Whether you are doing street photography, reportage or documentary style photography there are far too many incidents of photographers getting stopped, coerced into handing over their cameras or having to delete their memory cards. One can understand that with the world slowly getting paranoid with each passing day, there are bound to be incidents like this happening with a bit more regularity.
Whether it is in the name of security or trespassing or personal space, street photographers are finding it tough going these days trying to make pictures without being confronted at some point. If you point your lens at something or someone, regardless of your purpose, you will often be looked at with a frown. In some instances you could even get challenged for what you are doing.
To test the waters and to see what’s the reaction like from fellow Londoners, photographer Tim Berry of Practical Photography decides to do a bit of street photography. Armed with his DSLR – lens combo mounted on a tripod he decides to roam the streets of London and take pictures standing at what he presumed as public land.
As you can see in the video, aiming his camera towards buildings around London, Berry manages to rouse a sense of suspicion in the minds of not one but several security officers at a number of establishments. In all of these incidents it were the security officers who were spooked. They all agreed that Berry was shooting while standing on public land and they could not stop him from doing what he was doing. But they got suspicious when he aimed his camera towards their buildings.
At the end of the video Ben Hawkins quizzed Malcolm Graham from the Cambridgeshire Constabulary to explain the laws in connection with street photography. He also asked Inspector Graham to explain the rights of the photographer in situations such as those depicted in the video. Inspector Graham explained what a law enforcement officer can or cannot do in the event that a photographer violates those rules.
In a nutshell, you are free to take pictures of any public building standing on public land. There are, however, some restrictions. These would include things like photographing a military establishment or aggressively pursuing an individual on the streets which can be termed as stalking.
Application of common sense in every situation is advisable. You should refrain from photographing children even in public places or pretend to be extremely interested in taking detailed photographs of things like bridges or railway stations etc. At all situations behave politely even if the other person doesn’t know the law and you do. Behaving brashly or aggressively can easily spiral a situation out of control. At all times know your rights as a photographer, including what you can or cannot do.