didn’t allow time for that earlier.

“Please Stop Deleting Pictures”

That was what the ignorant sad excuse for an officer-of-the-law woman-cop who first approached me told me while I was sitting there on the curb on the Broad Street letting the cops do their thing as I was looking through my pictures I had taken that day.  I don’t want to sink into believing that the NOPD is full of corrupt morons, but actions like that make it difficult, and her male-cop companion wasn’t that much better.

“I’d Have To Start Deleting Pictures To Stop Deleting Them”

That was my reply to her.  Gosh, this woman was downright dumb!  She had just deprived me of the opportunity of any more shots of the above train; like as if I was going to delete the ones I still had!  Hello?!?!?!  Right about this time, I should bring up the other major incident I have had with law enforcement since 9/11.  Back in my film days, in October 2001, while, yes, the attacks were still fresh in people’s minds, I took some photographs of the Exxon refinery in Baton Rouge from public property.  Hours later, I was ‘caught’ by the Baton Rouge Police accompanied by someone from Exxon, and they threatened to take away my film.  I don’t remember my exact words, but I told them in a rather oblique way that they’d have to take me to jail to take my film, and they wisely backed off.

So, that brings us back to the April 2008 New Orleans situation.  These guys somehow sincerely thought either that I was doing something wrong or that I thought I was doing something wrong.  I wasn’t.  The officers on the scene, including the uniformed ones, as if to try to patronize me, told me I was in a bad area, that it was good if I had got out of there, as my truck was still parked under the bridge out of sight.  Hello!  I already knew that I was not in the best (and not in the worst either, as I said already) area, and I felt it was okay to just leave my truck down there for five or ten minutes as I ran to the top of the bridge, got my shot, came back down, and got back down all before the sun set, but no!  Being detained for more than an hour when I thought I’d be not only out of this area but also hanging out with my friends by this point, I was very concerned about my truck below the bridge.

The officers gave me a ride to my truck, and then they asked me if they could search my vehicle.  “You’ve already taken up enough of my time” or “Are you going to charge me with anything?” should have been my answer, but I knew by this point that my night was shot anyway.  My truck was filthy and full of stuff, and it was part of my plan to clean it that weekend.  So, I decided to let these officers have the ‘pleasure’ of digging through my filth.

What’s the Soviet Union?

My father had recently given me a bag full of Soviet Union army uniform buttons (I don’t remember where he got them), and they were in a bag in my truck.  The officer found them and asked me what they were.  Being the honest-to-a-fault person I am, I stated that they were Soviet Union army buttons, after which I immediately regretted what I said, thinking I had said too much, fearing that these guys would think I’d have some sort of communist leanings, wishing I had just said that they were buttons, which would have been true.  However, I was surprised when the officer had no reaction to this at all.  I was telling this story to friends over the next several days, and one of them said, “he probably doesn’t even know what the Soviet Union is!”  Well, truth be told, that’s exactly what I had been thinking, but I didn’t say anything until my friend said it!

False Security, Sensational Media

Here’s what else is so stupid about all of this, in addition to what I have already said.  Not only was I standing out there in broad daylight with a big telephoto lens conspicuously shooting pictures in a non-sneaky manner, but I was wearing a really loud blue-and-white striped shirt, seen below in a picture of me in New Orleans two months earlier.

I am cutting the police a slight bit of slack here, while I blame the general populace and its ignorance, as well as blaming the media, who take advantage of said ignorance with their sensational reporting.  After every disaster, there is a public outcry to “do something” about it to make sure it doesn’t happen again, but, too often, the something that is done  – including harassing and denying rights to harmless photographers who are committing no crimes – is really nothing more than feel-good actions.  Do you really think that someone bent on harming the railroad infrastructure would be out in broad daylight like that taking pictures of a train?  Don’t you think actual terrorists would go about gathering the data in more inconspicuous methods?  Yeah, but we have to look like we’re doing something; so, we’ll harass people while the terrorists gather their information more discreetly.

My point, then, is that the actions of the police, downright wrong as they are, are merely reflections of the sick state of fear found in the populace as a whole, a sure sign that Osama bin Laden has been victorious afterall.  I wish that more people were not so shallow and would be able to see that.

Illegal Search And Seizure

Do you see that I was essentially the victim of an illegal search and seizure?  Do you realize that there are broader implications for this even if you aren’t a photographer or aren’t particularly interested in trains?

I went atop that bridge that evening not only to get that picture you’ve already seen, but any picture I could have gotten after taking that one.  All of this is both totally legal and totally harmless.  Yet these police officers, who would end up detaining me for an hour-and-15-minutes, couldn’t wait about five more seconds – and that’s all that it would have taken for me to get those additional shots – to detain someone who was not only alone but who was ‘armed’ with nothing more than a camera.

