News - 2009
News Release: STANDING UP FOR THE CITIZEN PHOTOGRAPHER
16 September, 2009
A new report published today on the growing restriction of taking photographs in public, highlights the often bizarre interpretations of what defines a security threat.
The report, Policing the Public Gaze, examines how privacy, security and public order rules, made by police, community safety wardens, private security guards or self appointed 'jobsworths', are preventing photography in public places. Examples of this include:
- Grandparents marched out of a shopping centre for taking 'unauthorized photographs' of their grandchildren- security staff insisted that cameras were banned because of the risk of terrorist attack.
- A mother and her partner, taking photographs of their 11-month daughter, ordered to stop by a park warden who informed them that it was 'illegal' to take pictures of children in the park.
- An Austrian tourist, photographing the iconic Arup- designed Vauxhall Bus station with his teenage son. Informing them that taking photographs of anything to do with public transport was illegal, Police officers took their names, passport numbers and addresses and ordered them to delete a number of 'sensitive' images.
- Conservative MP Andrew Pelling, stopped and searched by police on suspicion of being a terrorist after taking photographs of a cycle path in his constituency, near East Croydon station.
The new Manifesto Club report, written by Pauline Hadaway, the director of Belfast Exposed photography, argues that the assault on street photography represents a suspicion of the citizen, verging on paranoia, that identifies the citizen photographer as a potential pedophile or terrorist
"There are an increasing number of 'no-go' or touchy subjects for citizen photography. As a result, many children are growing up with gaps in the family photo album - no sports day or first swim photos - and as a society we have big gaps in our archives."
Anxieties around street photography are hitting amateur photographers hard in England. Attitudes to street photography in Northern Ireland remain more relaxed, although anecdotal reports of challenges to photographers are growing. Certainly there seems to be a nervousness amounting to self censorship around 'no go areas', including:
- Photographs in parks or at the seaside, where children are playing
- Subjects related to authority - CCTV cameras, policemen.
- Subjects related to any potential terrorist threat - transport facilities, official buildings, Arab-origin people taking photos, political demonstrations.
"Throughout the 20th century, millions of unskilled 'citizen photographers', largely anonymous, recorded almost every aspect of human experience, from intimate family occasions to uncensored images of war, bestowing a vast photographic legacy, which informs our collective consciousness of the history of the modern world..........
"One of the recurring features of Belfast Exposed's early outreach work was its ambition to go beyond mainstream representation of the conflict, through giving people the means to portray their own experience. One of the outcomes has been the creation of a substantial archive, which records a turbulent historical period from the perspective of those who experienced it at first hand. Yet, with contemporary anxieties around the predatory gaze many of the photos in our collection - particularly photographs of children, police or army officers, or conflict - would today be subject to official or self-censoring sanction.
"In a climate of uncertainty, where the mere act of looking may be enough to trigger suspicion, it is time to stand up for citizen photography against the anti- democratic impulse to police the public gaze."
End News Release
1. Policing the Public Gaze is published by the Manifesto Club . The Manifesto Club campaigns against the hyper regulation of everyday life.
3. The Manifesto Club will be hosting a Salon to discuss these issues in London on 30 September
4 Belfast Exposed will be hosting the Belfast Salon's discussion: "Policing the Public Gaze" in Belfast on 29 September.
5. For more information contact Kiri Barker (Publicity) 028 9023 0965