"You can't photograph this building without permission," the pimply faced, barely adolescent, bespectacled security guard said, approaching me from what was obviously a break, with the extra-large, disposable soda cup as evidence. With his shirt in desperate need of an iron and in greater need of being tucked in, it was hard to tell if he was serious.
"Of course I can photograph the building," was my response. It was the World Exchange Plaza: its tall, glass curved lines have been photographed countless times. My words were blatantly contradictory but my tone was soft, even, carrying only the slightest weight that I was trying to correct the young lad.
"No, you can't take professional photographs of this building."
"I'm not a professional," I assured him, "trust me. I'm strictly amateur."
"I mean, you can't take photos of this building with a professional camera." He was beginning to sound frustrated.
"This isn't a professional camera," I explained. My D-SLR is an intermediate-level camera, and at that moment I was using my 10-20mm extra-wide lens. "What constitutes a professional camera and what makes you think this is one? Is it that it's on a tripod?" I had just mounted my camera on my tripod because it was dark. It was low to the ground, only a foot or so high, and the camera was tilted skyward.
"You can't take a photo of this building with a professional camera," he repeated.
"So, if I was a professional and I was taking a photo of the building with my smart phone, which has excellent resolution, by the way, you would not have approached me?"
I could see that he was beginning to lose patience, but I continued, "Did you know that the laws for photography, in Ontario, allow me to capture anything that is viewable in public? So, did you know that saying that I cannot take a photo of this building is false?"
I looked around our surroundings: I was in the outdoor, open space that faces Metcalfe Street. I was almost under a small, sheltered area of what looked like slabs of rock, could have been some sort of stage. The sidewalk for Metcalfe Street was less than 10 feet behind me as I faced the entrance to the building. I've always thought of this as a public space, belonging to the city, but perhaps it was part of the World Exchange Plaza. What I saw as city space could have been, technically, private property.
This is what he was getting at, I realized, though he only seemed focused on me not being allowed to photograph the building with what he considered to be a professional camera.
"Are you trying to say that I'm on private property?" I asked. He nodded. "Then that's the information you needed to convey. Your best and clearest approach would have been to inform me that I was standing on private property and that the management's policy was for photographers to obtain permission to set up a tripod to photograph the building. It has nothing to do with the quality of a camera, does it?"
His change in expression indicated that he also realized that he was approaching the situation from the wrong angle. "Yes, you need permission to photograph the building from here."
"So, you have no issue if I step back 10 feet and shoot from the same angle, but not this spot?"
"And knowing that I'm going to essentially that the same shot, you're still going to make me move my equipment a short distance because...?"
"Those are the rules," he finished, taking a sip of his soda.
"Very well," I sighed, "I'll follow your rules and take my non-professional photograph with my amateur camera, 'cos you need to enforce your rules and I want to take my shot." I picked up my camera and tripod, and decided to walk up the stairs, where they led upwards, to Queen Street. "Have a nice evening, Richard," I said as I started to walk away.
"My name's not Richard," he said.
"Really?" I questioned, "Because you seem like a Dick to me."
Higher up, at the intersection of Metcalfe and Queen, the angle seemed better to me.