John Hendel
February 29, 2012

Is it legal to take photos on the Metro? Of course. But a persistent, troubling lie that’s floated throughout our transit for years is this idea that you can’t. Both riders and WMATA employees have expressed this belief. Look to Flickr, DCist, and countless news publications for evidence of photography’s legality. WMATA explicitly states it doesn’t regulate still photography that “does not require a tripod, special lighting, film crews, models,” assuming it doesn’t hurt WMATA’s operations. In other words, casual photography is — or should be — perfectly legal.

If only reality backed up those laws. Photographer Pablo Benavente ran into trouble at the Archive-Navy Metro station on the morning of Feb. 23. He was setting up certain photographs in front of an oncoming Metro train. The Metro train operator apparently lowered his window and according to Benavente, “started yelling at me, and telling me that I can’t take photos like that, that he didn’t know what I was doing and that taking photos there is against the law.”

“You can’t take photos like that,” the WMATA operator called out.

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