Thursday, 29 March 2012

A message to Big Brother: We’re photographers, not terrorists! [Un mesaj către Big Brother: Suntem fotografi, nu terorişti!]

One of the oddities of our troubled times is the fact that, the more people expose themselves without any moral boundaries, the more restrictions are imposed on taking pictures.

In the free and so-called civilised patch of the world where we were born, everyone is free to wear tattoes, to turn themselves into walking bilboards, to fall drunk on the pavement, to undress for ‘good causes’ and sometimes to walk naked on the streets.

Then, people can exert the liberty to dispose of their own image, even by giving up the rights over their pics (+ here, here) when they post them on Facebook.

Nevertheless, it seems that everyone – from amateur photoholics to professional photojournalists – should be aware of growing inconveniences, restrictions and risks. Taking pics is no longer as free as it was five or ten years ago.

Anyone carrying a camera in Britain (but not only there!) can be stopped, have his pictures ‘checked’ and even have his memory cards seized or erased.

Such situations occur here, in our self-proclaimed democratic world, not in Iran, North Korea or China – where policemen were persistently looking at me everywhere I was taking pics, yet none of them approached me in a big city like Shanghai.

In the UK, photographers have put their outcry on this issue on a website taking attitude:

Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer.

The threat to press freedom should be obvious to anyone, but if this crackdown on picture taking goes on, a greater risk looms ahead:

Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording.

They may be exaggerating, as everyone in our age of Information Technology does it, in order to ehnance the receptivity of a message in a world overwhelmed with stories.

Since most readable stories that have an impact today are about risks, threats, dangers, hazards and so forth, I can’t blame anyone for considering the limitations imposed on photographers as unwelcome constrains on our democratic societies.

As a matter of fact, I do believe that this is a risk. And may I have the right to speak in defence of democratic principles, not of my photoholism :-)

I’m aware that taking pictures often proves to be intruding, annoying and unnecessary for the immediate welfare of society. But it’s a (little, bearable, tolerable) distress that democratic societies should learn to cope with.

Apart from some legitimate privacy concerns, why is taking pictures in shopping centres forbidden in many parts of the world, thus some of my images*** are illegal?

What about Big Brother’s monopoly on taking pics?  Isn’t it strange that nothing can be limited today because of public morality, whilst almost anything can be restricted on grounds of public security?

*** NOTE: Pic 2 – from inside the Churchill Square Shopping Centre, Brighton; pic 4 – from inside the Pentagon City Mall, on the outskirts of Washington D.C., near the Pentagon.

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