Monday, 28 April 2008

Photography and the Law

It's an old battle, and one which will no doubt rage for many years. Always something of a 'hot potato', the legalities of who can take photographs, where and when, are not always well defined.

I was recently sent a link to this article on the BBC news magazine website, which clearly highlights a number of factors from which the problem stems - most notably inexperience, lack of knowledge, fear and misunderstanding.

Certainly, I have seen a noticable change in how we (photographers) now have to approach certain subjects. For example, there was a time not that long ago when at a public event hosted by a client, and as part of my brief, I was able to freely take natural, unposed long-lens shots of children innocently playing on the grass. Not so any more. Now, I am always on my guard, keeping one eye on the parents and the other on the kids themselves.

There are two ways in which these situations could begin to unfold - either I continue shooting and wait for the parents to approach me with a myriad of questions or I take the time to go over to them to explain the situation and get the all-clear. By which time the moment has gone and I've missed some great shots.

Even with official accreditation, paperwork, contact details and passes to hand, we are not always guaranteed the access we require. And there is a lot of truth in what
Tom Geoghegan says in his piece, that "... the more professional a photographer, paradoxically, the more likely they are to be stopped or questioned."

Hardly seems fair, then, that with the acceptability that photo/mobile technology commands, it appears nobody is ever stopped from using their camera phone at these public events, yet the professionals are often viewed with an attitude of 'guilty until proven innocent'.

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