Brit MP calls for photographers' rights

Chris sez, "British MP Austin Mitchell has finally started trying to get the government to talk sense into the mob of self-appointed goons and bullyboy rentacops who try to stop you taking shots in perfectly legal, public domain areas. About time too."
"People have complained about photographers being stopped from taking pictures by police, PCSOs, wardens and by various officious people," he said.

"People have a right to take photographs and to start interfering with that is crazy. It seems crazy when the streets are festooned with closed-circuit television cameras that the public should be stopped from using cameras.

"The proliferation of digital cameras and mobile phones with cameras means that everybody carries a camera these days."

Link (Thanks, Chris!)


  1. Wow, a guy in the government who understands some of the problems that “anti-terrorist” measures are causing. This IS news.

    Too bad he’s probably the only one.

  2. I think George Lucas hit on something when he said we are at a loss because we don’t own the right to our own image. Photographers should not magically have the right to take pictures of whatever they want, or whoever they want, and then own it. I prefer a privacy-based society.

  3. It’s ironic that on the one hand a Brit MP wants to allow greater freedom for photographers but at the same time would probably criticise the activities of the Paparazzi .

    But being a politician I suppose he wants it both ways .

  4. @3 – If you want privacy, don’t go out in public. Once you go into the public sphere, everything you say and do is up for grabs. When you go out in public, you have to understand that you will, be seen, heard, judged, and remembered by people around you. They own their interpretation and their memory of everything they experience, and a photograph is just a physical manifestation of of that interpretation.

    If the went home and sketched you from memory, would that be any different? Would you own the sketch? What if they described you in writing? Who would own the description? What if they simply described you verbally to a friend? Who would own that description?

  5. everyone who wishes preserve the right to photography in public should help the cause. Even if your cellphone does not have a camera, or if you never use it, stop several times a day and engage in simulated photography. If questioned, just say “No, I’m not.”

    A street full of people with a quarter of them snapping random shots ought to get the message across.

  6. Hmm. This is Mitchell swinging into action a mere two and a half years after he was harassed at his own party conference for taking a photo of a queue (link).

    He’s slow to take offence.

  7. I wrote to my MP (Greg Hands) to make him aware of Austin Mitchell’s position.

    Greg Hands replied within a few days with standard reply snail mail but added a hand written note.

    Mr Hands proclaimed that he is an amateur photographer himself and that he hasn’t noticed any frequent stoppings by the police.

    I think he may be right in fact.

    Besides 3 incidents I have read about on line (you are one of them Cory) it hasn’t happened to me nor any close friend.

    I shall be doing some night photography in London fairly soon with tripod and big lenses and all so I will test exactly how oppressive the climate is!

  8. @4: Do you not see a difference between photographers and Paparazzi? The activities of the latter border on harassment and stalking, and the methods which they employ to get their photographs pose a serious threat to the safety of their target and everyone around them.

    See also: Princess Diana.

  9. I’ve certainly been approached by Police – mostly in NYC – and told that I am ‘not allowed’ to take photo’s in certain areas. I usually take a shot of the cop and walk away. I know of at least one person who likes to shoot in the subway and carries a copy of the law that stipulates that it’s legal to do so, because he’s been approached so often.

    I think its a pretty serious infringement; and am willing to be confrontational when approached.


  10. now that “sunglass cameras” are known to exist; eveyone with sunglasses: stand around in public staring fixedly at things and tap your temples occasionally.

  11. no,no… wait a minute: here! Pantomime taking pictures with a very small camera and when questioned, insist there is no camera.

  12. #3/#6

    I agree entirely wth GPark on this one, outside your own property is “public domain” and any pictures/glimpses taken as such are the property of the photographer/glimpser.

    If you have ever looked over old photography books, or viewed photo collections, you will know that most of the photography that has endured for us, as especially touching or artistic, are candid shots of people going about their lives. Should these all be destroyed because we need to reassert a new level of public-privacy?

    Now, having said that, I assert that there is something to be said for respecting personal space and against harrassment, eg. the paparazzi. I don’t think these two views conflict, I think there is a level of decency and social etiquette that photographers (pro/am) tend to aspire to, but which the paparazzi sink beneath repeatedly, as a matter of doing-their-job. There is no Nuremberg Defense here.

    #4 Caledonian Jim, I think it’s vastly unfair (and unrealistic) to put normal people taking photographs of their environment on the same level as:

    1) professional photographers

    2) professional photographers who are intending to sell their pictures to a nation-wide (possibly global) newspaper/magazine, (no I don’t think flickr is the same).

    3) professional photographers, going out of their way to relentlously hound and chase famous or remotely-famous people, until they “catch” them doing something candidly personal (being drunk/picking their nose/not looking oscar-night-glamorous at the shops), or indeed just until they get a good enough shot, showing the target mid-blink, maybe mouth half open, and label it “celeb too deranged to know whats going on” etc. repeat, repeat, repeat

    The paparazzi are SCUM, and the people who support them by buying celeb magazines are willfully-ignorant-SCUM who pretend it’s just “all in good fun”, while actualy it’s dragging down the level of respect and decency we can all expect as we go about our daily lives.

    Sorry, that’s a small rant I’ve had in my head for a long time, BUT to liken the paparazzi to common photographers (pro or amateur) is ridiculous and needs a stark reply.

  13. I have been told by Toronto Transit Commission Special Constables that it is “illegal” to take photos of Toronto’s Union Station even while standing on a public sidewalk.

    I have been told by two Group 4/Falk private security guards that I am “forbidden” to take photos of Toronto’s Eaton Centre, again, while standing on a public sidewalk.

    And two weeks ago a Toronto Police Services officer screamed from his passing cruiser that I should “Put that away!” and pointed at the camera I was using to take photos of street scenes in Toronto’s Financial District.

    So, yeah. I happens.

  14. firstly: kill papararazi and the idiots who buy their crap.

    Dear Suspect:

    I hope you called these douchebags on every moronic statement.

    We need someone to silkscreen some t-shirts: “TERRORIST PHOTOGRAPHER!” And watch their tiny, fascist brains melt.

  15. Dear Takuan:

    Well, the officer in the cruiser sped off before I could say anything, and I was frankly intimidated by the Special Constables who, in fact, are Real Police and can actually arrest people. (Though I have no doubt that I would be arrested for Creating a Disturbance or something unrelated to photography.)

    I did however unload on the Group 4 rent-a-cops. They thought it was all very amusing until I pulled out my cellphone and threatened to phone for Real Police, at which point they both found something better to do.

    Authoritarians eat their own.

  16. @10

    If you really believe that the Paparazzi killed Diana then dream on . In a sense her ambivalence about publicity was exactly the same as this MP’s .

  17. Takuan, I have a better idea. A papercraft camera done to exact size. Carry it around and pretend to snap photos. Or use a real version of the same camera but carry a papercraft one on you. Produce the paper one when challenged.

  18. Wouldn’t it be useful if there was at least ONE programme on the many useless TV stations that we have that detailed just how many rights we have left to do the things we thought we always had the right to do?

    Only found out last week that the penknife that I carry in my bag is so illegal it could get me prison-time. Millet’s might sell them, but you can’t use them outside the home. Go figure.

  19. Stop bringing your Private into our Public and then being upset when your privacy is intruded upon. If you want privacy, do it in Private, not Public!

  20. I have blogged on exactly the same issue today, following an unsavoury incident when I too was detained in a police car simply for taking photographs.

    I trust that all photographers will do something to back Mr. Mitchell’s campaign

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