Not A Crime

A self-portrait, and my contribution to this Flickr Group.

After writing about photographers’ rights a few days ago, I was stopped twice yesterday with my camera and tripod: once by a police officer, and once by a security man in the Bullring shopping centre, Birmingham.

I always said I’d stand up for my rights if I was stopped from taking photos.  When the police officer stopped me, and threatened me with arrest if I didn’t delete the photos I’d taken (of a canal), I complied.  If I hadn’t had David with me, I like to think I’d have argued more, but I couldn’t afford to be taken into police custody with nobody to look after him.  I know that I was doing nothing wrong, and that the policeman had no right to enforce the deletion of the photos, but I wanted a quiet life, so I didn’t say anything: is this how we ended up in this situation in the first place?  Because those who objected stayed silent?  I will always regret saying nothing and not standing up for our collective rights.

Just forty-five minutes later, I was asked to stop taking photos by a security guard in the Bullring.  (All due credit to the guy, he was nice enough and just following his employers’ instructions.)  I was a little more argumentative this time: did he ever stop people from using cameraphones?  What about compact cameras?  Why had I managed to take pictures in the Bullring before, with my “serious bit of kit”, without being stopped?  He explained that the Bullring was “likely to be a target for a major terrorist attack” and that if I wanted to take photos, I’d have to seek permission from the Bullring management.  He (very helpfully) duly showed me where to go, so that I could ask for a photographers’ pass.  Problem solved, I thought.  Great.  Except that no photographers’ passes are to be granted until after Christmas because they are “too busy” to deal with it, by which time it’ll be too late to take photos of the Christmas lights.

And now, the worst aspect of being stopped at the Bullring shopping centre: the fact that, after I left the managers’ office, nearly every time I looked up there was a security guard watching me.  I had dutifully packed the camera away, although I was still carrying the folded tripod on the pushchair, but I was still being watched.  I saw many people taking pictures on cameraphones, but I saw none stopped.  I saw a young woman, about my age, with a compact camera, taking almost exactly the same shot that I was going to.  Again, was she stopped?  No.  Of course not.  Because you can only blow up shopping centres with tripods and telephoto lenses.

I have made copious notes.  There is nothing I can do about the police officer: I have no paperwork, no witnesses.  I will go back to that same spot, with my camera and my tripod, at the same time of day, and hope that I can replace the pictures that should not have been taken from me.  When my head has cleared sufficiently, I plan to write to the Bullring, to request a photographers’ pass and to suggest that the security guards who follow young women with cameras would be better off spending their time, I don’t know, issuing photographers’ passes?  I am going to campaign and to lobby, to change people’s attitudes, to try to banish this fear.

Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it.

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5 Responses

  1. […] a difficult day, I am finding it hard to remember a peaceful moment this year.  Things are so busy, so rushed, so […]

  2. Nice picture 🙂
    Nice rant… 😉
    Makes me wanna get a new camera and take random pictures of building just to see how long it takes till I get arrested.

  3. Hi, I’m a student in Birmingham and work at the Bullring so I am there regularly. I always see people taking photos with small digital cameras and camera phones and no one bats an eyelid, so im shocked that they questioned you just because you had an SLR. I love photography and am saving up for a nice digital SLR or equivalent so i can take some nice photos of the canals and the scenery in the city, but now im worried after you were asked by the police to remove photos – surely taking images of a beautiful scene in an otherwise ugly city is not a crime? I totally agree with you and think it is unfair. Good luck getting some photos to replace them and trying to get through to the Bullring management. If I ever see you taking photos round Pizza Hut where I work then i’ll make sure to distract security for you 🙂

  4. […] today’s wordy Daily Photo, here is a picture to paint a thousand […]

  5. well done kat for keeping to your guns! let me know when ur next in birmingham…ill come with you! no seriously i will!! I THINK U ARE ABSOLUTLY RIGHT in what u say kat and support u all the way!

    let me know ok xx

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