In response to September 11th and London Bombings, the UK drafted a series of Terrorism Acts, giving their officers certain rights they thought would help fight terrorism. This included a section (58a) added in 2008 that made it illegal to photograph or film a police officer if the footage was likely to be useful to a terrorist. The police’s interpretation of that section has since changed, but not before that “if” caused some newsworthy controversy.
This short animated documentary covers that controversy from the point of view of one of the act’s victims, Gemma Atkinson, who was assaulted by police in 2009 because she was filming them searching her boyfriend. It tells the story of the subsequent legal battle she went through trying to get the act changed and hold the police officers who were unnecessarily rough with her accountable. Read more…
Urban exploration photography has gotten quite a bit of publicity in recent years, with more and more photographers taking their cameras to off-limits and/or abandoned parts of their city in order to see and capture what most people never get a chance to. While it may be a fun pastime of practitioners and one that leads to beautiful images, not everyone is a fan.
The next time you’re photographing clouds, make sure those clouds aren’t hovering over a location that’s considered “sensitive”. National Weather Service volunteer Michael Galindo learned this lesson last month after pulling over to the side of the road near Houston to snap a photo of storm clouds brewing in the distance (shown above). Problem was, between Galindo and the clouds sat the Lyondell Refinery. Read more…
Bad news for photographers in Southern California: the Los Angeles Police Department issued a notice regarding its official terrorism handling policy earlier this week, and the document still identifies photographers as potential terrorists. The intradepartmental correspondence, sent out by the Chief of Police, warns officers about the following:
Photography. Taking pictures or videos of facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites in a manner that would arouse suspicion in a reasonable person. Examples include taking pictures or videos of ingress/egress, delivery locations, personnel performing security functions (e.g., patrol, badge/vehicle checking), security-related equipment (e.g., perimeter fencing, security cameras), etc.;
Observation/Surveillance. Demonstrating unusual interest in facilities/buildings, infrastructures or protected sites beyond mere casual or professional (e.g., engineers) interest, such that a reasonable person would consider the activity suspicious. Examples include observations through binoculars, taking notes, attempting to measure distances, etc. …
The New York Times has published a great interview with Michael H. Osterreicher, the general counsel for the National Press Photographers Association and the editor of the organization’s advocacy blog. In it, NYT Lens Blog co-editor James Estrin asks Osterreicher about photographers’ rights and the trend of people being stopped while shooting public locations. Read more…
One of the common reasons given for being wary of photographers is that terrorists commonly use cameras as part of their information gathering tactics prior to devastating attacks.
The disconcerting video above is a terrorist prevention video that was funded by the Department of Homeland security and uploaded to Houston’s city website back in January 2011. Starting at 1:42, it attempts to convince people that photographers may be potential terrorists, and that the police should be called if one appears to “hang around for no apparent reason.” Read more…
It looks like all the negative news stories about photographers’ rights in the UK is finally causing some positive change — private security guards across the nation are being instructed (for the first time) to exercise some common sense when stopping and questioning picture-takers:
Detective Sergeant David Parkes, a counter-terrorism advisor at the Metropolitan Police, has instructed private security staff to consider why a terrorist planning an attack would openly take photos in locations that can be readily viewed on the internet.
‘Why would a terrorist put himself at risk of being caught if he can get [the image] by logging onto Google,’ said DS Parkes [...]
[...] Parkes replied that the type of equipment is of ‘no significance’ to the risk a person may be planning a terrorist attack, adding that he believed ‘the bigger the camera, the less likely they are going to do anything [suspicious] with it’.
German satire program Extra 3 conducted a humorous — albeit disconcerting — experiment testing photographers’ (and videographers) rights in Germany. They had an actor use a camera at different “sensitive” government locations, doing the exact same things (e.g. film the locations of security cameras) but dressed in two different outfits — first as a European tourist and then as a Middle Eastern man. The result shows that how law enforcement deals with cameras is largely determined by common prejudices.
When PetaPixel reader David Anderson opened up the April 2011 edition of Shutterbug magazine, he was shocked to find a terrorist in one of the advertisements. Someone should alert the TSA to this, since they published a poster warning us of this type of terrorist back in 2010.
Quick, does anyone recognize the back of this guy’s head? Oh wait, this guy might.
It’s interesting (though some might say infuriating) to see how photographers are depicted in some police training videos. Lesson learned? Don’t carry camera gear and sleeping bags together in the back seat of your car.
In case the video doesn’t start at the right place automatically, photography-related stuff starts around 4:30.