Thursday, April 24, 2008

UK Declares War on Street Photographers

With this poster, the Untied Kingdom Metropolitan Police has started a "public awareness" campaign asking people to be vigilant about people taking pictures. It seems the latest form of terrorism is when a photographer armed with a big Nikon DSLR has the audacity to take pictures in public places.

Since we all know photographers are at the root of Islamoterrorism, the police have taken this "awareness" campaign even further, surrounding photographers, hassling them and, according to some reports, even causing physical harm. According to Carolyn E. Wright, Esq., proprietor of the excellent Photo Attorney web site, the UK's Terrorism Act 2000, section 44, lets police "randomly stop someone without reasonable suspicion, providing the area has been designated a likely target for attack." Apparently, UK police officers have been randomly stopping street photographers for doing what they've been doing for decades in England.

OK, understand that we do what's necessary to safeguard the public, but is hassling street photographers and starting a campaign that will serve to increase public paranoia going to make the public safer, or simply limit freedom of expression and hand a little victory to Al Qaeda? After all, one of any terrorist organization's goals is to disrupt people's lives and alter their behavior out of fear, and the UK is playing right into this.

I will make this as clear as possible:


Whether we are taking pictures on the streets of London or New York, we are not terrorists.
We are exploring our world, looking for humor and images that grab our interest. We are not terrorists.
We do this because our creative urge compels us to. We are not terrorists.
We follow in the footsteps of Garry Winogrand, Henri Cartier-Bresson, and Robert Frank. We are not terrorists.
We are on your side. We are not terrorists.

Anyone want to make a poster out of that?

Should we photographers be alarmed, even if we're not street photographers, and even if we're not in the UK? No, but we should understand our rights, which are basically the same in the US, UK, Australia and other countries. Carolyn Wright lists several PDF files that outline your rights. Print out the relevant one and keep it in your back pocket to show the authorities (politely) if the need arises:
The Photographer's Right (US)
Street Photographer's Rights (Australia)
UK Photographers Rights

Finally, if you're in the UK, there's hope, in the form of the following Early Day Motion (EDM) currently tabled in the House of Commons:

"That this House is concerned to encourage the spread and enjoyment of photography as the most genuine and accessible people's art; deplores the apparent increase in the number of reported incidents in which the police, police community support officers (PCSOs) or wardens attempt to stop street photography and order the deletion of photographs or the confiscation of cards, cameras or film on various specious ground such as claims that some public buildings are strategic or sensitive, that children and adults can only be photographed with their written permission, that photographs of police and PCSOs are illegal, or that photographs may be used by terrorists; points out that photography in public places and streets is not only enjoyable but perfectly legal; regrets all such efforts to stop, discourage or inhibit amateur photographers taking pictures in public places, many of which are in any case festooned with closed circuit television cameras; and urges the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers to agree on a photography code for the information of officers on the ground, setting out the public's right to photograph public places thus allowing photographers to enjoy their hobby without officious interference or unjustified suspicion."

Write or email your MP asking them to support this EDM.

1 comment:

The Roth Family said...

This is a very important topic. Thank you for keeping it in the public spotlight.