Photography != Terrorism… no matter *what* they say!!


I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned this before: but I’m a keen amateur photographer. In the olden days, when photographers still used film, I had a succession of Pentax cameras: an ME Super, a Program A, and I still have a SF7. But film is old hat nowadays, we all use digital; and I couldn’t afford a digital SLR, so for now I’m using a Fujifilm S5700 “bridge” camera. Still, it’s okay for my favourite types of photography: landscape, architectural, and its small size maks it grrreat for street photography.

Unfortunately, photography in general and street photography in particular are in real trouble here in the UK. Why? Because the police have got it into their heads that photographers are all potential terrorists!

I’m not sure, but I think this paranoid delusion first took hold when the police found photos of “potential targets” in the belongings of terror suspects. Individual officers were told to keep an eye out for photographers both overt and covert as they might be performing reconnaissance for an attack. This has resulted in street and architectural photographers being harrassed, searched and detained by police and community support officers, chiefly in London but also in other towns and cities.

The UK magazine Amateur Photographer has been running a campaign to defend our rights since 2005, when police persecution of photographers first became apparent. There’s a nice article on the AP website that runs through the campaign, starting with Roy Jhuboo who was stopped and searched by overzealous officers when he was out and about taking photos in Limehouse, East London. The police told Jhuboo that he’d been searched because “he could have been on a reconnaissance mission to launch a ‘rocket’ on nearby Canary Wharf.” Two police vans full of officers were sent to intercept him because he had been seen taking a photo of a house!

Since AP began their campaign in 2005, government figures have sought to reassure us that photographers in general are not being targetted. And both the government and ACPO (the Association of Chief Police Officers) have publicly issued advice saying that photographers should not be bothered unless there are good grounds for suspicion. Yet every week there are more stories in the magazine telling how photographers have been stopped, searched, even arrested by police for no more reason than taking photos in public places. The City of London Police even told AP that anyone taking photos in central London should expect searches and demands for identification, even though this directly goes against the guidance all forces have received from the government and ACPO on this subject.

Opposition to the police stance on photographers is wide-spread and growing. MPs who are also enthusiastic photographers have raised the subject in Parliament. Professional photographers working for the media have got the issue in the news. But the harrassment continues. I would ask all photographers to support Amateur Photographer in its campaign to defend our rights. It is gradually becoming acceptable in the eyes of the police and some members of the public. We need to stop this! We need to reinforce the fact that we have the right to take photos in public places. We must not allow the police and their political masters to create a climate in which innocent photography can be banned.

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