They didn’t physically seize anything from me, but the end result was the same.  I went up there on the bridge – as opposed to other things I could have done with myself that evening – for the purpose of getting the picture you see above plus some more, but I was robbed of the opportunity to take any more pictures as was my intention, not robbed by some civilian dirtbag criminal, and not even robbed by some terrorist, but robbed by officers of the law who were bowing to the terrorists.

It’s the KCS business train.  It doesn’t pass there every day, or even every year, or if it does, it might not do it in daylight; it’s not like as if I have the power, or the police have the power, now that they know that I’m not a threat, to back the train out and run it under the bridge again so I can finally shoot it without harassment.  Even if they could have done it that night, it was dark by the time the police released me that night.  This was a rare opportunity to photograph this really beautiful train in this neat location, and yet I was robbed of the opportunity to get anything more than the one shot I got, and, as I said, it would have only taken five more seconds.

Racial Profiling?

I had a black friend with a background in law enforcement in New Orleans, and when I was telling him later that weekend about what happened, he said that if I had been his color – like about 99% of the pedestrians on that bridge – the police might not have messed with me.  I’m not really sure about that, especially since none of those pedestrians hang telephoto lenses over the edge of the bridge, but it was interesting to hear him say that.

Terrorism Does Not Kill Anyone

You often hear progressive commentary that more people die because of bad health choices, poisons and toxins in the environment, than of terrorism.  That’s all true, I agree, and I find it funny that we’ll put people in jail for smoking pot while not at least requiring a skull-and-crossbones be put in front of every McDonald’s, but that totally misses the point about terrorism.  The real victims of terrorism are not those who get killed but many of those who are alive.  The people who were killed on that terrible day 10 years ago did not die of terrorism.  No, they died of murder!  They died of war.

The real victims of terrorist attacks are the rest of us who are forced to live in a state of fear, who allow that fear to slowly erode their rights, while they place more importance on the symbols of freedoms – like flags and eagles – than on the freedoms themselves.

I actually personally know a few railroad photographers who have ceded victory to Osama bin Laden, and it disgusts me.  They will no longer go out and take pictures – a totally legal, safe, and wholesome activity – because they are afraid of getting hounded, harassed, and questioned by law enforcement.

I don’t think that they realize how treasonous what they are doing is when it’s something that they did before and still want to do but do not do.  They are willingly giving away the rights of all of us by making those of us who still do this activity seem like bad people, like criminals.  This gets us back to the drug issue, of saying that if it’s illegal, it therefore must be the wrong and sinful thing to do, even as it harms nobody, and taking pictures is a far safer and more wholesome activity for the self than is using drugs, something I don’t advocate even as I don’t want to say it’s sinful either.

Like I said, terrorism doesn’t kill anyone.  Instead, it inflicts in us a shameful sentence worse than death: life lived in fear.

A Call To Glass For Sunday, For The Anniversary

To celebrate the freedom that we will not allow bin Laden nor anyone in the United States to take from us, and to commemorate this event, I call on all photographers, especially all railroad photographers, to spend some time out taking pictures this Sunday 11 September 2011.  I plan to do such myself, and, no, I will not be out hoping for any confrontation with law enforcement (who ought to realize that any pictures needed for an attack that day will already have been taken long before.)  After 2011/09/11, I plan on compiling links to online photographs taken on that date to showcase them here on Jimbaux’s Journal.  Please send me yours if you have any.

American Commerce

In addition to exercising freedoms that we will not allow to be taken from us, we will be documenting American commerce in action as well, in all its glory, something else that neither bin Laden nor anyone in the United States will stop.  Seen below is Norfolk Southern train 393 on its way to interchange with the Union Pacific Railway in New Orleans, a shining example of American commerce and all the materials – steel and chemicals, all of which we use – that this train carries.

Join me in taking time on this day not only to remember the fallen, but to reaffirm both our rights to do things such as take photographs but also our appreciation for American commerce, both of which could be threatened if we allow fear to turn us into a police state, something that might make the photo below of KCS’s trasnfer train to the CSX along the riverfront in New Orleans impossible.

The above two pictures were taken on the same date.

So Sayeth Ben Franklin

Those of you in southern California may wish to visit the great Cajón Pass this Sunday to take pictures, seen below in September 2005 in Jimbaux’s only visit to the pass.

