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My first experience of being asked to stop taking pictures.

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by Jim, Jul 23, 2010.

  1. Jim

    Jim Mu-43 Rookie

    May 30, 2010
    Well, at work we have a sort of photography competition, and this months subject is architecture. So at lunch today I decided to take a walk down the road where I work and take some pictures of the office blocks.

    There's one office block at the end of the road which is fancier than the others. and just outside they have a sculpture. This is in an area that, yes is on their property, but there's no restriction to walk in that area and in fact many people walk through as a route into the town centre it's about 4 metres off the public pavement. Anyway I started snapping away.

    Within a couple of minutes a security guard came out and asked me to stop taking pictures of the building. I told him that I had not taken any pictures of the building just the sculpture and another office block across the roundabout. He said it doesn't matter, and that he did not want me to take pictures. I finished with the fact that I could walk 3 or 4 metres back on to the pavement and I could take as many pictures as I wanted, he just answered, yes you could, but I don't care.

    There was no raised voices and I just did what he asked with little fight, but when I was back at work later I found myself getting quite angry over the whole thing. How petty do people have to be to stop someone from harmlessly taking pictures of a sculpture that the office block owner/builder has built to be an attraction to their building.

    Unfortunately I think this is an unfortunate case of what we say in the UK as "jobsworth". Give a man a security badge and he will use what ever "authority" he has when he can.

    Has anyone else ever had any similar experiences? I'm always quite careful when taking photos that I'm not going to offend anyone or intrude into their personal privacy, but I didn't think I'd be asked to stop taking pictures of a commercial area.

    Just had to get that off my chest. :) 
  2. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Jim, many of us in the UK have been there... in that situation, I would have asked for directions to the office inside the building where I could request permission to photograph the statue.

    Always go for a higher authority until you reach someone with a reasonable nature.


  3. Brian S

    Brian S Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Apr 11, 2009
    If you could walk back to the pavement, off of the zone that he patrols and is responsible for, and then take as many pictures as you wanted: I suspect the security Guard was told "Do not allow photography on the premises".
  4. Jim

    Jim Mu-43 Rookie

    May 30, 2010
    I dare say that could be true, but then why didn't he just say that (although I'd be surprised of such a policy in such an open public place). I would have understood and he could have directed me to the pavement. We would both have been happy. It's only because I mentioned that I could take pictures from the pavement that the issue came up.

    By the way, before I insult anyone I don't want my comments to be taken that I am tarring all security guards with the same brush. In fact I don't really want to give the impression this guy was particularly horrible about it, because he wasn't as I said there was no real conflict. Let's just say I was told, not asked, that's what got me.

    Brian, good advice, I'll try that in future.
  5. tomrock

    tomrock Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 21, 2010
    Indianapolis, IN
    One time I was shooting executives in a building using a half-roll of gray paper for a background.

    When I left the building, a security guard told me he couldn't let me take the half-roll of paper unless I had a permit. I told him fine, keep it and started to walk away.

    He came from behind his desk and said he didn't want it. He gave it back.

    Jobsworth? I've never heard the term (I'm in the US) but I think this might be an example.
  6. Brian Mosley

    Brian Mosley Administrator Emeritus

    Dec 15, 2009
    Tom, it's a well known term in the UK for anyone in any kind of authority... who won't do anything outside of what they feel is their routine job... Ask them and they'll say 'it's more than my job's worth' to help you.

    A very derogatory term for an unhelpful person. The worst jobsworth I know is a lady on the platform at St Pancras railway station in London. I guess dealing with the public every day has made her hard faced. :rolleyes: 


  7. PeterB666

    PeterB666 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 14, 2010
    Tura Beach, Australia
    The legalities of taking photos on private property vary from country to country but generally if you are on someone else's property, you should stop if asked. A better approach would be to ask first.

    Generally, if you are shooting from a public place (i.e. not part of the property) towards a private property, that's fine although this is where local laws come into play. If you are shooting a defence missile site or a sectret government anthrax lab, I would expect some problems.

    As always, common sense (which sometimes isn't very common) should prevail.
  8. Michael E

    Michael E Mu-43 Rookie

    May 1, 2010
    Crawley England
    It has only happened to me once and that wasn't here in England but in Hong Kong in 2003. I was taking pictures of a nice chrome and glass building when a young security guard came out. He told me to stop taking photos, it wasn't allowed. I said I was on public property - the walkway next to the road. He said it still wasn't allowed. I was too hot and sticky to have much patience and understanding. I told him I've flown 6000 miles to take photos of these buildings so if he wants me stopped he'd better call the police. He walked off and did nothing.

    I returned four years later, took more photos and nobody came out. I'm going back next week so I'll take some more then.
  9. Ogdilla

    Ogdilla New to Mu-43

    Aug 23, 2010
    I wonder how security would react if you presented them with this.
  10. twalker294

    twalker294 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Aug 18, 2010
    I'm sure it would depend on the individual but I would guess in most cases it would be a bit like poking a sleeping dragon with a very pointy stick.

    I doubt that the security guard would say "Oh well then, nevermind. Carry on."
  11. everythingsablur

    everythingsablur Mu-43 Veteran

    Aug 4, 2010
    Toronto, ON
    I would agree with that. Until something like that becomes fully recognized by all of the important powers that be, you're just asking for more trouble. If people with full on press passes still get harassed, I doubt a rights card from a national photography association will really carry any more sway.
  12. addieleman

    addieleman Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 5, 2010
    The Netherlands
    Half a year I was taking pictures of a jewellery shop, located in a shopping center in my home town, quite close to my house. I took pictures at quite a distance of the shop, about 10 metres or so and I stood in public property. Then the shop owner came out, approached me in a slightly aggressive fashion and asked me why I was taking pictures of his shop and if I would be so kind to stop doing that. I answered him in a friendly manner that I liked the shop's façade; I did not respond to his request to stop. Clearly unsatisfied with the outcome of the discussion he went back into his shop and I walked on, without taking another picture.

    Some 20 years ago I had a similar experience: I took a picture of a beautiful house and was asked by the owner to stop. I continued taking pictures. Upon noticing I did so he went for his camera and started taking pictures of me; I gave him the opportunity to get a clear picture of me and that was it.

    These are the only slightly disconcerting experiences I had; much more often people don't care or even like it; on one occasion a home owner gave me the opportunity to take pictures of his house in his backyard. I thanked him later by making extra slides and giving them to him.

    So far my policy of friendly but firmly exercising my rights to take pictures in a public place hasn't got me into trouble, so that'll be my approach in the future. However, I think I would be more careful in a foreign country.
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