PetaPixel

Six Photographers Test Their Right to Shoot in London

On June 21, 2011, non-profit organization Shoot Experience sent out six photographers to various parts of London to see the current state of photographers’ rights.

Some used tripods, some went hand held, one set up a 5 x 4.

All were instructed to keep to public land and photograph the area as they would on a normal day. The event aimed to test the policing of public and private space by private security firms and their reaction to photographers.

The result? Every one of the photographers was confronted at least once, and in three cases the police were called.

(via Reddit)


 
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  • Sirrampalot

    Do you know what I would do if I were planning to plant a bomb in a high profile building? Get an accomplice to stand near the building and photograph it.

    All of the available security guards on duty will descend upon him spouting crap and quoting made up laws they know nothing about and leave the supposed secure areas nice and open for me to walk into and leave a device.

    When the sh*t really hits the fan and you need these goons to help you they wouldn’t have a clue. Like the police and their lightning reactions to the “custard pie” attacks on Rupert Murdoch yesterday

  • Simon

    so have I; the information about land ownership must surely be publicly available – land registry perhaps?

  • H Mansfield

    There is no such thing as a “pro” camera or lens. The “pro” is the person earning money from taking the photo’s. The law does not differentiate between compacts, SLRs, massive bellows cameras, tiny pinhole cameras, cameraphones or anything else. A camera is a camera regardless of it’s size, shape or resolution, and they can all be used in public areas, to record things that are visible from that public area.
    I had a private security guard challenge me last year, saying that permits were needed for “professional cameras” (ie: a DSLR that wasn’t even classed as semi-pro by Nikon), but not any other type. I stood my ground, he puffed his chest out and screamed in my face, I called the Police over, he skulked off, and I carried on taking photo’s (and later got compensation from his boss).

  • Metapixel

    People who wants to do street photography, take notes of it. If you politely explain the security personnel like these photographers, you wont have any problem. If you start your aggressive propaganda of Human Rights, you will have problem.

  • Metapixel

    People who wants to do street photography, take notes of it. If you politely explain the security personnel like these photographers, you wont have any problem. If you start your aggressive propaganda of Human Rights, you will have problem.

  • Metapixel

    People who wants to do street photography, take notes of it. If you politely explain the security personnel like these photographers, you wont have any problem. If you start your aggressive propaganda of Human Rights, you will have problem.

  • H Mansfield

    These were City of London Police, not Metropolitan Police. Dragons on the helmets, not The Crown.
    Nice to see them being so reasonable though, as they have a reputation for being quite heavyhanded in their policing.

  • Jason

    I can see why the security men are concerned as there have been bombings in the area in the past (the Baltic Exchange was bombed in ’92 for example), and it is a high risk area. But to be honest, they didn’t exactly show much intelligence or common sense as I can’t think of any self respecting terrorist that would take photos using a medium format camera or DSLs on tripods. As for vaguely talking about “The Terrorism Act”, it was obvious they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

    I’m incredibly impressed by the police though (I never thought I’d ever say
    that). It finally seems to have sunk in with them that photographers are allowed
    to take photos in public places. Maybe that tall photographer in Chatham will be able to take photos without being arrested now.

  • Jason

    I can see why the security men are concerned as there have been bombings in the area in the past (the Baltic Exchange was bombed in ’92 for example), and it is a high risk area. But to be honest, they didn’t exactly show much intelligence or common sense as I can’t think of any self respecting terrorist that would take photos using a medium format camera or DSLs on tripods. As for vaguely talking about “The Terrorism Act”, it was obvious they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

    I’m incredibly impressed by the police though (I never thought I’d ever say
    that). It finally seems to have sunk in with them that photographers are allowed
    to take photos in public places. Maybe that tall photographer in Chatham will be able to take photos without being arrested now.

