A Reston Now employee was kicked out of Reston Town Center on Tuesday afternoon for taking photos.
Jay Westcott, a staff photographer for Reston Now and its sister sites Tysons Reporter, ALXnow and ARLnow, was asked by a security guard to leave RTC after he attempted to take several photos outdoors. Westcott has earlier been asked by an editor to update Reston Now’s file photos, which we use to illustrate stories about everything from new office tenants to events and other happenings.
Westcott had just paid for parking and begun taking photos of a landscaping crew when he was approached by a security guard.
Boston Properties, the Massachusetts-based company that owns RTC, says that any media, photographer or videographer must seek a permit — processed through RTC’s marketing — each time they want to take photos in the center.
The permit application notes that all photos must be approved by RTC prior to publication and “are available for licensing by Reston Town Center management for use in Reston Town Center publications.”
‘This is not a new policy. Some brands have policies in place regarding professional photography so we normally escort media on site,” said Ashley Arias, director of TAA Public Relations, Boston Properties’ PR agency.
The application also stipulates that storefronts, loading docks, and building entrances cannot be photographed without written permission.
Reston Now owner and publisher Scott Brodbeck said that although RTC is privately owned, it is a de facto public space.
“Jay is a consummate professional who was simply updating our stock photos of the area. Credentialed members of the media should not be required to obtain permits in order to do their jobs in such a setting,” Brodbeck said. “That’s doubly true given that any member of the general public is able to take such photos with their smartphones without being hassled by security.”
Some local photographers say that although the permit process is cumbersome, RTC’s marketing team is forthcoming and welcoming.
“I just keep a copy of the PDF on my phone, and any time a security guard requests a permit, I show them my phone, they take a quick glance at it, and let me carry on,” Reston-based photographer Charlotte Geary told Reston Now.
Boston Properties’ photography policy highlights some elected officials’ concerns about the privatization of publicly used spaces.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that the photography restriction in open areas of RTC underscores the fact that open areas in RTC are not public open spaces and rather “private property accessible and usable by the public with conditions established by the private property owner.”
He says his task force, which is reviewing Reston’s Comprehensive Plan, is taking a look at the pros and cons of privately owned and maintained open spaces versus publicly owned and maintained spaces. The topic was discussed at a December meeting.
It’s not the first time the privatization of open space has been an issue in Reston.
In the spring of 2019, Comstock Companies, the developer of Reston Station, clashed with the county over the permissibility of campaigning on its property.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott