Just looking around drifts out of fashion nowadays. Frenzy scars too many over-long workdays, and high-speed or congested highway traffic makes pleasure driving rare. Cheekbone calls interrupt the walker and distract the motorist and the railroad passenger. Walking and running become merely physical exercise often taken in such harried, collision-prone locations that health-club treadmills satisfy more completely.

In sinister ways, suspicion attaches to watchers. The walker stopped to examine an old building, the motorist pulled over to scrutinize the last suburban farm fields, even the shopper stopped to watch playground activity becomes suspect. People ignore landscape and its constituent elements, but they see observers as potential thieves, kidnappers, land developers, Environmental Protection Agency operatives, and worse. Since the terrorism of September 11, 2001, citizens and law enforcement officers alike scrutinize anyone who gazes too long at railroad trains, bridges, water-supply towers, chemical plants, oil refineries, industrial waterfronts, skyscrapers, airports, or even the right-of-way natural gas lines buried beneath a forest. Paranoia worsens if the observer makes a photograph, even a sketch or a painting. Despite constitutional guarantees and a surfeit of laws protecting looking and photographing, once innocent and honorable activities now require commendable guile.

from Landscape and Images
by John R. Stilgoe
University of Virginia Press