William thought he could cruise Orlando’s Downtown Disney with a camera and not end up hassled and intimidated by security guards. He was wrong.
He summarizes his blog post here:
Last night, I visited Downtown Disney in Orlando to take HDR photos of the House of Blues. On four occasions, I was approached by Disney Security to ask why I was taking pictures. Each time I explained that photography was my hobby. The security guards expressed concern that I was working for a media company and I assured them that wasn’t the case. This was just for the experience of taking photographs. I was inspired by Trey Ratcliff’s photography and, having taken a HDR workshop with him, wanted to experiment a bit.
On the fourth time Disney Security approached me, they were lead by a security manager, Don, and I was surrounded by security guards. Once again, I explained to Don that I was there as a hobby, nothing more. I tried to appease Don by showing him some of my images. He asked for my name and I shared it. He asked where I worked. While I thought that wasn’t any of his business, I considered the fact that perhaps he still thought I worked for some media outlet, so I shared my employer’s name. I even told him the name of the local town where I live.
After all of this, Don started asking for me to provide him with some written identification. At this point, I refused. He’s a security guard and doesn’t have any need to see my driver’s license or other ID. Don responded by threatening to call the police and have them obtain my ID. He said he was in charge of security and wanted to know who to contact in case something bad happened. He expressed concern that my photography was architectural and that made him suspicious.
Basically, I was surrounded, intimidated, threatened, harassed and ultimately humiliated as a cadre of security guards escorted me to my car to leave the property. I had plans to stay for dinner at House of Blues after shooting, but that no longer seemed to be of interest to me. Don called in more security guards who arrived on foot, on bike, and by vehicle. He also called the Orange County Sheriff’s office and told them I was unresponsive when he asked for identification – a blatant lie, since I told him my name, employer and the city where I lived. That’s more than he shared with me.
I was under no obligation to share any of this information with Don and Disney, but I did so in the spirit of cooperation and reducing his concerns. Instead, things only became more intense and unsettling. Disney has long been very friendly to photographers, so I was shocked at this turn of events. Don basically accused me of being a terrorist and became increasingly perturbed that I didn’t hand over my ID. He wanted to know who to contact in case something happened. What kind of idiot would give up his information to a man looking for someone to accuse of a potential terrorist action? Besides, what terrorists want to blow up the House of Blues?
As I left, Don instructed his guards to take plenty of pictures of me, my vehicle, etc. I have no doubt that I was captured on security video cameras while at Downtown Disney. Am I now on some kind of list? No deputy ever showed up, but will they give the Sheriff’s office a photo of my auto tag in order to track down my contact information? This is not the kind of behavior I expect from the worldwide leader in hospitality. I was planning on purchasing another Annual Pass to continue my photography, but I don’t know if I’ll continue to be harassed by Disney Security or not.