Stopped by the police for taking photos!!

Discussion in 'UK All Regions' started by Mourr, Mar 19, 2009.

  1. Mourr

    Mourr Member

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    Hi,

    I am quite new into film photography, and enjoy taking pictures ( you know taking time, carefully composing, playing with light, doing photo trips...) in this medium much more than I used to with digital.

    Anyway, this afternoon I was in the car by the Battersea station (London) on Grovernor road around sunset time today. The light was beautiful, and I thought that it would be good to stop by and take some pictures with my new RZ67 and a spot meter that a friend of mine lend me. What I great opportunity, I said to myself to do some zone system experimental shots, which I am new to.

    So, on the river embankment overlooking the power station, I took my tripod and set out to take some pictures.
    After approx. 10 min, a metropolitan police car stopped and the officer started asking me questions on: what I am doing here, what I am photographing, If I was a professional photographer, why I am doing this... I told him I was taking photos for my own pleasure. On his look, he could not comprehend having such a big camera and being a hobbyist and started talking to me with incrudility. Anyway, I had to produce my ID card to one officer while the other was checking the car. Then I was asked if it was the owner, and the other officer started calling on the radio and checking the number plates. Minutes later, they told me that everything was fine and I "COULD" carry on taking shots and left.

    I said to myself OK..., that is weird and why do I have to justify myself. It is not like if I was photographing some sensitive site.
    Ten minute latter, the police came back and said we have a problem: your car insured has run out a week a go. Here is you have a fine of £200 and 6 points. I did not know that my insurance did effectively run out a week ago.
    The point is the systematic criminalisation of the photographer and the implicit permission from the authorities to photograph anything.
    Today, and I genuinely did not know that the insurance had run out, if I did not stop for taking pictures, I would not have been stopped by the police.
    I am not ranting about the insurance thing, but what enrage me is the need to the authority to ask you to explain yourself and its corrupt need to control .
    Anyway, may be I am overreacting because I a newbie photographer and as I gather experience in this field I would get used to it. But hold on!! this is horrible...Is that my destiny!!

    OK, for the sake of the argument, here is a link to the National Policing Improvement Agency on the PRACTICE ADVICE ON STOP AND SEARCH IN RELATION TO TERRORISM:
    http://www.npia.police.uk/en/docs/Stop_and_Search_in_Relation_to_Terrorism_-_2008.pdf
    Have a look at page: 19

    All the best,

    Rant over.

    Mourr
     
  2. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    but what enrage me is the need to the authority to ask you to explain yourself and its corrupt need to control .

    I don't agree with you, they didn't hassle you from what you say. They have a right to stop and ask you some questions. They stung you for having no insurance, that is their job, if you drive and have an accident with no insurance you are a liability. I wouldn't equate their behaviour with corruption.

    Also you were very close to the MI5 building at Vauxhall, :surprised:

    Yes, I don't think photographers should be hassled by police, security etc. for no apparent reason, but in this instance I don't see what the problem was?
     
  3. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    They asked you a few questions and went away. That is reasonable. The police are attracted to anyone doing something unusual. Had you been hopping along the embankment on one leg whilst wearing a pirate costume and a plastic parrot and singing the National Anthem they would have approached you: it's their training to investigate the unusual. The fact that they found you had committed an (unrelated) offence is simply evidence to them that it works...

    The important point as far as APUG is concerned is that they did not try to stop you photographing with some BS excuse and allowed you to continue doing so.

    In point of fact you were extremely lucky. They have the power to impound your car for not being insured which will have cost you a minimum of a couple of hundred to reclaim from the pound in addition to the fixed-penalty fine. In fact, I'm AMAZED they didn't. They must have liked you!
     
  4. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    *****
    Well, I understand this story transpired in Britain; still, I read just last week about a increase in gangs with pseudo political motives or splinter-IRA wannabees in and around Belfast. Heightened security around "soft" targets might be in order.
     
  5. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    I have to agree with Posts 2 and 3.

    Steve
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Unlike you I have had rougher treatment from UK Police.

    The first time was covering anti-Thatcher student demonstrations for the MUS Newsparer, I photographed two police officers kicking a student, I had my camera opened and the film ripped out & exposed/destroyed.

