ID Cards? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ ID Cards!

I recently stumbled across an interesting photography news item out of the United Kingdom. There is a very confusing petition that was posted on the Downing Street E-Petitions website by Hampshire-based photographer Simon Taylor protesting against the following vague notion:

There are a number of moves promoting the requirement of ‘ID’ cards to allow photographers to operate in a public place.

It is a fundamental right of a UK citizen to use a camera in a public place, indeed there is no right to privacy when in a public place.

These moves have developed from paranoia and only promote suspicion towards genuine people following their hobby or profession.

This “vague notion” has created quite a bit of confusion in the UK amongst photographers and caused over 25,000 people to sign the petition as of this writing. It has also caused Mr. Taylor to post additionally information on his website which provides some interesting and (as a photographer) concerning stories from other photographers who were confronted while taking pictures out in public.

Amateur Photographer reports that this notion of an ID card originated from a suggestion by publicity secretary for the Southern Photographic Federation a while back. The scary thing is that The Royal Photographic Society’s (RPS) Director General is reported to be considering a similar idea. Luckily, as of this moment, there appears to be no such laws being officially considered or actively promoted within the British Government.

I see a few key issues around this whole story:

  • As a Photographer, it’s your responsibility to be know the law and your rights. If you’re legally allowed to take a photo, do so. Just be prepared for if (in today’s world it might be more accurate to say when) someone confronts you. Thomas Hawk has had some first hand experience with this and made some interesting posts on this topic.
  • The inverse is also true: if your not in a public space, make sure you ask for permission to take photographs. Especially if your taking photos of people or items in that private space. Even more so if you have a 35mm or larger camera. It’s strange how the “professional” cameras make people jittery at times. Of course the old military adage can come into play here: “If your not cheatin’ your not tryin’. And if you get caught, your not tryin’ hard enough!” Just be wise about when you follow it…
  • The continued proliferation of enthusiast photographers are starting to make professional photographers scared. Why else would the RPS officially take a stance to support ID Cards? Their members are feeling threatened. And they should be, have you seen some of the kick ass photos that are appearing all over the place by enthusiasts. As the technology continues to improve, this will only get more prevalent. As I indicated in my posting on Changes in Stock Photography, the photographic world is changing and photographers can either evolve or wither.

While digging around on line, I also came across the blog that has many more interesting stories on this topic. The site claims to be “about keeping photographers out of trouble, and supporting them when trouble looms“. I don’t know much about them, but if your a photographer it’s worth a bit of your time to give them a look.

I’m curious to hear what some of my friends from the UK have to say about this. I have emailed this this posting…hopefully they will leave some insightful comments.

2 Replies to “ID Cards? We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ ID Cards!”

  1. The Brits are not the sort of people who will take much notice of such a rule. I fully support the freedom to take photos and to hell with anyone who want privacy in a public place but you could also turn it around…

    We have more CCTV cameras in London than anywhere else in the world, if something happens you usually see it within the hour from a CCTV camera. All of the tube bombers (the ones that failed) were caught by the CCTV camera. As a result London is a very safe place, we have a tenth of the traffic accidents of other European countries because people get caught electronically if the speed. Crime happens but it’s rare, two public murders a month is a rare event and there are 18 million of us in London, compare that to any US city. Do the government have the right to film us everywhere? Well it’s the same right we have to take photos too, some people don’t like being filmed so you can understand them not wanting to have their photo taken. It’s give and take, I’ve been moved on with my tripod at some prominent buildings for security reasons, I can respect that, we’ve had dozens of IRA bombs in the last 15 years and an Al-Quaida attack so it’s not just paranoia.

    I signed the partition but it doesn’t worry me.

    -John- (a Londoner of over 40 years)


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