On a sunny afternoon in late September, I walk into the lobby of the Marriott hotel, the first of many such hotels that dot the landscape of this sleepy coastal town.
It’s early morning, and the lobby is packed with people waiting to get into their hotel rooms.
My hostess, the hotel manager, is sitting in a small office, staring at the ceiling.
The hotel’s sign in her hand reads, “No photography, no video, no sound, no internet.”
A young woman, wearing a yellow shirt, shorts, and a tank top, is taking notes in a large, open-plan office.
She’s sitting on a desk, looking at an iPad.
The manager explains that the hotel doesn’t have a camera in the lobby, but she and her team are taking photographs of the hotel’s residents and guests in the rooms.
When I ask her about it, she responds, “It’s really the worst thing.”
She explains that guests are told they must wear their own uniforms.
The woman has no problem with that, she just doesn’t like the idea that people are photographed.
I ask the manager why she didn’t just let the photographers do their job and let the guests wear their uniforms.
She says, “Because I don’t want people to think that we are here to be filmed.”
The manager says she can’t tell me who has the camera, but I tell her I’ll get someone to take pictures of the people in my room.
She smiles and says, Okay, fine.
We’ll go out together.
The managers office is located on the third floor of the Hotel Century, which is where I’m staying, and there are several rooms upstairs.
When it comes to photography, there’s a lot of disagreement.
Some photographers say it’s not necessary, and others say they can get away with it.
Others have a reputation for being bad people who are taking pictures without permission.
I’m not the only one to question the ethics of the photographers, however.
A group of women who are also photographers are sitting around a conference table outside the lobby.
One of them is wearing a tank-top and shorts.
She is very young, and her expression is one of genuine happiness, but it also has a hint of irritation.
“I like it here,” she says, smiling broadly.
I try to get my camera out of the backpack that she’s carrying.
She starts asking me questions about the hotel and the people inside it.
She asks me why I’m there, and I tell them that I am there to photograph the hotel, but there is a problem.
“We need to move this to another hotel,” she tells me, and then asks me to come back later.
She tells me to go outside and wait for someone to come get me.
I leave the hotel after two hours.
After the photo session, I call the photographer.
“She’s not my photographer, but they are the only people who can take these photos,” he tells me.
He then tells me that she is allowed to photograph people but they must have a security check and sign a contract.
The photographer and the hotel have not responded to my inquiries.
When my photographer’s camera was taken, it was returned to him by the hotel.
The other photographers and hotel staff have not been allowed to take photographs of people inside the hotel during the trial period.
According to the hotel management, the people who were taking photos are not the guests.
“This is the first time we’ve heard from them,” says the hotel clerk.
“It was an open room, and they were allowed to go inside.”
But the photographer says that it was a mistake.
“They were not supposed to be taking photos of us, they were just supposed to take photos of the guests,” he says.
I follow the hotel staff as they walk out the lobby and take the elevator down to the lobby floor.
They don’t have any photos, and when they try to explain what happened, they say that the photographers were trespassing on the guests’ property and they’re not allowed to have photography.
The staff tells me the photographer and his team are being prosecuted and that they’re facing up to six months in jail.
I want to tell them why this is so important, but the hotel refuses to answer any questions.
I finally get a response from the hotel administrator.
She doesn’t want to talk about it.
I tell the hotel managers and hotel workers that I need to go talk to the attorney general.
I meet with him at the White House the next day, and we’re in a conference room with a copy of the indictment that was issued against the photographers and the staff of the resort.
The indictment alleges that the photographer was acting with a fraudulent intent to deceive the guests into signing a contract that did not require the photographers to wear their uniform.
The photographs are being used in a video that was distributed on the Internet.
The images are being shown in theaters