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Thursday, 20 March 2008


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I don't get it...
All this paranoia in western society. What harm can photography cause, What information can be recorded that cannot be obtained in other ways?

We have become like those primitive African tribes that fear loss of their soul through photography, except we are losing our soul through prohibition of photography.

Sad, very sad! I live in the UK but not in London, so it is a lot less of an issue as we only have one or two PCSOs in the town where I live. Terrorism is not high on the list in a small rural town.

The two wooden-bookends in this film are just a sad indictment of the "rent-a-bobby" approach to policing on the cheap. Uniform, jumped up attitude and no training. Just glorified traffic wardens.

Shows how ignorant the people are we employ to help police us.

And did you sign the petition opposing this legislation??




Re-tracing steps over this well-trod ground is bound to merely re-ignite anger, particularly among amateur photographers and videographers to no productive end. The convulsive behavior of local police, usually unschooled in the laws that they make a living enforcing, has been absolutely unnerving.

But it's almost pointless to rant on the subject. The absurdly irrational notion that cameras in the hands of the public constitute a public threat will not dissipate any time soon and certainly not due to any Internet campaign. Public sentiment generally supports over-zealous (and under-informed) law enforcement tactics...that is until the steel-toed boot lands in your own groin.

It amazes me how aggressive the men (in this case) that are sworn to serve & protect get. Yet they are obviously not informed at all. I'd be nice if the rules would be spelled out to them & us, I know that I don't know under what law I'm allowed to photograph. ( good topic to talk about i suppose eh?) The video is very informing (though not to new, iv seen this type of stuff before).

Thanks for posing it.

Regular readers of Henry Porter in the Sunday Observer http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/henry_porter/
will understand how the U.K. labour government have consistently and persistently hacked away at general freedoms within the U.K.
The worrying part is the general public apathy

Classic case of the Police Community Support Officers (PCSO) misunderstanding the law and diving in without thinking.

This video shows results of the recent poster campaign in London which asks people to report suspicious people filming or taking photos to the security services. They then define whether your activity was suspicious or not!

If anyone wants to film/photograph a street secretly, the technology is freely available to do so.

I don't know, but looks like the person who was holding the camera trained his lens on the police officer. What if I employee the same technique, in a public place, but decided to follow a stranger, let's say, your wife, mother, daughter, girlfriend, would that result in same type of response? His technique worked, resulted in the confrontation he was looking for. If he was simply shooting at a building, phone booth, flower bed, I am sure the officer would just walk by and not doing anything.
I think it's a cheap trick in making his point. The proof is in multiple captures of people snapping away using cell phone cam, and point and shoot cameras.

Was the video of the confrontation with the police officers filmed by Rajesh Thind? If so, I wonder if the police would have had the same response to his filming if he was white.

My MP Austin Mitchell has proposed an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons in support of photography in public areas.


You can contact your MP through http://www.writetothem.com/ to encourage him/her to support the motion.

By the way, there's misinformation in the video regarding photographing in train stations. Police informs:
"Taking photographs on stations is permitted providing it is for personal use."


It's especially bad when children are in the picture, as it were. The fear is so great that anthropologists in the future are likely to think that children were not allowed in the street in the early 21st, since nobody dares photograph them.

I come from Poland, where the paranoia is not that big. During my recent visit in London, while shopping, I made one or two photos of a little girl waiting for her parents to finish shopping. One of shop's clerks saw me taking photos and attacked me in a very hostile manner, telling me he'd call the cops! Because one is not allowed to take pictures of kids in the public. He was guarding me as if I was planning to run away, fortunately the child's parents showed up, and after listening to my story told the clerk to let me go. It was quite a shock for me, and that's when I experienced western world's "picture paranoia". On the other hand I quite understand it, with all this child pornography and abuse all over the internet.

Thanks for posting this and thanks to Rajesh for putting it together so effectively. Very nicely done - it makes its point extremely well. I've come across exactly this kind of thing several times from community support officers here in London. I'm hoping that this is a sign that things will turn around.

Superb piece - so on point!

The NUJ had a fantastic article titled "Arabian nightmares" in the March 2008 copy of the " Journalist" magazine.

The UK is starting to look more and more like Dubai from a journalists perspective!


Good thing that public servant wasn't working in a country where they arm their peace officers.

"I don't know, but looks like the person who was holding the camera trained his lens on the police officer."

