Swings and roundabouts when it comes to rights


The last week feels as if it has been a bit of mixed bag when it comes to photographers’ rights. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has acknowledged that the Association of Chief Police Officers must play a greater role in ensuring that police officers treat photographers appropriately. The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) is planning to release guidelines covering online privacy related specifically to images. Meanwhile, I was involved in a run-in with an aggressive security guard.

There’s very clear guidance out there for police officers, informing them what photographers’ rights are. Unfortunately, there have been numerous incidents where it is painfully obvious that some of them just aren’t aware of, or understand it. Let’s hope that the Home Secretary’s clout has a positive impact here.

What the guidelines produced by the ICO regarding the privacy of online images, and in particular those taken in public places, is anyone’s guess. In the past, the ICO has requested that photographers’ adopt a ‘common sense’ approach when placing images online. Let’s hope that they adopt a similarly ‘common sense’ approach.

As for my own experience, you might have noticed that very late on Thursday night I mentioned on Twitter that I had just seen a security guard threaten to toss a photographer’s camera into the Thames. How I ended up on the Thames Path with a group of people, some of whom were taking photos, and being intimidated by security guards is a bit of a long story, but key element here is that we were on a public footpath and the photographer was well within his rights.

This security guard was a singularly unpleasant bully, but he did have a bit a shock when the 5’1″ woman was insistent that no, we were allowed to take photos, really. I’m not sure how much the general public’s ignorance of what can and cannot be done with a photograph and the police’s lack of confidence when it comes to dealing with photographers feeds off of each other, so perhaps both the guidelines from the ICO and increased responsibility laid on police chiefs to keep their officers’ behaviour in check will help.

At the moment, I feel as if we’re taking one step forward and then another backwards when it comes to our rights to be able to take photos. The best solution that I can think of is to just keep on taking them.

(Thanks to Amateur Photographer for some news updates.)