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Street Photographers test freedom to shoot in London

By dpreview staff on Jul 21, 2011 at 20:42 GMT

A group of photographers in London have investigated how easy it is to shoot around the city. The six photographers, backed up with six videographer, attempted to take photographs around the City of London (the city's financial district), to see what resistance they encountered. The experiment, conducted as part of the London Street Photography Festival, showed several private security guards trying to impede the photographers (often with vague allusions to 'security and 'terrorism'). The Police were called in three cases, but, in each instance, the Officers were well aware of the laws concerning photography and appear to have resolved the situations amicably. (via PetaPixel)

Comments

Total comments: 186
12
makofoto
By makofoto (Aug 11, 2011)

So after Shooters were targeted during the riots in England ... I wonder if that changed anything?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/aug/09/london-riots-photographers-targeted

0 upvotes
ArtisanUK
By ArtisanUK (Aug 8, 2011)

The most amusing of those "security" numpties must surely be the idiot who babbled nonsense about "covert surveillance" to the photographer who was using a 5x4 Linhof view camera on a tripod.

The second most amusing comment was the "building manager" who seemed to have the quaint idea that one needed some sort of permission to photograph a building with the intent of selling the images commercially.

1 upvote
Fellowpedestrian
By Fellowpedestrian (Aug 7, 2011)

It should be said too that our cultural heritage was fashioned by the millions of images photographers have taken in the streets of New York, Paris, Calcutta and elsewhere. We must know what places, people, and life looked like in the past. I personally resent anyone prohibiting me from capturing life as it is at the moment.

0 upvotes
hwangeruk
By hwangeruk (Aug 2, 2011)

The UK Police handled that really well. They seemed to follow the law precisely. It was really only security guards challenging, and really, you cannot blame them. I don't think there was anything new or astonishing in this.
I also liked that one of the building managers offered to help them take better photos - brilliant!
Everything worked out fine. No one was killed in the filming of this movie :)

2 upvotes
emeff
By emeff (Jul 29, 2011)

I work as a photographer, taking photos of office buildings and their surroundings for use on letting or sales brochures and websites. My work is mainly in and around London and the M25 region.

In 20 years I reckon I have been questioned or stopped no more than 10 - 20 times by curious individuals.

With the security climate that is prevalent, I can understand why the police and security individuals have issues with people pointing cameras at them and I have found a reasonable explanation allays their fears, while not having to get their permission.

I think the rule must be, be polite, be reasonable and be prepared to see their point of view, while making it clear that you have a legal right to be where you are, doing what you are doing, (assuming you are), and that the photos in your camera are your intellectual property, and if they are taken away, damaged or destroyed, this would be criminal damage or theft.

How you handle the situation will dictate how it ends.

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 30, 2011)

I agree completely. It's easy to get angry when you know you're in the right, but responding that way will only create more problems. If you start off by behaving yourself, when the real authorities arrive, you'll be the calm person taking photographs, not an irate jackass that needs to move along.

If it's the police that you believe are in the wrong, stay calm and do your best to document the encounter. At some point, you may be in front of a judge explaining your actions, as will the coppers. Nothing better than a video of you being calm and cooperative with a frustrated, overstepping cop to sway a judge to your side.

1 upvote
Severn Bore
By Severn Bore (Jul 29, 2011)

I thought this was an excellent illustration of the security paranoia combined with lack of common sense that applies in much of the UK. The attitude of the two smartly grey-suited security guards virtually amounted to harassment!
The laws on this subject vary from country to country and I wonder whether employers ensure that their security people understand the local rules, especially when so many security staff seem not to originate within the UK.

1 upvote
haberdas
By haberdas (Jul 29, 2011)

First part of my carrier I lived and worked in a communist country. The paranoia about photography was humongous. but there security guide got the authority to arrest you. Fortunately in democracies the picture is different.
I just cant understand why can't those security "pit bulls" learn that it is different to take a picture and publish a picture and secondly those buildings are already on the Internet.

1 upvote
stilt21
By stilt21 (Jul 26, 2011)

this is not at all new. in 1972 when visiting and photographing in london (remember film?) i was taking a photo of some shop, men's wear or something similar, across a street and the guard, some officious type, came across and told me that i had no right to photograph the shop because it had the royal crest above the door. something to do with being a supplier to the royal family. i was not duly impressed and continued my activity and still have the photographs and the negatives in sterling black and white.

1 upvote
Peter Mackey
By Peter Mackey (Jul 26, 2011)

How dumb are the security men?
Naughty people will wear pink shirts and lump huge tripods while they photography "targets" in broad daylight. Sure.

0 upvotes
smodge
By smodge (Jul 26, 2011)

Over 15 years or so I have done a lot of "street free-style" photo-journalism work professionally and for my personal projects. I have noticed that people across the world are more aware of their right to privacy since the internet really took hold over the past 5-7yrs. As to the photographer's right to take photos of people and places on interest in public... well I believe it's a matter of how the photographer approaches people. In my experience if your subject can accept that you [as the photographer] are not a threat, are friendly and sincere then people open up in amazing ways - even in today's fear feed world of anti-terrorism. Keep clicking the world people. There is soooooooooooo much to photograph and educate us about.

