Thomas Hawk, local San Francisco photo/blogger, posted an interesting essay on his experiences taking pictures at different private cultural venues around town. SFist found the link on Boing Boing, which often covers issues related to freedom of speech, expression, media and fair use.

After our experience with cameras being confiscated at the recent PJ Harvey show and our visit with some other local photobloggers, we were interested to see what Mr. Hawk had to say. Seems sporting venues are generally more lenient than cultural venues, with art galleries and museums being some of the most restrictive. Also, many venues and events seem to draw a line between 'normal' cameras and 'professional' cameras - which seems kind of arbitrary to us.

The freedom to photograph has been a hot topic lately - a Seattle-area woman lost her job for photographing the funerary rites of deceased soldiers returning from Iraq in their flag-draped transfer tubes. San Mateo Union High School students were recently banned from using camera phones during instruction time. San Francisco police are looking for a man under suspicion of surveilling the Transamerica and Bank of America buildings - though he's alleged to have used both a camera and sketchbook. Gothamist covered the New York City Subway photography ban - when SFist went to film school in New York, we were told the ban had started during World War II and went largely un-enforced (until now). A photography student in Seattle was repeatedly harassed by local and federal law enforcement for taking pictures of a popular tourist attraction, the Ballard locks. And who can forget the casual snapshots of horriffic torture taken 'just for fun' by soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq?

SFist wonders what the first amendment implications are of all this. Is photography a form of speech, like writing or painting? And if so, is restricting the taking of photographs in defiance of the Supreme Court's decision that no 'prior restraint' can be placed on freedom of speech? Talk amongst yourselves in the comments.