    The second time wasn't as confrontational but a Special Branch Officer took my films, one in the camera the other already exposed and deliberately fogged them, on that occasion I was photographing in a highly sensitive area, it was the planned Regional seat of Government in the case of Nuclear War, so secret no-one knew, well we did as it was on the Soviet traget list :D

    Ian
     
  7. Kino

    Kino Member

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    I sympathize with your economic pain, but it seems a case of really rotten luck.

    Yeah, if they had not been attracted to your camera, they probably wouldn't have run your plates, but that's pretty much SOP for any police force.

    Tough break.
     
  8. Markus Röhling

    Markus Röhling Member

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    I'm not familiar with English law, but why should the police have the right to ask somebody questions, who had not committed any offense (they posed questions before knowing about the expired insurance)?

    Markus
     
  9. DJGainer

    DJGainer Member

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    Pretty standard stuff. In the United States, as long as citizens are free to "go about their business" or "may ignore the police officer's questions and go about their business" the police have not detained or impeded the citizen in any way. So as long as the police officer is doing no more to restrict the movement of a citizen than another non-officer could legally do, there is no issue. After all, they are only asking questions!
     
  10. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    Because the UK government are gradually imposing totalitarianism. Compulsory ID cards, all telephone calls, text messages and emails logged, all car journeys tracked, all international travel logged (including travel itineraries in other countries logged), CCTV on all roads and town centres, photographing police officers to be a criminal act (open to individual officers interpretation).

    If you want to live in a free country, don't come to the UK.

    With regards to the OP, they didn't stop you photographing.
     
  11. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    I value my freedom, photographic, and otherwise. And, doubtless, photographing a potential IRA target (in the minds of the constabulary, at any rate) should not be a cause for alarm. Still, living where I do, just outside Washington DC, I sometimes think twice about where or how I photograph.

    Some years ago, when a certain royal personage came to Mt. Vernon Estate along with our then President, I thought a close-up picture of the two of them whizzing by the end of my street in a limo would be worth having. I then began unpacking my 300 mm Fotosniper Outfit and put it on the shoulder stock. Then, it dawned on me, that with our trigger-happy constabularly and with a Texican in the car, I thought----nawww.
     
  12. AgX

    AgX Member

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    I have experienced the same even without taking photographs. (Actually, I told the officers I was a photographer having a look at some scenery I came along, but then they wanted to see my camera. I told them I do not carry my camera all day, as they do not carry their uniform all day...)


    Of course one can argue about such a control (it is to the officers to determine in first instance what place is critical and what not.), but my identy has been mangled through their computers a hundred times. So a control as such is not an issue for me. As long as it is not repeatedly on me and only me. Something which happened too.
     
  13. Mourr

    Mourr Member

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    Hi guys,

    I appreciate your feedback, although I disagree a bit (post 2 & 3). This is a very symbolic issue.

    That is right the policeman were courteous. But, keeping the civilities a side, the simple fact that the police can come and ask you to justify yourself when you are taking photos from a non sensitive site (from I was standing I could not see the MI5 building, but actually that building is being taken in photos by thousands of tourists every day) is bizzare and controlling.
    I also thing that one should not wait until the point to be hassled to find that this situation we are living in is abnormal.

    I also done some reading on this issue today, that this is not just happening to amateur/photographers but also to journalists...that is another debate!

    You know I feel, as an art photography is little about freedom. But more than this, the freedom of taking photo has been for a long time a benchmark tool for the degree of freedom that a given country enjoys.

    The fact that I related the insurance thing is imply to highlight this: If you go out taking photos, you are suspicious and make sure that your life is ALL is in order!

    In the past the police did not used to have this kind of power and a legislation has been introduced, so to the risk of repeating myself, we moved from two different situations without even having a public debate. What worries me, is there is no real guidelines on how police interventions are done in the practical terms of this matter and you are at the mercy of the policeman mood.

    Finally, in a free society photographers (whether they consider themselves as artists or not) have the right to enjoy their work (within certain limits that everybody understand) without having to justify to anyone. Otherwise, let put in place a system of photographer permit as this happen in police (ed) states.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 19, 2009
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  15. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Concerning the past: In the 70's I have been bullied by a guy in civil, seemingly accompaning the uniformed police, who threatened to beat me up as I was taking a photograph of a policeman beating up a guy lying on the ground.

    So, just being controlled may be a change to the better...


    Though you and AndyK might argue I'm giving in to authority control.
     