Is there anything remotely wrong with taking such pictures and posting them to  the internet?  Even if there are some legitimate security concerns, haven’t we lost something of ourselves if we consider this to be a danger?  If you could structure your life so that there would be 0% chance that anything bad would happen to you, wouldn’t you be in such a thick shell that life would not be worth living?  (In very different ways, I’ve actually been quite guilty of that myself throughout life.)

Isn’t that the liberties-security dilemma?  I think it was Benjamin Franklin who said that those who sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither.  It’s unfortunate, then, that so many Americans have such low opinions of themselves.

A Proud Nation I Desire

Below, we see a westbound empty BNSF coal train near Kolduk, North Dakota, in the summer of 2008.

Scenes like these will play out all across our proud nation this Sunday, and I hope that some of you can avoid the temptation of sitting in front of the television all day to get out there, stand up for our American birthrights, and record American commerce in action.  It’s far more of a patriotic action than wearing a flag, which is merely superficial.  Note: I’m not in any way denigrating the flag, but when that’s the only focus some people have, especially when they place far more importance on the symbol than on the freedoms it represents, we have a serious problem, and bin Laden wins.

As I see it, what happened to me on the Broad Street Bridge in 2008 and many other non-events, like railroad enthusiasts who won’t take pictures anymore, are sure signs that bin Laden has, afterall, been victorious; he and his ilk don’t need to kill people to defeat us, and putting a bullet in his face (which, as I’ve said twice already, is a great thing) doesn’t necessarily mean he hasn’t defeated us either.

Get Away From The TV

The best way that you can honor those who have died is to not become a victim of terrorism yourself by living in fear.  I’m sure that there will be many good television programs on this Sunday, many good programs that commemorate the anniversary well.  I’m not saying that you should not watch them, but don’t spend all day in front of the television.

Get out and take pictures; with your photos, show everyone how beautiful the world is a decade after a group of crazies tried to destroy us not with death but with fear.

Get out there and show that we still have rights, that we will not be intimidated, that will not be ‘allowed’ to only photograph things like this below.

Taking pictures of things like trains and the like may not be the most productive use of your time, but isn’t it better than sitting and absorbing television?  That’s a one-way communication, which is part of why I despise television, as does Grumpy, who wrote about the same dynamic in his latest post.  Exercise your rights, create something, and show us how beautiful of day Sunday will be!


A railroad-photographer-friend who is also a sports fan reminded me last night that this Sunday is the opening Sunday of the NFL season.  I once was a big fan of that stuff, but not anymore.  However, many of you are fans, and I understand and respect that it’s something of a patriotic calling to be watching football on 9/11 this weekend, but try to get out and take some pictures anyway, which is actually more of a duty, in a sense.

What I Will Do

I plan on being trackside and taking pictures for much of the day Sunday, and I hope that you can do the same.  The weather forecast for my area is good, but I’ll photograph trains in just about any weather.

You Are Welcome

After that, I will post the results to my site, but I’m also looking for some photographs from some of you to place here.  Therefore, not only will I post my own photos, but I’ll post links to online photos that will have been taken on Sunday.  Furthermore, as this is really a personal vanity blog, I normally only post my own photos (and my own words), but if any of you take pictures this Sunday and want me to post them on this site, you can e-mail them to me, and I can post them in a series of follow-up posts after the fact.

Why Don’t I Sue The NOPD?

Many of you are probably thinking that, and some have already asked me, starting not long after the incident happened.  In all honesty, part of the reason is that I’m too weak-willed.  Afterall, I succumbed to that dumb, sad-excuse-for-a-police-officer when she told me that taking pictures of trains from up there was not allowed.  Surely, she was absolutely wrong, but I fell for it at the time.

My solution, my closure, is that I have vowed to never allow that to happen again, to never allow those whose job it is to protect me to instead abuse me, denying my and your American rights.  It has not happened again, but I’m constantly ready for it anytime it might happen again.

Reprise, Redemption

Many of you already know this, but I got a form of justice from this situation afterall when the KCS business train came to New Orleans this January, of which I got some great pictures without any hassles from police or anyone else.  They look great, don’t they?  Am I bad person for insisting on being able to take those pictures?

I Was Told I Might Be On A Terror Watchlist

Like I said, that evening in April 2008, about 20 NOPD officers showed up on the scene, as well as some federal agents, one of whom told me that I was probably on a terror watchlist now.  It wasn’t until nine months later that I boarded an airplane for the first time since that incident, and I wasn’t sure how it would go, and I also knew that trying it was the only way to find out.

The federal officer also told me that I could be arrested for taking some pictures even from public property, and I had and still have a serious problem with that!  This is not a dictatorship!  In the last 10 years, many of our leaders have betrayed us by systematically destroying much of what it means to be American, all while hiding behind a flag and in the name of “homeland security.”  It’s shameful, isn’t it?