0 upvotes
smodge
By smodge (Jul 26, 2011)

Over 15 years or so I have done a lot of "street free-style" photo-journalism work professionally and for my personal projects. I have noticed that people across the world are more aware of their right to privacy since the internet really took hold over the past 5-7yrs. As to the photographer's right to take photos of people and places on interest in public... well I believe it's a matter of how the photographer approaches people. In my experience if your subject can accept that you [as the photographer] are not a threat, are friendly and sincere then people open up in amazing ways - even in today's fear feed world of anti-terrorism. Keep clicking the world people. There is soooooooooooo much to photograph and educate us about.

0 upvotes
nathantw
By nathantw (Jul 25, 2011)

Watching the video I've realized that taking pictures today is just ridiculous. People use terrorism and such as an excuse. Confrontation seems to be the rule and not an exception. I took a Gigapan (about 100 pictures that are stitched together) of some scenery from some stairs at a mall in San Francisco and some security guard came and confronted me and said I wasn't allowed to take a picture of the mall. I wasn't taking pictures of the mall, but the scenery. That didn't fly and was asked to leave. Irritating.

0 upvotes
nathantw
By nathantw (Jul 25, 2011)

I forgot to mention that I later sent a message to the mall asking for permission to take a photo from the stairs and I wouldn't take any picture of the mall. Did I hear a response? Was I expecting one? No on both counts.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 25, 2011)

If you were on private property, that's the way it goes. Other than buying the mall and making it _your_ private property, you can't even expect a response from the management or security, let alone expect them to grant you access. In this instance, I know it's silly, and I know it's stupid, but it's that simple. Owning private property means you get to set the rules, and they didn't want you doing whatever it was you were doing.

If you were on public property, you could've called the police to have them explain to the security guard you could be there, and you could take photos of whatever you wanted, or juggled tomatoes, or done your taxes, or eaten a corn dog, etc.

1 upvote
nathantw
By nathantw (Jul 26, 2011)

Nah, I knew I was on private property which was the reason why I packed up and left the moment they asked. I tried to stall a bit, but I didn't put up a fight at all.

I was hoping they would respond to my message asking for permission, but as you said they didn't need to respond at all since they made the rules. Oh well, those are the breaks.

0 upvotes
Marie du Bois
By Marie du Bois (Jul 26, 2011)

You can almost certainly shoot in the common areas of shopping malls in California. There is a famous supreme court decision, Pruneyard vs. Robins, which found that the California constitution gives more protections to your freedom of speech than the federal constitution. Essentially, the more you open your private property up to the public and invite them to congregate and socialize, the less you can infringe on their constitutional rights in the name of private property. If handing out flyers in a mall to shoppers urging them to support some political cause or to boycott one of the stores in the mall is protected, then passively shooting pictures without bothering anyone is absolutely protected.

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 27, 2011)

Perhaps that's true in California. I'm not familiar enough with CA law to say otherwise, but that seems like bad law to me.

If I own property, publicly accessible or not, I have some responsibility to bear for actions taken on that property. That's why property owners are insured. In this instance, the mall manager could state any number of reasons why Nathan needed to leave (potential stalking, obstructing a stairway, etc.), or none at all. If Nathan felt wronged in the exchange ("The guard called me a [racial slur] and told me to beat feet!"), there are civil remedies he could try, but that enters another realm of law. All of this is just my admittedly ignorant opinion, as I said.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 27, 2011)

I forgot to thank Marie for the Pruneyard decision. I'll read more of it later, but it doesn't seem quite so clear cut. Restrictions appear to be allowed as long as they're crafted with Pruneyard in mind:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pruneyard_Shopping_Center_v._Robins

0 upvotes
Marie du Bois
By Marie du Bois (Jul 29, 2011)

It is actually codified in the tresspass portion of the CA penal code, section 602.1 (c) 1

0 upvotes
MarcMedios
By MarcMedios (Jul 25, 2011)

In Miami Beach, the Police would probably just shoot

0 upvotes
Ricohta
By Ricohta (Jul 25, 2011)

You've all been duped as this was all fake, probably shot in some movie stage! At various points, shadows of buildings were clearly visible in the video, which implies the sun was out! That is actually illegal in London. I know this because I've been to the place several times. Much ado about nothing indeed..

1 upvote
MPasseri
By MPasseri (Jul 25, 2011)

I really doubtbterrorists would stay for long times in front of a building taking pictures. Also, I find it very hard to believe they would use large SLRs or tripods...

0 upvotes
odpisan
By odpisan (Jul 23, 2011)

VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT

VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT

VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT VERY IMPORTANT

Please excuse may bad english.

Here I see a very good bussines opportunity for you (London photographers).

Because all security people are stupid, crazy ignorants & almost illiterate dummies, it would be a very good idea to
ORGANIZE A PHOTO-COURSE

for them. In one or two hours (50€/hour) somebody should explaine them what small pocket & a littgle bigger bridge cameras are capable of. So DSLR is not a spy camera in any case.

Please do it as fast as possible, because I intend to come in London to take a few houndred serious street-photos & I do not want to have problems with those idots.

Best regards

1 upvote
MP Burke
By MP Burke (Jul 23, 2011)

The fim highlights problems which seem to be particularly acute in the City of London area. On a typical day you will see hundreds of people taking photographs outside public buildings such as the British Museum, St Paul's Cathedral, Palace of Westminster etc. When there are so many photographers it becomes absurd to assume that they are taking photographs with a sinister agenda.
In the City of London, where there are fewer tourists about, the security guards, driven by a mixture of paraonoia and self importance, often seem to think that anyone who photographs their building must be doing so for a sinister reason. In reality their business premises are probably a less desirable terrorist target than the well known and well photographed public builldings.
In fact some photographers are interested in architechture (hence the use of 5x4 cameras and tripods) and some are interested in people, which accounts for the photography that takes place.

3 upvotes
Phileas Fogg
By Phileas Fogg (Jul 22, 2011)

Rriley,

No, because the target for one should be firstly those dressed as cops and thus every cop must now be a suspect. Not photographers... Of course I'm being over the top in my point here. These events today are not defacto standard in normal life nor in any developed society and there is NO REASON for anyone to be in more fear as a result. Let alone more fear of photographers. Again if we want paranoia to run amok we now must suspect anyone who looks like a cop for one.

Life has terrible events it's a fact we must accept. It's nothing new but life will be terrible for all if we allow such events to turn us against rational thoughts and the freedom of life.

0 upvotes
Rriley
By Rriley (Jul 22, 2011)

With the attacks in Norway
you can wave good bye to this....

0 upvotes
MrTaikitso
By MrTaikitso (Jul 22, 2011)

No. I won't. Else, whoever carried out the attacks wins. You can bet he/she didn't need to take photos prior to the bombings. Try Google Streetview. I for one will refuse to co-operate if challenged when photographing architecture. I will co-operate if I am asked not to photograph an individual or private residence.

3 upvotes
safeashouses
By safeashouses (Jul 23, 2011)

And what of the attacks in London? What about the attacks in Paris? How about the attacks in New York City? Why not just ban cameras all together. "Are those flower pictures for your own use?"

0 upvotes
Phileas Fogg
By Phileas Fogg (Jul 22, 2011)

Oddly enough, here in North America on the classic t.v. channel METV last evening a Twilite Zone Episode called "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street Episode." played and sums up the irrational, paranoia and lunacy of people when they allow their minds to run amok suspecting anyone who looks and or does something different than the norm around them.

We have to learn to stop thinking like this. Photography in public is not likely anything to be worried about and/or to think is subversive etc. Yes, bad things can and do happen in life but most paranoia is purely irrationally based.

Do any of you overtly worry about the drivers in cars next to you? No, not likely. But driving is one of the most dangerous things we each do daily. Photographers are not likely criminals nor criminally minded nor looking to subvert society. LIGHTEN UP! and let/expect police and other security do real policing work. Life should be more enjoyed not live in paranoid fear.

1 upvote
Mojn
By Mojn (Jul 22, 2011)

One can almost figure out what world we'd be living in if freedom of speech and free expression was compromised. It's not a trivial thing to fight for. Great work.

3 upvotes
phipop
By phipop (Jul 22, 2011)

What would really interest me is, where are YOURS street photography pictures, where can i see it??? mine are on phipop point com and are not so good but i am dying to see other's work!
thanks
philippe phipop

0 upvotes
Greg Kay
By Greg Kay (Jul 22, 2011)

Really great video there. Thanks goes out to all the people involved in making and producing this work. Thanks to dp as well for making this a front page article.

The reason for my gratitude is confidence I get being a street photographer in Norway. Recenly there have been incidents involving photographers like me and the police, where the former were accused of braking laws. Fortunatly local regulations allow street photographers to work just as the photographers did in this video.

It is our responsibility to educate ourselves about our own rights.

2 upvotes
nictita
By nictita (Jul 22, 2011)

Very interesting stuff. Times have changed into crazy times of hysteria. A lonely backpack or even a bag with unknown content can lead to big police activity (could be a bomb).

Same with street photographing and anything else that could ... maybe ... perhaps ... be suspicious... in any considerable way.

Regards
Nic

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Unfortunately, plenty of people have been blown up by crazy bast*rds, long before 9/11.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eric_Rudolph
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Kaczynski

Better to have 100 false alarms on something like that than let one get by. Ask the Israelis about stray bags and packages.

This is a completely different issue than someone standing on a public sidewalk performing a legal activity.

0 upvotes
ianz28
By ianz28 (Jul 25, 2011)

And better to live our lives in fear of the unknown?

Are you a fan of the department of homeland security? I actually enjoy most of the airports I visit outside of the US yet, I dread each and every visit to any US airport.

Wonderful waste of taxpayer dollars.

2 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 25, 2011)

I'm not sure what your point is. Yes, I'd rather a "lonely backpack" be inspected than left to harm people, but I don't see how that's living in fear of the unknown.

