Travel photographers work on the street a lot, shooting buildings, people, events, views, you name it. That makes us very public targets for officials who somehow feel that what we do is a threat. Truth be told, this was the case even before 9/11 and the Brit’s 7/7, but since those attacks, it’s gotten even more cranked up.
Before 9/11, I was shooting a city story on Newport, Rhode Island, for National Geographic Traveler and I saw this fun situation of a young officer giving directions to a man in an angel costume during a street fair. By the time I rushed over to make the shot, the encounter was all but over, but the officer saw me take the picture and went absolutely ballistic (I’m still not sure why, it was a cute public relations moment), at first demanding my film, and then threatening me with arrest when I wouldn’t give it to him.
Even though I knew I had blown the shot, I didn’t take kindly to being bullied. You have to be careful in these situations when you confront authority, because you want to inform and explain, but be firm and not provoke. Getting arrested can really eat into your assignment time, and editors just hate wiring bail money to their people in the field….it looks so bad on the expense reports. The young officer eventually backed down, but not without a parting promise to “find you” if the picture was published.
Since 9/11 and 7/7, the police in the two great cities of New York and London have been, understandably, on high alert and photographers have often drawn their scrutiny, often for no good reason. It got to the point where the top brass of both cities’ constabularies had to issue guidelines for officers interacting with photographers, outlining just what was and wasn’t permitted.
Turns out, you can shoot a lot more than they thought. In fact, you can shoot just about anything you want, including photos of officers at work.
So, if you plan on doing shooting in either of these two wonderful cities, hit the jump and you can grab the jpegs of these memos,read them, and maybe even print them out to carry in your camera bag should you have a problem. Remember, always be polite, never be confrontational, and know da rules!