On more than one occasion, while out and about taking photographs, (mainly in London) I’ve been stopped for having a camera round my neck and looking like I might be about to take a picture.
Yup, that’s all it seems to take now-a-days to raise the suspicions of some underpaid private security guard. Just be out and about minding your own photographic business, perhaps dangerously close to the threshold of some crappy shopping centre and as quick as it takes for a CCTV camera to rotate.. There they are, trying to enforce some imaginary law.
Normally I flash my press pass and tell them I know my rights. Sometimes I am feeling a little more confrontational and ask exactly what law it is they think they are enforcing? On one occasion a confused security guard told me it was one of the prevention of terrorism laws. The conversation then swung round to me asking.. “Do I look like a terrorist??
(Don’t answer that.)
I am not sure when all this started.. Perhaps it was just after 9/11 when everyones hightened level of paranoia needed to be justified by inventing some extra imaginary threats.
Most of the time, the least that happens is I’m looked at in a “I am watching you” kind of way. This is with a Mediterranean complexion, who knows what would happen if i wanted to go out with a camera and I was slightly darker skinned!
You may well have seen them yourselves, but once in a while I pass by a shop window and catch sight of those scarily Orwellian anti-terrorism posters asking YOU to be vigilant and to keep an eye out for people who use more than one mobile phone, or people who travel alot.. or who take photographs in a public place.
This kind of fear-mongering really pisses me off and in the past I have gone into the shop and asked if I could have the poster. Part of me could not believe the ridiculousness of it all and seemed to be wanting to gather these posters as evidence of crimes against common sense. Are the general public really so small minded as to report one another for doing normal everyday things?
Anyway it seems like I needn’t have bothered collecting these posters as most seem to be available.
I was slightly comforted today to read this article in the Guardian Newspaper. Bruce Schneier states that the Police’s ‘War On Photography’ is daft as.. in his words.. “..real terrorists, and even wannabe terrorists, don’t seem to photograph anything.”
With that reassurance in mind, read the article to learn that perhaps ‘movie plot‘ threats are being concocted to have some kind of psychological grip on our already fear laden minds. We really must make a point of fighting for our photographic rights..
If you are out and about with your camera, be it video or stills, stick a printout of your rights in your bag and make a stand, just in case.
This topic and others relating to our rights and what denotes a public space in todays day and age will be discussed at the social media picnic on the 25th of June.