A fan of DHS? Not really, especially when the drones do something as thoughtful as some of the incidents that pop up in the news. Still, in the aftermath of 9/11, something had to be done, and this is what we have. It's far from perfect, but over time, it should improve. While there's waste, I wouldn't call increased airport security a "wonderful waste of taxpayer dollars".

And none of this has much to do with the original article.

0 upvotes
RussAdams
By RussAdams (Jul 27, 2011)

Un huh.

And exactly how many bombings have airport security caught and prevented in the US?

That would be ZERO.

It's political theatre and indeed a "wonderful waste of taxpayer dollars".

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 28, 2011)

There's a deterent effect whenever security is heightened. Improved screening methods have their failings, but the very fact that there are more stringent measures in place deters attacks. You might consider such effects before making comments with ZERO value, but feel free to continue.

0 upvotes
boothrp
By boothrp (Jul 22, 2011)

A worthwhile video. I've often wondered about the law on such things, now it's clear to me.
If an individual objects to being filmed/photographed, it's common courtesy under most circumstances to stop. Buildings don't have feelings (as far as I'm aware), so why worry about photographing them.
There's enough surveillance on sensitive buildings to log people photographing the building, so when people are photographing for innocent reasons, no worries. If the building got bombed later, the CCTV footage of the photographer would show someone with no terrorist connections who has nothing to hide, as was the case with these 6 photographers.

1 upvote
Fellowpedestrian
By Fellowpedestrian (Aug 7, 2011)

You mentioned CCTVs, I wonder if the security guards worry about the government watching each and every corner of London? What are their intentions...? lol!

0 upvotes
Ratso
By Ratso (Jul 22, 2011)

I have first hand experience of being detained by the police while shooting on the street in London. When I pointed out other people were taking photos too (tourists with point and shoots), the reply was "yes but you were taking lots of pictures." They played the terrorist card on me, when I said "why would I be standing out here in the open with this big DSLR"; the reply was something to the effect that it's just what a terrorist would do, act like a normal person taking pictures. After about 45 min the let me go after they ran my passport and checkout my story.

0 upvotes
Music Hands
By Music Hands (Jul 22, 2011)

This is an excellent video, reminding us all of the basic rights of photographers - and the public generally - to do things that are safe, even curious, in public spaces. Kudos to these photographers and videographers for the courage and persistence to put this together - and thanks for sharing. I would recommend the same idea be done in major cities in the US, Turkey, Spain, Egypt, Taiwan, China, Japan, Malaysia and other places around the world. It would be the "Public Photo Project", aided if need be by the ACLU (civil liberties groups) and similar organizations, protecting the legal rights of the public.

6 upvotes
BobCoolTX
By BobCoolTX (Jul 22, 2011)

I don't get it - why didn't the photographers just produce a copy of the letter that was referenced at the beginning of the video to each security officer? That would have made the situations much easier to rectify. I get the point of the video, but if photographers want to spread the news about the actual law that they are quoting, they should be a little more helpful instead of inviting a debate on what is public property and what can be filmed.

1 upvote
Greynerd
By Greynerd (Jul 22, 2011)

What about photographers who have not got this letter. This video shows the dire state of this country and the insidious stiffling of people's right to move and act in a public area without harassment from adjoining corporate buildings. What is interesting that as a nation we are the most videoed by surveillance cameras in the world. So while the security jobsworth is complaining about you taking a picture of his building and staff every person going about their private business in the street is probably being recorded by his company in meticulous detail. Britain is becoming a very mean country and this is a symptom of paranoia which is going far beyond reason.

1 upvote
Petrogel
By Petrogel (Jul 22, 2011)

It's really nice to see that the police authorities are aware of the law in United kingdom but on the other hand is sad to see that terror-phobia became a very good reason to manipulate some of our urban-being rights .

0 upvotes
Sean65
By Sean65 (Jul 22, 2011)

This is a slightly silly way to go about things BUT the message is clear.

Know your rights and stand your ground.

There are way too many jobs worth idiots working for not only security but also community support officers and the police that think THEY ARE the law and the are quite happy to invent laws that don't exist.

Keep it polite and reason the law, they will usually walk away once they realise you know your rights.

1 upvote
David VL
By David VL (Jul 22, 2011)

Thank God I live in Australia :D

1 upvote
Yves P.
By Yves P. (Jul 22, 2011)

The English people are at all time very much polite, Freedom is a privilege ...

Laws vary from one country to another but the politeness seen here is also different than what you would see in the States for example where it would turn into an arrest (for no apparent reason too). Photographers are not Terrorists, Terrorists are Terrorists ...

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

In the U.S., freedom is a right, not a privilege.
http://www.ushistory.org/declaration/document/

As for your assertion that the same incident would've resulted in a false arrest, I can't say that would never happen, but I can say it's not like the Stasi are running amok in Peoria. Millions of photographs are taken in the U.S. every week, yet the cellblocks aren't being overrun with photographers, are they?