Last time I was in Paris, traffic police would gadly and smilingly pose for me.

But I avoided like the plague the police officers armed with assault rifles standing guard in front of police station and synagogs (Bastille and Parmentier).

It took a lot of courage for that cameramen to stand up to the two police officers in London. Don't know if I would have been able to do the same.

Andre Moreau

As an ex-patriate Brit who has lived in that relatively civilised society called The Netherlands for more than half my life, I have come to dread every trip back to the UK. Nowhere in western Europe do I feel so threatened, so suffocated by prohibitions and regulations and surveillance. And nowhere do I smell the stink of Mammon, self-righteousness and vulgar Celebrity as intensely as there. A beautiful country going to the dogs.

And yes, I have heard of America.

Ah.. the ever-increasing climate of fear - when everybody is a threat to everybody else. What a nice century this is shaping up to be. God help our children.

Somewhat chilling to see the type of moron that is being given the power of arrest.

At the scene of a car crash a UK Police officer challenged my taking pictures.

He informed me that it was against the law, when questioned he raised the 'Data Protection Act', no personal private computer data was involved in the crash.

Next he tried 'Perverting the course of justice' while it is possible the pictures could be used in an inappropriate way it would have no bearing on the creation of the photos.

Finally he decided the crash was his scene, but it was not roped off and people and cars were passing through with out hinderence. Many taking photos.

I smiled, shook my head and continued my photography, he did nothing, maybe he worked out that I was not going to take his retort seriously.

What I don't understand is why, what harm would the photography do?

This kind of police state intimidation makes me angry. I live in the United States and I’ve seen my country stampeded into war because of a scary rumor. There was a time when land of the free and home of the brave may have applied. Not now.

I like to think that I don't share in the maelstrom paranoia about terrorism, paedophiles and other bogeymen. But I found myself shocked, on a recent trip to Germany, to see young children, either on their own or in pairs, walking the pavements along main roads (how dangerous!), unaccompanied (what if they get kidnapped?), to and from school. No-one else reacted and I suddenly realised how far I'd sunk without even knowing it. Then, of course, being a photographer and a tourist, I pulled out a camera and snapped away.

Amoreau made a good point about training a lens on someone continually, espeically an officer or other official. (Tell me if someone trained a lens on the president that didn't have a press pass would not be detained for questioning...) I would not be thrilled if I saw someone with a camera suddenly make a bead on my wife's face and follow her like he did with that cop.

On the flip side, I do know that an officer in most US states has the right to ask for ID. I actually blogged about this a while back. I was treated rather rudely by an airline agent and I took their picture to send in with my letter of complaint. He got huffy went and got the cops, who came and questioned me. They asked for my ID, I gave them my base ID, my contractor ID, my drivers license and social security card. yes it was overkill, but it served the purpose of demonstrating that I was aware of their right to ask me for ID.

One did say "You can't just take pictures anymore." In response I said, "Actually in public places I can - he has no right to privacy in a municipal airport. I'm not sneaking shots of him in the bathroom, I am taking his picture to file with my complaint to the airline because he refused to help me."

At that point the police turned to him and asked him why he refused to help me? It was rather enjoyable seeing his expression when the tables were turned. In the end, I was free to go, and the guy was reported. I got my additional expenses reimbursed, and it is likely he incurred some sort of disciplinary action. How severe I do not know, but with the incriminating evidence of his sneering face looking at me as if shouting did not bode well for him.

Having gone off-topic enough, bringing up the rights of citizens to record their environment is continually necessary, lest we lose that right through our silence - which I believe was the point of the video.

It is an oppresive government that uses taxpayers' own money against them. Shame! Shame! Shameless!

"But it's almost pointless to rant on the subject. The absurdly irrational notion that cameras in the hands of the public constitute a public threat will not dissipate any time soon and certainly not due to any Internet campaign."

Allow me to disagree. If we stay quiet and allow misinformed people and malicious morons to treat us like cattle, they will. _That_ is not going to change any time soon.

Staying silent won't help the matter.

"Public sentiment generally supports over-zealous (and under-informed) law enforcement tactics...that is until the steel-toed boot lands in your own groin."

-When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.-
[And so on.]

Or, to rephrase the first part of my post - any allowed erosion of civil liberties will continue.

I believe this should be added to the discussion:


"1984" should have been re-titled "2008"

Born in the UK left for the colonies........... can't see a reason to go back. Someone always sends a postcard from the old dart from time to time. So who needs a photograph.....grin

I've been stopped 4 times by police officers in London in the last 2 years.

