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I'm a photographer...

Phil Coomes | 13:10 UK time, Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Photographers David Hoffman, Jess Hurd and Marc ValleePhotography seems to be going through many changes. To repeat an overused phrase, everyone is a photographer now. Cameras are relatively cheap and once you've bought it then that's it, each frame gets cheaper the more you shoot. Take a walk along the pavement in any city and you'll find tourists and keen photographers taking pictures of anything and everything.

Yet conversely, a growing number of photographers feel that it is becoming harder to shoot pictures in public spaces without legal restraint, or suspicion from members of the public.

Stories of photographers being stopped for taking pictures have become a regular feature in recent months ; here are two examples; one in Kent, and another in London.

Much of this seems to stem from the increase in security concerns around photography, which in London at least revolved around a Metropolitan Police campaign in 2008 that asked people to report suspicious activity by photographers. This was highlighted at the time by Amateur Photographer magazine among others.

Earlier this year photographers staged a mass gathering outside Scotland Yard because of a new law - Section 76 of the Counter Terrorism Act - that means anyone taking a photograph of a police officer could be deemed to have committed a criminal offence.

A growing band of press photographers are now campaigning against what they see as an erosion of press freedom and their rights to take pictures in public. "I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist!" aims to help photographers understand and uphold their legal rights. The photographers behind the campaign are Jess Hurd, David Hoffman, Jonathan Warren and Marc Vallee as well as Jeff Moore who heads the British Press Photographers' Association and is a long-time campaigner for photographers' rights.

The idea developed through Photoforum a monthly meeting and online community in which photographers show their work and discuss issues facing them.

Marc Vallee said "the site is designed for photographers by photographers", though it is not only aimed at professionals. The I'm a Photographer, Not a Terrorist website provides information such as a "bust card" that outlines rights and police powers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, as well as a map that shows areas in the UK where photography is restricted by law. This map will be updated as reports come in of further incidents and restrictions.

Marc says:

"While we occasionally receive individual reports of photographers being stopped while working through groups such as the NUJ, and stories of often bemused amateurs might make the local or national press, we still have no real idea of the scale of the issue. The aim of this is to map out how photography in public places is being impacted by these laws, to get the real picture."

Being photographers, of course, the site also has a gallery of pictures. The British Journal of Photography is also running a similar campaign.

One recent development is that the Metropolitan Police has issued updated guidelines which have been communicated to its officers (and community support officers) in which it states the Force

"[E]ncourage officers to be vigilant against terrorism but recognise the balance between effective policing and protecting Londoners and respecting the rights of the media and general public to take photographs".


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