South Shields Daily Photo

A collection of images from South Shields and the North of England

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Curly in a Nikon, South Shields

South Shields Daily Photo in the news

Some of you may be aware of the difficulties faced by photographers in today’s modern society with it’s constantly shifting attitudes towards safety and privacy as illustrated in the post that I made in Curly’s Corner Shop on Monday 24th of this month. The story was subsequently picked up by our local newspaper The Shields Gazette and it was featured both in it’s printed issue and online edition yesterday.

It was a matter that I felt quite strongly about as photographers here in the UK and several other countries are afforded some basic legal rights and protections which are now becoming threatened by arbitrary police action and changing public perceptions. I don’t know if female photographers face the same “challenges” as males in this respect, or if they are less likely to be challenged by other members in society. I would welcome your views.

The situation has changed so much in recent years that Austin Mitchell, a Labour MP has tabled a motion in the House of Commons to try and return a little common sense to the issue, and to inform both the police and the public about the enjoyment of photography and to remind people that photography in public places is perfectly legal. If you have a couple of minutes to spare and would wish to help inform the debate, I would appreciate your comments added under this post.

The photograph above is of Tim Richardson’s Nikon (he is The Shields Gazette’s Chief photographer) and it shows my image in the display screen, one of several that he took for the news article -thanks Tim. The picture was taken at the rear of The Gazette’s office in South Shields.

Please add your comments about this “self portrait” under this post.

Camera details; Pentax K100D, 82mm lens, 1/180 second, f5.6, iso 200

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Written by curly

March 30, 2008 at 12:01 am

29 Responses

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  1. You are not alone in such an experience. I regularly follow the activities of a British photography project at http://www.geograph.org.uk where amateur photographers contribute images of all the square kilometers of the British Isles. In the forum are regular descriptions of such incidents – even with the police coming to their homes to investigate! Britian sounds more and more like the societies described in Fahrenheit 451 or The Prisoner. The State is allowed to photograph YOU any where, any time, but if you photograph The State or the world around you, you are deviant and dangerous. This is completely backwards, and has already gone too far.

    Also note a recent BoingBoing post responding to a new campaign by the London police:
    http://www.boingboing.net/2008/03/05/remixing-the-london.html

    It seems the forces of darkness have already won.

    Elaine
    http://willitsdailyphoto.blogspot.com/

    puffin1

    March 30, 2008 at 1:45 am

  2. maybe that’s true, but aren’t we prying a little ourselves into the privacy of the passersby in our photos? I often wonder how they would feel if they knew the photos I was taking were being seen by people all over the world??
    See this post: http://organicallycooked.blogspot.com/2008/03/in-search-of-food.html

    maria verivaki

    March 30, 2008 at 9:18 am

  3. Note to file: The “self portrait” wasn’t taken by “self”! (I like it none the less!)

    I don’t agree with a number of the posters on your other blog, who seem to think the Police did the right thing. If they had enough information about who you are to identify, they had no need to take you for a ride to the station, they surely were heavy handed in doing so. Stop you by all means, check your photos on the spot if they must, but why detain you? If you have no evidence on your person, you are unlikely to pick any up on the way to the station after all!

    I hope they had a bit of a chat to the “complainant” as well. Bet they didn’t.

    P
    Sunshine Coast Daily

    bitingmidge

    March 30, 2008 at 10:05 am

  4. Well done, Curkly – I’ll support your campaign! Well and truly sick of goons telling me where I can and can’t photograph, esp with respect to public spaces and buildings.

    Sally

    March 30, 2008 at 10:13 am

  5. I have nothing against privacy rules. They serve a valuable purpose in protecting PRIVACY. But how, I ask, can one be private in a public space??

    I support your campaign!

    Sakiwi

    March 30, 2008 at 10:56 am

  6. I am in favour of privacy rules. They are necessary to protect us from others intruding on our private spaces. But, I ask you, how can a public space be regarded as private, and how can one rely on a right to privacy in a public space?? I think it’s just ridiculous!

    I support your campaign.

