Visit Page
Skip to content

To Enter This Building – Answer Me These Questions Three

King Arthur and his knights attempt to get an equipment cart into a Manhattan Building for a photo shoot.

One of my current projects involves working in nine to ten buildings in New York City, shooting portraits and video segments. In all cases the buildings are not used by my client but are the business locations of our subjects. What’s come to the fore in the process is just how difficult the building owners and management are making it for photographers if you want to bring an equipment cart into a building. The questions asked in the video above could easily be changed to:

-Do you have $10 Million in umbrella liability?

-Will you list 10-20 entities as additional insureds?

-Where is your COI?

COI are Certificates of Insurance, proof that you have a insurance and proof that it will be the first line of defense should anything happen to you or because of you while you are in a building. In the past few years, it became very common for buildings to require these for you to access their freight elevators. Not a big deal as it can be supplied by your insurer ahead of time and usually within about half-hour via fax or email.

The change I’ve seen with this project is the buildings demanding specific levels of insurance and types of insurance which a photographer would not normally carry. Commercial and Auto Liability far exceeding a photographer’s needs, similar with Workers’ Comp. amounts, and the oddballs – Contractor’s Protective Property ($1 Million) and Completed Operations and Products Liability.

What’s going on is that the requirements have been drawn up and instituted based on the needs of construction contractors and their subs. Building owners are applying a one-size-fits-all model and it leaves you wondering about the viability of photography and video as location based endeavors. In particular it hits corporate and editorial work very hard (two areas which don’t need any more hitting.)

Some say the new policies are a result of 9/11 but I don’t see the relationship. In my experience it was well after 9/11 when these were instituted and there is nothing about terrorism in any of the forms I’ve seen. Maybe that’s simplistic on my part but I’d like to know the connection.

There is no question that this is limiting – especially if you are looking to bring a professional kit (3-5 lights with power packs) or if you have to pack for video in addition to stills. You could go strobist, relying on very small lights, but in many cases that’s just not appropriate. There are some work-arounds and possibly a saving grace or two.

One saving grace, and this may seem cynical of me, but I do see it as a way of weeding out the pro’s from the weekenders, hobbyists, and the I’m a photographer on the side crowd. These are the folks out there working , taking assignments, but running their businesses as a hobby. In other words, those that don’t carry any business insurance, they assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover them, or they just don’t worry about it.

In terms of work-arounds I’ll save that for another post but I will drop this hint – it’s all in the bags.