Reforma 222 Photo Police

Mexico City, by and large, is a pretty liberal, live and let live place. By and large. Rules, laws and policies seem to be obeyed on a fairly voluntary basis, and those choosing not to obey and caught in the act have the legislated punishments enforced on them on a fairly voluntary basis too. Look up ‘mordida’.

Reforma 222, a recently built residential and shopping complex is different, however. Or it is now, anyway. I’ve been there plenty of times before, without problem. But today it was positively swarming with security personnel, clad in fairly casual looking, but branded, uniforms, chasing….photographers. No photos in the mall!

This is such a backward policy for a modern enterprise to adopt. But it is their mall, their property and they are perfectly entitled to adopt whatever policies they wish, no matter how silly. Equally, I have the freedom to decide whether or not I wish to live by their policies, and if not, then I can find a mall more fitting with my requirements!

But that request for me to not take photos is not my real complaint. I was stopped a second time, this time by a suited and booted security employee, and asked not to take photographs, outside the mall. I was still technically on their property. But only just, so no problem. I stepped, quite literally, 6 inches to my left, onto the public sidewalk, and continued taking photographs.

He insisted, no photographs of the mall. Actually I was trying to photograph a video screen which was actually made up of LED lights, just three colours, in a digital version of Push Pin Art. But still. I started to argue. As far as I’m aware, photographers have the same rights in Mexico as they have in the US or UK. If you’re in a public space you can photograph pretty much what you like.

The argument didn’t go well. In that he was a little agitated and speaking a bit too fast for me to keep up with what he was saying, and I lacked the specific vocab to get my point across, beyond telling him that I was now standing on public space, and the law allows me to photograph anything I want from that public space. Including his mall.

There was little point in continuing, so I simply told him I’d got the photos I wanted, and wouldn’t be taking any more. He was happy with that, and we went our separate ways. But this is something you’d expect to happen in the US or UK, not Mexico. Although in the UK I am very familiar with photographers rights, there’s no language barrier and I wouldn’t back down when the law is on my side. I would have legal recourse back home. Much less so here.

I do now have a task though. To find out exactly what rights photographers do or don’t have in Mexico according to the law. I’m posting a request for information on a forum of Mexico DF photowalkers I belong to, and hopefully will get something from there. But if anyone happens across this post and knows what the law is (knows, please! not thinks…) please feel free to leave a comment and enlighten me!

I do now feel obliged to post some photos of the mall, to finish the post with. The photos below are all mine, including the one of the security card – who remained polite by the way, even if he got a little agitated when I started to make my point. There are hundreds upon hundreds of photos of Reforma 222 on Flickr. Nearly 700 results from a search for ‘Refoma 222’ alone. Interior and exterior shots. Seems to me their policy is pretty futile.

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6 thoughts on “Reforma 222 Photo Police

  1. I’m sorry that these issues with photography are coming to Mexico. I had an experience several years ago where I was standing behind a railing waiting for family to come out of immigration at the Leon airport. Immigration is behind closed doors that open as people leave and it must be about a football field away from where I was waiting. I wanted to get some shots of the family as they walked toward me. I was told to put up my camera that no photos were allowed. I could understand if it was in the immigration area but not in the area where we were standing. I’ll be interested in what you find out about the law regarding photography in public spaces. But I don’t think I’m going to argue about it with a security guard or policeman in Mexico.

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  2. I have done a little research and came up with some answers on a Mexican Flickr forum, which suggests that, like the UK and US, there is no prohibition on taking photographs from a public space. Providing, of course that the photography is non-commercial.

    And like the UK and US, the police and security guards are blissfully unaware of the law. Pendejos.

    But as you say, it’s not worth arguing with a security guard or policeman in Mexico.

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  3. We encountered the same in the Antara mall in Polanco– my harmless midwestern mother was trying to take a couple pics of the cool architecture & was quickly barked at by a security guard that photos were not permitted.

    Well done, sir; you definitely scuttled our plans for a heist based on careful study of this picture of the 3rd floor terrace. 🙂

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    • They really are idiots. They’re all so very worried about industrial espionage. So worried, that they don’t think very hard. A genuine industrial spy can get discreet photos very easily from inside the stores. A tourist waving a camera around probably isn’t a spy….

      Idiots.

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  4. mexicomystic says:

    Your right this is strange… will mexico adopt the paranoia of the USA ? I’ve had this happen to me 3 times in the last 3 years… once in a mall in Puebla… once at the World Trade Center in Mexico… (did they think I was mapping out a way to fly a plane into it ??) …and the dumbest of all I was taking a pic of the Mexican Flag… it was at the entrance of an army base… a soldier guard told me thats prohibited…I asked is the flag some kind of secret weapon? No answer.
    Madness is contagious.

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