  16. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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  17. Mourr

    Mourr Member

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    May be it is me, but I don't find that normal or benign to be questioned if did not do anything illegal. This the prerogative of free citizens. otherwise, we should revise this definition. Sadly, we often justify all sort abuses because of security matters.

    I would like to think that in our common ideal, that the government will always thrive and fight to keep the balance right.
    As one of the Romans said (cant remember which senator or Cesar) the decay of society freedom's is proportional to the number of laws that its governemnt vote.
     
  18. alan doyle

    alan doyle Member

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    battersea power station top terrorist target. ha ha.

    a tumbling vacant wreck of a building,an ex power station not exactly no1 on the list of terror targets.
    how about arresting the billionaire developer owner of battersea power station, that took the roof off and is waiting for the building to fall down.
    how about rounding up all the corrupt bankers and treating them like criminals.
    the fact is you are a very easy target,it is easier for the police to get money and busts from car crime than proper investigations.
    sheer bone idleness.
    easier to bother you with a camera than break up a pub fight.
    easier picking on school kids for bus fare dodging than waiting in the cold,
    in the hope of catching a mugger.
    you are easy pickings,maybe you should become a mason:smile:
     
  19. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Ahh, I see that the IRA-wannabees would not be scoping out a vacant wreck of a building. Here, I was under the impression the building was something other than a derelict.
     
  20. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    There's an even bigger problem in my mind. We're seeing more and more stories of police overstepping their bounds, (sometimes by more than a little bit) and this is leading to growing distrust of the police by the public they supposedly serve. When ordinary citizens, (like photographers doing what they've always done) start feeling themselves on the other side from the police the police cannot do their jobs. The police rely on the cooperation of the citizenry to be effective. If that begins to break down it all breaks down. At this stage in the game the recession is making everyone, (unless you're an AIG or Merrill Lynch exec) "on-edge" and I'm seriously concerned that something stupid will happen.

    As for the MI-5 HQ every time there's an intelligence news story every reporter in the world is doing live broadcasts on the steps. If the MI-5 building was the real reason for the Police involvement then we've got problems.

    JMHO

    Bob H
     
  21. Mourr

    Mourr Member

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    Thanks guys for your support!! I am glad to see that they are photographers ( whether beginner -like me- or veterans) that find that it is not just OKay to hassle us in our work.

    would they hassle a watermark painter? what happen if here is very fast and produces 10 paints a minutes? would they take his paint brush, canvas and palette?

    From Anton post :
    "However, the biggest problem photographers face is the ignorance on behalf of public officials (police officers, Community Support Officers and (especially) private security guards), the owners of property and subjects. Very few officials understand the law and there are plenty of examples of photographer being told by police and community support officers that they are not allowed to take pictures, when in fact they are perfectly within their rights. See here for examples. "

    Is there is no awareness work that the authorities/officials could undertake to avoid alienating members of the public?
     
  22. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    If you saw it you'd probably recognise it. Battersea power station is the building on the cover of Pink Floyd's 'Animals' album.
     
  23. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that the officers, and certainly the senior officer do know and understand the law. It's either not being communicated to the beat officers - or it's being ignored. Either which way it's a problem. Andy K was talking about the whole totalitarianism thing. I know the U.K. decided to implement the Total Information Awareness thing. Here, it was officially withdrawn due to 1.) public outcry and 2.) the fact that Admiral John Poindexter, (yes he of Irangate conviction) was running it. It's in DARPA now - so, like everything else in DARPA it's not really happening! I believe it's Poindexter's company that's doing it for the U.K. Nice to know we're all in the hands of a convicted, (but pardoned, of course) felon. Plus, we all know how good our governments are at safeguarding the information in their charge!!

    You're getting me going guys!!!!!!!!!

    Bob H
     
  24. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    In the past, Posts from the UK on this subject usually talked about film being fogged or just destroyed, camera seized, and photographers being arrested. The fact that the OP was handled civilly is an improvement. Not perfect, but an improvement.

    Steve
     
  25. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    Behold the Power of APUG :D:D:D

    Bob H
     
  26. AgX

    AgX Member

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    But let's get practical: How to react?

    Starting a campaign against that kind of control?
    We should not forget that many people want that control, so it's not just the authority.

    Just have oneself checked and go further as long as they don't stop you taking photographs?
    Well, I have nothing to hide at a police control, but they might think, that guy has been mangled that often through the computer, there must be something wrong with him.