  • Jason

    I can see why the security men are concerned as there have been bombings in the area in the past (the Baltic Exchange was bombed in ’92 for example), and it is a high risk area. But to be honest, they didn’t exactly show much intelligence or common sense as I can’t think of any self respecting terrorist that would take photos using a medium format camera or DSLs on tripods. As for vaguely talking about “The Terrorism Act”, it was obvious they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

    I’m incredibly impressed by the police though (I never thought I’d ever say
    that). It finally seems to have sunk in with them that photographers are allowed
    to take photos in public places. Maybe that tall photographer in Chatham will be able to take photos without being arrested now.

  • Jason

    I can see why the security men are concerned as there have been bombings in the area in the past (the Baltic Exchange was bombed in ’92 for example), and it is a high risk area. But to be honest, they didn’t exactly show much intelligence or common sense as I can’t think of any self respecting terrorist that would take photos using a medium format camera or DSLs on tripods. As for vaguely talking about “The Terrorism Act”, it was obvious they didn’t have a clue what they were talking about.

    I’m incredibly impressed by the police though (I never thought I’d ever say
    that). It finally seems to have sunk in with them that photographers are allowed
    to take photos in public places. Maybe that tall photographer in Chatham will be able to take photos without being arrested now.

  • http://twitter.com/DangerousV Abraham Choong

    Would it be different if a Middle Eastern or Pakistani or ‘stereotypically muslim’ person were to take pictures? I bet you the whole armed police ‘battalion’ would be there! 

  • Sascha

    @Abraham Choong You’re right. That would be very interesting.

  • http://twitter.com/Myrddon Henning Nilsen

    This is all well and good, but doesn’t help me much in terms of street photography because I actually am focusing on specific people.

  • Alex

    struggle for freedom of photography in Russia:
    1)http://translate.google.ru/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F396481.html
    2)http://translate.google.ru/translate?hl=ru&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F372972.html
    3)http://translate.google.ru/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F389988.html

  • Alex

    struggle for freedom of photography in Russia:
    1)http://translate.google.ru/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F396481.html
    2)http://translate.google.ru/translate?hl=ru&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F372972.html
    3)http://translate.google.ru/translate?js=n&prev=_t&hl=ru&ie=UTF-8&layout=2&eotf=1&sl=ru&tl=en&u=http%3A%2F%2Fzyalt.livejournal.com%2F389988.html

  • M8009

    Unfortunately it is not limited to any specific country, glad to see the police know the law though. I’ve had private security call the local police on me and the police backed the security personnel even though I was clearly on public property. They even threatened arrest if I did not comply.

  • David244

    I have never had any problems in the capital ,Westminster etc,Canary Wharf is challenging I was stopped quite a few times here.but the place worst experience for me which nearly resulted in me packing it all in was in an ordianry road in East London not an office building in sight and I was taking shots of fireworks on Nov 5th and after the threat of confiscation I was told to go into my back garden and take my camera with me or face arrest…. I have to be honest that night still haunts me and makes me very wary of police when I am out with my cameras its not something I would recommend anyone go through

  • Chris Costello

    Broadgate fiercely protective of their land..  i’ve been kicked off there before…  but it is a private estate…  next time i take a video man to get the helpful man… although for, if i remember rightly, £350 an hour you can take whatever pics you like,,,

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_PQ54IG5P6I73FWHYGC4LVDZQYI Michael

    I was asked to stop shooting around the Excel Centre in London once, but apparently its private land.  No signs up or anything to say that though so hard to know.  Security guard just asked us to stop, and we did.

  • Rob Telford

    The area round County Hall and the London Eye is private property. It was sold to Japanese developers Shirayama Shokusan in 1993 after the abolition of the Greater London Council in the 1980s.

