We’re busy with our final preparations for fotoFringe London 2012, the picture buyers’ fair which is being held tomorrow in King’s Place, a newish office block and conference centre where The Guardian have their offices, near King’s Cross.

And it’s an article in The Guardian that I want to write about. A friend in Euskadi alerted me to this one (thank you Peta) because it’s one of my favourite topics — the freedom of photographers to use their cameras.

Stonehenge, Trafalgar Square, National Trust properties, a whole bunch of places in the USA — the list of places where photography is banned or restricted lengthens daily. Now, unsurprisingly, we can add the Olympic park in East London to the list.

I’ll never get to see this place because all my ticket applications have proved unsuccessful. However I am permitted to contribute substantially towards it through a hike in my London rates over the next ten years. So I’d like to see some pictures of it.

The Olympic venues are technically private property (purchased using our money, but when did that ever restrain our dear leaders?) so control can be asserted over what can and can’t be photographed within the precincts. But not on the public spaces surrounding the venue, of course.

The Guardian thought this could be interesting, so they sent a couple of photographers and a video to test the temperature of the waters. They struck lucky straight away when they ran into an incompetently and incompletely briefed security guard whose debating skills and command of English were no match for the fiercely well prepared Guardian hacks. He simply attempted to stop them filming in a public place. They refused. Reinforcements arrived.

And here — well, you know I’m on the side of the photographers, but this was outright provocation and harassment. The Guardian hacks were milling around, pushing for a reaction. But they came up against an intelligent, articulate and reasonable security supervisor who conceded they had a right to photograph on public land but as this was a sensitive area — the Olympic Park’s security centre — it would be most awfully kind of them if they could possibly desist.

The Guardianistas hectored and interrupted. They tried to photograph the armband name badge of an old fart security guard who looked worryingly like me, and he tore it off to prevent them. Bad move. The hacks loved it.

I want photographers to be able to photograph what they want when they want where they want, within reason and without causing offence, upset or danger. Yes, there are security concerns. Yes, there are privacy issues. I’m less impressed by the “we own it, therefore we should profit from it” brigade. I personally find papparazzis distasteful, and I believe they were the major contributing factor in the death of Princess Diana.

Our cause isn’t helped by photographers manufacturing an incident where none existed. But every movement needs an obnoxious vanguard.

Doesn’t it? What do you think?



Add your comment


16 Responses to “An Obnoxious Vanguard?”

  1. Granville says:

    I think that if somewhere can be photographed from public land then there should be no restriction.

    If the area in question is really that sensitive then it should be screened from view. After all, any terrorist recceing a potential site is not going to go along with a DSLR, video camera and crew of 3, he’ll use a mobile phone or something even less obtrusive, and in such a case only a screen will prevent pictures being taken.

  2. Natalia Mazo says:

    It is even worse than this story. I was informed today that they forbid to use metaphors like “Animal Olympics” or “high-jump gold-winning insect” in a photo story about animal speed qualities. London Olympic Games Organising Committee (LOGOC) details Listed Expressions that should not be used in certain combinations (but note this is not an exhaustive list).
    The Listed Expressions are any two of the words: Games, Two Thousand and Twelve, 2012, Twenty-Twelve OR any word in the list above with one or more of the words: London, medals, gold, silver, bronze, sponsors, summer
    Have they privatized the English language too?

  3. Antony Roe says:

    I fully support the right to photograph any public property or landmark. I do not support any right to photograph any place which provides national security, i.e. airfiields, naval bases or any other places to which the public do not have access under any circumstances. Olympic property should be public and fair access to photographers allowed with some security restriction. Other places such as National Trust must be open to photographers, they charge enough for places we the taxpayers have bought by evasion of inheritance taxes. Off my hobbyhorse now. Good wishes Tony Roe

  4. Cliff says:

    It seems the major shopping malls are following the trend. In my area: The Harlequin Centre in Watford and the Galleria , Stevenage will confiscate your equipment if you dare to take a photo of your favourite shop front or your girl friends smile.
    Das ist verbotten

  5. Mike Mumford says:

    We exercise our Freedom of Viewing, that is creating images in the public interest.
    The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, provides, in Article 19, that:
    Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.
    If this is not the law of the UK it should be, any party putting this in their manifesto will get my vote.

