Photography in the UK

This one is both ridiculous and scary.

There’s a lot of heat in the professional and amateur community at the moment and there has been for a while on the subject of the right to photograph. That’s taking a camera (usually an SLR) and just snapping away at the world around you, standing on public land, taking pictures of public things (not even people). This all goes back to the Terrorism Act 2000. Well that and the somewhat bizarre and cavalier interpretation of it by certain uniformed bodies.

We all get the idea that letting terrorists have access to plans, detailed photos, codes, passwords and data relating to government, transport, medical and military buildings is a bad idea. We really get that. Most people who have the smarts to learn how to use a camera with a reasonable degree of proficiency are usually also smart enough to follow the above reasoning. They’ll ask permission, follow guidelines and show an above average level of consideration for the effect both direct and implied that their past-time has on those around them. Some people don’t care if they’re photographed in the street, others really don’t like it. Generally I’d fall into the second category myself.

So where’s the problem?

The problem is the application of the law. Reports are stacking up of perfectly innocent photographers being harassed, arrested, assaulted and (technically) robbed by security guards and police officers for taking innocuous photographs in the street. Citing the Terrorism Act as a catch all to justify the stopping, searching and destruction of photographs taken.

I’d understand it if these people were outside the Houses of Parliament or Thames House cataloging the CCTV and routines of the wardens. But this is the high street of Middle England we’re talking about here. And it doesn’t seem to be two way traffic either, you’re photographed and recorded on a daily basis, your car number plate is noted and tracked every time you pass through a city centre, A road or Motorway. The Big Brother debate however can wait for another day and for more committed and eloquent debaters than me.

This is about ignorance, lack of common sense and bullying. The question is whether it’s willful and contrived, whether the police know the misuse of legislation they’re complicit in or whether it’s just stupidity. And if you’re that stupid, please, hand in you’re uniform as you’re not really the sort of people we’d trust patrolling our streets. Something to consider when weighing this up is that the Association of Chief Police Officers has already issued clear guidance on the Act as specifically how it relates to photography.

Here’s a better article (by Henry Porter) on this subject, please click the links within it, if you’re not a little bit worried by the implications then I’d be very surprised.

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