In destroying the enemy, we cannot destroy ourselves too!  I’m not mad at this federal officer, as he was professional, unlike the undercover NOPD officer; he not only made it clear to me that he had my best interest in mind, but he told me off-the-record of some of the intense pressures that he and his kind face from up above.  Like I said, the general public and the media are to blame for much of this.

In Conclusion . . .

I’ve rambled on enough.  Please get out there this Sunday and take pictures, and please encourage others to do the same.  The best way to be alerted to site updates here on Jimbaux’s Journal is to join the Facebook fan page:


Promote Your Page Too

Please remember that the people who died on 9/11 are so very far from being the only “victims” of the attack.  Please remember that the real battles are the battles inside of ourselves, our fight to find out who we really are as a people, both good and bad.   Please remember that it’s your patriotic duty to stand up for your rights, and that doing this is far more meaningful than waving a flag.

Please, if you are a law enforcement officer, remember that if you see others and see me out taking pictures this Sunday, that we are among the people you are sworn to protect, and not the other way around.

Lastly, please get out and take pictures this weekend, if for no other reason than that you still can.

Merci boucoup,



1 Dan September 5, 2011 at 21:14

Ah yes, the General Public and a call to Action … I’ve seen it a couple of times myself. As for Ben Franklin, the guy has always been at the Top of my list!


2 Jeff Guidry September 5, 2011 at 22:09

I’ll see u trackside somewhere on 9/11. Time to fire up the camera again.

3 John Brown September 5, 2011 at 22:56

First off, nice post. Thanks for sharing.

The only part of this post I disagree with is that we are letting Bin Laden win. Homeland security and other agencies are working very hard to make sure another 9/11 doesn’t happen. They are doing this for our safety. All of their work is to try and keep the American public safe this next weekend. They are on red alert and anything involving major parts of America (airlines, railroads, etc) will be tightly secured. I think that’s a good thing. I don’t want to get in their way and create a bad situation for myself and for them. For that reason, I will be sitting this weekend out from railfanning. None of that decision is letting Bin Laden win, it’s making America safer for all of us.


4 WTF September 6, 2011 at 00:04

You sound like a deranged idiot. You need to calm down.

5 Eric Augatis September 6, 2011 at 01:02

First of all, John Brown, that’s a really limp response. To quote a comment I heard earlier this evening, maybe take your balls out from your wife’s purse before you comment about “Homeland Security”?

I’ve had my share of incidents, and maybe a blog would be the place to share them. I’m inspired by Jimbaux’s post and other RR or non-RR incidents I’ve read about over the past decade. Absolutely abhorant, IMO.

I had the Will County (IL) Sheriff’s called on me a few years whilst attempting to document an unknown switch engine in a styrene plant. The first officer who responded was rather professional, just needed to follow up on the call. The 2nd guy, and oldhead cop, wasn’t so forgiving. While he didn’t tell me that what I was doing was illegal, he did tell me, “There’s plenty of other places you can photograph trains.” My arrogant response was, “You’re right, but THAT locomotive is what I’m interested in at this moment. I made an effort earlier in the day to contact the plant, they snubbed me, so I went about getting my photos from PUBLIC property.” He gave me the magical “You’ll be on the FBI’s list”….blah, blah, blah, and I went on my way. This was all in June ’06.

I don’t regret standing my ground, and these days, I don’t bother hanging around if they haven’t arrived by the time I’m ready to roll. I leave my business card with anyone interested, and the gendarmes are free to give me a ring if they feel what I’m doing is illegal. At NO TIME, however, will I ever tolerate raised voices, threats of detaining my property (cameras, film/media, etc.), or the like. They’ll get back what they give, including a few expletives, when they pull that shit with me. That shit irks me, and I WILL stand up for my rights. I personally like to photograph obscure industrial locomotives, many of which can be found in chemical plants (especially in this part of the country). These are places I’m unlikely EVER to get clearance with a camera, so I have to rely on the loco coming within telephoto range and run the risk of some rent-a-cop giving me shit because of their skewed definition & belief that “Homeland Security” is a valid reason to deny me the right.

That said, stand up for your rights now & always, or hand over your balls at any time.

6 Howard Bunte September 6, 2011 at 01:23

One of the best posts you have EVER written…
Bill Mahrer has written a slim book, called “You are riding with Bin Laden, if you are riding alone”… in whichhe talks about ‘things we COULD be doing/ could HAVE been doing these past TEN years… instead of ‘color alerts’ and ‘credit default swaps…and bailing out bankers and… invading folks, quagmires all…
and this sort of police statew… gotta say the word… which I hate using, MY country… this is what a fascist state is.