As unbelieveable as it might be the first time I was stopped was after shooting my first photo. I was in a park and some young woman had on the most outlandish boots imaginable and I shot them. About 10 minutes later 3 squad cars with sirens blaring came from 2 different directions and stopped in front of me and 10 police in flak jackets got out and surrounded me and said someone fitting my description had taken a photograph in the park. I said it was probably me and explained. They did an identity check and said it was because the woman who reported me said "a paedophile was photographing kids in the park". When I told them I was in education one chap had a look of ... aha, another teacher pervert... Anyway, after 20 minutes or so they apologised to me for any stress they may have caused (I was shaking) and said that they felt trapped by what the tabloids might report if the woman went to them and the publics' paranoia about paedophiles. During the whole interview I kept thinking how eerily similar the main cop looked to Michael Shumacher... go figure. It wasn't a particularly nice encounter but the police were never rude or authoritative, just professional.

The second time was about 18 months later and I was photographing a battered English flag which was a few hundred metres in front of a large gas container (you know the ones that loom up into the sky and raise and sink as the amount of gas changes). He asked what I was shooting and I explained that I'm working on a collection of shots of tattered English flags in situ as a symbol of our national decline. He thought it interesting but continued to ask questions of me under the Stop And Account section of The Terrorism Act of 2000. We actually joked our way through the whole thing even though I said that while it was nothing personal, I was annoyed that he could think my actions were in any way terrorist related. But he said, "you never know..." a catch phrase which I guess permits a great deal of latitude and plays into an officer's own prejudices. Because lots of police have walked up to me and said things like... excuse me, I'm just curious, (for example) why are you photographing that tree or You Are Here sign and then seem genuinely interested in my project and then say something like... and be careful in this neighborhood with your camera... Anyway, the end result is that I have a nice 3 page Stops And Searches form 5090 under the Terrorism Act of 2000.

The third time I was stopped it was in a raised part of the DLR (part of London's underground system). There was a huge fire in London that day and the plumes were darkening about 30% of the sky which was otherwise unusually blue and I took a few shots of the plumes. It was a female officer from the Terrorism Squad and she suspected I might be involved with the fire as its well known (she said) that arsonists are fascinated by the fires they light. She made me get off the train and continued her interrogation for about 20 minutes. Again it was a very non-confrontational and pleasant exchange with some laughter. The best bit was when she was filling out my second Form 5090 she asked my birthdate. I told her and she got a blank look as she did the maths and then she said something like, no really and I said no really. She said in such a genuine way... "blimey mate, I don't know what you're doing to look so young but what ever it is, keep doing it, you look great". Well that line alone was worth the hassle and we had a good laugh.

The last time I was stopped was by a cop on a bicycle near Wormwood Scrubs prison. I took a photo of an old weathered sign announcing the prison and that was the offending act. He started questioning me and then had to call in to do an identity check. I said I realised he was just doing his job but really how could this be anything to bother with? He said (I paraphrase) This is ridiculous.I have to stop you on orders of anyone taking photos of the prison. I hate this job. I wanted to fight crime not hassle some photographer shooting a ****dy sign. He apologised several times and finally said after getting confirmation from HQ that I wasn't a pervert or terrorist, I could write up a form for you describing this stop if you want... its up to you... it'll take several minutes. I declined already having a few form 5090s.

My point i this lengthy story is twofold. Yes, just being a photographer is now enough to make you suspicious in the eyes of "the law". But no, not all cops are aggressive or ego maniacs with superiority complexes.

2 last short points. To the Austrailian gentlemen who was so poorly treated, you have my sympathies and I imagine most Londoners would be shocked. Not to justify your treatment but I read that Trafalger Square had a problem when a paedophile on the register was caught doing photographs of young girls in the square which led to (from Amateur Photographer Nov 17 2005):

Earlier this year [Mayor] Livingstone warned parents to be vigilant about strangers using digital cameras and camera phones to take pictures of children in London's parks and 'other public spaces' in support of police plans to crackdown on paedophiles (see AP 11 June 2005).

Lastly, the 2 officers in the video footage above are Community Wardens and not police officers. They are far less trained and have limited powers.

Sorry to ramble on so, very cathartic.