0 upvotes
aris
By aris (Jul 22, 2011)

In theory - yes you have that right. In theory. Most of the US and the world for that matter are living in a version of The Matrix when it comes to 'rights'

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Really? I just drove across several U.S. states and paddled across an international border, all while taking photos. Other than completing a backcountry use permit, no one said a word to me about where I was going, what I was doing, or who was doing it with me. I suggest you stop looking for parallels between real life and movie dystopias and get out more. It's not as bad as you think.

0 upvotes
dgoakill
By dgoakill (Jul 22, 2011)

Kind of disappointed in this. I only watched the first few minutes of the video and the only street photography I saw was when a little girl sitting on a concrete bollard snapped a pic of the so called street photographer.

You don't use a tripod for street, and you don't use a zoom either. This is NOT street photography just because it was taken on the street. These people are using tripods and zooms to shoot BUILDINGS, not people.YOU ARE ASKING TO BE HARASSED when you conduct yourself in that manner in public. Your rights only go so far as not to infringe on another person. IF someone tells you to stop photographing them, YOU STOP! Period. In The USA, it is Illegal to shoot certain buildings and bridges. Laws have already been passed regarding this and are not subject to debate, it is a done deal.

This video and actions like this by wanna be street photographersgive street photography a bad name and makes it that much harder for the rest of us to pursue the genre.

1 upvote
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Jul 22, 2011)

So you should be arrested for not being a genuine street photographer (by your standards)?

Some people like architecture, some like streets, buses, trains and planes. Are you telling me what I can and cannot shoot? Do you think it should be illegal to use my camera in ways you personally don't approve of?

I can think of few things more harmless that taking a picture in full view of snything I like, with no intention of deception or covertness. It is also entirely legal. So in what way do you believe it is "provocative" and if you honestly believe that, what are you doing on a photography forum?

6 upvotes
mikeval
By mikeval (Jul 22, 2011)

dgoakill - you missed the point completely.
Suggest you read the aims of the experiment and watch the whole video.
It is not in the US - so your norms don't apply.
In the UK you have the right to photograph anything (or anyone) in public.

3 upvotes
Cy Cheze
By Cy Cheze (Jul 22, 2011)

Illegal in the US to photograph buildings or bridges? Under what law? What "done deal." What "not subject to debate." Be precise.

Is a hand-held shot of a building less terroristic than one taken with a tripod?

Google earth may blot out certain military sites. But do you suppose non-US satellites haven't extensive pictures of the same, or cannot be found or bought anywhere? Would the WTC have been any "safer" had photos been banned before 9/11?

5 upvotes
roninwarrior
By roninwarrior (Jul 22, 2011)

dgoakil, Why don't you cite some sources that back up your statements? Shooting bridges and buildings is certainly not illegal in the US.(except for certain military installations)

Street photography is an art like all other photography, tripod/zooms or not.

4 upvotes
glanglois
By glanglois (Jul 22, 2011)

Silly. Once again I have to point out that an individual is not representative of Americans in general. And, in this case, is wrong on several fronts.

OTOH, I would not haul out the tripod and long glass to shoot a nuclear power site or military installation. I will further note that the US Department of Justice has had to issue a notice to its staff and the public that it is not illegal to photograph the exterior of federal buildings like courthouses.

On the gripping hand, my rule of thumb for a poster's credibility is that it is inversely proportional to the use of caps. Looks like that rule works well here.

1 upvote
dgoakill
By dgoakill (Jul 22, 2011)

My point was that not one second of that video was anything even remotely close to street photography. At best it was architectural photography. I'm all for photographers rights, but I take exception when a stunt is carried out in the name of something it has nothing to do with. this shouldn't be labeled street photography.
As for shooting buildings being illegal...It is. In philadelphia you cannot take pictures on or around the Ben Franklin Bridge without a Permit Each city and state is different, but there are several other government buildings in Philadelphia that also require permits to shoot.

0 upvotes
thielges
By thielges (Jul 22, 2011)

dogakill writes: "In philadelphia you cannot take pictures on or around the Ben Franklin Bridge without a Permit"

Are you sure about that? It sounds ridiculous. I couldn't find any mention of such a photo permit requirement. But I did find thousands of photos of the bridge.

2 upvotes
xMichaelx
By xMichaelx (Jul 22, 2011)

"In The USA, it is Illegal to shoot certain buildings and bridges."
Outside of military bases, no, it's not. Ever.

"Laws have already been passed regarding this and are not subject to debate"
No, they haven't.

" it is a done deal."
Yes, it is. It's perfectly legal to take any picture you want on public property in the U.S. -- always.

Fortunately for you, every U.S. law is available online. Please feel free to find a source for your ridiculous claims. Happy hunting!

2 upvotes
xMichaelx
By xMichaelx (Jul 22, 2011)

Pics of the Ben Franklin Bridge:
http://www.google.com/search?q=Ben+Franklin+Bridge&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&tbm=isch&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1213&bih=974

Again, feel free to point to the fictitious law you're convinced exists.

2 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

dgoakill, I don't want to pile on, but I'd suggest you watch the entire video before commenting on it.

