11 April 2009

Should the press take pictures outside No. 10 Downing Street

Reading a couple of news items on Amateur Photographer and Shepherdpics raised an interesting conundrum in my little brain; Is photography of our daily life really allowed anymore?

First AP reports on a Crackdown on photography on the London Underground, and the creation of a paid for pass for shooting on the underground which is private property. At least this indicates that with the reasonable permission - and a route to get it, you can shoot on the London Underground, at least until some station staff decide the LU permit is 'not valid on this station'.

Secondly we have Sherpherdpics story about former Home Secretary David Blunkett commenting on the sacking of Britain's most senior anti-terrorism officer for displaying a top secret memo on the top of his papers leaving Downing Street. The officer was snapped by a member of the UK press from the designated press pen outside Downing Street.

So for private property like London Underground photographers have at least a route to get passes, though I wonder how many mobile phone camera users would apply? Then for the press in designated press areas outside the official residence of the UK prime minister it's suggested that it should not be allowed to take pictures of people leaving No. 10!

Should the various heads of departments take more care with what they show in public, or should photography be censored / banned to reduce the responsibility of being a top chief and having to carry top secret papers? Photographers often buy bags to make their photography kit less visible or liable to theft, do you think 'well paid' officials should be issued with document carrying bags as standard?




Anonymous said...

The London Underground has always officially required a permit to take pictures there, but they turn a blind eye to the occasional tourist snapshot as long as no-one is using flash on the platforms - big no-no to blind the train drivers.

The permit costs have always been ferocious, working from a few hundred to a few thousand, depending on usage. However, students could apply for a cheap or free permit. What the Underground have done is clarify the permit offerings and open up the cheap permit to non-pro enthusiast photographers as well, which I welcome. Bear in mind the permits are targeted heavily at people using the underground as an integral part of their works (e.g. people filming movies on the underground) and working in teams rather than people who take snapshots. Will there be some tourists who have station managers telling them to delete the picture they just took? Probably, but I can't see them having the time, manpower or inclination to stop all of them.

For some reason all the articles I've seen on this have mentioned the London Underground clarifying their website for permits, but no-one has actually linked to it. So here's the London Underground Film Office where you can find the permit application forms (bottom right).

And yes, I would love to do a photo project on the Underground.

Michael H said...

Was the Police man wrong for showing documents of such a top secret nature?? YES, it is his job to secure such information from all prying eyes. Was the photgrapher wrong for taking such a shot? NO, he was jobbing, authorised to be there and there is nothing wrong with that.

As for reducing the rights to photograph certain public interest buildings / scenes in the name of either national security or terrorism...you can go too far. I was detained by a very nice policeman at Heathrow terminal 5 under the prevention of terrorism act...my crime - using a professional looking camera to take photos of a building that was of interest to terrorist activity. Hmmm...I cooperated of course and willingly deleted the offending photos. But the bus load of japanese tourist snapping away with thier less professional camreas??? Not so...the police man even gave a ironic smile saying "I only police the laws, I don't make the, guv!!"

I hope that a bit of common sense over photography and our rights to photography is forthcoming and extended to photographing No 10 Downing Street amongst others :-)

Joe Fox Photography said...

'Reading a couple of news items on Amateur Photographer and Shepherdpics'

I watched State of Play last night and although a great film, it does take a sideswipe at comments like the above.

What you read wasnt 'news' it was 'opinion'.

Theres a huge difference. People commenting on comments about what someone thought was said or their interpretation of what was said, isnt reporting what was actually said.

You have Shepherdpics commenting on David Blunkett commenting on something. Thats not news. Its not even funny.

Next thing someone will be starting a petition on a website and others will be donning the white pointy hats and getting the petrol and pitchforks out.

Im losing count of the number of bloggers who call themselves 'journalists' and the number of flickerazzi that have a homemade printed out 'press' card hanging round their necks.

Real journalism is alive but its being hidden in the noise, accepting stories and images from PR companies and publishing them, taking feeds off wikipedia, reading what bloggers write as 'the truth' and then passing it on, its all just a downward spiral.

Its the weapons of mass destruction report gone mad.

George Orwell got it wrong. He was just a decade or three out.

My take on the london underground thing is that its always been the case to require a permit for professional or what looks like professional photography. If you are carrying a DSLR with a fake press card id and start waving your printed out 'photographers rights' card it will not help. Some of us have to play by the rules or its our jobs on the line.

As for press photographers being banned from No.10. Are people so stupid to realise that this is just smoke and mirrors? Start a debate about press photographers to move the conversation away from the clown who put top secret info in public view. I signed the official secrets act 15 years ago, if I'd left a doc like that on the train there was a possibility of being jailed.
Of course nowhere has anyone raised the conspiracy theory that the guy knew what he was doing and did it to ensure the raids went ahead in case any politician objected or did the whole 'wait until we see if they are actually guilty' routine. Thats opinion, maybe I should blog it somewhere and someone will report it as the truth because I said it.