Illicit photos of 'winged' Smart Car create a mysterious confrontation

When Los Angeles photographer Steve Devol went out a week ago to shoot some early morning shots of the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Hall, he found a film crew had the same idea to use the hall as a backdrop. But when Devol started taking his own pictures, he claims the crew and its security guards tried to stop him from shooting from public property. In response, Devol posted his photos to Flickr -- including this shot of what looks like a winged Smart car concept.If I had to guess, I'd venture that the crew and the car have something to do with the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show in a few weeks. Smart has been known to show off wild concepts, and this version of the Smart ForTwo looks odd beyond just the bizarro tail wings; it could be some take on the Smart electric car.

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Automakers have been known to go to great lengths to keep their concepts under wraps as long as possible; hiding them in camouflage or shooting in remote locations. Devol says none of that was the case with the Smart crew: "The street was not closed off, other folks were walking and driving it but because I, with a camera, tried to exercise the same rights as they, they tried to prevent me from shooting."

Devol's experience only added fuel the years-long battle between photographers and those who would try to keep them from taking pictures in public places. Until now, most of those confrontations have involved law enforcement; the automotive spy photography business has been less frictional, although in most of those cases the driver of the spied model just has to drive off. That's much harder to do with a concert hall, but it's a reminder that what happens in public, stays in public.

Photo: Steve Devol via Flickr