    Sakiwi

    March 30, 2008 at 11:01 am

  7. There has been a number of similar stories in the Amateur Photographer about people doing their favourite hobby & being questioned by the authorities about what they were taking, whether it be a shopping centre or ordinary street scene. I have not been questioned myself by the police, but was asked once why I was taking a photo of a horse in a field. I said because it makes a good photo. I suppose she thought I was either a horse rustler or Pagan. Of course there are some people with cameras that are up to no good, but its unfair to taint all photographers with the same guilty brush.

    Gails_man

    March 30, 2008 at 12:29 pm

  8. In the U.S., we’ve had incidents where people. later proven to have links to terrorist organizations, have been apprehended photographing sensitive buildings and/or structures. That’s one thing. In your case it seems all to Orwellian. I suppose the next time I visit the U.K., I should fear using my camera to take photos of what I see on my journey. That others have commented defending the what the police did to you sends a chill down my spine. It seems the multiculturalists are very close to success in making the U.K. a police state. Appalling. Absolutely appalling.

    Louis la Vache

    March 30, 2008 at 1:09 pm

  9. I am sorry that things have got to this state but I am shocked that it is not an isolated case. Good luck!

    Jean Gibson

    March 30, 2008 at 1:29 pm

  10. I think if you are a photographer and are out taking pictures it is only a matter of time before you are stopped by someone in authority, and detained and questioned. It is a sad commentary of the society we live in and it is only getting worse. I was surprised that in very short time the police knew everything about you and even the tips you had given them in the past. Now that is scary!

    cluelessinboston

    March 30, 2008 at 2:27 pm

  11. Hi Curly
    Thank you so much for promoting awareness for this issue and encouraging debate.
    A similar issue arose last summer in New York. There was a large outcry within the artistic community over the ban of photography in public places. See this article.

    Basically photographers are prohibited from taking photographs in public places, without a permit. Fortunately, the fine print is limited: it applies only if two or more people want to photograph for 30 minutes or more, or if five or more people want to photograph using a tripod for more than 10 minutes.

    So the ban applies more to photoshoots, for instance. A single person snapping around is so far all right, provided he or she doesn’t linger too long. A couple professional photographer friends of mine were distraught by the ban.

    As for your news, I feel the issue is not so much about photography than it is about overall fear. People are scared – about stalkers and terrorists and child abduction and all else. It is a scary time. Taking a photo is no longer an innocent act.

    I sympathetic to that fear. It’s human. I only hope that we can regain the sense of safety. We’re moving in a direction of increasing anonymity, however. It’s all very sad.

    kitty

    March 30, 2008 at 2:29 pm

  12. It was after 9/11 a college student was working on a project. He was standing in the road taking photos of the oil terminal in Selma. Three big dudes at the oil terminal approached the student, took his camera away from him and called the police. When the police arrived, he decided that the student was not a terrorist , gave his camera back to him and told him to never take pictures of the oil terminal again.
    After reading this in the local paper, I could not contain myself. Don’t these people know that you can get a close up view of the oil terminal with coordinates from the internet? Since this happened I am more cautious of the pictures I take.

    Moon

    March 30, 2008 at 3:47 pm

  13. Curly, you might be interested to follow the blog of Thomas Hawk. Among other things, he posts periodically about his run-ins with security, police, etc., and takes a pretty strong stand on the issue. I wish I had some direct links to the posts dealing with the issue…. well, here’s one on a London anti-photography campaign.

    I’ve never had trouble myself here in Oregon, USA, but my hometown is small and I tend to take pictures outside most of the time. I can’t imagine having to live with the CCTV cameras all over the place… I hope I never will, but who knows what will happen in the future.

    Celine

    March 30, 2008 at 3:51 pm

  14. I saw your comment over on Quincy Daily Photo and thought I’d read and toss my two cents in. Just an arm chair photographer, but a graduate student in psychology this reminds me of a discourse we had in my research methods class. If we are to conduct unbiased social observational research, we have to have participants live their daily lives. By the very virtue of entering into society we enter into a social contract, allowing other people to observe or interact with us at will. We can rebuff these interactions but it is another persons inalliable right to observe the world around them. I, in my personal ethics, draw the line at documenting the personal goings on of an individual (documenting “two women walked through path on cell phones with other parties” is different than “a blonde woman talked about x while with a brunette, also on a phone, who talked about y on her phone”), but this, I feel, is a personal imperative. By all means if someone doesn’t want their photo taken, they can ask, please don’t, and we would be obliged to honor their request, but through the social contract who are they to infringe upon the rights of others?