  6. Jamie Waddell says:

    I find it interesting that authorities have banned photography in such prominatnt and popualr places. Why? Well as one who works in the security industry we note that wheneven an incident has occured be it crime or terrorism the police alwyas come out and ask if anyone has any photos’ or footage!

    The taking of a photograph is a harmless act, it’s the publishing that may cause damage – allegedly!

  7. moris kushelevitch says:

    some of the best work in photography has been produced by photographers who were not only polite but also out of the glare of any attention.

  8. Erik Strodl says:

    Carry the bust card “I’m a photographer not a terrorist”with you…..I keep it in my pocket all the time

    not that it will have made any difference I suppose in this instance….many are quite ignorant of the law
    A hike in the rates and the tax payers money to pay for high level security…..the point you make about the security guard not having the necessary command of the English language is laughable

  9. Mark McIntosh says:

    The powers in this country is getting more Dictatorial, where is our so called democracy.
    If the peole have paid for the Olympic Park with their rates, it belongs to the public and they should be proud that the Olympics is held in the UK.
    The more Photographers that are in the Olympic Parc the more records we have of this great Event to remind us in the future.
    My opinion is, it is Security gone overboard!

  10. There is attention being given by the freelance association of which I am a member, to object to a new ruling that if one wants to take photographs in Cape Town, where i’m based, one has to get permission from the relevant governing body and pay for a permit. Understandable if it is a big film shoot but these guys are including virtually anyone with an SLR camera!

    The consensus seems to be to simply “shoot and run”!

    Rodger Shagam

  11. Phil Dawson says:

    If the Olympics, once having got back to Athens, had stayed in their ancestral home for all time, this invasive Guardian wind-up would not have taken place (…or perhaps it would, just with a different target?). But that’s a whole other debate.

    As others have pointed out, it is not so much about where you are taking a picture from, it is more about what you are taking a picture of.

    Security sensitive areas such as screening control points, be they in public or private areas, should be protected from prying lenses whose aims may be more sinister than just making an innocent image.

    Security is essentially about the protection and safety of both people and property.

    We have security for a reason and it is a fact of life that in order to provide protection and make things safer for the public at large, certain relatively minor freedoms have to be foregone.

    You might not like it, but its not going to kill you; unlike the possible consequences of not having security.

    • Mick Sargent says:

      Really, Phil? You feel that rights gained after centuries of campaigning for what is right, obtained by fighting wars, resisting overpowering governments, despots, religious extremism and exploiting employers, all at the cost of pain, torture and mental and physical suffering, together with the fearless campaigning, winning women the vote, an end to apartheid, rights for same sex couples etc, are worth throwing away like confetti by world governments, just on the excuse of ‘security’. Security being a word thrown around too easily and over-egged, in order to cover the fact that terrorism only exists to the extent it does (at a much lower level than governments tell you it does) because of Western aggression and interference in the affairs of other countries, causing anger and resentment. Western governments are reaping the whirlwind of their own behaviour. I’ll tell you this, Phil. I fear Iran and Afghanistan far less than I fear my own government……from Blair’s condoning of rendition and torture, to the Tory Toffs’ total disregard for the rights of anyone earning less than £1m a year.
      We have given up too many rights already. Photographers are collectively a powerful lobbying force. We need total unity to defeat petty bureaucracy and ignorance. Enough pandering to over-exaggerated fear-mongering and bullying. Are we men or mice?

  12. There aren’t any restrictions on individuals photographing in Trafalgar Square. It only applies to organised commercial shoots.
    I have been harassed a couple of times by PCSO’s but if you stay calm and stick to your guns they usually back down.
    I photograph all over the place where I shouldn’t I do it discretely. Most reporters are as unreasonable as security officers. So what did the Guardian prove.