This issue is not about photography. It's about a citizen's ability to move about public spaces, regardless of their activity. In the video, the photographers used big gear to get noticed for the sake of the project; whether it was appropriate for a specific use was immaterial. They were illustrating that they had a right to be where there were, and that while standing there, they could engage in legal behavior, which in this case was photography.

They could've made the same video without having batteries in any of the still cameras. With few exceptions in the U.S. and the U.K., if you're legally allowed to be somewhere, you can legally take photos. If you're on private property, you can be made to stop or leave by the responsible party. It's not complicated.

BTW, plenty of laws have been overturned in court, even one that's "a done deal".

2 upvotes
safeashouses
By safeashouses (Jul 23, 2011)

"I only watched the first few minutes of the video..." So what you're telling us is that you don't know what you're talking about.
"This is NOT street photography just because it was taken on the street." I love that line, can I use it?

1 upvote
MusicDoctorDJ
By MusicDoctorDJ (Jul 22, 2011)

This is news???

No wonder the rag when out of business over there recently.

Sounds to me like six people with cameras (not photographers) out looking for trouble . . .

And it seems they found it!

Typically when you are trying to stir the pot . . . the pot will get stirred!

1 upvote
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Jul 22, 2011)

What they were doing was legal and harmless. In what way were they "stirring up trouble?"

8 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

I completely agree with Critical1. The photographers produced a educational video, the MPO looked great, and the security guards might have even learned a lesson. If the photogs had raised hell and made a hash of the encounters, I'd feel a little less positive about the effort, but this was good work.

0 upvotes
mikeval
By mikeval (Jul 22, 2011)

When the security guys call the police, why don't the police simply tell them (over the phone) that it isn't against the law to photograph anything in public, instead of turning up and wasting everyone's time - and my taxes?
MikeVal

2 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Better to show up, defuse the situation, and have a "teachable moment" than brush them off over the phone. A few of those guards looked rattled enough to actually touch the photogs, and no good could come from that. Maybe next time, the guard will reconsider the scare tactics and be more reasonable. One can hope.

3 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Jul 22, 2011)

This is just fantastic, IMO. Security guards are low wage folks with kids, etc. just trying to find a wage they can live on, and they do what their managers tell them. What's very encouraging is the police response. Versus what was going on a year or so ago, this is wonderful news. Thanks for posting this DPR!

3 upvotes
Marc Rogoff
By Marc Rogoff (Jul 22, 2011)

Lets face it....if you are a terrorist wanting to photograph a building are you going to set up a tripod??

2 upvotes
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Jul 22, 2011)

Of course - perfect cover ;) (yes I am joking).

What some probably do not reallise is the extent to which, prior to last year, the Police and PCSOs would actually support the security firms in clear contravention of the law incorrectly using section 44 of the Terrorism act. This has now stopped, and they have started taking notice of what the law actually sais rather than what they think it ought to say.

Not something the MPO are always particularly known for, but a welcome development nonetheless.

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Do you have a link to similar video showing the MPO screwing up in the last few years? I'm not doubting you in the least, but I'd like to see the change in their behavior. TIA

0 upvotes
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Jul 22, 2011)

There have been several posted in the News forum over the years, including video. Suggest you do a search.

Of couse, not all forces in England have got the message...
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2010/feb/21/photographer-films-anti-terror-arrest

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

I'll take a look later. Maybe the same group did this a few years ago?

IMO, the article you linked showed some officers that didn't know what they were doing. If they can't answer if the man is being detained, then they should've known they were acting outside their authority. I don't know how U.K. law works, but I believe Terry v. Ohio would prevent an American from being successfully prosecuted in that instance.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_v._Ohio
"That lady said you stuck your camera up her skirt," sounds like a good enough reason for a stop, not something nebulous like "anti-social behavior".

It's sad to see things like that happen, but projects like the London Street Photography Festival effort give me hope.

0 upvotes
wijnands
By wijnands (Jul 22, 2011)

Good to read that after problems in 2008 and 2009 the Met has gotten their act together.

3 upvotes
Michael J Davis
By Michael J Davis (Jul 22, 2011)

Once again we see a failure to distingusih between taking photographs in public and *publishing* them. One guard reasonably asked why the photographs were being taken but then raised the commercial aspect.

The second factor that was ignored was the nature of public space. Nowadays it seems that public parks and other open spaces are not "public" - here only the margin between private and public (pavement/sidewalk) was nitpickingly discussed.

As for the guy who said we've got confidential stuff in there, made me wonder why it wasn't covered up!

Anyway - excellent out come - the police appear to know what they are doing!

Hurrah!

2 upvotes
digby dart
By digby dart (Jul 22, 2011)

Like many of these exposés, the ignorance of normal well meaning people is being preyed upon. Simply reminding people, in polite terms, what you believe the law allows in any spot in the world is usually enough to diffuse a potential situation. Security people and the like are not lawyers, simply people doing as they are told and or their job.

The too-ing and fro-ing over the public/private parts of the footpath, shows a condescending behaviour that is beneath contempt. The evasive manner of the street photographers, clearly to illustrate their superior understanding of things was and is indefensible. Not at all the sort of odd chaps one would ask around for a meal. :D

1 upvote
Stephenbw
By Stephenbw (Jul 22, 2011)

You don't need to be a lawyer to know that it is legal to take shots of any building from a public space. These rent-a-cops and their bosses should know that and not waste the valuable time of real police officers.

