PHNAT Pamphlet Launch & ‘Stand your Ground’

21st June, 2011

Security guards & police on Bishopsgate. photo Grant Smith

Over 100 people attended the party to launch the PHNAT pamphlet, many of whom were press photographers directly affected by the misuse of section 44. A slideshow of images of police and private security guard showing harassment and detention of working photographers provided the visual background to the event. The images were bookended by Jason Parkinson’s films ‘Hostile Reconnaissance’ and ‘Collateral Damage’.

The AOP provided use of the gallery and Ing Media supplied the drinks. Larry Herman talked about the importance of the CPBF and why they supported the pamphlet. Marc Vallee gave a brief history of PHNAT and why it came into existence, starting with the lone campaign of Jeremy Dear outside Scotland Yard and culminating in the massive turnout of over 2,00 people in Trafalgar Square in early 2010, and the subsequent removal of section 44. His message of celebration was tempered by the as yet unknown usage of section 47a against photographers.

It was a great gathering that had a positive outcome, and gave everyone who attended a reason to celebrate the achievements of PHNAT. Over 500 pamphlets were distributed amongst the guests.
The pamphlet was funded by the National Union of Journalists produced with the assistance of the NUJ and the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom, with the backing of the British Press Photographers Association and the London Photographers’ Branch.

A week later I was part of the London Street Photography Festival Stand Your Ground experiment. This event followed 6 photographers, including David Hoffman, Philip Wolmuth, Pennie Quinton, Michael Grieve, Toby Smith. We were photographing in different parts of the City from public spaces. At least 6 different locations were photographed and the photographers filmed by a dedicated videographer.

All the photographers were stopped and questioned by security guards, who saw it within their remit to prevent us from photographing the building they were looking after. Three of the photographers received police attention as a result of the security guards. In all cases the security were incorrectly making statements about the legality of photographing a building without permission.  One photographer was told that ‘…it was against company law.’ I was informed that a permit was required from the City of London Police and the building owner (in this case Heron).

After I made enquiries as to how I might obtain this permission, the guard backtracked and confirmed that I didn’t need permission from City of London. He did suggest that I may apply for one at Heron, but that would depend on the type of photographs I intended to take. This is part of the initiative known as Project Argos, a companion to Project Griffin. The inconsistency of approach by the security guards and their lack of understanding of the law is alarming.

Given that approaches made by security to photographers are usually hostile and affirmative, it is no wonder that many photographers feel intimidated by their presence and look to shoot elsewhere. In my instance, two security guards crossed Bishopsgate and stood by me until the police arrived. This was antagonistic, unsettling and unnecessary. I didn’t provide the building security team a reason for photographing the newest and tallest building in the City, nor did I provide any identification, as I was well within my right to photograph from the public footpath.

The arrival of the police was welcome, as it was quickly established that I was within my rights, and was doing nothing wrong, to photograph the building. It was re-assuring for the police officer to immediately identify himself and ask if the security personnel had been physically heavy handed or had tried to grab my camera. I provided the officer with my details and the reason for photography and he indicated that the security personnel had acted irrationally in contacting police. He bid me a polite farewell and could continue to do what I had been perceived as a suspicious activity by the security team.

The reception at Heron Tower on Bishopsgate contains the largest privately owned aquarium, home to more than 1200 tropical marine fish. Just don’t try and photograph it – nor push your nose up against the glass to look at life in the goldfish bowl.

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