08 June 2008

Are photographers really a threat?

I have always had an interest in photography, ever since I was given a Kodak Retinette when I was a child. I never really progressed beyond point-and-shoot snapshot photography, despite Smurf's patient efforts to teach me the more technical side of things. However, I still love taking photos. When I bought a digital SLR a couple of years ago, I decided it was about time that I learned how to do it properly, and regretted not paying more attention to Smurf's advice. Anyway, I decided to sign up for the Open University's Digital Photography course, and I am really enjoying it, although I don't really have enough time to dedicate to it at the moment.

One thing that has been worrying me a lot recently, is the high number of reports in the press about photographers being harassed for taking pictures in public places. Such is the paranoia raised by the some of the less-reputable media, that many photographers are now viewed with suspicion. If you take a photo of kids playing, you're accused of being a paedophile, if you take a photo of a large public building, you're accused of being a terrorist.

I have been fuming about the stupidity of sheeple for quite some time now, and so I was really pleased to read
an article in the Guardian Newspaper by Bruce Schneier about the general ignorance surrounding photography, terrorism and the like. Go and read it now. It makes sense.

In Mr. Schneier's words:

"Fear aside, there aren't many legal restrictions on what you can photograph from a public place that's already in public view. If you're harassed, it's almost certainly a law enforcement official, public or private, acting way beyond his authority. There's nothing in any post-9/11 law that restricts your right to photograph.

"This is worth fighting. Search "photographer rights" on Google and download one of the several wallet documents that can help you if you get harassed; I found one for the UK, US, and Australia. Don't cede your right to photograph in public. Don't propagate the terrorist photographer story. Remind them that prohibiting photography was something we used to ridicule about the USSR. Eventually sanity will be restored, but it may take a while."

Well said, Mr. Schneier, I just hope that those enforcement officials pay attention.

Remember, that under normal circumstances, no-one (including Police, other officials or security guards) has the
right to seize your photographic equipment or demand that memory cards are deleted/confiscated without a court order, even if they think they contain damaging or useful evidence. If an enforcement official erases any of your photographs without your permission, it amounts to criminal damage and that anyone who deletes a photographer’s images without permission could face criminal, civil or disciplinary action.

Be aware, though, that in some circumstances, the police are permitted to confiscate your film or memory cards but they are still not permitted to delete any images because the images could be used as evidence for or against you.


Oz said...

I can't see this trend reversing anytime soon. On a tangent, I read this morning that 'stars' should be charged if they're filmed sniffing white powder. Apparently a jury should know that it's a some form of drug even though there's no proof of that. I'm no fan of Amy Whitehouse et al, but c'mon - burden of proof, eh?

By the way, I've been thinking about this course and you've tipped me a little more in favour.

Seán said...

A lot of this sort of thing is mentioned by people on Flickr, and someone came up with a simple but brilliant idea - wear a hi-vis jacket! Apparently it really works. If you're bright yellow, you're obviously supposed to be there.

Sadly, it doesn't address the real root of the problem which boils down to propaganda-led public paranoia and an increase in authoritarianism. Remember, coppers are ordinary fuckwits too. They believe adverts and government sound bites just like the rest of us.

What the heck though. You might look really good in radioactive napalm yellow!


Seán said...

Extra point (because I commented before reading the newspaper article): Mr. Schneier has said something that I've never thought of, and he's absolutely right. He said, "It's a movie plot".

Thank you for the epiphany - that's what's wrong, we all think we're living in a movie!

Boy am I gonna run with this one!


Lily the Pink said...

Damn - Seán said exactly what I would have said.

Too bloody right the sheeple think they're living in a movie. The guys who worked with Terry Pratchett on the Science of Discworld make a valid point that our species should be reclassified - we're not homo sapiens (the wise ape) at all. They argue for a change to pan narrans (the storytelling chimpanzee).

All the best - and I'm really looking forward to reading Seán's post on the subject.