In many cases I believe that they do know the law, but choose to use intimidatory tactics to get what they want, and in most cases probably succeed in doing so.

1 upvote
Keith Pulver
By Keith Pulver (Jul 22, 2011)

The real problem, now that the government police have it sorted out, is that all too often the "rent-a-cops" think they can simply "make up a law".

The problem with this is that it can inadvertently actually allow the wrong people in and keep the right people out.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

A hidden benefit is that once photographers begin to stand their ground appropriately, security guards will begin to realize that Officer Smith will remember the last few times a similar incident occurred, and will probably have a talk with them about their problematic behavior. I'm guessing a guard would rather have Officer Smith as an ally, and not have to worry about possible charges for some flavor of criminal restraint or something else related to their bullying.

Plus, no one wants to repeatedly be shown to be so clearly wrong, do they? :)

0 upvotes
dopravopat
By dopravopat (Jul 22, 2011)

Question: Is the London Underground public space? Or might I run into problems when shooting the trains?

0 upvotes
CriticalI
By CriticalI (Jul 22, 2011)

No it is not public, but photography is allowed provided you dont use a tripod or a flash. If I want to shoot a specific station for a while I sometime inform an attendant beforehand and they sometimes even help out, letting me through barriers without paying (supervised of course to make sure I dont hop on a train). Never had a problem.

3 upvotes
mikeval
By mikeval (Jul 22, 2011)

It is private - as are all railway stations in the UK. Generally, however, no-one minds you taking photos there. If you are approached and told to stop because it is private property, you will have to stop.

0 upvotes
bilybianca
By bilybianca (Jul 22, 2011)

Thanks for a very important video. Unlike some other commenters, I think the "security" guards went far beyond their rights. To claim some sort of authority (God-given or what?) and trying to scare off people engaged in perfectly legal activities should be, and I believe is, a legal offence. There is no reason to be forgiving to that kind of behaviour.
Good work from the side of the authentic police officials. Proffessional!

2 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

The security guards did nothing criminal, but I agree that some weren't very professional. All they did was try to bluff the photogs out of the area, and when that didn't work, they called the police. There were no threats, no contact, no obstruction of movement.

BTW, the chap at 11:00 certainly knew his business.

1 upvote
lsro
By lsro (Jul 22, 2011)

Security: "No photos taken of the building, I'm afraid!
Photog: "I'm filming!"
:)

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Jul 22, 2011)

Interesting how often the terrorism claim is used. I've never understood how you prevent terrorism by continually bothering innocent people with no bad intentions whatsoever. Security personnel should stay within their jurisdiction. They shouldn't be allowed to say "you can't" They can say, 'we'd rather not that'. Although, that is not really friendly or hospitable either.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Regulating speech is very tricky, as is usually best avoided. For the most part, private citizens in the U.S. and U.K. can legally say whatever they want, including during conversations between photographers and security guards. I don't want any laws preventing a security guard from asking a person what they're doing, or preventing a photographer from telling that guard to p*ss off.

Good manners are an entirely different matter, and you're right that a few of those guards were trying to bluff the photogs away.

0 upvotes
Greynerd
By Greynerd (Jul 22, 2011)

It is not true that you can say anything you want. Offensive or threatening language would be a breach of the peace. Telling a guard to p*ss off would likely give him a perfectly valid right to have you arrested and lose you any support from the police. You are in affect aggressively trying to inhibit the jobsworth in his right to give a polite opinion.
Not recommended.

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

You'll note I said "for the most part". Leaving that out changes things, and is disingenuous on your part.

Telling a guard to p*ss off wouldn't be wise, but it wouldn't get you arrested in the U.S. based on those words alone. Maybe harsh language is too much for Brits to take, but I doubt U.K. law supports your assertion. Remember, it's up to the officers to decide when to make an arrest, not an easily offended security guard, and I have no idea how "p*ss off" would restrict anyone's speech.

0 upvotes
D1N0
By D1N0 (Jul 23, 2011)

\\Regulating speech is very tricky, as is usually best avoided.\\

I'm just using "you can't" and 'we'd rather not that' as examples. I don't want to regulate speech. I want them to be prohibited from misrepresenting their legal jurisdiction. That should be in the security guard code of conduct.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 23, 2011)

Ah, well that would come down to improper conduct on their part, and would best be addressed through complaints to the building managers, owners, tenants, etc. A powerful tenant could get the security folks to knock it off. If that failed, getting local media involved may help, since it's a fairly interesting topic, and it definitely concerns jounalists. As seen here, posting recordings of stupidity is a good move, too.

As long as the security guards didn't commit a criminal act, I don't think law enforcement officials could do much directly, but if the security guards are regulated via company or individual licenses, they could be non-renewed by the relevant government agency.

0 upvotes
lsro
By lsro (Jul 22, 2011)

That was funny, partially funny!
One comment though, at least two of the photographers should had been of arab descent or looking that way - to see how would had they been treated.

