Is photography a crime? Are we Criminals?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by eddx, Apr 1, 2008.

  1. eddx macrumors regular


    May 12, 2005
    Manchester, UK
    I am a photographer in the UK, the government is publishing the poster below in major newspapers and bill boards in big cities such as where I live in Manchester.


    Is this wrong?

    I am working hard every day to become a professional photographer, it is hard enough with the public thinking we are paparazzi or peadofiles but now we are looked down upon by the public because we could be a little odd and there for will now be instantly labelled as terrorists.

    Two months ago I was photographing a tram at night with a friend and a woman stopped to talk to my friend to ask if we were paparazzi from the newspaper.

    Two weeks ago I was photographing at Salford Quays at night and two police officers came up to ask what we were doing and told us not come photograph here again without a permit - but we were stood on a public right of way, a bridge, and clearly not on private land.

    Two questions...

    a - How does the advert / poster above make you feel?

    b - Have you ever been stopped or approached when out photographing? Stories are welcomed.
  2. jmadlena Guest

    I haven't been stopped for taking photos anywhere before, although I'm only a hobbiest, so chances aren't high that it would happen to me.

    I think it is ridiculous that they asked to you to not come back without a permit. I wouldn't even know how to begin getting a permit for public photography.

    If you are on public land and not 'disturbing the peace' (e.g. getting in the way of crowded walkways), I say do it because you can. If it's your right, exercise it.
  3. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    Wow, I didn't realise the UK goverment was um, well damn, most countries don't care about people photographing stuff even ones without much press freedom, like, say Vietnam.
  4. seattle macrumors 6502

    May 15, 2007
    a - How does the advert / poster above make you feel?

    It feels a little big brother like.

    b - Have you ever been stopped or approached when out photographing? Stories are welcomed.

    I was stopped in Waterloo station in London a couple years ago after taking some pictures. They told me I could not take any photos without a permit. They told how to get one but since I was leaving London soon I just left and stopped taking pictures.
  5. eddx thread starter macrumors regular


    May 12, 2005
    Manchester, UK
    As a result of this I have tried to get a permit but been told there are no permits, so the police clearly lied to me. This has happened a few times to me so after recently getting legal advice I have now spent of for my NUJ card (National Union of Journalists) so I will show this next time I am stopped. But why should we be expected to pay £25 (or $50) to prove we are not terrorists?

    FYI - My friend has been approached before by the police and after informing them he was not a professional and not going to publish any of his pictures - still told to get a permit. It is not just professionals that this issue effects. It is all of us who own cameras and have a keen interest in photography.
  6. Eraserhead macrumors G4


    Nov 3, 2005
    Frankly we live in a free country so should be able to do what we want.
  7. Keebler macrumors 68030

    Jun 20, 2005
    if they're out of shape cops, turn around and run. give them a run for their mouth :)

    on a serious note, I think it's sad to hear that. they're probably just doing their job and after 9/11 in the US then the London bombings, i can't say I blame them. It's wrong for them to lie, but in all honesty, if they didn't stop someone and that someone sold the pics and had big ben blown up, they'd get in big trouble b/c they didn't stop so and so (and to mention the fact that folks would be dead). sounds silly, but you know i'm right. it's unfortunately, the way our society has become.

    i think have the journalist card or something to show them you are legit might help.

  8. theBB macrumors 68020


    Jan 3, 2006
    More than a decade ago, I once pulled over to the side of the road to photograph a barn or some structure like that close to a country highway. I saw a white car pulling over with the driver using something like a car phone, or CB radio. Soon after that car moved away, a highway patrol came over to check me out, but once he saw me start walking towards him with a camera on a tripod, he apologized for bothering me and asked me to "please continue" as my car was safely parked out of the way. Ahh, good old days... :)
  9. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    The advert makes me believe that yet another individual would like to put a blanket opinion out there that is led by misguided information (media) and or lack of research. However, because I do not use a point and shoot I think I'm ok. :p

    I have been stopped numerous times. In high school I was stopped while photographing an event for the school paper. In college I was stopped at the airport for photographing planes (this was in Jan 2002 and clearly too soon). I have been stopped at least a half dozen times at night at the park and beaches and other open areas. Most of the time it is that I am female and out alone in the middle of the night. I stand still next to my camera while leaving the shutter open for sometimes 20 minutes (film). It looks odd and again, I am female...things happen. Most recently I was stopped in Canada a couple of times as I stood in the rain/spay from the Falls while waiting for the lights to come on at night. I was told they'd come on at a specific time, they came on 2 hours later. Some thought I was weird, others thought I was a pro, others just watched me.