This is very interesting to me as I have only been outside of the US once and that was to Guatemala last summer. When I was in Guatemala City no one gave me a hard time about taking their photos on the public streets. That includes the police and armed security forces. The police often smiled and said buenas dias. Boy it is scary what is going on over in GB, unfortunately I suspect it is only going to get worse.

I see this as a symptom of a wider issue, the loss of public space. More and more people live in gated communities, policed by private "armies" (starting to happen more here in Canada as well). After the wildfires in California last year, we saw the emergence of private firefighters, a throwback to the 19th century. I presume that freedom can be curtailed in those gated communities to some extent, but I really don't know the details of the contracts one signs to live there. More and more of our sightlines are becoming dominated by trademarked and copyrighted objects that we are not allowed to photograph or at least not allowed to show or sell those photographs.

But, if someone owns those ex-public places now, so that I have no longer have access, then where is my compensation for having lost that access. Who paid who for the privilege of making that sightline private (in its use) and where is my cut of the sale? I lost something and nobody paid me for what I lost.

And yet, I don't feel any safer. Weird, huh? There are illegal guns everywhere, drugs everywhere, to listen to the mongers, there are terrorists everywhere. We seem to be giving something up in exchange for security, but we're not getting the security. Who's pulling off this con and why are we falling for it?

I have lived, worked, and photographed in England for the last 50 years, and this piece bears no relation whatever to the real situation in the UK.

I don't know why this is being 'talked up' into a major problem. Maybe it's political, maybe it's about personal reputation, maybe it's about inventing a story in order to get published and earn money, but whatever it's about, it isn't the way we are here.

Anyone, anywhere, can create a confrontation. Most people here, public, police, photographers, and Uncle Tom and all just go about their ordinary lives without any hassle.

Never forget that most journalism is about filling space and selling things.

Nick Cutler

Trains Magazine (a USA-based railroad enthusiast publication) has run a couple of articles on police in the Chicago suburbs detaining railfans shooting pictures of commuter trains from public land (parking lots and platforms). The police reportedly used lines such as "you can't do that anymore" of "don't you know that's illegal since 9/11." Scares the living s**t out of me, because I love shooting trains too, and I'm just waiting until the day someone pulls that on me. I've been lucky so far. Was on the platform of a Northeast Corridor New Jersey Transit station a few years ago getting some grab shots of Amtrak trains when an officer walked by. Just gave me a polite nod - I saw he was more interested in what could be hidden under the shrubs behind the platform. Later that year, I was in Toronto shooting streetcars at the High Park turnaround loop (which railfan photographers find one of the more scenic spots on the TTC network). All of a sudden, I see a transit constable driving his car on the trolley tracks toward where my tripod was set up. "Busted" I thought, as my heart dropped into my stomach. I stepped back a bit to make sure I was well out of his path, but he drove up to me and with a booming voice and a big smile, he said, "What's wrong, do I look like that bad of a driver? Have a great day!" He was just doing his routine patrol of the line, and apparently he didn't find me suspicious. Geeky, maybe, but not suspicious.
Less pleasant was the time in 2003 when I was on public park land across the bay from Kennnedy Airport in NYC. I and a gaggle of photographers were shooting the last week of Concorde takeoffs, and two officers in a police car came over to ask us what we were doing. They said someone reported us as "suspicious activity." While one photographer started arguing with the officer, saying we're within the law and why don't you explain that to the people who reported us, the rest of us just drifted off and set up our tripods on the sidewalk, beach, wherever. The officers didn't let themselves get pulled into the argumentative photographer's conversation, but they simply stuck around in the parking lot until the last of us "suspicious" photo-geeks packed up and left.

"When I was in Guatemala City no one gave me a hard time about taking their photos on the public streets."

I would urge photographers to be very cautious of photographing children in Latin America, particularly Guatemala. Due to kidnapping of children for trafficking or body parts there is deep distrust toward foreigners with cameras. Several years ago in Todos Santos, Guat. an elderly Japanese tourist wanted to take photos of a woman holding a baby. She resisted and tried to leave. He apparently held out his hand to stop her or to encourage her to stay. She got scared and she yelled. All hell broke loose and an angry crowd assembled. The tourist was killed with a meat cleaver and his guide burned to death. His driver was saved after bursting into a private house, locking himself in the bathroom and persuading the owner to keep quiet when the angry mob thronged the property.