When you abstain from legal activity, when you are ‘cowed’ by large police presence (whenyou are doing legal things on public property)… that’s what a fascist state does.
ah, waterboarding??… invasion of countries on trumped up charges…(note: the lady Valerie Plame who was destroyed as a covert CIA agent because her husband Joe Wilson found out that Saddam Hussain did NOT buy materials for atomic weapons from Chad… so, v. pres Dick Cheney … did her in… blew her cover…
Not a screed at Homeland Security nor at police agencies…but those political leaders who ‘kiss guns’..(see New Mexico gov. on YouTube requalifying for her concealed carry permit)… who whip up the fear…
Note the article today… Obama is secret weapon for the gun industry… which the NRA keeps screaming about…
nothing of the kind…but, sells guns… and we are still buying oil from Saudi Arabia, who sent out the hijackers, with their twisted “Wahabi” style of Islam… and Pakistan which has supported first the Taliban, then Al Quieda (sp?)… and continues to do so… while our kids died in Iraq and now Afghanistan…
fBest for you to delete this, Jim, as John Brown… surrenders…
Oh, if you like, I’ll send you the Bill Mahrer book… he’s the guy on HBO weeknights, Friday, usually… Great little book written shortly after 9?11, and all of it is still true, and pertinent…
angrily written, angry at what my country has become… Howard Bunte

7 Brian "Porkchop" LaFleur September 6, 2011 at 04:44

The point exactly, John Brown. Just the fact that it is an issue is nothing less than a partial victory for terrorism. They have altered your actions. Us “sitting” is his ultimate reward, it means you won’t be doing anything American. Railfanning is American. Any “bad situation” created would not be your doing. If it turns into a “bad situation”, then those officials have stepped beyond security and encroached upon your freedom. America means freedom over safety.

8 jeff wecker September 6, 2011 at 09:57

I will be out,video camera in hand as usual

9 Joy September 6, 2011 at 10:18

Great post. It is hard for me to understand when I read something like this because I just haven’t had any negative experiences as a photographer. I see it as a sexist double standard in photography. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with cops and they were more than friendly. I don’t photograph trains though. I have photographed wildfires/accidents etc, things where law enforcement has been nearby.

The act of living in fear of fellow citizens calling out “big brother” is essentially terrorism in itself. Terrorism is fear, of something happening, not necessarily the event. Terrorism is psychological. To be told that you can’t photograph something is terrorism, because it evokes the fear that the next time you do the same thing you will be harassed by the agencies of the Government. But we live under the protections of the Constitution/Bill of Rights, so people will unwillingly give up freedoms to the Government because they believe they are indeed “free.”

Here is a copy of “photographers rights” that everyone should carry with them: http://petapixel.com/assets/store/photographersrights.txt

10 EDITOR - Jimbaux September 6, 2011 at 19:16

@ John Brown – First, thank you for your participation in Jimbaux’s Journal. I don’t recognize your name or your e-mail address from any comments on previous postings on this site or anywhere else, and I therefore don’t want to discourage you or anyone else from commenting in the future for what I will say here, but as three others (Eric, Howard, and Porkchop, the latter two being personal friends) have already pointed out, what you said was disgusting. You’re selling out to bin Laden, and you’re also selling out to those within our border who exploit the fear, slowly surrendering who we are, and making life difficult for harmless folks like myself by making what we do, which is our right, seem so daring, so bold.

Although I don’t know who you are, I do, however, know several people who share your sentiment, people who have given up on taking pictures, people who would not dare take outdoor pictures anywhere other than their backyard this coming Sunday. It’s very sad.

As Porkchop so succinctly said, any “bad situation” (your words) would not be your doing so long as you don’t trespass, etc. As he also said, you have allowed the fear to dictate your actions, preventing you from doing what you wanted to do anyway, making people like myself who still wish to ‘dare’ exercise the rights we still have seem disrespectful when we are engaging in harmless and wholesome activity.

As Howard said, you have surrendered. You have sold out. You have allowed fear to be victorious, and that’s the goal of terrorism, don’t you see? Honestly, you should be ashamed of thinking and publicly stating such cowardice. I mean, I’m asking people to take up lenses, not arms!! That shouldn’t be too difficult, should it? Well, the kind of attitude you display does make it difficult for the rest of us who still cherish our freedom, who don’t want Al-Qaeda to destroy us by causing us to turn against each other, which they’ve so successfully done. Like I’ve said, bin Laden has won, and your words are continued proof.

