Photographer’s Protest Snaps For Our Freedom

January 28, 2010

Nelson was blinded in his one good eye by the popping of flashbulbs at Trafalgar Square last weekend as Photographers, both professional and amateur, held a protest against being harassed under section 44 of the Terrorism Act. For your information, section 44 is a special stop and search power where police can stop you without suspicion in key areas of London with the aim of making it difficult for potential terrorists to scope targets for future atrocities. The result of the nonsensical use of this law has created tension with Photographers as they’ve found themselves at the wrong end of it, being stopped and in some instances ordered to delete images for attempting to take photographs of such diverse subjects as St. Paul’s Cathedral, Christmas lights and a chip shop!

The European Court of Human Rights recently ruled the power to stop people without suspicion was indiscriminate. The government is appealing of course, asserting that it’s vital to make cities a hostile place for possible attackers. Let me have a word in the ear of this government. It’s not making the city hostile to attackers. It’s making it hostile for the rest of us, you muppets. The people who want to do a reconnaissance for a future attack, will probably use a hidden camera of some sort, easily available online, or in shops that specialize in that kind of espionage. They’re not going to attract attention to themselves by brandishing a big fuck off Hasselblad on a tripod. That doesn’t make sense, but then these days, common sense seems to be in short supply here. It’s the lack of common sense that led to photographers finally snapping (no pun intended here) and holding this protest.

I only found out about it on Saturday morning and by the time I arrived with my little compact camera to show my support, it was all over. I walked towards a man who I thought was at the fag end of the protest to find his group was trying to draw attention to what they see as the arrival of the new world order. Another man joined us and we ended up having a conversation about how what’s happening with the Photographers is an example of how much our freedom is being taken away by this government. I wondered if by standing and having an interesting free discussion with these people I would be photographed by the powers that be and placed in some file to be branded as an agitator. I most definitely am not, but I’m angry that more of us have to justify our movements and are effectively being seen as criminals for just going about our daily business. I would expect this in some countries on this planet. It would’ve been a Russian staple in the cold war, but here in Blighty, until recently, I thought I was a free citizen. I don’t remember it being like this when we had the IRA to deal with for 30 years.

Recently there’s been news of surveillance increase with the planned use of unmanned spy drones to monitor us (like we haven’t already taken the prize for being the most watched country in Europe, if not the world). Young people are being given the ‘opportunity’ to buy an ID card for £30 (unlikely that most young people have that kind of money to spare), which has to be amended at a cost every time they move home, or they’ll be fined (that old government stick to make us obey, works every time). Given that young people are the group most likely to move around a lot, it’s a licence to print money, like its predecessors the parking and speed camera ticket. It’s the universally reviled ID card being bought in by the back door and it’s bang out of order.

I strongly believe, as I said to the men I was speaking to that Saturday, that there will be a tipping point in this country as everyone has their threshold which once crossed will lead to a fight back. Think of your own personal tipping points and you’ll know what I mean. How long it will take, though is anyone’s guess. I just hope it won’t be when it’s too late.



  1. hey, hope you are ok, we met at that leave the photographers alone gig in trafagar square that wasn’t really advertised

    this is my response

    t = error

    the soul of the state is ever vunerable to exposure

    and that should be our sole aim

    because initially it was flash photography that was not permitted in the quiet shadows of the national gallery
lest we should see its notion of the aesthetic in different ways

    but with the advent of the digital
the 0 and 1’s

    a technology that handed throwaway reproductive powers to the irresponsible masses

    a line was crosse

    we need to re-capture subversive artistic aspiration

    and harness it to the corporate will.

    we need to say ‘ you are all’

    as long as you are successful in our way.

    • Thanks for this Desik. I moved your comment to this post as I hadn’t yet written about the events of Saturday and although you clearly had something to say, I held it until I had written my piece. It was more appropriate to place your comment here.

  2. Yup! One guy on the photodesk here knows loads of cases of innocent photographers and tourists having their memory cards taken by police and issued with warning papers etc… its like the Stasi!

    Well done for trying to get there!


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