National Geographic photographer, assistant charged with trespassing

Finney County prosecutors have charged renowned paragliding photographer George Steinmetz and his assistant Wei Zhang with criminal trespass, Finney County Attorney Susan Richmeier said.

The charges stem from the pair’s arrest June 28 for entering posted private property without permission.

Steinmetz was on assignment for National Geographic magazine, snapping photos for a series about food, as he flew in a motorized paraglider above Brookover Feed Yard in Garden City. Zhang was waiting for him on the ground.

“Much discussion has ensued surrounding the arrest of Mr. Steinmetz and his employee regarding the right to air space and to take photographs,” said Richmeier in a news release Thursday. “The charges in no way are related to those two issues and focus on the landowner’s right to privacy and control over their property.

“The persons involved have been charged with criminal trespass and their guilt or innocence must be proven in a court of law. As such, these defendants are innocent until proven otherwise.”

Trespass is a class B non-person misdemeanor in Kansas, carrying a minimum 48 hours in jail, according to Richmeier.

Beth Foster, a spokeswoman for National Geographic, said it was the group’s policy that photographers obey the law wherever they are working. The magazine, however, will provide defense for Steinmetz and his assistant, if necessary.

“We don’t believe he broke the law,” Foster added.