(I’m Not a Terrorist) “Discrimination” in Photography, Learning to Understand your Rights

As a learning photographer who shoots on location quite regularly, if I’m doing a shoot - particularly with a model, with some quite heavy duty equipment and a team I’m not surprised we may attract some attention to ourselves, but thats just how it goes, it’s interesting to look at - you don’t see it everyday. However sometimes you can attract the attention of the wrong kind, people who want to make your job hard aha. 

Today, terrorism is on nearly everyones radar never mind the people who work at train stations, government buildings and privately owned properties. So when I’m informed I can’t shoot in a location for these reasons and I have to go through certain channels or I can’t use certain equipment etc, thats 100% fine - I’m not in the business of making people feel uneasy, even if someone on an iPhone could do significantly more damage than my “nice looking camera”, but I rest my case. 

But when I’m on what I presume to be public property, if someone wants to come ask me what I’m doing maybe out of security reasons and I provide my name, ID, place of study and reasons for being there thats fine too, but don’t flat out ask me to leave or make me feel like an inconvenience - that’s just rude. Freelance photojournalists run into these issues all the time and even sometimes get asked to delete images. However, under UK law its completely legal to shoot whatever you want wherever you want (within reason) provided its public domain. 

I’m not a Terrorist, I’m just an idiot with a camera, trying to take pretty photos

So as I mentioned in the previous blog post, me and my team were asked to leave the first location (Necropolis Cemetery, Glasgow) because we did not have permission to shoot “a model” on the grounds at that time. I remembered a similar incident which occurred a little under a year ago in the same place where I was assisting but I was under the impression it was because we were using quite "advanced looking" lighting equipment and there was a question over commercial use of the images. I just assumed in my head “yeno, its a known Glasgow attraction, open to the public, people take pictures all the time, people on morning jogs, some people are eating their god damn lunch and probably smoking in the bushes” (do they need some kind of special documentation?) so I didn’t have too many reservations about wanting to take a photo of a person, but I was mistaken. 

So after we explained we didn’t have our permission forms - but insisted on standing our ground - we attempted to have a conversation about why we weren’t allowed to shoot which was met by “this is council owned property and they could get sued” - which we all found slightly odd at the time but then after trying to explain we thought it was public property, they were very rude and condescending and basically told us they weren’t interested in what we had to say. To give them their due they did say had we applied for permission - and because we were students and it was non profit - we could have shot there for free - but it didn’t really help us at that point given that we were all only available that day. So after we gave up and decided to leave, we moved onto our next location and everything ran smoothly. But I was pissed. See if they had just been nice about it - maybe provided us with some legitimate reasons as to why we weren't allowed to work there and didn’t make us feel like such an inconvenience I would have just let it go. So me being me decided it would be a great idea to email the chair of the Necropolis. Basically I just told them what happened, how we were treated, expressed my confusion and what I would have to do/say to get permission? to which I got this reply, 

Now, while I appreciated their taking the time to get back to me, I would never have known that the cemetery was still “active” had they not told me. It mentions this nowhere online and I have heard from a multitude of sources that no one is buried there anymore including an episode of “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” - which was actually filmed at the Necropolis. Even had the officers bothered to explain this to us at the time the situation could have been avoided entirely, but no. I know everybody has day to day jobs to do and that we were just annoying kids running about with a camera, but we still deserved to be treated with decency. Sensitivity issues are a huge importance for me when it comes to my photography so I could understand not disrespecting people visiting graves etc, but this doesn’t change the fact that other people still go there essentially “for the fun of it” on a day to day basis, but the rules were different for us cause we wanted to take some photographs?

Also in regards to their comment of “perhaps you should come on a tour and learn more about the history not just use it as a convenient backdrop” - I was very well aware of the rich history surrounding the site, thats why myself and so many other creatives want to use it to inspire our work - it was never and will never be just a “convenient backdrop”. 

Quite a grey area on this, but I was annoyed. All in all as a student photographer what I take from the whole escapade is that you learn from your mistakes but never stop educating yourself about where and to what extent you can conduct yourself creatively. At the end of the day it’s always better to be organised and go through the proper channels but I have often over looked this for reasons of timing, others schedules and because sometimes places just don't get back to you. 

Honestly the moral of the story is don’t be so god damn rude to me. 

The bottom line is some people/organizations get annoyed when it comes to cameras - some like it, some don’t some are majorly offended out of some kind of personal agenda but at the end of the day all photographers want to do is capture moments in time to tell stories and give some visuals of modern day narrative. I'm not saying go into a shop or hotel lobby and kick up a fuss because they wont let you conduct a whole shoot there, thats a completely different matter entirely haha. However photography is an integral part of everyones lifestyle of today and that of history - we understand so much about the days of yesteryear through images like; style, fashion, street life and art, to name a few. Imagine telling someone 20 years from now “oh I didn’t document this because some people didn’t like it” - what a horrible reason. In all honestly I don’t really think it can really be defined as “discrimination” because I make these choices about where and what I want to do with my photography but its certainly weird injustices that occur when all I really want to do is learn and grow in my craft.