    In all cases I was allowed to take photos with the exception of the airport runways. Again too soon and too close to home. In the UK I was stopped at an open market for photographing the fruit and veggie displays. I was given some sort of speech about digital rights and told to put the camera away. I of course challenged and asked if this treatment was due to the fact that the US has the poorest display of fresh fruits and vegetables and the sales in the UK are clearly higher so I am here to copy their layouts and the exact apple placement. They weren't impressed and they let me know. ;) I bought my candy and went on my way.

    We live in a world of fear and when you stop being afraid you turn on the news. I don't watch the news for the most part because of that. My active imagination alone is enough "media hype" for me. It is shame but it is reality.

    I think it is important to do a few things. You should carry business cards. Don't just decide you're in business, but a card with a name and # wouldn't hurt. You should always have ID and be prepared to show your images to anyone asking (anyone of authority). You should always be certain if you're photographing for a company you have some sort of letter, card, etc that may help the people understand what you're doing there. Moreover, you should be calm. Don't play this "am I a criminal?" If you act like one then yes, people will think that. People are only trying to protect one another.

    Again the ad is extreme and misleading, but it is unfortunately the outcome of the fear that is instilled in people daily.

    PS....the Victoria Office Building at Night, Salford Quays kicks ass!
  10. mcarnes macrumors 68000


    Mar 14, 2004
    USA! USA!
    Just stick to porn. No one will think you're a terrorist then.
  11. iJohnHenry macrumors P6


    Mar 22, 2008
    On tenterhooks
  12. eddx thread starter macrumors regular


    May 12, 2005
    Manchester, UK
    Well Keebler, I understand your point, but surely your "average terrorist" isn't going to wonder around London setting up a tripod and using a DSLR. They would be more likely to use Google Image Search to find their information. I am sure they would find thousands of photographs of Big Ben from hundreds of different angles.

    What if they printed out one of my photographs and were caught with that in their possession? Would I then be a criminal for publishing a photograph that "helped" in a terrorist attack? Surely not.

    This whole issue really upsets me :mad:
  13. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem


    Feb 19, 2005
    If you took a photo of Big Ben (which you clearly have) and someone printed it to use as a sort of schematic for an attack I would laugh. This is where humor and lack of general understanding comes into play. Your Houses of Parliament photo is in no way useful as far as I can tell. It doesn't give you points of entrance/exit, location of guards, cameras, etc. I mean frankly to most it's just a building. Now, stand in that same pathway and take the same photo using a 1000mm lens. Across the bay you can clearly see into windows if possible at all, you can see so much detail it'd be amazing. If you did that you are in no way a terrorist, but frankly I can see the point of concern. Again, I'd have to ask questions before pulling someone away from their camera, but I can understand the concern. I still stand by my opinions that this stems from fear and lack of understanding though. That'll never change.
  14. Everythingisnt macrumors 6502a


    Jan 16, 2008
    [​IMG]Click for full size

    A french soldier actually came and told me to put away my point and shoot after i snapped this pic of the Tour de Montparnaisse, in Paris.

    Guess he was right.
  15. yeroen macrumors 6502a


    Mar 8, 2007
    Cambridge, MA
    And I thought America held a monopoly on that breed of hysterics.
  16. TuffLuffJimmy macrumors G3


    Apr 6, 2007
    Portland, OR
    I think it's a little idiotic that the police target people with big SLR set ups. Wouldn't terrorists try and be a little secretive and use a camera phone, or a compact camera?
  17. OldCorpse macrumors 65816


    Dec 7, 2005
    compost heap
    Yes, this is a perfect example of the kind of authoritarian idiocy that's slowly eroding whatever freedoms we still have left here in the West.

    There's a saying: "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety"

    But you know what the real idiocy here is? That we're not even actually getting one smidgen of extra security for giving up our right to photograph public spaces.