    To the best of my knowledge, it includes County Hall itself, the riverside frontage and the approach from the south and land immediately adjacent to the London Eye (the paved areas) but not grassed area of Jubilee Gardens on the eastern side toward the Festival Hall, which is managed by the Jubilee Gardens Trust.

    http://www.jubileegardens.org.uk/news.htmlThe More London Estate by the south side of Tower Bridge is similarly private property. City Hall is leased from them by the Greater London Authority. I work just round the corner.http://www.morelondon.com/Potters Fields park, which is the green space adjacent to More London to its south east is, so far as I’m aware, not part of the More London Estate and is managed by the not-for-profit Potters Fields Park Management Trust.http://www.pottersfields.co.uk/management-trust.html

    I have, however, been stopped by More London security in the past while taking photographs on The Queen’s Walk, which runs along the river-side of Potters Fields. I was taking a picture of the City of London across the other side of the river at the time.

    Security at both locations are quite active in stopping people using tripods. At County Hall, IME, they will cite health and safety considerations. More London are rather more touchy about photographing the entrances to buildings.

  • http://www.samsphotolab.com Snappingsam

    the security chap 11.15 was, to me, the way it should be handled.
    Friendly – un-intimadating and helpful “let me show you some better viewpoints – come onto the estate” – he obviously has either had excellent training or has a brain that can think for its-self…  unlike the very confrontational private security personel.

    I suggest the team both contacts his employers to compliment him – and contact the others to show how it should be done….

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.suzuki Daniel Yu Suzuki

    Im curious how the situation with the police would go down if they were totally ignoring the manager and just kept shooting. Because if the manager touches your equipment at all, I think that would count as harassment on the managers part. 

  • Dave Marcus

    nice polite security goes, though

  • Dave Marcus

    nice polite security goes, though

  • Glendower

    Not in the USA.  We’re so PC about profiling that a 6-foot tall woman who looks Scandinavian would be hassled before a ‘stereotypically Muslim’ person.

  • Glendower

    Not in the USA.  We’re so PC about profiling that a 6-foot tall woman who looks Scandinavian would be hassled before a ‘stereotypically Muslim’ person.

  • http://www.facebook.com/yogeshsarkar Yogesh Sarkar

    Had this been India and private security had some objections and you weren’t from press, police would have taken the side of the security, however unreasonable it might have been!

  • Hackneyphotographer

    excellent, and it’s exactly my overall impression of the police in the UK – courteous, respectful and so on. security personnel needs to be trained to not worry about photographers shooting their building and not waste the police’s time.

  • David Rann

    Had a similar problem in Cannon Hill Park, Birmingham. Not with the police on this occasion, but with a park ranger who when asked, called himself “Sergeant ….”. Wrote about it on my blog – http://fotofiliablog.com/2011/07/15/a-permit-to-photograph-in-the-park-really/

  • Englishman

    At least three of the “security guards” (they used to be called nightwatchmen or doormen) are probably worried about being caught on camera in case the Immigration department get sight of a copy.

  • http://www.robertlinthicum.com Robert Linthicum

    A good way to handle these security people who can’t be bothered to learn the law, is to phone the police yourself, and tell them you are being bothered.  And if any security person touches you where you stand on public property, it’s simple assault.

  • Keith

    Interesting to see the police reaction. I was recently stopped by police here in Bristol as I photographed an office building. I was questioned for 20 minutes and had to give them name, address, DOB, place of work, email and even any website addresses. It was ‘because of terrorism’, apparently.

  • Kyle

     I am VERY sure if photographers WERE to use images for terror attacks: What you get on public property would earn you a slap in the face from the actual ring leaders of whatever gang/affiliation they are working for and their tripod/camera destroyed at the very least for humiliation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/PaulJamesWright Paul Wright

    The British authorities were on the photographers side. The security guards are privately hired. The authorities were completely happy with what those photographers were doing.

    I do not understand where you are coming from.

  • Ian

    I liked the comment about covert surveillance to the photographer with the great lumpy camera perched on a tripod.
    As for the security bongle telling the videographer that they needed his permission to film him, I’d ask they had permission to film me on one of their ubiquitous CCTV cameras?

  • Adam Stevens9

    I dont really understand what this movie proves. it is the natural reaction for anyone to react like the security does. if you were standing opposite my house taking photos i would be highly suspicious and ask you not to?

    would anyone act differently?