You say that “I will be sitting this weekend out from railfanning. None of that decision is letting Bin Laden win, it’s making America safer for all of us.” Really? Do you think that sitting this weekend out is making us safer? Really? Think about that! This is beside the point, but even if you were out to harm the infrastructure on 9/11, taking pictures on that date itself, as I wrote, is too late! If our nation’s infrastructure will get attacked this Sunday, any photos needed for that attack have not only already been taken, but they’ve been taken in a very inconspicuous manner.

Having said all that, I know that deep down, your intentions are good, and I know that they reflect a desire that we all share for peace and good will.

Thank you, again, for your participation in Jimbaux’s Journal, and I hope you can find it within yourself to grab a camera and have some good, clean, wholesome, American fun this Sunday! 🙂

@ Howard – Nope, I won’t delete your comment! It’s what you really thought, and it’s not distasteful. So, leave it!

@ Joy – Yeah, that makes sense, just like the racial profiling. Yeah, had it been you standing on that bridge, a thin, white-looking woman with a camera, you may have indeed received different treatment.

However, I think that your lack of these kind of nasty experiences — which, allow me to reiterate, are, among all the times I’ve been questioned by police, rare — also stems from your lack of experience doing photography in urban areas. Note that the only two really bad experiences I’ve had in the last decade have been in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. I’ve also had some more friendly and professional police encounters for photography in New Orleans, Monterrey, and London. As you know, I’ve shot a zillion pictures out in the countryside too.

@ Everyone – Thanks for your continued participation in Jimbaux’s Journal, and may you please get away from that television this Sunday, grab a camera, and show the world how great of a country we are.

11 magnolia September 6, 2011 at 23:19

a lot of things about the true, good nature of america have fallen by the wayside in the name of “security” in the last 10 years. granted, this is far from the first time something like this has happened in our history. we have a tendency to forget our better angels when we’re scared. we did it with the alien and sedition acts right after the american revolution, we did it with radical reconstruction, and again with the house unamerican activities committee and the blacklists in the 1950s. not to mention the covert surveillance of pretty much every civil rights leader from the 1950s on.

your run-in with the NOPD was undoubtedly the stuff of what’s called a 1983 action, which is the statute number of the federal law that protects your civil rights in interactions with law enforcement. that’s shameful and horrific that you were treated that way.

we are at our best, and provide the best example of goodness to those who wish us ill, when we live our principles no matter what…

12 Alex K. September 6, 2011 at 23:58

Such wonderful writing sir.
I personally have had no issue with law enforcement dealing with terrorism at all in the past ten years, Unless you consider a short event in high school where I tried to sell off leftover fireworks at my high school. It was not an intelligent decision and had I done that a year ago I’d have ruined my school career.

Back to the point, I completely agree with what you’ve said. People are living in fear and are allowing it to control them. Law enforcement is run by people, scared people who have chosen the responsibility of handling these hard times. You were simply a photographer who found a good shot, this time. The next person they stop could well be an undercover agent, using photography as a cover story. Or just another civilian to harass. I’m not agreeing with their methods( I’m mainly playing devil’s advocate), nor the volume of response they called in as it seems uncalled for that so many officers be present to deal with a single perp. (Though I use the term in a hypothetical sense)

Bin laden win. We killed him for what he did. but he won. We as Americans either live in fear or naivety when it concerns our safety. Bin Laden was a terrorist, he used fear to achieve his goals, the definition of terrorist in a nutshell. His goals are being carried out after he’s gone, so even dead and buried, he’s still winning. The question is what’s to be done about it? I personally have no military clearance to scan pentagon papers and find what’s happening in the world around me, I really on my wits and what the media feeds me. Based on that, I can only think of one solution for the short term; I’ll be out with my camera on sunday Taking pictures of everything beautiful I come across.

13 Dennis September 7, 2011 at 08:21

I’m not in the US, but an American 110% plus, so does this count? That said, I’ve never been bothered for taking pictures of trains, but only by British Airport Employees while at London’s Gatwick Airport.

What was that other great saying: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself”?

14 Ron Hammond September 7, 2011 at 09:33

Very well said, Jim. I’ve had a few curious officers of the law approach me while shooting the FEC especially around the Fort Lauderdale yard just east of the airport which is to be expected, but with the respect and info that I provided them, they were happy and moved on. One officer pulled over and watched me but once he saw the exchange of waves between me and the engineer he moved on as well. I will have my Glass on the Rails on Sunday and I will be glad to share them with you and all to see. Ron Hammond FEC 335.

