For the past 8 years I have done a street photography workshop in Brighton that is probably the most popular workshop I do. I'd never had a problem until 2 years ago when I was with a small group of 4 while the remaining participants were working elsewhere using techniques that I had shown them earlier. We were on Brighton Pier when 4 very big security guards confronted me and told me that they wanted all 5 of us to go with them to the security office. I asked why and was told that it was because we were taking photographs, I replied that I would if every other visitor taking photographs did the same. The atmosphere got ugly and the best thing to do was to comply with their demand and I was told that they would tell me why we had been singled out when we got there. When we did get to the office they refused to talk to us and brought in a man of about 35 who immediately pointed to me and demanded that I should be arrested and my cameras and computer at home be seized by the police. I tried to tell them that I was leading a workshop but they would not listen even when we produced the official paperwork from the workshop company that employ me to do it. The man making the accusation was an American on holiday and had seen one of the workshop participants photographing in the direction of his two young children and had jumped to the conclusion that we were a bunch of paedofiles, hence the demand to seize my computer.The pier security chief appeared and called the police who arrived and after quite a grilling they believed us and the American apologised. We still do the same workshop but we now inform the police two weeks before and tell the participants not to photograph children unless thay have spoken to parents or adults who are with them.
I spent two years photographing the communities of North and West Belfast during the troubles there and most of the photographs were of children and never had a problem, in fact I had no problems with any part of that project despite there being a lot of unpleasant things happening. I moved freely around the so called hell holes of Shankhill Road, The Falls Road and The Ardoyne and never hid the cameras or the fact that I was an Englishman.
Sadly, the world has changed in the last few years and street photography is getting very difficult and I now always think three times before I make the exposure, especially where children are concerned. I do encourage people who attend my workshop to engage people in conversation and it does work. My early street photography was all done without asking people if I could make the photograph but I now spend much more time in conversation before making photographs. The only place that I have visited and would not make photographs in the street is Cape Town in South Africa, some of the places I visited were not really very nice and I thought it was prudent to keep the camera out of sight.
I can sympathise with the issue Les had and wish I could say that it was just an isolated incident.I visit parks mainly for my photographs and make a concerned effort not to do anything near other people or on the weekends-limiting myself primarily to weekdays when off.I have on occasion recieved nasty looks from people when I pull out a camera and children are in the area,so now I avoid the siuation whenever possible.Also I tend to wear fatigues and don't shave when I'm out and more often than not I now get friendly hello's-guess their either scared or think I'm in the military.
"An object never performs the same function as its name or its image"-Rene Magritte
"An image of a dog does not bite"-William James applied to photography
I can only suggest that you be careful around "the ugly american", the deluge of american tourist stories from friends abroad is a constant source of embarrassment.
A related issue, as we get deeper into the twilight of western civilization, I have found when shooting my street scenes (usually buildings) that the "knuckle-draggers" tend to react with deep suspicion and distaste if I admit it's a purely creative or artistic endeavor.
I have learned to suggest that I am taking photos for the city (government) in some unspecified capacity. Since the 4x5 is often confused with surveying gear, this seems to satisfy them.
Just a thought, do people who are actually out sureveying get stopped by the same people and asked if they are surveying?
Maybe they subconsciously get confused when the see a photographer that they think is a surveyer because there isn't another guy standing in front of the camera holding up a surveyer stick. So they feel they have to ask to make sure that who they think is a surveyer is doing their job correctly.
Last edited by John McCallum; 07-13-2004 at 11:21 PM. Click to view previous post history.
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Here in the Washington area the fascism is so blatant and pervasive that hardly a day goes by without our hearing of some fresh outrage against the very idea of personal liberty. The official mentality trickles down to infect nearly everyone. One of the reasons I photograph at the cathedrals and the monastery so much is that an artist can feel welcomed in those places. I'm treated like a criminal in most public places as soon as I set up a tripod.
One thing I've noticed: the one piece of equipment most likely to set them off is the tripod. I don't get hassled much at all when I'm using my Hasselblad handheld.
That is what I find so curious. You would think that using a tripod would make you so flagrantly obvious that you wouldn't be particularly suspicious. And yet in almost all the similar stories that I've heard, the photographer was out in the open, using a tripod. If I was looking out for terrorists, it would be the guy sneaking around taking pictures surrepticiously with a camera phone or tiny digital that would catch my attention.
Originally Posted by c6h6o3
That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
Yup, it's always the tripod.
This has nothing to do with real security concerns, people hate and resent anyone who has unacceptable hobbies or interests beyond television, cars, etc.
Yes, everyone knows paedophiles travel in open public groups.
Originally Posted by Les McLean
After 911 I kind of lost the knack for street photography. I teach college, and one of the classes I teach is on urban development, so I often use the pictures I take of urban environments. I generally feel extremely uncomfortable taking pictures of people without their explicit permission. I rarely use a zoom lens, basically, I shoot everything with a 50 mm and 85 mm prime.
I am currently in Berlin, working on a little mini-project called the "Blade-runnerization" of cities (e.g., how urban environments have increasingly been taken over by advertisement and huge flashing and moving billboards).
My approach is to ask permission before I take a picture, especially when taking pictures of official buildings (goverment, etc.). If I see a security guard, I go up to him and ask whether it's ok to snap away (rolling out my credentials if necessary).
I used to love taking pics of kids. But now? Forget about it! Luckily, I have 7 step sisters and brothers, so there are plenty of photo opportunities.
I also think it's important to respect people's private spheres (independent of what the law allows you to do or not), so clandestine photography is out of the question for me.