Vorige Start Omhoog Volgende

[ARticles & Essays -I]     [Register by subject - Art & photography] 

6. Fear of photos 

Some cases

Two foreigners arrested for photographing children; Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco (Mexico), Informador, December 17, 2007 - Translated from Spanish.

> Offended parents reported two gringos from Denver because they were secretly taking photographs of their sons, which they might be using and uploading to the Internet, and they don't rule out that it involved [thus: might involve] child pornography. According to police, citizens complained to police that two North-Americans were taking pictures of their sons without the parents' permission. 
This led to a confrontation [...] and led to physical blows and the gringos fled to the Church of Santa Cruz, where they were identified, then arrested by the municipal police. Jose Socorro Nava and his companion decided to file a complaint because 
of fear that the foreigners might use the photographs in the business of child pornography. < 

Thus, photographing children is in itself suspect and even dangerous. The fear concerns pedophilia. A pedophile might see the photo and place it on the internet, after which other pedophiles might see it - and this is, we all know it, a disaster in itself. 

Appeal after man photographed children, edp.co.uk, 22 April 2008 
> Norwich, UK - Police are appealing for information following a report of a man seen photographing children. Officers said there was no suggestion any youngsters were approached and the man could have had legitimate reasons to be taking photographs of the children, who were crossing Eaton Road near the junction with Newmarket Road in the afternoon of Monday, April 14. He is white, in his 40s to 50s and heavily built with dark hair, dark clothing and glasses. Call PCSO Hannah Alexander or the safer neighbourhood team at Earlham police on [...] <

Internet Phobia - Fear of Paedophiles Reduces Number of Child Photos 
javno.com (Croatia),  May 20, 2008

I am against publishing eroticised photos, but it is not good that photographs of children are no longer published, says Matijevic Vrsaljko.
For a long time now, advocators for the protection of children's rights have been warning the media, editors and journalists concerning the issue of publishing photographs of children. However, parents and educators will need to be more careful as far as putting photographs of children online is concerned.
In order to lessen the possibility of paedophile abuse, the Croatian Ministry of Education has advised schools and kindergartens to refrain from placing pictures of their children on the internet. 
"We can not prohibit parents from publishing pictures of their children",  says the ministry. But parents then risk that a paedophile, who is often a skilled computer user, enters the email and misuses the photographs.

"Paedophilia will not be reduced with the absolute removal of children's 
photographs from the internet" [... says] Ljubica Matijevic-Vrsaljko, a former children's rights attorney. [...] "Photographs of the child's achievements are for good of the child, and are not bad." [...] She added that there is no clear logic 
that the photographs of a child that are published o the internet will be misused.

Kiddy Porn or Family Photo?? bloggerparty.com, June 7, 2008 

[...] Presently child porn is in the eye of the beholder. What Grandma might consider 'cute, a hardened criminal investigator might consider child pornography.
The test is not what is in the mind of the child or the person taking the photo. The test is': can a law enforcement officer create a sexual fantasy out of this photo? [...]

David Urban took photos of his wife and 15-month-old grandson, both nude as she was giving him a bath. A photo lab turned him in and he was convicted by a Missouri court.
A gay couple decided to shave their bodies and then take pictures of their lovemaking. A photo clerk at Walgreen's decided one of them looked to young and called police. The couple is suing the Fort Lauderdale Police. [...]
William Kelly was arrested in Maryland after dropping off a roll of film that unknown to him included nude photos of his ten year old daughter and younger children that they had taken of each other at bed time.
Cynthia Stewart took a picture of her eight-year-old daughter taking a bath. She was arrested because in the background of the picture was a showerhead. The prosecution some how decided the shower head proved the eight year old was masturbating.

All these parents and grandparents are now sex offenders. They have to register with the police department, and are subject to the laws requiring sex offenders live a certain distance from any school, park, church, library or any place children might congregate. Not only does it affect where they can live but also it affects their ability to get employment. 