15 Tom Nanos September 7, 2011 at 11:06

Very good read, and I agree with you Jim, along with what Eric posted above in the comments. We MUST stand our ground on this issue. I shoot around plenty of actual high security installations (US Navy Sub Base and Electric Boat for example) and have yet to get a massive response like that. Sure, I’ve been approached by local and state police, as well as the FBI while shooting, but all have been professional, cordial, and have always let me get my shot before interrupting. Not once have they asked to view/delete photos, search my vehicle or person. Also, as Eric does, I offer my card with website & phone number on it – they’re more than welcome to contact me. This did prompt the FBI Special Agent I spoke with to give me his card, and tell me that “if you ever see anything out of the ordinary, call me.” Thankfully, I have yet to see anything warranting a call, but his card remains in my wallet.

I plan on being out on Sunday as well – if anything is running in my area (eastern Connecticut). I guess I could always shoot Amtrak along the Shore Line if need be…

16 Sid Eline, Jr September 7, 2011 at 11:14

Thanks for the information. I am attending a railroad convention in south Florida near the end of the month and plan to railfan the Florida East Coast line on the way back, I have lots of slides I took of the FEC in the 1970’s and want to update my collection. So far I have not heard of any FEC fans having trouble taking photos or videos but will watch out and try to stay on public property. I did have two encounters with the FEC police in Jacksonville a number of years ago and they were very nice as I was the same and agreed to move back to the highway with them watching my departure. Being an FECstockholder (20 shares) at the time may have helped but still I did not want to stay the night in jail, so I moved on. Many of the FEC engineers know the fans that come down to the tracks to watch the trains roll by and in many of the YouTube videos, they give the fans a toot or wave. Again, I think us railfans need to remember, try to stay off railroad property unless you have asked first, Happy Railroading. Hankflagler

17 Peter September 7, 2011 at 16:30

This really hit a nerve. I do believe this is unique considering your interest. To have twenty officer swarm on you makes one wonder if there was something special going on. (Sounds a bit conspiratorial for me.) I had a brief stint with the TSA at Logan Airport in Boston. It is quite the awakening experience to go through their training and see what people have attempted to get on to airplanes. I know they are considering how to protect ports and rail service. While I would agree that there are some civil liberties issues here, I really don’t think the terrorists have won or we are going in a bad direction. There is something different about this situation in which an over zealous officer, greenhorn, was over reacting. There must be something within the federal law (statutory or court precedent) with protects taking photos from public property.

18 EDITOR - Jimbaux September 7, 2011 at 22:17


My friend, thank you for your comments, and I am somewhat disturbed by them. Fear of people saying that this was some anomoly, which is exactly what you’ve done, and of people not even believing me, is what made me unable to discuss this publicly for more than three years. You apparently don’t realize it, but what happened to be was not as isolated of an incident as you think it is, and the fears of publicizing my story are the same fears that some others have, but I’ve overcome that fear and realized that the fear was destroying me, and I decided to fight back by telling the story.

I had a friend who had something like this happen to him years before it happened to me. Also, Trains magazine ran an article within a year after 2001/09/11 about a couple of guys in Texas, I think one of them having the FBI come to his house, or something like that. Also, some people here have already posted comments about incidents with them. I always had these fears in the back of my mind of something like that happening to me, and, being that New Orleans is a proud home to plenty of freaks and weirdos, in all honesty, it’s about the last place its size in the United States that I thought something like this would happen to me, but among local people who are neither railroad enthusiasts nor photographers, some have already told me that it sounds very much like the New Orleans Police Department to them.

You wrote, “To have twenty officer swarm on you makes one wonder if there was something special going on. (Sounds a bit conspiratorial for me.)”

I don’t know what you mean by “conspiratorial,” but over the hour-and-fifteen minutes of which I was detained, I was able to glean bits of information from various officers dealing with me (as they slowly figured out the true, harmless nature of the situation, which made them more willing to share with me the pressures they felt) that there was some NAFTA meeting in town that weekend, and I think that John McCain and Hillary Clinton were in town too, but I didn’t mention any of this at all in my above article because none of that had jack diddly squat to do with me being out there and taking pictures. Besides, again, how harmful is a guy with a camera on public property, and why, then, can’t he be at least allowed to photograph what he went up there to get before you rob him of an hour and fifteen minutes of his life?

You wrote: “I really don’t think the terrorists have won or we are going in a bad direction. There is something different about this situation in which an over zealous officer, greenhorn, was over reacting.”

They were indeed overreacting, and it’s a sign that the terrorists have indeed been somewhat victorious. As I said, I don’t totally blame the police because their actions are merely a reflection of the excessively fearful and often unimaginative and quickly-judgmental general public, and you and I, my friend, have sometimes discussed our ‘love’ for humanity.

