January 2, 2010

Shamelessly lifted from the same set as the New Year post at Barefoot in the Kitchen.

We went for a walk in the freezing cold in Stratford today, and I’m pleased with the results.  The cloud patterns were beautiful and I love taking photos of reflections.


Not A Crime
December 9, 2009

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.