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365 of Britain’s top photographers attack the state

There’s a very important sounding letter in tomorrow’s Telegraph from hundreds of photographers who are angry that the government is violating their rights with anti-terrorism powers. Alex Singleton says it’s significant because “the signatories are not a bunch of lippy anarchists, but a roll-call of establishment figures”. The letter writers are demanding a change in the law and the recognition that terrorists don’t need to lug about heavy Nikons and tripods.

13 comments to 365 of Britain’s top photographers attack the state

  • Speaking as a (not even remotely prominent) photographer, I object to Mr. Singleton’s implication that prominent photographers are a bunch of freedom-hating goosesteppers.

  • the other rob

    I have a lot of legacy SLR kit, big lenses, hammerhead flashes and so forth, which I still enjoy using from time to time . Though I don’t get it out anywhere as often as I used to.

    I can sympathize with the signatories, to an extent, but I must say that this reeks of special pleading. What about the ordinary folks whose only camera is in a cell phone? Are they not deserving of the protections of the law?

    As for “If our photography has an effect on law and order, it is beneficial, as wrongdoers are unlikely to commit crimes in close proximity to someone visibly holding a camera.” all I can say is, the last time I was aware of any effect like that was when a gang of gypsies threatened to shove my camera up my arse and hang me from a lamppost.

    I live in Texas these days, so it’s not directly my problem. But I doubt the solution will be equal parts elitism and amateur Chekists.

  • “I can sympathize with the signatories, to an extent, but I must say that this reeks of special pleading.”

    Agreed – it’s because they’re scared of the bully that they look for excuses for him to pick on someone else. Their opposition is of little value because it is not principled.

    Alex Singleton has this diametrically the wrong way around; it is precisely because the protestors are “establishment” figures that they can only stand against the government on the quicksands of a single-issue plea, and hence their protest lacks any real moral power. The anti-democratic implications of taking a principled and uncompromising stand against government not merely on this one issue, but on the basic premise of self-ownership, are enough to turn most people yellow.

    If you’re reading Alex: the moral power of protest does not increase in proportion to higher “establishment” status. And how else is a protest supposed to succeed except by the exercise of specifically moral power?

    Anyway, I’m just a lippy anarchist of course.

  • Gareth

    Didn’t one of the Magnum photographers use a compact camera or an iPhone for a while? A big camera is no sign of talent.

    If these photographers angle for special treatment and get it, a canny terrorist will then ape them and be left alone.

    The response from the Government will likely be ‘we will set up a registration system for photographers and you can all carry cards’ which would serve to officialise the harrassment of anyone without one – taking picture without a card being sufficient suspicion.

    Why are they trying to criminalising everything? It is no surprise that a Government stuffed to the brim with solicitors sees the answer to life, the Universe and everything as being More Law.

  • John B

    I don’t, exactly, know what this is about – last time I was in the UK was some while ago.
    Do I interpret correctly that it is against the law to take photographs?
    If so, wow, this is unbelievable. They really have come a long way along with their control agenda.
    Whether true or not, has anyone noticed that the measures introduced to deal with terrorism also always impact on day to day freedom.
    This from those with a technology that can hack more or less any computer in the world?
    There is another agenda at work here.

  • I object to Mr. Singleton’s implication that prominent photographers are a bunch of freedom-hating goosesteppers.

    I do not get that from his article but this clearly is ‘special pleading’ at work… they should not be arguing that “professional photographers should not be harassed”, they should be arguing against harassing anyone photographing things, even if they are using a camera phone and not just seeking the state’s mercy for people with expensive cameras.

  • Here’s their actual letter. In it, they’re referring both to professional and amateur photography.

  • Yes, the actual letter is great!

  • Alex, nope it’s special pleading, they letter singles out those with using “equipment larger than a compact camera” – so tourists of plebs with just compact cameras are fine to be harassed just leave the “proper” photographers alone. So no they’re not just pleading for the pro’s they’re pleading for photographers with expensive cameras.

  • A note on the “elitism” concern: maybe it’s different over there, but here in the US it’s the people with “pro-looking” cameras (amateurs use them to) that get harassed by the Gestapo (and by rent-a-cops to a much greater extent). Nobody bats an eye at the compact point and shoots and the ubiquitous cell-phone cameras. If the situation in the UK is anything like it is here, and the wording of the letter does rather strongly suggest that it is, the whole point is that it’s only the people with expensive (or expensive looking) cameras that are being harassed.

  • the other rob

    Ken Hagler – I can’t speak to how things are in the UK today, but some years ago I was a victim of common assault at the hands of a security guard in a well known shopping centre south of the river Thames.

    The camera I was using at the time (before digital cameras, cameras in cell phones etc.) was a bog standard compact camera that I typically carried at all times.

    So then, at least, the harassment was not limited to those with big shiny cameras.

  • It’s probably their perception that only people with big bulky cameras get harassed. That’s my perception too. But that’s probably because I carry a big bulky camera.