Thanks for participating in Jimbaux’s Journal.

19 PPA September 9, 2011 at 00:10

I understand the security preparedness the nation has pursued since it left the intelligence barn door wide open in 2001 and slammed it shut after the proverbial horses got out, but I haven’t always felt that it has been the best ideas implemented or well money spent.
I am, however, grateful for the fact that most terrorist perputrators against us (except for domestic terrorists – but that is a whole different conversation) are real dumb-asses, especially ignorant in the subject of geography. Thanks New York, for always taking one for the American team. I’m just sorry that it hurt so much on 9/11 (yes, sarcasm and true sympathy all in one sentence – I’m just good like that. Jimbaux, don’t be lettin’ those foreign kids see your Geography rap vid – once they do we are all in danger!

20 Tom Beckett September 9, 2011 at 18:33

I think after about the 10th cop showed up, I’d have looked at them all and said, “slow day??? Surely you all must have better things to do than play 200 questions with a guy taking train pictures FROM A PUBLIC SIDEWALK!!!” Really…..if I were thinking of knocking over a liquor store and saw all the police activity on that bridge, I’d be thinking this would be a good time to do it. We have to stop overreacting to everything. I think of events like this, how many times we have law enforcement wasting their time chasing ghosts, because some busybody with a cell phone called the cops, and wonder if we are really using our resources with any effectiveness at all. But when so many are afraid of ghosts, it doesn’t take much for someone saying “BOO!!” to create a scare. For as many times as this has happened, you’d think we’d get wise by now. Apparently, we, as a nation, are not as smart as we think we are. Guys like John Brown are part of the problem. More later, if I get a chance.

21 Tom Beckett September 12, 2011 at 14:15

Follow up…..if you have the most recent issue of Trains, there is a piece in it on this topic, which addressed the rights of photographers, and is something everyone should read. One of the people mentioned, Walter Zullig, knows what he’s talking about. Besides being legal counsel to the NRHS, he is retired General Counsel for Metro North, and has worked with this issue from the inside. He has also been instrumental in getting some of New York’s many authorities to refine or rescind bans on photography. He keeps a pretty low profile, but gets things done. His outlook is, “I’ve been taking train photos since 1953, I’m not giving it up now.”

That said, I had a wonderful day shooting pics on the KCS yesterday. A friend from Chicago was down on vacation, we spent the day out on the line between Stilwell OK and Anderson MO. Got 7, missed two others, freights on the move in scenic locations. I never gave in to bin Laden!!

22 Roberta Goodman April 4, 2013 at 15:12

After reading about your incident on the bridge, I’ve come to the conclusion the female officer was experiencing her “time of the month” and that’s why she was such a biotch to you 🙂 But seriously, I think she was just someone who liked the fact she could push you around because she had a badge. At any rate, you must remember how freaked out everyone was immediately after 9/11. Law enforcement agencies told their officers to be on the lookout for any suspicious activity involving cameras/video cameras, especially if the person doing the photographing/filming had a turban on his head. I remember my husband coming home from work and telling me how everyone was on “high alert”. Now, that being said, since your incident happened seven years after, and you clearly aren’t of Middle Eastern descent, I do agree with you that there were excessive amounts of police involved, it was ridiculous you were detained for an hour and fifteen minutes, and it really is a shame you didn’t get the shot you wanted.

Unfortunately, the world of today is very different than before 9/11 and someone in your field, who likes to photograph trains and refineries, will likely be “detained” in the future. Doesn’t make it right; it’s just reality. Let’s hope it’s not for over an hour and it makes you late meeting up with friends 🙂 Oh… and I stand corrected about the erroneous assumption I made in response to your comment on my blog. I didn’t write my comment because I believed you did anything wrong. I’m a humorous person by nature and sometimes it comes through in my writing.

23 Angeline Castilloux September 6, 2013 at 10:59

After 9/11 I was struck by the irony over the next few years by the powers that be slowly eroding the freedom of Americans while proclaiming they were protecting freedom. So much paranoia and ignorance was unleashed by those measures put into place to “protect” Americans. The justified fear the citizens of your country experienced in the years after the terrorist attack (in my opinion–take it or leave it) was exploited by the Bush Administration, which led not to a more secure America, but a chaotic and demoralized America. It led to what is now widely considered a totally unjustified attack on another country, which I believe has served to further destabilize the region more than anything else. The terrorist attack wasn’t responsible for all this, the Bush Administration’s response to it was. I agree with you that Osama Bin Laden achieved what he had intended to do.

Comments on this entry are closed.

{ 18 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: