Independent Photography

Hell of a Day


Yesterday was quite the day.  I woke up and got dressed, this time a suit rather than my normal, kind-of-dirty shorts, and wandered down to the Chateau Laurier.  A Friend had passed along an invitation they received to attend a lecture by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.  He spoke about a bunch of stuff, from the G8/G20, Canada’s role with the climate and foreign aid.  For me it was a hell of an experience, plus the lighting sucked.  Though I did come away with one frame I liked.

I had to leave before the question an answer period though, because I had to get back to campus.  I had arranged to meet up with two former employee’s of Aramark Ltd.  These two people had spoke with one of the Charlatan’s writers because they had been fired for trying to organize a union. Johanna Selvanera it turned out had been working there for 27 years, she was known affectionately, as the “caf lady.”  I was not prepared for what would happen.

I met her and Chris Pinch in the office and suggested we go to the food court to shoot the picture. Johanna ­­­­­ asked me not to use that location, it seems she was concerned about further repercussions from Aramark (bear in mind this woman had already been fired).  I suggested Starbucks on the 4th floor.  My thoughts were simple, an Aramark-operated business had to be the location or background for this portrait.  That was how I thought of telling the story.  Furthermore, questions about the school’s contract with Aramark had been raised two years earlier when the school allowed Starbucks to open up, taking up a large chunk of student space.

Here’ what happened:

We went to the atrium and I set me exposure settings.  As I was positioning the subjects a Starbucks employee came up and demanded that I not take pictures.  I said, I was photographing two people in the Atrium, and it was public space.  She continued to tell me I wasn’t allowed.  I argued a bit more, then turned to Chris and Johanna and lifted my camera, at this point the employee ran back behind the counter and I took my frame and we left.  I pulled Chris and Johanna aside really quickly and explained there was nothing that could be done to them, everything had been perfectly legit and if there were issues to contact me. .. 20 Minutes later I was sitting in the Charlatan office editing the picture when two campus security officers walked in, they asked for me by name, which I found strange.  So I went into the hall.  It turns out that the employee called them in a panic.  I don’t blame her, I blame intimidation from Aramark which put her in a position where she was that scared of losing her job…  Anyways, campus police asked me not to publish the photo.  I explained that I had shot it in a public space, I was well within my rights, etc.  The conversation was going nowhere, then Joel Eastwood, our Editor-in-Chief, popped out and started backing me up.  The conversation dead ended again then Ruby Pratka, national editor, poked her head out and handed them a book, “The Canadian Journalists Legal Guide.”  “Here are the relevant chapters,” she said, they were even highlighted.  At that point they made one final request that we not run the photo, then took down our names and student numbers and left.

Inside Ruby, Joel, the summer news editor Marissa and I had a chat about the photo.  We figured all angles were covered, ethically, legally and editorially.  Joel asked me what my call was, since we all seemed at an impasse.  I said run it, Ruby agreed and so did Joel.  The final step was clarification (we are all students after all) Joel emailed Klaus Poole, a professor of media law here at Carleton.  Two hours later we got an email saying from his view we were 100% covered.

The photo ran in full, the story is linked here.

And so I wore this sticker at work.

Peace Kids.

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