3 upvotes
polymu
By polymu (Jul 26, 2011)

Chaser has tried that. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w0n4Oehj6y8

2 upvotes
The A-Team
By The A-Team (Jul 22, 2011)

On one hand, the photographers have the law on their side. On the other hand, should you be filming someone when they are clearly requesting otherwise, whether in the public or not? And then put it online for thousands to see? I think that's a matter of individual judgement. Hopefully mutual respect will win out in the end. Here's a few of my experiences shooting in public: http://www.aputure.com/blog/?p=2208

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

Your question is at the core of candid photography. In this instance, we basically saw citizen journalism at its finest. It was a well prepared and produced effort, with a strong educational theme that's important not only to photographers, but to the basic rights of many. With that in mind, I think it was entirely appropriate to distribute the video.

OTOH, when I see a not-so-candid photo of a woman clearly glaring directly at the photographer, there's little doubt in my mind that a line was crossed. If I took a photo like that, I'd take a moment to talk with the person about their concerns, and be prepared to delete it in their presence. I was at a beach a few days ago taking photos of friends and family, and got a few looks from the staff when they saw my telephoto lens. I told them I was only interested in wildlife and people I knew, and no one was concerned afterwards.

0 upvotes
Bob from Plymouth
By Bob from Plymouth (Jul 22, 2011)

I think that all those security people in the film were well aware of the law but rely on the fact that the people they speak to about photography in a public place and other matters may not be.

The more publicity we can get on this subject the better. Well done to the London Street Photography Festival.

5 upvotes
WT21
By WT21 (Jul 22, 2011)

Sorry, but this is baseless "I think that all those security people in the film were well aware of the law" -- you've got no grounds for this belief at all.

0 upvotes
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

I think the officers knew the law, and at least the security person at 11:00 seemed quite reasonable. Some of the other guards simply looked out of their depth, a little scared, and generally just wanted the photogs to go away. If the guards were well aware of the law, then they actually reacted poorly.

I agree that this was an excellent effort, and videos like that, as well as the resulting discussions, can only help photographers learn how to deal with this issue.

1 upvote
Angelfire
By Angelfire (Jul 22, 2011)

Common sense prevails. The security guards are within their rights to ask photographers why they are filming a building. Thieves, industrial spies, terrorists, anarchists could be doing the very same for different reasons. To ask questions is not paranoid or unreasonable, just good sense. The security companies should supply their staff with cameras so that they may photograph the photographers.

With street photography, you will always come across folk who do not want themselves or their proerty to be photographed. I don't see why that should be a problem for photographers and it is easy to explain what and why you are taking photographs. Be reasonable and you will find others reasonable. Be unreasonable and you will meet with opposition. Sadly those who collect intelligence on people and buildings for mailgn purposes like terrorists, anarchists, thieves and paparazzi have tainted photography.

0 upvotes
BryMills
By BryMills (Jul 22, 2011)

I don't know where you live, but in the UK a private security guard has no "right" to ask you anything.

1 upvote
453C
By 453C (Jul 22, 2011)

With regard to photographer and security guard rights, compared to law enforcement officials, both are basically private citizens. I'm not aware of any U.S. or U.K. laws preventing either of those parties from asking the other what they're doing. Law enforcement has an entirely different standard, and the two shouldn't be confused. As I said earlier, the security guards can legally photograph the photographers, and the photographers can ask questions of the guards, too.

As to the issue of being reasonable, just because a thing _can_ be done doesn't necessarily mean it _should_ be. The photographers in the video could've gotten angry and made a big scene, but they were smart and let the matter run its course. They knew the law (it's really not that complicated), and they respected both the security guards and the officers, all while standing their ground. Being reasonable works; being loud and stupid rarely does.

0 upvotes
biancmb
By biancmb (Jul 22, 2011)

I am so glad someone took the matter to the public! I have been gently invited not to take pics. I was shooting at the Angel metal statue in Angel, London, two months ago. I did not want to argue, so I left (the scene wasn't very good anyhow). But I did feel very upset. I thought London and the UK are becoming CRAZY.

2 upvotes
sense601
By sense601 (Jul 22, 2011)

Interesting. However I too believe we would have seen a different outcome if the security guys and the police had been unaware of the video guys. My experiences here in Germany are that you can shoot almost anywhere even with a larger cam. The only thing that would alert security would be a tripod in a train station or at the airport. For underground stations here in Frankfurt, you can get a free permit for non-commercial shots without any trouble.

3 upvotes
Alberti Barnes
By Alberti Barnes (Jul 22, 2011)

I wish this would be true for the whole Republik - this is not the case. I was using a 4x5 LargeFormat on a tripod in public space in Munich and I even got a written contract by the law department of that building I was photographing. Police finally helped me to clarify - Main-argument: 4x5 means automatically professional use ???

0 upvotes
Juraj Lacko
By Juraj Lacko (Jul 22, 2011)

London, lucky place to take photographs. I wish it would be like that all over The World.

0 upvotes
Total comments: 186
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