I am a photographer, not a terrorist!

I have heard the stories of photographers being challenged by security guards and the police for simple shots of shopping centres or landscapes, but you never think it will every be you. . .

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“Photography is under attack. Across the country it that seems anyone with a camera is being targeted as a potential terrorist, whether amateur or professional, whether landscape, architectural or street photographer.Not only is it corrosive of press freedom but creation of the collective visual history of our country is extinguished by anti-terrorist legislation designed to protect the heritage it prevents us recording.This campaign is for everyone who values visual imagery, not just photographers.

We must work together now to stop this before photography becomes a part of history rather than a way of recording it.” –   photographernotaterrorist.org

I work on a normal business site but that has the likes of QinetiQ and BAE Systems. I leave one evening and start the drive home. A police car is suddenly behind me with lights on so I move over to let them past and am surprised when they remain behind me, so a quick check of car tax and insurance dates flash through my mind. I also put aside the desire to floor it and appear on ‘Cops with cameras’ and use the excuse “I was only trying to get to a good spot to stop as quickly as possible”. I stop and am out of the car quicker than pc1 and pc2 who quickly start questioning my business with at XXXXXX and the business park. As my first brush with the law on the ‘wrong’ side, I am surprised that what should be a simple question is layered with the tone that removes the presumption of innocence.

Despite explaining, answering questions and showing ID and an access card, I am told I have to return to my work to answer more questions. A short ride in the back of the police car and I’m at reception and let out after a pc1 has had a brief  chat with site security. I get out to a torrent of questions from the head of site ‘security’ about taking photos of the building and cctv cameras. Then follows a big to and through where I have no idea what they’re talking about until they inform me they spotted me taking pictures from last month. It all falls into place that I had brought in my good camera to take some good pics of my work and in the car park had taken some quick test shots and the cctv cameras (if they capture me, why can’t I capture them?). All the businesses in the area had been placed on alert and to look out for me driving around ‘surveying’ their security. It turns out that they are all expecting an eco-protest soon as another building had been subject to a roof sit in protest for a few weeks at the begining of the year.

I have a strange feeling this wasn’t a one off incidence and as a photographer I can look forward to more questions and police contact for ‘terrorist actions’

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