    I took a prosumer video camera to film the arrival of a dear friend at LAX - I hadn't seen the guy in 15 years (he flew in from Paris). As soon as I turned on the camera, a slack-jawed moron TSA ****-for-brains "cop" told me to switch it off. I tried to explain to him that there's nothing different about this camera compared to a smaller camera, but he started getting aggressive and other moron TSA guys started swarming. I had to turn off my camera, while everyone else with "smaller" cameras kept shooting.

    What quality of imbecile thinks that because the camera is a DSLR or "large", it somehow poses a "terrorist" threat, whereas a P&S or smaller camcorder are non-terrorist?

    I mean, do they think terrorists favor "big" photo equipment?

    Sadly, we vote these bozos into power, starting with fear-mongering politicians, and like sh|t, it all rolls downhill.
  18. sonor macrumors 6502

    Jan 15, 2008
    London, UK
  19. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    I tend to wander where I want, when I want (I'm a mild-mannered anachist ;))... which means I get stopped quite often.

    My suggestions? Be polite and co-operative. The police (however misguided they may sometimes be) are just 'doing their job'. Have a credible reason for doing whatever it is you're doing... maybe a business card too.

    Be aware of both your rights and responsibilities in a world grown more paranoid and suspicious. If you're sure you're in the right, don't back down. If you're not sure, then think twice before getting into an argument...

    Here's a recent shot that caused a bit of bother: a gas terminal, shot from a public right of way. Local security and the police found me (hell, I wasn't hiding...), and I got searched. Worse, I was 'sniffed' by a huge police dog.

    I was shooting pix for a book about the coast and, after a couple of phone calls, I was allowed to leave. I think it's important to stick to public rights of way if you're close to 'sensitive' sites like this...

  20. riscy macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2008
    This is very scary stuff - I had not realised that the UK had become so bad. I knew about the proliferation of CCTVs over the years and other erosions of privacy, in the so called fight against crime.

    I have set up a wiki about personal privacy and other related issues, so if anyone is interested in having at look it (and even better, contributing), PM me and I will send you the link.
  21. Kebabselector macrumors 68030


    May 25, 2007
    Birmingham, UK
    I've heard that Manchester police quote 'terrorism' to get people to move on. However photography in a public is legal despite what they say. Permits are not required for public photography. If they touch your equipment or delete any images it's common assault and they can be arrested.

    I can understand them questioning you about sensitive sites, such as power stations/ gas works etc.

    I'd speak to the chief constable or contact the force professional standards division (so long as you've got the their ID number).

    Local security or security officers (non police) have no right to detain you or demand you show/delete images. Some think they have, but as above if they touch you/your equipment it's common assault.

    That poster spawn a few parodies......


    Check the website for more details.
  22. harcosparky macrumors 68020

    Jan 14, 2008
    Ya know .... I was stationed overseas while in the US Military.

    There was a family who appeared to be on vacation, photographing their kids in the area. For some unknown reason one of the local national Military Police officers who was with up became suspicious. He made a call and the family of tourists was detained and questioned. The film and camera were confiscated and processed. This 'family' was going about this country photographing all the access roads to US missile installations.

    I am in the USA and even here have been questioned about my photography activities. I went and joined an organization for freelance photographers, as part of the membership you are 'issued' credentials. The credentials usually are enough to satisfy those who question what I am doing.

    I was at a park with a lake photographing wildlife and some woman called the police saying 'some man is at the park photographing the kids'. When the police approached me I laughed when he told me what the report was.

    I showed him the credentials, and offered up my camera for him to view the images. He was more than satisfied, and I understood the concerns the woman had.

    I went on my way finishing up photographing what I was there to photograph.
  23. ftaok macrumors 603


    Jan 23, 2002
    East Coast
    Obviously, a dSLR with a decent lens will be able to snap surveillance photos with excellent bokeh that a P&S can't touch. ;)

    Seriously, I wonder how difficult it must be for a person of Middle Eastern descent to make a living as a photographer or photo-journalist. I can understand both sides, but for me, when in doubt, err on the side of Liberty.

  24. EssentialParado macrumors 65816

    Feb 17, 2005

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