I won’t be shooting the Yavapai Courthouse Square again

Richard Charpentier Arizona, Photography, Prescott 11 Comments

Update to this post

After initially posting this item a pretty big response from local photographers came in via comments, Facebook, and private e-mails.  One person who read this post contacted the County regarding the issue.  As it turns out, you don’t need a permit if you’re a regular person shooting on the square, or if you’re with a small group.  The final comments on this post show you that it is okie dokie to shoot on the square.  So no worries.

I’m not removing the original post, as it documents the actual experience of the day.  And it documents the experience that other photographers have had over the past few months.  I am happy to say the issue is resolved, and big thanks to Gus for pulling out his contacts!

This post should be read by any photographer who wants to shoot on the Courthouse Square here in Prescott.  You need a permit.  Period.

Months ago I’d run into an issue with one of the “security personnel” while doing a few photos on the square for some clients.  The security guy followed us around the plaza until we stopped in an out of the way spot near one of the sets of stairs for a few pictures and advised me that I needed a permit to shoot on the Courthouse Square.  I mentioned the incident in a previous post and received a flurry of private e-mails from folks in the know, City staff, and a few other folks regarding the permit requirement (it’s posted everywhere….oh wait, it isn’t).

The intent according to several public employees is for film crews, big productions, etc, to get permits prior to shooting downtown.  For a small private shoot involving a few people it wasn’t necessary.  That’s the official unofficial word……

Today while walking up the steps on the courthouse with a family of 3 I was followed once again by another security guard.  She advised me that since I was a professional photographer (big camera+light=pro) I needed a permit or I would be fined (a ticket).  Rather than argue the point about the information I was given we moved on.

As we headed out to cross Montezuma an elderly woman approached us and asked, “Did she run you off too?”  That question stopped me for a moment.  What was meant by “run you off too.”

The woman, holding a small point and shoot camera (pocket sized = amateur), explained to us that she and 5 friends were going to take a photo together on the plaza when they were told they needed a permit by the same security woman.  Really, they needed a permit too?

Now, I get the permit concept is gaining huge ground with cities all across the country.  Pro photographers terrorize city streets and something has to be done about it.  I mean, they’re as bad as folks puking on the sidewalks of Prescott, urinating in front of businesses, and passing out in public spaces.  I mean, photographers are that bad right?

Years ago while attending a favorite event here in town I was singled out by a rent a cop while photographing.  He approached me and told me I needed to be registered with the event in order to shoot.  He said this to me while a woman standing next to me was firing away with a point and shoot.  And he said this to me after I observed multiple proud parents block a parade way and jam up participants while getting photos of their little darlings, or better yet, video.

The fun thing about “pro” photographers, ones who get it, is that we don’t block events.  We stay out of the public’s way.  We understand that there are other people around us at these events and we’ve got to be conscious of them.  Period.  Sometimes I really think that people are just ass backwards!

So, in the end for me I’ve decided the following…….

  • I will not conduct any further shoots, private or event related, on the Courthouse Plaza.  I felt very badly about the awkward position I put my clients in today.  Amazingly enough, the square was almost empty, we were in nobody’s way, and we were taking harmless photos for a family of 3.
  • I will not be promoting any further events on the plaza.  Period.
  • Unfortunately I have to keep paying taxes, and doing free accounting for the state and the city.  I’ll collect revenues for them because I have to.  But I will not kick out $50 per private shoot.  That would raise my prices even further.
  • When it comes to shooting downtown I think I’ll be hanging up my hat.  I haven’t paid myself in months, so $50 a shoot seems counter productive.  The downtown Prescott series I have today stands as is.
  • I’ve participated in 2 world wide photo walks in Prescott.  They’re fun!  This year I’m going to Flagstaff.  If the town doesn’t see the revenue potential of 50 affluent people visiting the shops and restaurants here, their loss.
  • When doing location shoots I will rule out the plaza block radius.  That means Gurley, Goodwin, Cortez, & Montezuma (not that I ever shoot people on the Row, just too busy there).  Outside of that blocked off area we can still do location shots.  Don’t need the hassle factor or the discomfort is causes to all parties involved.
  • From now on, every drunk, pan handler, and buzzed guy offering to play a song for some booze money is going to get called in by me if they’re in front of my shop.  I mean really, we have a pretty severe problem here with those folks, and if security people have the time to chase people with cameras off you’d think they could do something about the guy yaking on the sidewalk.  But then again, the puking guy doesn’t have the cash for a permit……so pass em by!

Gee, before I made this recent move I really should have considered moving my taxable base of clients elsewhere…….Ah well, down the road I can shop around, right?

