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Author Topic: I'm a photographer, not a terrorist  (Read 23438 times)
Pete_G
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« on: December 12, 2009, 11:41:24 AM »
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Oh dear, the police in the UK are causing trouble again. On the front page of today's Guardian is an article about how the police, in response to a call out by paranoid private security guards,  harassed a Guardian photographer as he was shooting a London office building. Previous to this I'd not bothered too much about the misuse of the Prevention of Terrorism Act in relation to street photography, but it looks like we may have to take it seriously.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/li...4-terrorism-act


The article ends with this:

"This is why I will be in Trafalgar Square at 12 noon on Saturday 23 January 2010 for the I'm a Photographer Not a terrorist! mass picture taking event along with hundreds of other photographers to exercise our democratic right to make a picture in a public place."

See you there!
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #1 on: December 12, 2009, 12:48:12 PM »
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Best of luck and wish you all success! Tell the authorities that their frog-boiling strategies no pasaran.
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« Reply #2 on: December 12, 2009, 01:10:16 PM »
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Pete, I can't make it in person, but I'll be there in spirit. Right on!
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Arminw
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« Reply #3 on: December 12, 2009, 01:39:12 PM »
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Yes it's becoming more and more difficult to walk around london and to take innocent picture of every days street life . I will be there to support the freedom of taking pictures...
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kikashi
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« Reply #4 on: December 12, 2009, 02:12:00 PM »
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This story has been around for a couple of weeks. I think it must be unique, in that it's managed to unite writers for the Grauniad (markedly left-wing) and the Torygraph (quite the opposite): see here.

It's a manifestation of the hysterical paranoia and officiousness that afflicts junior, inconsequential officials who have been given power over others and use it for self-aggrandisement. You can see it in security guards everywhere (and it's notable that the "police" involved in this and other episodes are generally "Community Support Officers", or pseudo-police).

Jeremy
« Last Edit: December 12, 2009, 02:12:49 PM by kikashi » Logged
BFoto
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« Reply #5 on: December 12, 2009, 03:17:48 PM »
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If you have ever lived in the UK, you will know the amount of CCTV camera's watching your every move, on every corner in every town.

One day in Cosham, NH, I J-walked and got yelled at by the loud speaker on the corner of the road - "you are in violation of act .....section ....of the roads coad, bla bla". So, they got the finger.

If you haven't been to the UK and seen it, just wish it never comes to your neighbourhood.
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #6 on: December 12, 2009, 03:20:06 PM »
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Quote from: kikashi
it's notable that the "police" involved in this and other episodes are generally "Community Support Officers", or pseudo-police
I think you are right: a more senior policeman was interviewed on the Today programme last week, and was very clear that photographers should not be harassed by police or PCSOs for going about their ordinary business. No-one observed that a terrorist would probably use a concealed camera rather than a large camera on a tripod! (Unless we are going into double bluff territory.)

The word is full of self-important people who feel better about themselves by applying petty bureaucracy where it is neither necessary nor legal.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #7 on: December 12, 2009, 05:50:32 PM »
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... security guards everywhere (and it's notable that the "police" involved in this and other episodes are generally "Community Support Officers", or pseudo-police).
It is only too easy to blame the small guy (i.e., guards and pseudo-police), but the tone is usually set at the top. And then, as a ripple (or butterfly) effect, it reaches the gullible at the lowest levels. Country's top lawyers order a study on pushing the envelope in torture, yet a few of low-ranking "bad apples" end up being blamed for it. The initiator, of course, enjoys the plausible deniability defense.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #8 on: December 13, 2009, 09:10:10 AM »
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A few weeks ago my wife and I were photographing autumn scenery under the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, NY.  We were standing on a public road, shooting across water that is part of the NYC reservoir system.  We were approached by police in a car marked NYC Water Department and told we had to leave, as photography was forbidden in restricted areas.  There were no signs to that effect, but we decided not to push the issue.  

I have been stopped by police for shooting the Bayonne Bridge in Staten Island.  The demanded ID, took my name, address and license plate number and warned me that I was lucky to get off with a warning.  The next day I was at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn along with literally dozens of photographers, and the police ignored us.

I was stopped in White Plains and interrogated as to why was I taking pictures of the clock tower at the railroad station (also from a public road), yet when I set up my tripod to take pictures of City Hall in Manhattan, a pocie officer got out of his car and approached me to ask if he should move his car in case it was blocking a good shot.

Go figure!  I have tried looking up on the web just what the law says on photography.  I have looked at the Homeland Security law, NYC laws on bridges and tunnels, etc., and can find no specific prohibitions.  It is confusing.

The interesting thing is that there are coffee-table sized books with detailed pictures of all of our bridges, monuments, etc, on sale at Barnes & Noble for $4.95 or so, and nothing I shoot would cover new detail!