    If you don’t want to play with others, stay out of the sandbox. No one is forced to participate in society (particularly with the advent of the internet!), therefore, no one should be able to limit the use of society by others.

    Meghan M.

    March 30, 2008 at 4:18 pm

  15. Interesting and annoying. I had a parallel experience in a small Umbrian town last year. I had been photographing among the stalls at the weekly market when I noticed all the “children” and many parents lined up at the school door waiting to go in. In the foreground was a really clever painted wall mural depicting diversity in the world of children. I liked the juxtaposition so made a few photos. 30 minutes or so later I’m stopped and questioned by two Italian police officers. They’d tracked me down at the other end of the market. Somebody had made a report. Why was I taking pictures of children. Fortunately it was not difficult (language aside) to demonstrate and convince them I was interested in the art and the kids in back were not in sharp focus … and I was harmless. Nevertheless, this was a worrisome encounter for a foreigner …

    Chuck

    March 30, 2008 at 4:34 pm

  16. This has been on my mind, too. In the most innocent of places (the grocery store, for example) I’ve been asked not to take photos. I comply, even if I think it’s silly, because there are other places to take photos.

    I agree with Kitty, it’s about fear. The advent of the internet, child abduction, pornography, terrorism, 9/11… I would add that the papparazzi has given the rest of us a bad name on both sides of the pond, and that has worsened since the death of Princess Diana.

    A little sanity and sensitivity on both sides of this issue would help. I took a photo yesterday of a little girl with her dog. I didn’t see her mother around, so I asked her to find her mother and introduce me. I didn’t have to do that; I could have posted the photo without the child’s name and gotten away with it. But the mother has a right to know her child’s been photographed. She granted me permission to post the photo without a name, which I’ll do later this week. I made a new friend and it’s goodwill for the blog. Can’t hurt.

    Now that I think about it, it’s not a bad idea for all of us to check with our municipalities and know our legal rights as we head out there to shoot.

    Petrea

    March 30, 2008 at 4:40 pm

  17. I think we all need to be thoughtful about what we post, but none of us are doing anything illegal and we really need to get a grip. I have had neighbors DEMAND that I quit blogging my neighborhood in fears that I am setting them up to be robbed…how ludicrous is that? I of course told them to read the Amendments.thank you very much! BUT how nervy thanks to being scared. I will do my part and be a thoughtful armchair photographer and get permission as I need it…but really, aren’t there more important things to worry about?

    Neva

    March 30, 2008 at 4:57 pm

  18. Personally I think the City Daily Photo Blog community is doing a service to reduce fear and misunderstanding. On a global level no less! When we post photos about where we live and the people who live there we humanize each other … Keep up the good work Curly.

    denton

    March 30, 2008 at 6:49 pm

  19. Keep the faith. Your portrait is quite creative. The joy of our art of photography. Always something fresh, something new and creative.

    Rob

    March 30, 2008 at 7:15 pm

  20. Brilliant. And I agree with everything that Denton has said, No. 18.

    Lynette

    March 30, 2008 at 8:31 pm

  21. Excuse the pun, but this is a curly one. While at times the “authorities” may go too far in interpreting, and then enforcing, the rights of the public, some level of vigilance is needed to protect those who may be exploited by the more unscrupulous elements of society.

    However, a fully kitted-out photographer is probably less of a threat than the countless thousands of folks who have mobile phones fitted with digital still and movie cameras. These devices are not obvious and thus would be much easier to use for inappropriate photography. The trouble is that a guy (by the way, do female photographers also get treated the way that you did?) with an SLR and large telephoto lens is, to put it simply, conspicuous and will draw attention.

    I really do sympathise with you; on many occasions I have not taken what may have been a good human interest shot for fear of my actions being misinterpreted by the subjects or those around them.

    Keep up the good work; I love your images.

    Phil O'Logus

    March 30, 2008 at 10:47 pm

  22. I have found some suspicion at times but public spaces are available for the camera and are not private . but i often ask first, and try not to be intrusive, often omiting persons or certain aspects out of the shot for privacy etc.

    julia

    March 30, 2008 at 11:38 pm

  23. WOW! That is really upsetting. IT IS LEGAL to take pictures in public places. Goodness!

    I had a somewhat similar experience (but at the same time quite different) after 911. I am a poet, and I like to write when the inspiration hits me.