Living in Costa Rica where there are many sex tourists and pedophiles from the USA the paranoia is present though not as hysterical. I am a woman and about as non-threatening as they come but I have been aggressively challenged by some subjects and police. I never take photos of children without permission and then only rarely as it's not worth the hassle. I shoot my Bessa from the hip and when confronted lie through my teeth insisting that i could not possibly have taken the offending photos since i don't have an LCD screen nor did anyone see me lift the camera to my eye. Yes, it's wonderful to stand up for your rights but i urge photographers to pick their battles carefully. If you are a foreign tourist it is better to err on the safe side. Ask permission and be extremely respectful if/when it is given. If someone says no, smile and acknowledge their request and back off immediately. Alive is always better than dead.

Dear Folks,

I was going to write something typically nuanced on this topic. Then it occurred to me to actually watch the video *before* mouthing off (every so often, I get one of those wild crazy ideas in my head).

I've changed my mind. T'hell with subtlety

Are you people friggin NUTS!?

The photographer didn't "create a confrontation", he didn't seek out or "suddenly make a bead" on the subject. He didn't pursue them, for any reasonable use of the word. WATCH THE FILM! The officers walked into his field of view and looked directly at the camera. He followed them (in the photographic, NOT the stalking sense of the word) with the camera for a grand total of 5 seconds (timed). This is entirely normal, photographing/filming-in-public behavior. It is not only legal and acceptable, it ain't even abnormal. It'd take most of us longer than that to compose and focus on a subject. It's of a perfectly typical length for a quick cut shot in filming. Watch any film documentaries that have public, non-specific establishing scenes and watch how the quick cuts are constructed. It's SOP.

If it were the President it would still be acceptable and not subject to special notice, not even now. (You really think the President isn't subject to INTENSE lay-public photography and filming any time he's within hailing distance?! Hah!)

Ignoring the extremely sexist attitude of y'all with that 'protect da wimminfolk' thing going for you, the reality is still that if you're in a public place, and you walk into my field of view, I *CAN* photograph you or film you for a few seconds. It's not stalking, it's not an unwarranted intrusion into your privacy, and whether you happen to personally like it or not doesn't matter worth a damn. You've got no legal, ethical, or personal right to prevent it. You don't ever want to be photographed in public, then DON'T GO IN PUBLIC.


pax / Ctein

Frankly, as a photographer, this issue of being harassed has me concerned, and I myself have been questioned by police a couple times simply by photographing legally in public areas. However, I think the more important point of the video, and the part people should be up in arms against (and not just photographers), is the 30000+ CCTV cameras in Britain watching your every move. Whether or not you have a right to anonymity is debatable; in any case it no longer exists. You are a suspect now, like everyone else. You are guilty until proven innocent.

On a final sidenote, further proof of this idiotic crusade against public street photographers is the fact that the one group of photographers who could legitimately be condemned of harassment -- paparazzi -- are considered to be doing a completely legitimate function. How often do you think the paps get harassed by police on the trail of the latest celeb? Perhaps strength in numbers helps.

Nick Cutler is right, those who think the UK is a police state are wrong. They do injustice not only to Britain's civility but to those who have stood up to real police states like East Germany and the former Soviet Union, Hitler's Germany, etc. I lived in America for 35 years. The UK is a very civil society with tolerance levels and privacy protection higher than what I remember from living in the USA. In general, I find the UK officer on the street far more approachable, less arrogant and with less need to project authority than the patrol officer in a squad car in the USA.

Ironically I was stopped again by plain clothes police not 2 hours after writing my post above while photographing a door on a white building which turned out to be the RAF museum in suburban London. Initially the 4 plain clothes cops who stopped me were very official but within less than a minute things relaxed and after a few minutes they were laughing and joking with me and interested in my art project (it's not easy to explain egglestonesque aesthetic values in a rain storm in a bus shelter to plain clothes police! Fortunately I can now carry my images on my iPhone to help me explain what I'm about.

I watched the video again in response to Ctein's post. Remember, these are not police officers in this video, they're something called Community Wardens, uniformed people with no power of arrest but who help the police by getting more eyes and ears out on the street. Yes they overstepped their bounds in what they said. Yes they were wrong in their "knowledge" of the law. It would be wrong to generalise anything from this video about police behaviour in the UK

Lastly, I think the video is a set up. While the Community Warden made a blunder by sticking his hand in front of the camera I note how quickly confrontational the videographer becomes. I greet the police by being friendly and accommodating. This chap starts off with aggresssively stating his rights. Well he's right in law but his interpersonal technique is not at all the best to use in these situations unless he was looking to provoke IMO. And then I noticed the dark music which starts in to set the tone for the rest of the piece. I find this video a bit of a set-up.