I think harassment is the name of the game, and not national security.
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Kirk Gittings
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« Reply #9 on: December 13, 2009, 12:43:23 PM »
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I love any excuse to go back to England, but can't make it this time. Good luck!
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« Reply #10 on: December 13, 2009, 01:10:06 PM »
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Quote from: walter.sk
A few weeks ago my wife and I were photographing autumn scenery under the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County, NY.  We were standing on a public road, shooting across water that is part of the NYC reservoir system.  We were approached by police in a car marked NYC Water Department and told we had to leave, as photography was forbidden in restricted areas.  There were no signs to that effect, but we decided not to push the issue.  

I have been stopped by police for shooting the Bayonne Bridge in Staten Island.  The demanded ID, took my name, address and license plate number and warned me that I was lucky to get off with a warning.  The next day I was at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn along with literally dozens of photographers, and the police ignored us.

I was stopped in White Plains and interrogated as to why was I taking pictures of the clock tower at the railroad station (also from a public road), yet when I set up my tripod to take pictures of City Hall in Manhattan, a pocie officer got out of his car and approached me to ask if he should move his car in case it was blocking a good shot.

Go figure!  I have tried looking up on the web just what the law says on photography.  I have looked at the Homeland Security law, NYC laws on bridges and tunnels, etc., and can find no specific prohibitions.  It is confusing.

The interesting thing is that there are coffee-table sized books with detailed pictures of all of our bridges, monuments, etc, on sale at Barnes & Noble for $4.95 or so, and nothing I shoot would cover new detail!

I think harassment is the name of the game, and not national security.

Walter, That's really weird. Here in the west (Colorado, specifically) it's what Jeremy called the "community support officers," generally known here as "rent-a-cops," who make that kind of mistake -- not the sworn officers. For U.S. photographers the best reference I've found to the laws surrounding this kind of harassment is Bert Krages's "The Photographer's Right."  Unless the area is properly posted, the cop who tells you you can't shoot is wrong. Since he's the guy with the gun you can't very well argue, but if he tries to confiscate your equipment or run you in he can end up in a heap of trouble.
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walter.sk
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« Reply #11 on: December 13, 2009, 02:18:41 PM »
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Walter, That's really weird. Here in the west (Colorado, specifically) it's what Jeremy called the "community support officers," generally known here as "rent-a-cops," who make that kind of mistake -- not the sworn officers. For U.S. photographers the best reference I've found to the laws surrounding this kind of harassment is Bert Krages's "The Photographer's Right."  Unless the area is properly posted, the cop who tells you you can't shoot is wrong. Since he's the guy with the gun you can't very well argue, but if he tries to confiscate your equipment or run you in he can end up in a heap of trouble.
I have seen Krages's book, as well as his website.  Actually, on some of the bridges here there are signs on the approaches that say Use of Cameras Prohibited.  I have pictures of all of the signs.
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Josh-H
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« Reply #12 on: December 13, 2009, 06:26:08 PM »
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Actually, on some of the bridges here there are signs on the approaches that say Use of Cameras Prohibited. I have pictures of all of the signs.

*chuckle*
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Steven Draper
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« Reply #13 on: December 13, 2009, 07:27:44 PM »
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I'm in Ontario Canada and fortunately we're still a few years behind the UK, from which I moved a few years ago.

I was at a media briefing for an Olympic Torch event I'm photographing on Tuesday and I was really happy to see how sensible the Organizers were being with regards to the photographic aspects.

I think the UK has more CCTV than the rest of Europe put together!!!

All the best in January.
Steven
« Last Edit: December 13, 2009, 07:28:02 PM by Steven Draper » Logged

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Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: December 15, 2009, 01:11:08 PM »
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Quote from: Steven Draper
I'm in Ontario Canada and fortunately we're still a few years behind the UK, from which I moved a few years ago.

I was at a media briefing for an Olympic Torch event I'm photographing on Tuesday and I was really happy to see how sensible the Organizers were being with regards to the photographic aspects.

I think the UK has more CCTV than the rest of Europe put together!!!

All the best in January.
Steven




There was a piece on this subject of street/public spaces photography on tv today - I surf the news channels so can't say which - but I do think that photographers should also look at it from the other side: the threat is there; people have been blown to bits in the street, in the bus, in the subway, in the carpark, at the airport and in the air, and the problem isn't going anywhere rapidly. Fighting an army without uniforms was never easy: you forget that uniforms are all part of recognition and sometimes even 'good guy' ideals of fair play. When your innocent neighbour suddenly thinks the time has come, that fifty virgins beckon him from afar, where will your sympathies lie then, other than in the morgue with the bits of you that some poor relative might struggle to identify?  

Too easy to complain; too easy to feel that a couple of snaps are more valuable than the possibility of some added safety.

