Archive for May, 2010

May Branch Newsletter

18th May, 2010

On the Campaign Trial

Next weeks branch meeting will feature a panel of branch photographers who covered the election discussing how the media were manipulated, working without accreditation and paying for access.

Photographers Stephen Simpson and Graeme Robertson will be talking about their experiences.

We will be running a slideshow of election coverage so send your best pictures from the campaign trail as JPEGs, 1024px on the longest side in the sRGB colour space to editor@londonphotographers.org. Any motions to the branch should be sent to the branch secretary prior to the meeting.

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Abuse of Terror laws continues

10th May, 2010

Branch member Grant Smith has sent this account of a stop and search under s44 of the Terrorism Act. The incident happened earlier today in the City of London whilst Grant was doing some test shots for an environmental portrait of an architect. This comes just weeks after the Metropolitan Police issued new guidance to officers about using s44 on photographers.

The incident clearly shows how officers are continuing to abuse Terror laws and how security guards are abusing their position by calling the police every time somebody photographs a building, which they claim is not allowed, but is of course perfectly legal and legitimate.

Can I Please Have My Mobile Phone Back, Officer?

I spent the weekend in Derby at the National Photography Symposium and was involved in a panel discussion on ‘Photography, Security and Terrorism. How ironic that my first assignment back in London today saw me experience again the public humiliation of a detention and a physical search by a City of London police officer.

A security guard tries to stop Grant photographing a building. Image © Grant Smith 2010

Scouting for a location on London Wall for a portrait of one of the architect’s responsible for the City’s changing skyline, I went to One Aldermanbury Square. Loaded with a Canon g10, I wandered around the base of the building taking recce shots. A guard employed by the building waved his hands at me, asserting that I couldn’t photograph this building. As I stood on the pavement opposite the building I told him he was wrong, and I had every right to photograph, which I kept on doing. Another guard approached saying the same thing, and that if I didn’t move he’d call the police. (He recognised me from a previous occasion when he had warned me off, which had also resulted in a police response. On that occasion they were satisfied that I was within my rights and I had done nothing wrong. Thus the security guards had prior confirmation from the police that I was a photographer, not a terrorist.) I wandered back and forth, sizing up my locations and where I would place my subject. I walked along London Wall high walk, and saw the frenzied police activity below. Four officers had arrived and were in animated discussion with the guards. A police van with flashing lights sped out of Wood Street and eyeballed me, fixing my position.  Uniformed police approached me from both directions. I continued walking and photographing. PC 374 walked towards me and greeted me with a cheery ‘Hello’. I responded in like fashion and continued to walk on as he spoke into his radio. He stopped me with his hand firmly on my chest. I asked if I was being detained.

‘I’d just like a word with you.’

Am I being detained? ‘Yes you are.’

Under what grounds? ‘Section 44(2) of the Terrorism Act.

Why? ‘If you’ll let me finish’, he responded. ‘And you are?’ He inquired the way a school bully might query anyone on their patch.

I wanted to know why I was being detained, and what were the reasonable grounds. ‘The guards at the building over the road alerted us to someone acting suspiciously. And under Section 44(2) we don’t need reasonable grounds.’

‘What’s suspicious about my behaviour. I was taking photographs.’

‘If you let me finish. The fact you were taking photographs, we’d like to know the reason. ‘

I said that I’m in the City, an area of iconic buildings and fascinating historical sites, that’s why I’m taking photographs. He replied with a cryptic answer:‘You’ve just explained it.’ I looked puzzled.

‘The very fact you were here at all is the reason we’ve stopped you.’

I explained that being in a public space I could not be prevented from taking photographs. He said the guards were wrong in trying to stop me.  I felt relieved and thought that the whole affair would rest then and there. As I began to move away a second PC, PC29 moved from behind and took both my arms, preventing me from moving. PC 374 then told me he was searching me under s44, and he began to go through my pockets and pat me down. My phone was taken from me. The camera hanging around my neck was carefully removed and placed out of my reach. I asked several times if I could record this incident on camera and was denied this right, being told that under s44(2) I must do as ordered. The power was now in their hands. Mine were still being held.

PC went through my pannier, flipping through personal notebooks, gingerly peeking in a plastic bag that contained a towel and swimmers, still wet from my earlier swim. He located my wallet, and pulled out my drivers licence with obvious glee. Each time I attempted to move PC29’s grip on my arms became firmer. I moved to zip up my jacket, which had been unzipped in the search, and his grip tightened. I explained I was getting cold and would like to warm up. He agreed, but kept hold of me by one hand.  I tried to move left or right and he blocked me. Repeated requests for my phone and camera were turned down. I asked to get pen and paper from my bag, and this was declined. I said I wanted to record the incident, only to be told that I will get their record at the end of the procedure.

Many times I asked why was I being stopped under s44. The answer I given was because of my obstructive and non-compliant attitude. Based on this observation, it then became necessary to treat me as a potential criminal suspect. I noted that s44 could be open to misuse, as it was so powerful and sweeping. PC374 replied ‘It has been said, but it is open for our use’ The implication being that it can be used on anyone who is non-compliant.

Waiting for the data base to give PC374 the all-clear on my record, I was kept hemmed against the barrier by PC29, repeatedly told that if I kept moving I would be handcuffed. This scene of public humiliation, as I was restrained and treated like a criminal, was watched by workers from the neighbouring building.

Once the all clear was given, PC374 tore off the pink slip of the s44 stop search form asking if I wanted it. I asked if I could carry on taking photographs, he turned his back on me like a petulant child, forgetting that his cap lay on the ground in the spot he had removed it earlier. Joined by a third PC, the posse then turned their back on me refusing to answer any further questions from me. I watched as the three of them walked away from me, with my mobile phone. Excuse me I called ‘Can I please have my mobile phone back?’

Grant is also one of the organisers of the I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! campaign.

Two new training courses available for members

4th May, 2010

Business of Freelance Photography

LPB members will be given booking priority for the 12 available places on a one day  course run by Nick McGowan-Lowe on 21 May.  ‘The Business of Freelance Photography: How to survive the downturn and thrive In a tough market’ is aimed at both established freelance photographers and those who are newly freelance.

The cost is:  £90 (NUJ members); £67 (student members); £130 (non-members)
More details are on the NUJ Training website. Those wishing to book can do so through the site or by emailing Linda King and should mention that they are LPB members.

Emergency Life Support Training

The London Photographers Branch is offering members the opportunity of attending a First Aid one day course tailored to street photographers. This course is open to branch members only and the 12 places will be on a first come, first served basis at a special LPB rate of £5. Email training@londonphotographers.org if you wish to take part.

The White Star Medical, First Aid certificated course and will take place at Headland House on Wednesday 2nd June, 10am – 5.30pm

Tutor Elliott Rodgers plans to teach the core principles of a one day Emergency Life Support course. The one day course will train photographers to take immediate life saving steps until further medical assistance can be bought to the casualty.