2 final points.
1) not every country allows you (one) to shoot freely in public. Ctein, if you're ever in France don't assume you have the right to photographic people in public. You don't.
2) ever since 1066 and probably before there has been a tension between the state's authority and the rights of the individual. What we're experiencing today is part of that tension exacerbated by terrorism, the tabloid presses need to sell newspapers, politician's need to make it look like their doing something, pressures on the police not to make a mistake and let another terrorist attack happen while maintaining sound judgement in a politicised atmostphere, etc. I for one don't find it useful when people resort to curse words and bombastic speech.

I'm not sure how to best protect photographers' rights. Confrontation would not be my first choice and I don't think we're anywhere near the point of last resort.

Eric I have photographed on the West Bank of Israel, documented the plight of dissidents in the former USSR. Never have I been treated with such blatant aggression and violence as I was when in the UK. The police would not give me chance to explain anything, there was no room for pleasantries. The arresting officer abused me constantly calling me an effing pervert and was trying to provoke me to react so he could use some more force. All this happened outside a MacDonalds. One of the staff there tried to intervene on my behalf and was told to "_uck off or else". I'm happy for you that you have had such pleasant encounters with the police, my experience is something completely different and please don't try to demean it by saying that the police must have been provoked. You weren't there.

I would have been tempted to miss the plane and take the Queen to court. What an abuse of power.
Here in BC, Canada we had the case of the Polish man arriving to visit his mother. He couldn't speak English and got agitated because he was lost in the airport. He received the Tazer kiss and subsequently died.


I don't recognise saying the words you tried to put in my mouth at the end of your post which you then go on to rubbish (nice technique). Is your point that all British police are vicious thugs or is it that you encountered a British policeman who was unfit to be doing the job? I do hope you reported him as you had eye-witnesses. You can do so here: http://www.ipcc.gov.uk/


I've been stopped a few times by the police in S.E. London. Some of those times I could to some extent see their point -- I was close to an Army property -- but on another occasion I was in a local cemetery! They came looking for me after some busybody had complained that I was photographing in the cemetery...

The police in here in Lewisham have been courteous and pleasant to me, and I think it was helpful to reciprocate. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't also assertive.

I keep meaning to carry a laminated copy of the Photographers' Rights leaflet, but laziness has maintained its iron grip.

It's the same shit in NY. It doesn't matter the color of your skin, I'm pretty white but I"m getting totally harassed when I take my DSLR.

Note to terrorists: bring your girlfriend and use a point and shoot, they'll never EVER bother you. It seems that they just don't like SLRs... Maybe it's the whole size complex thing... My 200 mm lens is way bigger than their guns...

Dear Dya,

Superbly sensible advice.

I recall lessons learned from my college days as a news photographer, which were much the same.

It boils down to this. Discussions and defense of our rights is important, but...

A mob armed with meat cleavers, badges, and/or guns is NOT less dangerous simply because you are convinced it is composed of idiots who are in the wrong.

Unless you are 100% positive you can prevail *and* you think escalating violence is an acceptable course, back down. If someone confronts you with even implicit force, don't assert your right to make a photo unless you have a 100% foolproof exit strategy.

Even if the photo's worth a Pulitzer, post-mortem awards really aren't all that personally satisfying. Or so I'd guess.

pax / Ctein

"Ignoring the extremely sexist attitude of y'all with that 'protect da wimminfolk' thing going for you, the reality is still that if you're in a public place, and you walk into my field of view, I *CAN* photograph you or film you for a few seconds. It's not stalking, it's not an unwarranted intrusion into your privacy, and whether you happen to personally like it or not doesn't matter worth a damn. You've got no legal, ethical, or personal right to prevent it."

I can just read the headline now:
"Argumentative photographer found his camera jammed up in his mouth, by a father of a 2 year old who was being photographed...."
C'mon, I'm talking about common sense here. You can go to pbase and find someone's treasured T&A collection on display, in their "street photography" category, that's where the paranoia are coming from. A very few bad apples, but damages are there.