  • http://www.facebook.com/appfotos Andrew Parker-Photographer

    What was it that one sec guy said “…covert activities..”? Out in plain day, in sight of everyone…? That’s quite amusing. These private sec firms DO NOT KNOW THE LAW. It is quite obvious that they are there to do a job, but they should be looking beyond the guys stood in broad bloody daylight taking photos. They should be spotting the guy parking his van in a suspicious place and leaving it. They should be checking lone backpackers with overly large rucksacks, or people wearing quilted down jackets on a roasting-hot summer day. USING their skills, and above all their COMMON BLOODY SENSE. However, most of them don’t challenge members of the public like I described because they’re chicken shit wannabe cops, but they are not skilled, or trained, or versed in the law, or even have the common sense of a dead hedgehog. It’s easy to hassle a photographer, makes ‘em feel good because they know the general feeling towards photographers is already disintegrating into simple hatred, thanks to Papparazzi and media fortune hunters. Someone also pointed out that more than one of them were foreigners, so language may be a problem in some cases, and stressful/heated encounters being an inevitable consequence. I thought the police were exemplary though, and they have obviously been given strict orders to know and uphold this particular part of the law.
    I have friends working in other democratic countries, who think the situation in Britain’s cities has got out of control, concerning the censorship of photography. Even in the USA, in New York, it is no where near as bad as London! We are at the top of the greasy pole, my friends, and I can already feel the start of a collective loss of grip, and the beginning of the slippery journey into full censorship, and massive losses of civil rights.
    The ghost of Osama Bin Laden will be sat grinning at us all. This is exactly what he wanted to happen post 9/11, and we have duly complied. Well, I say two fingers to the lot of them and say it like the French (even though they themselves have stopped believing) LIBERTE EGALITE FRATERNITE. They are words to live and die by.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KilkennyPhotographer Michael McGrath

    Here in Ireland there’s no such situation – in fact the local cops look at me warily when I have a camera in the street now, as I happened to be on the spot to photograph them arresting an escaped murderer in broad daylight in the middle of the street a few months back. It was a rough arrest but they jhad to do it. An editor of a local newspaper who front-paged it actually called me ” a true pro” – it’s thirty years since I worked as a press photographer!

  • http://www.facebook.com/KilkennyPhotographer Michael McGrath

    Here in Ireland there’s no such situation – in fact the local cops look at me warily when I have a camera in the street now, as I happened to be on the spot to photograph them arresting an escaped murderer in broad daylight in the middle of the street a few months back. It was a rough arrest but they jhad to do it. An editor of a local newspaper who front-paged it actually called me ” a true pro” – it’s thirty years since I worked as a press photographer!

  • http://www.jeffsham.co.uk Jeff

    I’ve photographed in London many times now and fortunately I’ve not been stopped by anyone… yet. Even outside council buildings, etc. It’s not all doom and gloom for the photographer on the street!

  • http://www.jeffsham.co.uk Jeff

    I’ve photographed in London many times now and fortunately I’ve not been stopped by anyone… yet. Even outside council buildings, etc. It’s not all doom and gloom for the photographer on the street!

  • OMG

    Goodness Google Street Map must have had a very busy time seeking permission to take images of all the buildings when they drove round London and the UK… ;)

  • OMG

    Goodness Google Street Map must have had a very busy time seeking permission to take images of all the buildings when they drove round London and the UK… ;)

  • Paul Langmead

    Agreed, That’s how change happens: clear examples of how to do it right.

  • Zoot

    “You need my permission to film me” – only if the photograph/video is to be sold, in which case the photographer or videographer needs a model release to be signed by the subject. The police did a great job here, IMHO

  • Dick Pearson

    glad to see the police using common sense. Those security guards should be made to study law and then things would improve. the police did a professional job and the photographers were carrying out their hobby/profession.

  • Richard Pearson

    common sense is important

  • eborhermit

    We are constantly been harassed it is time we stood up