Monday, 25 July 2011

Street Photographers! Stand Your Ground!

Back in June six members of the Shoot Experience team, responsible for organising the London Street Photography Festival 2011 this month, took to the City of London with their cameras. Instructed to keep to public land while photographing the area, their aim was to test the reaction of private security to photographers, and the state of policing of both public and private spaces.

In previous years it was the police and PCSOs who were criticised for harassing professional and amateur photographers alike through the misuse of stop and search powers afforded by s44 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (documented on Urban Orienteer here). However, following the suspension of s44 last July this should not be an issue. As guided by Chief Constable Andrew Trotter of ACPO in August that year: 
  • There are no powers prohibiting the taking of photographs, film or digital images in a public place. Therefore members of the public and press should not be prevented from doing so.
  • We must acknowledge that citizen journalism is a feature of modern life and police officers are now photographed and filmed more than ever.
  • Unnecessarily restricting photography, whether from the casual tourist or professional is unacceptable and worse still, it undermines public confidence in the police service.
  • Once an image has been recorded, the police have no power to delete or confiscate it without a court order.
In the film above all six photographers were stopped on at least one occasion, though in each case this was initially due to the intervention of private security. On the three occasions that Police were called to attend they did not attempt detain, search or seize equipment from the photographer.

This is encouraging but clearly won't prevent photographer's being harassed by private security who then waste police time when they aren't satisfied with the result. It is likely that guidance provided by police to public and private sector organisations on security, counter-terrorism and crime prevention measures as part of their Project Griffin has been to blame.

While concerns over spending cuts on policing are being framed by the expectation of rising crime, perhaps we should be more worried by the 'rise' of private security with police powers and the prospect for the growth of informal policing that might be expected in the Conservative's new Big Society.

Remember though, it doesn't matter how big that society is if it's locked behind a gate. So why not get inspired in the last week of the London Street Photography Festival 2011, then head out with your camera and start reclaiming those streets back for the commons, first by posting them on the Londonist Flickr pool if nothing else.

via Londonist

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