"You don't ever want to be photographed in public, then DON'T GO IN PUBLIC."
Use that line one too many times, I'm sure someone would petition for a law to change that attitude. What gives me the right (just because I have a camera) to invade someone else's space? I don't like the idea of being harassed by someone who's misinterpreting the laws any more than you do, but there are some real wackos out there, and that, is the sad reality.....

Dear Dave,

That there are a small percentage of wackos out there is neither a good nor justifiable reason for restricting the entirely harmless activities of every photographer. That is the point of all these articles of Mike's.

You've explained why all those folks behave like asses. You need to remember that an explanation is not an excuse. Nor a justification.

pax / Ctein

There's a reason why so-called civilized societies have laws. It is so that behavior that is "wrong" can be judged in an objective manner. Without laws and society's adherence to laws, we all would be judged by whatever random subjective opinions and prejudices that we happen to get from officialdom.

I'd agree this this stuff isn't black and white exactly, but it seems that even after photography has existed for well over a hundred year, many people living in modern industrialised nations are still under the impression that taking one's picture is equivalent to stealing one's soul.

Most of the emails I get regarding these issues actually involve PCSOs - and like the pair featured in the video they are blissfully unaware of the law. It makes me think that these guys are just wannabe police who can't pass the entrance criteria for the police force.

As photography becomes more and more popular (I understand that we are now taking more pictures than ever before), this problem is set to increase, not go away, so for us and others to understand our rights is essential.

This is awful to read. It looks like UK have become some sort of military dictatorship. I really hope that people let their voices get heard.

Hopefully we don't see this kind of treatments by the Swedish or Finnish police officers.

All my best!

Robert Hammar

have had a number of problems, usual stuff, (I was photographing a parade, in a public place, when a cop asked to see my permit...) psni threatened to arrest me if I failed to hand over my camera or memory card. I refused and 'ballsed it out' and eventually I was sent on my way. The second time was exactly like the first and again I refused, demanded to speak directly to the Chief Constable (that's always good for a laugh) but if he was too busy running marathons and having affairs perhaps the Sergeant would be free. Sergeant told the Constable to wise up and sent me on my way.

Thinking it was going to be just a matter of time before some eejet in uniform would actually seize my camera I contacted psni headquaters and asked for a copy of their policy on dealing with photographers. They were most helpful.

This has been a godsend. All photographers in Northern Ireland should know this - and quote it up front and straight away when confronted by police. Learn this off by heart -

You: Officer are you aware of the PSNI Media Policy, Paragraph 3, page 27, which outlines how you should deal with photographers?

Officer: (every time so far) uh not really

You: It states "Members of the media have a duty to take photographs and film incidents and we have no legal power or moral responsibility to prevent or restrict what they record. It is a matter for their editors to control what is published or broadcast, not the police. Once images are recorded, we do not have the power to delete or confiscate them without a court order, even if we think they contain damaging or useful evidence."

OK so there is no need to learn the last bit off by heart, but once you have read it you will clearly understand that police cannot (legally) demand your camera,or memory, or make you wipe the contents of the memory. All you need to do is to make them aware that you know more about their media policy than they do (just quote Paragraph 3, page 27 and wait for the penny to drop!)

OK, the policy actually relates to press photographers, I usually show them my flickr card and tell them I am freelance. The same rules apply to everyone.

Free free to pass on this info to all your contacts. and remember: PSNI Media Policy, Paragraph 3, page 27.

I think that rajesh actually provoked the response from the community policeman. If you watch the clip closely the (wannabe) Policeman was walking past, had a quick look and was walking on, but the Rajesh followed him with the camera and as the wannabe glanced back thats when he decided to take action. The pair of them clearly don't know the law but i do think the response was provoked by sticking a camera in the wannabe cop's face.
Common sense and a bit of gumption is required and you can snap away all you like.
Have a look at the techniques of Henri Cartier-Bresson on how to get candid shots.

Two further links that are relevant:

(1) http://beckermanphoto.com/2008/03/29/subway-photography/ - Be sure to read the comments, which demonstrate the obvious downsides to actually standing up for your rights.

(2) http://www.stationstops.com/2008/03/18/mta-ignored-by-employees-after-insisting-do-not-harass-photographers/ - At least the MTA seems to realize this is a problem, even if the action they have taken so far to curb abuse doesn't seem entirely effective...


This same topic and the situation in Britain was featured on BBC News website today:

I find it very gloomy that the london police is starting a campaign against picture takers in public. Where is this world going to?

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