Tuesday, October 28, 2008
When Not to Photograph in a Public Place
or...Pap is a four-letter Word
World-renowned digital imaging Guru and best selling author Scott Kelby has been talking, on his Blog, about being prevented from photographing in the street, by a security guard working for the building he was snapping. Scott stood his ground (there’s a pun in there, somewhere) and told the security officer that he was within his rights to keep photographing, and if the security officer had a problem with that, she should go and call the cops (which didn’t happen). See my previous post on problems the UK press have faced from the UK Police.
Generally speaking, I think the biggest obstacles that photographers working in public places face are from lower-level security personnel, who don’t necessarily understand the laws that apply – and (more importantly) also feel that they are protecting the buildings and areas in their charge from unwanted attention. In certain cases, too, if those buildings or areas - shopping centres (malls), stately homes, sports complexes, for instance – are privately owned then the security personnel are within their rights to ask the photographer to stop taking pictures.
Just why we should be stopped is another matter entirely. Obviously, the climate of potential terrorist attack has heightened concerns about security – but it’s not enough to say “we have to make sure you’re not a potential terrorist, and we can’t be sure, so we stop everyone”. Personally, I think that reasoning is rash generalization in the extreme, and not necessarily a valid argument.
Maybe the issue is a lot simpler than that. Perhaps it’s got more to do with the overall bad name that photographers have in the mind of the general public?
Last week, I was photographing (with full permission of the management) inside the famous Curragh Race Course, in Kildare, Ireland. As two punters passed me, one said to the other “oh, there is a 'pap' here”. I could here the disdain in his voice, and I turned to them with a smile on my face and said “I doubt there’s a bigger insult you could pay me”. The man smiled back saying “yes, it’s a bit of dirty word, isn’t it?” I explained what I was doing there, that I had permission and that (unlike the true paparazzi) I do care if I tread on people’s toes. Actually, we ended up having a good old chinwag – but probably because I kept smiling as I made my points.
But it made me think. Does carrying a camera in the street say something to the public? And, is that something not necessarily a good message?
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