Rob C
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Pete_G
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« Reply #15 on: December 15, 2009, 01:20:04 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
There was a piece on this subject of street/public spaces photography on tv today - I surf the news channels so can't say which - but I do think that photographers should also look at it from the other side: the threat is there; people have been blown to bits in the street, in the bus, in the subway, in the carpark, at the airport and in the air, and the problem isn't going anywhere rapidly. Fighting an army without uniforms was never easy: you forget that uniforms are all part of recognition and sometimes even 'good guy' ideals of fair play. When your innocent neighbour suddenly thinks the time has come, that fifty virgins beckon him from afar, where will your sympathies lie then, other than in the morgue with the bits of you that some poor relative might struggle to identify?  

Too easy to complain; too easy to feel that a couple of snaps are more valuable than the possibility of some added safety.

Rob C


What are you suggesting then, that we stop taking "snaps", get rid of our cameras, that we put on uniforms and become "good guys", that we kill our innocent neighbours before they kill us?
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #16 on: December 15, 2009, 01:30:43 PM »
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Quote from: Rob C
... Too easy to complain; too easy to feel that a couple of snaps are more valuable than the possibility of some added safety.
While I agree with your safety-concern sentiment in the previous paragraph, I just do not see how "a couple of snaps" are diminishing "the possibility of some added safety"? And I think that is the crux of the whole debate: exactly how are photographers endangering national security? There is almost nothing under the sun (and in public view) that is not already available in great detail somewhere (book, library, movie, internet, etc.). Of all the terrorism-as-the-next-bogeyman (after communism) hysteria, the attack on photographers is the most mind-boggling in its senselessness.
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« Reply #17 on: December 15, 2009, 01:48:13 PM »
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Rob, I hear what you're saying, but a life in fear is no life at all. Let's face it, life is terminal. Better enjoy it while you can.
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: December 15, 2009, 03:54:56 PM »
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Well, in answer to both slobodan and Russ, the fact is that I am just suggesting the other side of the debate have a fair hearing too, which in a community of photographers, whilst a difficult thing to expect, is none the less reasonable for it.

There is no harm in the simple snap, per se, it is the fact that the simple snap isn't, perhaps, always that innocent. Concerning the notices about bridges, airports, stations and so on - of course there isn't any harm shooting those things as beautiful, evocative photographs; but there is something dangerous about too much structural detail being studied, the understanding that can be gained from that regarding construction, areas of weakness and vulnerability, there's no end to the dangers that can be pulled into the argument, but as with much, it is the intent that is the difference between the benign and the malevolent. I guess the fuzz has little choice but to try and err on the side of caution, particularly when they are the same people who are ever blamed for lack of foresight when things do go wrong; a no-win position for them, then?

How are photographers endangering national security, was asked: well that depends on the intention of the photographer, obviously enough; how much warfare is carried on without surveillance, photography from satellite, aircraft etc.  WW2 was full of it. You should know about the value of photography to bombing, Russ; the intention is seldom to waste ammunition. Why would present day urban fighters do any differently? Yes, prohibition is a pretty blunt instrument, but better than none at all, don't you think?

Anyway, having restrictions on photography of pretty obvious targets isn't really something that can be equated with living a life in fear - more with minor inconvenience to some photographers who may or may not be all that innocent. After all, the genuine photographer with a reasonable need can always apply for official permission which is by no means always denied.

Rob C
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #19 on: December 15, 2009, 05:13:03 PM »
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Rob,

I am all for audiatur et altera pars, but that is not what is at stake here: every minute police uses chasing photographers, is the minute wasted for chasing the real troublemakers (unless of course they are bored or need to justify their existence).

As for WW2, you are correct... but that was 60-70 years ago... this is the era of internet and omnipresent public information. To contrast how the times have changed, here is an excerpt from a TimeLife book "Travel Photography":

Quote
"... [In Japan], before WW2, a visitor's cameras were most ofter taken from him or sealed; when he was allowed to use them, he was watched while taking pictures and was required to have his film developed and to clear the negatives with a censor before he could leave. Today, of course, there are no longer any such restrictions, and the country is overrun with people using cameras, Japanese as well as visitors..."
As I said in the pervious post, there is almost nothing under the sun (and in public view) that is not already available in great detail somewhere (book, library, movie, Google Earth, internet, etc.). Or that can not be obtained as clandestinely as holding a cell-phone camera to your ear while passing by a target. Also, note that I am talking about "public view", not about "pretty obvious targets", which should then have clearly visible signs indicating that photography is prohibited.

And ultimately, can someone cite an example where photography was instrumental and indispensable (and not just coincidental) in a modern terrorist act? And speaking about phones (with or without built-in cameras), it is almost certain terrorists use them in planning and executing an attack. Should we then consider all cell phone users suspicious and guilty until they prove themselves innocent (as is the case with photographers, apparently)?
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