Mar 242009
 

An afternoon bicycle, nothing more.

I’m pretty sure that everybody who reads this blog, reads The Online Photographer as well, but in case it ain’t, here is some important information for my British readers. I just repeat what I have written in a mail to a friend:

The Online Photographer recently reported about a petition to the British government. There is a new law in the UK, that makes it illegal to take photographs in public places, in case they “may be of use for terrorism“. This is vague at best. It is the kind of malicious vagueness that should be impossible in any self-respecting democracy. It gives the police complete power to act whenever they feel so, against anyone, without any restriction, without any control. Act in any way a police officer dislikes, and you have committed a crime. No discussions possible. The crime is to act against someone’s arbitrary judgment.

Whatever the reasons are, and terrorism has been abused a lot lately to pass laws like this, this is a law that never should have passed, a kind of law that is incompatible with democracy as we know it.

There is a petition that any British citizen or resident may sign. I would if I could, but at least I can ask my British readers to consider signing. The address is http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/Photorestrict/

Please also spread the word. Of course this is important for me as a photographer, but even if neither you or anyone in your family are affected (which may well be), this is important to us all. Ultimately this means to stand up against creeping totalitarianism.

One other creepy thing: As I said, I sent mail to a friend in Britain, asking her to consider signing, and although I’d say that she is one of the more politically active people, she says she has never heard of the law. That’s another sign of creeping totalitarianism: They always begin with minorities, carefully pick out their victims, test how far they can go, try to cut away our freedom piece by piece. Let’s stop them now!

Well, no good fit for what I just said, but a perfect fit for the image: The Song of the Day is “Hangin’ Round” from Lou Reed’s 1972 stellar masterpiece “Transformer”. Hear it on YouTube.

  4 Responses to “892 – Hangin’ Round”

  1. Not that I’m defending the new law, far from it, but what you’ve said isn’t accurate. It’s photographs of police officers and other security personnel that are the problem, not ‘photographs in public places’.

    This is the BBC’s summary:

    It makes it an offence to “elicit, publish or communicate information” relating to members of the Armed Forces, intelligence services and police, which is “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”.

    More info here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7892273.stm

    Haven’t commented before, but I very much enjoy seeing your daily photos.

  2. Elizabeth, theoretically you are right, but in practice I have read (I believe in a comment to the article on The Online Photographer) about a photographer who got harassed and was forced to delete a couple of images made in a park. In the background, blurred and impossible to identify, were two police officers.

    The problem is, that in street photography you never have the whole situation under control. Imagine you stand at a corner, the light is just right, you are photographing a rapidly changing scene, suddenly all comes together, people, cars, everything is in position, everything rhymes, everything is aligned, you know you have been lucky. It’s one of those unrepeatable moments and …

    … suddenly a police officer tells you to delete the images that you just made. And really, there is a police officer in your masterpiece, not identifyable, out of focus indeed, but you you can’t argue the officer being there.

    What would you do?

    Even worse: they talk about members of intelligence services. You won’t even be able to recognize them beforehand, will you?

    Theoretically you are right, in practice the terms are still so loosely defined, that the outcome depends on an arbitrary decision of an officer, not on a strictly defined law.

    This kind of “laws” are typically found in totalitarian states. Their primary use is to keep everybody potentially guilty and therefore in constant fear.

    No, there is no way out of it: this law is not compatible with the spirit of democracy.

  3. Theoretically you are right, in practice the terms are still so loosely defined, that the outcome depends on an arbitrary decision of an officer, not on a strictly defined law.

    This kind of “laws” are typically found in totalitarian states. Their primary use is to keep everybody potentially guilty and therefore in constant fear.

    I have no argument with any of that.

  4. Here in Finland we haven’t had too much trouble with paranoid attitudes towards photographers, but some things are open for debate, for example the definition of “public place”.

    Currently, shops, shopping malls etc. are public places, but this is not always understood or known by the guards or salespeople. Thus I was forbidden to take photos (of colorful objects) in a shop recently. First time this happened to me.

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