Stand Your Ground: Photographer’s Rights in the UK Tested (video)

Posted in News, Photography by Nathan Lee Bush on July 21, 2011

Photography law is pretty straightforward: public place, fair game. Why is the UK so backwards on this issue? There’s a fantastic video on YouTube by a London-based nonprofit, Shoot Experience, exposing the poisonous behavior of security teams and police officers in the UK infringing upon photographer’s rights. Six photographers were dispatched to shoot in various parts of the city, and videographers were on hand to record the inevitable hassling by shady private security officers in suits, as well as police officers. The law clearly states that photographers can shoot anything in the public space. The bullying and quasi-threats of the security teams is pathetic if not legally questionable.

I’ve experienced this first hand. In the one month I spent traveling in the UK in November 2009, I got stopped more (eight times) than in four years compulsively shooting throughout New York City (not once). It’s ironic that in the country of Orwell, surveillance and police presence are among the highest in the democratic world. There are signs everywhere continually reminding you that you’re being recorded. And yet, if you dare to record your experience, turning the surveillance around, so to speak, you’re immediately under suspicion. From where does this authoritarian impulse derive?

One of the obvious questions raised by the video is the discretion of the security forces and officers. In an age when any standard smartphone can be used to discretely take a picture of a building and share it anywhere in the world instantaneously, is it logical that a terrorist group would enlist someone to drag a 4×5 camera through the streets, mount it on a tripod and go through the elaborate shooting process the camera involves? In what fantasy world were these protocols developed? The video is titled Stand Your Ground, and I hope more activists will continue to push up against these totalitarian tendencies for their state-endowed and indeed ethical right to photograph in the public sphere.


Nathan Lee Bush is a fashion and fine art photographer and filmmaker in New York City. His work is on his site and blog.


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  1. […] this blog, Through The Looking Glass, Nathan Bush highlights a video making the rounds highlighting the ridiculous security practices infringing on photographer’s […]

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