As City, County, & State budgets continue to linger in the red I’m confident we’ll all find new permits for all sorts of stuff popping up.  Why not too long ago our sales tax rate went to 9.35%.  Wow, I know, worse than what my family pays back in Taxachusetts.  Keep watching for the next fee for whatever it is you do.  You’ve probably already seen your fair share as well.

Sorry for devolving into a rant.  It just amazes me.  The answer isn’t more fees.  The answer is to cut spending.  I’ve been doing it for years.  😉

Comments 11

  1. See, I have the opposite take on this. While I’ve never been accosted there, I think this calls for organizing a courthouse square photo walk……. Get as many folks with cameras as possible to converge on the square and start snapping away.

    What day works good for you?

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  3. This is sad and interesting. While shooting a large family group on December, th lady guard asked me if I was a professional. (My Nikon D80 was on my new tripod, no extra flash, normal lens). I laughed out loud. “No”, I responded. Because I am not a pro, but I do mean business. She asked me to get the children off the steps. Then the Grandmother of the group spoke to her and we continued with the shoot. I am ALL FOR a huge group of photographers meeting on the Square to show our disdain (without being loud or rude) for the ridiculous permit requirement!! Also, we should invite the News media with their big ol’ video cameras!

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    Ah Gail….you have a D80. My friend Bert shoots Nikon, and he’s been a pro for decades. Therefore, you’re a pro too!

    Funny thing when I hear “County Property.” Who pays for that property? And all the permit fees for the dozens upon dozens of shows on the square throughout the year. Blocked roads, blocked business access (event weekends killed our business on Goodwin St)….. I often forget if the government was to serve the people, or if the people were to serve the government. Ah well.

  5. I’m with Carlos, lets organize an event with as many photographers as possible. Lets strike soon while the “irons” are hot! Maybe documenting the winos and bums on the square by 20-30 photographers will get the point across to the officials! How about next Saturday afternoon?

  6. Our historic Courthouse Square is a draw for tourists and the Courthouse itself has become the icon representing our city because of work published by professional photographers in books, magazines and newspapers and now online. Stomping out picture-taking there is counterintuitive to tourism. Who came up with this brilliant idea? Let’s all get out cameras and meet up!

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    Well all, this post has gone a little viral on Facebook. Several folks have linked to this. Capture this by Brooke, and Ida from the Frame and I both linked and have super long threads on this.

    Sounds like a “few” photographers will be on the square next Saturday at noon.


    Below are emails I received in response to the email I sent to the County Board of Supervisors: One is from Pat Kirshman, Yavapai County Parks Department to me and Thomas Thurman, District One Supervisor and Chairman of the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors. And the second is from Debi Schaefer, Yavapai County Court Administrator.

    From: Pat Kirshman [mailto:Pat.Kirshman@co.yavapai.az.us]
    Sent: Monday, February 14, 2011 10:14 AM
    To: Thomas Thurman; ‘gjp1964@cableone.net’
    Cc: Schaefer, Deborah; ‘info2@prescottdowntown.com’; Julie Ayers
    Subject: RE: Courthouse Plaza Permit

    Thanks Tom, as well we know a permit is not a requirement for taking photos on the plaza while film crews frequent the courthouse and grounds these are being permitted through PDP as there are insurance requirements for liability purposes and to insure the Court proceedings are not being interfered with. I would say to anyone having questions or problems with security services should either contact PDP @ 443-5220 or the Court Administration office @ 771-3483. They would be the best contact. Hope this helps

    From: Schaefer, Deborah
    Date: 02/14/11 11:24:13
    To: ‘Pat Kirshman’; Thomas Thurman; ‘gjp1964@cableone.net’
    Cc: ‘info2@prescottdowntown.com’; Julie Ayers
    Subject: RE: Courthouse Plaza Permit

    Pat, thank you for copying me on this. I am troubled by the information, to say the least. Anyone is free to take pictures on the plaza without a permit – this is a public plaza. People get use permits that allow their exclusive use of a particular area and this is the only reason I can think of that would prohibit others from being in that area to take pictures or do anything else. This doesn’t appear to be the situation given the info. provided below. We will follow up with the security service provider to get this straightened out and we’d appreciate an opportunity to discuss it with gjp1964@cableone.net to get more specific information. My hope is that a particular security guard misunderstood the PDP permit requirements and once we clarify it the problem will be resolved. Again, no permit is required to take snapshots on the plaza. I’ll be in touch after following up.

    Debi Schaefer, Court Administrator

    So, if in the future any of you have a problem with “security” just have a copy of this in your camera bag to show them.

    Gus Patrick

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