Meet Joe Photographer: The TSA’s Silhouetted Symbol of a Terrorist

Don't forget to wear your hoodie on your next terror assignment!!


Ay Carumba!  As if photographers didn’t already have enough problems with overzealous police officers and security guards drunk with power harassing us in public places?

Now we’ve got the TSA using a hooded photographer’s silhouette as the symbol of a terrorist in their latest poster.

Oh boy, this is going to be fun. Couldn’t they have picked somebody else to symbolize a terrorist?

I dunno, maybe a mommy with a baby carriage (you never know, there might just be a bomb in the baby carriage that’s wired to the radio. Thanks to Paul Simon, I’ve heard that scenario over and over again!)

Or maybe a sneaky ground crew member (They wear hoodies almost all the time…..What’s up with that, anyway?).

But noooooo, it had to be a guy standing out in the open taking pictures with a big obvious SLR camera.

Yup, that’s what just terrorists do….right after they get off from a long hard day at flight school, and are tired of studying the tons of maps and information they’re finding on the internets.

But hey, it’s not as if a simple silhouetted figure can come to represent an entire profession in the public imagination!

Just ask Jerry West.

This Post Has 23 Comments

  1. This is so embarrassingly dumb — beyond that really.

    On the other hand, playing devils advocate for the moment, perhaps the poster’s intended audience is the hooded camera enthusiast who, while taking photos of planes, ought to remember to be on the lookout for the bad guys.

    Yeah, that must be it.


    1. Pete: Good on ya. We need more optimists in this day and age! B

  2. Hi Bob,
    A couple of years ago I was taking photos on a railroad overpass — the road went over the tracks. Through the corner of my eye I saw the flashing lights and a police officer standing by his squad car with a big grin on his face. Someone had called 911 that “a suspicious “someone” might have a gun, and the trains are going right under him.” BTW, I was using a tripod… Before he left, the officer posed next to his squad car for a picture. My daughter wasn’t all that amused, and my wife was mortified when I told them later.
    Oh well, we do have to be alert, these days. 😉

  3. I agree, how stupid. So many people wear hoodies. All they did was to plant a seed into everyone’s mind regarding hoods.Next it will be sunglasses are a symbol of bad guys.

  4. Well I was having a nice relaxed morning until I saw this. Frustrating in the extreme! This is a bigoted stereotype like any other and, as Bob points out, completely ridiculous and inaccurate. Fight for your rights!

  5. Living in the south has had the advantage of police not bothering you when taking pictures, but now I will have to remember not to wear a hoodie.

  6. Oh this terroristparanoia is getting worse every day. Securitypeople are harassing people who love to photograph. Is that a crime? It really makes me mad! Is there any know case of people with a camera who did a terrorist attack? We didn’t close all flightschools after nine-eleven, did we?
    I don’t understand much of the people who are responsable for our savety. All they do is harrasing innocent people with a camera…

    Can this be stopped????

  7. Many thanks to bringing attention to this matter. Some years ago I happened to photograph, what I know realize must have been a terrorist (she even was wearing the requisite “hoodie”), taking a picture of one of our critical harbor facilities on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota:

    This is of course rather tongue-in-cheek. However, I suspect the authorities might someday start cracking down on folks making paintings, sketches, etc as well…

    As a private aside I’m not looking for ‘hits’ and I don’t expect you to publish the above link. I just saw the resemblance amusing and thought you might get a kick out of it as well.. 😉


  8. It’s the American people who are the target of the new overarching Homeland Security police state, NOT Muslim terrorists. The sooner people wake up and realize this, the better!

  9. Hey, that could be me !!!

  10. You know, I was recently asked what I was doing taking pictures of airplanes at rural airport. Problem is, I really don’t see terrorists hijacking sailplanes (gliders)!

  11. Hello all! Long time reader, first time poster here. Let me play devil’s advocate with the above image.

    First, while you or I may be able to create an artistic image while shooting an airport through a fence, most people can’t. To a security minded person, this does look like someone gathering info on the airport.

    Second, if I wanted to do something devious, like gather info on a public place for an attack, the first thing I’d do is blend in to the surroundings. This guy could very well be a professional photographer, or an information gatherer.

    Lastly, did the guy in the image above ask permission to be there? If they had, several things could’ve happened. Security would know he’s there, the airport would’ve told him were NOT to go or shoot, and who knows, the airport may have worked with them in getting the best place to shoot.

    Yes, the image above does irritate me to, but we do live in a different society than we did 10 years ago.


    P.S. Bob, if I ever become half the photographer and professional you are, I’ll have accomplished a lot! Keep up the good work!