    So I was driving along thinking of an idea for a poem, at night. I saw a pullover and pulled over and began madly jotting my poem when a cop pulled up, gumballs blazing, and leaped out and shined a light in my face. Someone had reported my suspicious behavior. I was treated like a criminal because I stopped to write a poem! (I don’t have time to write the whole story down.)

    I would be really really really upset if I were you!

    mary stabbins Taiit

    March 31, 2008 at 2:40 am

  24. Hi Curly…I’m glad to note that an MP is taking this issue up for discussion and clarification. As noted …Britain is the most “officially camera-surveyed” country in the world. Recently in a major transport terminal I checked with a policeman…..he told me that he was bound to tell me that I could only take snaps with permission. In discussion, he went on to sympathise telling me that of course people with wicked intent took photos all the time using clandestine mini-cameras. Sadly we are backing ourselves into a corner over fear of terrorism and panic about “perverts”. In an age when every mobile phone has a camera, and every public transport bus several cameras, it is madness to bear down on someone in the street who takes out a full size snapper and aims it at a nice archtictural feature or a general crowd scene.

    The police do sometimes get things wrong. There was a time when certain police forces bore down on Volvo cars driving with lights on……..we all know that this was due to mis-informed officialdom going too far.

    Chuckeroon

    March 31, 2008 at 11:31 am

  25. Being collared as a suspected pervert doesn’t sound very funny at all. I have never experienced something like that in Sweden,at least not yet. I’ve seen a lot of police activity around Haninge lately. There’s been a few bank robberies and more here the last month, so when I noticed four or five police cars and something like ten officers at the commuter station in Jordbro a while back I had to investigate. I walked up to the officer in charge and asked what was going on. He said it was police recruits training. I asked if I could take some photos. He said no which I found a bit odd so I walked away a bit and started shooting from a distance.

    Stefan Jansson

    March 31, 2008 at 3:59 pm

  26. I’ll tell you what, Curly, quite apart from anything else it’s a bit shabby that the local rag didn’t include a link to your website – or even its name. (and I think I prefer the one in the camera monitor to the one they used, too)

    The only thing I’d add to my previous comment (apart from my apologies for the typos) is that there’s an unfortunate truism: “To those who complain shall be given attention”. It doesn’t matter how unreasonable, how far fetched, how much trouble they cause to ordinary folk going about their lives; there is a certain kind of person who has discovered the pleasure of self abuse complaint. With their arm strengthened by the cause of self reghteousness, they pick up the phone and they complain. And do you know what? Those mechanisms set up to protect people like you and me actually start to work against us. “We have to follow it through” is the mantra you will hear time and again from the public servants at the sharp end. Even if they wanted to do so (which might actually call for more independence of thought than they are capable of) they are hidebound by process. Fair makes my blood boil.

    Ham

    March 31, 2008 at 4:20 pm

  27. (ah, the “self abuse” was meant to be with strikeout, that didn’t work)

    Ham

    March 31, 2008 at 4:21 pm

  28. I have always been conscious of privacy, even in a public place, but since your report of your encounter with the police have been even more so.

    To date I have only been challenged once when taking photos. That was at a recycling business – I was standing at the gate taking shots of an artistic nature and also with a view to posting a story on recycling. The proprietor asked what i was doing, and even when I explained my intentions he was not happy, so I deleted the photos to appease him. Must have thought I was an industrial spy.

    Gordon

    March 31, 2008 at 11:00 pm

  29. I had to respond to Neva’s post: ‘I have had neighbors DEMAND that I quit blogging my neighborhood in fears that I am setting them up to be robbed…how ludicrous is that?’

    Yes, it is. That’s nuts. What about Google Earth? You can zoom in and see homes on that site. There are also real estate sites showing house values, what each owner paid and when, etc. It’s public information.

    The difference is that by blogging it and assigning yourself as the photographer, you’re offering yourself up for criticism. When the information is posted under a site or service, then there’s no individual to blame.

    Neva’s neighbors and the others having trouble with this issue need to be more aware of what’s legal out there.

    kitty

    April 1, 2008 at 5:25 am


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