San Francisco: a note about surveillance

*Warning: This post will be long. Scroll past the words if you just wanna see some cool photos.

Surveillance. This is an issue we talked about in a class that I took last Fall in Utrecht.  It was a class called "Creative Urban Technologies" and it revolved around how technology is changing the way cities function. I guess I never really understood how this was an issue until today. We had just checked into our hotel-- The Hilton, Union Square-- in San Francisco. I was stoked to be in the city to practice some photography. I was feeling a little adventurous, so I decided to see if I could get roof access to the hotel to get a couple shots of the skyline.  I went to the Tower 1 elevators and took it up to floor 42, then decided to climb the staircase as far up as I could to see if I could get on the roof. Of course the door had a "no trespassing" sign on it. Let me just mention that breaking the rules is not my forte.  I started turning the knob and then chickened out--the thought of being caught made my hands shake. When I got back to my room I was pissed at myself for not being spontaneous and taking a risk, so before I could change my mind again I headed back to Tower 1. Right when I got to the lobby, I saw two security guards standing right by the elevators looking me straight in the eye. That's when I realized that the hotel definitely had cameras and that they knew who I was and what I was about to do.  In that moment I realized the power of surveillance cameras, and how restricting they are. The cameras were preventing me from being creative and spontaneous, and the feeling of having someone look at you like they know you is a weird feeling.

Despite the fact that I was obviously going to get caught, I decided to take the elevator anyway and try to divert them. Instead of heading to Tower 1, I went up to Tower 4, made a beeline for the staircase and made it out to the roof with just enough time to take about 20 shots before being caught by 2 security guards. I know that security cameras help create a safer environment, and the hotel was just doing their job to make sure I didn't get hurt on the roof, but it did make me feel a bit violated and restricted. It also made me consciously aware that there are people watching you almost everywhere, which is a really weird thing to realize.  Although technology is making the world safer and more efficient, I can't help but wonder if it's also creating homogeneity and restricting creativity. Of course, there will always be arguments for either side of the issue, but I just wanted to share my thoughts and experience from the weekend. Below are some of the shots I was able to take. 

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