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South Shields premier political blog

Policing the public gaze

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The assaults on citizen photography continue

This one almost got away from me, I’ve had it hanging around in my bookmarks for a while but I’ve been so busy lately that this blog has had to take a bit of a back seat.

The Manifesto Club’s publication of Pauline Hadaway’s report reveals nothing particularly new but does highlight the need to keep the issue out in the open and in front of our politicians. About 18 months ago, for instance, I was assured by an officer of South Tyneside District Council that small notices were going to be erected at certain venues along South Shields sea front (the South Marine Park, Bents Park, and the covered Promenade and Amphitheatre) advising people that photographers were operating in the area, that it was lawful, and nothing to be wary of. This followed a spate of complaints from some parents that their children had been photographed in public, or that photographers were being denied lawful access to public events in public places by officials who thought they were looking after our safety and well being. Those notices never appeared!

So little joy for citizen photographers, although it is fair to say that I for one have seen less of a threat from council officials, police, PCSOs, or security stewards over the past twelve months in South Shields. The wider problem still exists throughout the UK, and as Pauline’s report illustrates there is a pervasive and sinister attempt to have the cameras put away, the irrational fear is that anyone seen with a large camera in a public place must be viewed as either a child molester or a terrorist. Yet if if you are seen to be taking pictures with a mobile phone nobody will suspect anything out of the ordinary – it really is a quite extraordinary state of affairs when public paranoia spreads to the innocent recording of life which we have done since the invention of the pin hole camera.

Hadaway argues that it is important that people are able to take spontaneous photographs of public life, whether of children or any other contemporary touchy subjects: ‘We need to stop this self-censorship.’

You can download her report (.pdf) – here.

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Written by curly

September 29, 2009 at 10:02 am

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  1. […] Policing the public gaze […]


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