    1. Dave: Good points. We do live in a different society than 10 years ago…..Bob

  12. We have a Post Office on an open road that goes between two runways at Memphis Int Airport, There are also a lot of other Air related business on that road. If you stop on this road or spend too much time in the PO Parking lot the TSA is on you like Stink on Bugs butt. Shame cause you could really get some neat shots of aircraft taking off or landing.

  13. Absolutely ridiculous – as if a real terrorist wouldn’t be more surreptitious.

  14. My advices to the guy in the photo is to take off the hoodie and show his face. A few years ago, some guy shot up a school, but first he wandered all over campus and was never recognized as an older non-student because of the hood. Thus, the authorities now ban hoods in schools, etc.

  15. Hey Bob:

    That sounds like a marketing opportunity to me:

    “I’m a photographer, not a terrorist!” (TM) sweatshirts.
    Hood not included.
    $29.95, plus shipping & handling.
    Makes a great gift!

    There’s no doubt that the increased security environment has indeed made our photographic endeavors more difficult.

    The closest I’ve come to an “incident” with law enforcement, however, was in late-April of 1983. I had just transferred from New Jersey Bell to C&P Telephone in Silver Spring, Md.

    As the “new guy” in the video production group, I expected a little good-natured ribbing from my new co-workers, but I had no idea of the nefarious prank they had planned for me.

    Late in the afternoon of my first day on the job, my manager walked into my office and informed me that our vice president of public relations was about to retire and that our video group was tasked with producing a satirical video of his telephone company career.

    The VP was a graduate of the Wharton School of Business, but the boss thought it would be clever to have a visual, not of Wharton, but of the Lorton Correctional Facility in nearby Virginia, to cover some voice-over narration about the veep’s career accomplishments.

    “We don’t enough money in the budget for a video shoot,” he said. “Just shoot a few slides of the sign at the perimeter and we’ll insert them in post-production. There’s a Nikon F2 with a 50mm lens in the equipment cabinet and some Kodachrome 64 in the fridge.”

    “No problem, boss,” I said confidently, “I’ll shoot it first thing in the morning and I’ll drop it off for processing at the lab on the way to the studio, so we’ll have the slides back before the end of the day.”

    Bright and early the next morning, with a Northern Virginia road map and Nikon in hand, I jumped into my ’72 Chevy Malibu and headed out for Lorton.

    Twenty minutes later, I was parked by the side of the road, with the Lorton Correctional Facility sign perfectly focused in the foreground and a razor wire-topped wall and one of the guard towers in soft focus in the background. It looked so sweet in that warm early morning light! I thought. the boss would really be impressed with the results of my first assignment.

    Within just seconds after popping off a few exposures, I heard the sound of police sirens and turned to find a half-dozen Federal corrections officers, guns drawn, with me their sights!

    No one at the office told me that Lorton was a federal facility and that taking pictures was strictly forbidden!

    But it was too late, and in a fit of panic, my breakfast decided to “leave the building,” to put it politely. (Nothing relieves irregularity like a loaded and cocked .32 revolver!)

    After spending more than hour in the security chief’s office explaining the situation and having him talk to my boss on the phone, the feds had a good laugh over my co-workers excellent prank.

    I was fortunate to get away with just a very bruised ego, a stern warning to stay far away from Lorton in the future and a borrowed pair of pants.

    The last laugh was mine, however, because the feds confiscated my film!


  16. So who is the real photographer who gets the “credit” for staging and taking the photo of the terrorist-photographer?
    P.S. I’ll bet the subject is carrying a Canon…

  17. Perhaps we should be looking for people wearing “underwear” and “shoes” too. Wasn’t those the latest attempts to blow up an airplane.

    1. Perhaps we should be looking for people wearing “underwear” and “shoes” too. Weren’t those the latest attempts to blow up an airplane. (Sorry had to correct my grammar)

  18. I live in Charlotte, the second largest banking town in the country. When I took my Nikon DSLR uptown, I always got stopped by building security. They told me that it was against the law to take any picture in Charlotte. I told them that I had asked the police about that and they had told me as long as I was on a public sidewalk I could take any picture. I have switched to m 4/3 format, and now no one has said a word about my taking pictures for the last 6 months, even though I still go uptown and take the same type of photographs. I also went on line and found all of those same buildings with their pictures for sell. Hundreds of them.

  19. Here in London we have had a serious issue with the polce stopping you photographing just about anything almost randomly. Seems to have sorted itself out now with guide lines issued by our Home office, only time will tell if this works out though. P

  20. Gimmie a break,
    I was recently taking shots of falcons used to keep other birds away from the runway. I was shooting with a 300mm and was of course on the outside of the fence. The police stopped me and said that I couldn’t be there and gave me a bunch of grief. I contacted the airpot authority and they confirmed they had no problem with it. They even contacted the airport authority liason to the local Police dept and they said that they also had no problem with it. Just another power drunk copper harrasing me instead of the real criminals.

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