This type of law puts all of us at risk of being arrested as sex offenders. It also radically limits the idea of free speech protection by insisting that a photo of a child is equivalent to molestation. Legally, it is not what is in the picture that counts. It is what is in the mind of the beholder that counts legally. It is actually necessary to fantasize a sexual context to the photo in order to make it child porn.
If the test is can we put this photo into a sexual fantasy, then yes, every photo we take of a child is child pornography.

So how do we know which pictures we should hide and which we can show to 
our friends? My advice to you is DO NOT TAKE PICTURES OF CHILDREN. A 
grandmother can take a picture of her grandkids jumping into bed with pj's on and some nut can make a sexual fantasy out of it. Some dad can take a picture of his daughter licking an ice cream cone and some nut (police officer) can make a sexual fantasy of it, especially if the child is wearing a bathing suite.

I implore you to write your congressperson. Tell them we need [...] porn laws that are well defined as to what is child porn. We do not need a nation of grandparents and parents in jail for creating and capturing memories. < 

Asda refuse to print baby snap of son for 21st birthday cake... because he's naked; James Tozer, Daily Mail (UK), 25th June 2008

> It was meant to be a gently embarrassing centrepiece for her son's 21st birthday. But when Gail Jordan asked bakery staff at Asda to print a photograph of him as a baby on to a cake they didn't see the funny side. After one look at the photograph -  which featured her son David at about five months and lying on his front - they declared that putting it on the cake would constitute pornography because his bare bottom could be seen. [...]

'It's sad that because of the world we live in such an innocent photograph could be misinterpreted as something perverted. It's crazy how politically correct the world has become.' 
Her son, who works at a bookmakers, added: 'It's just my bare bum, it's 
obviously totally harmless. It's stupid that they could suggest something so innocent could be pornographic.' [...] <

Police pursue child photographer; BBC News, 2 July 2008

> A man who stopped to take a photograph of children outside a primary school in southern Scotland is being sought by police. [...] A black Peugeot 308 car pulled up and a man inside took a photograph of the group of children before driving off. The man is described as [... ...]. 

Father branded pervert photographing children in public park; David Wilkes, Daily Mail (UK), 16th July 2008

> When Gary Crutchley started taking pictures of his children playing on an inflatable slide he thought they would be happy reminders of a family day out. 
But the innocent snaps of seven-year-old Cory, and Miles, five, led to him being called a "pervert". The woman running the slide at Wolverhampton Show asked him what he was doing and other families waiting in the queue demanded that he stop. [...] One even accused him of photographing youngsters to put the pictures on the internet.< 

The newspaper publishes the photo with the caption: "Picture of innocence: The photograph Gary Crutchley took of his sons Cory and Miles". 

> Mr Crutchley, 39, who had taken pictures only of his own children, was so enraged that he found two policemen who confirmed he had done nothing wrong.
Yesterday he said: "What is the world coming to when anybody seen with a camera is assumed to be doing things that they should not? This parental paranoia is getting completely out of hand. I was so shocked. One of the police officers told me that it was just the way society is these days. He agreed with me that it was madness." [...]
Mrs Crutchley [...] said: "I was shocked by the reaction of those women. It is very sad when every man with a camera enjoying a Sunday afternoon out in the park with his children is automatically assumed to be a pervert." [...] < 

An overview - in a broader context

The war on photographers - you're all al Qaeda suspects now
John Ozimek, The Register (UK), 23rd June 2008 


When you hear the phrase "helping police with their inquiries", does an image of dedicated selfless citizenry instantly spring to mind? Or do you wonder whether the reality is not slightly more sinister? How about "voluntarily handing over film to the police"?

Stephen Carroll is a keen amateur photographer, with an interest in candid portraiture: "street photography", he calls it. In December 2007, he was in the centre of Hull taking photos.

Unfortunately for him, his actions were spotted by two local policemen. They stopped him in the middle of Boots and asked him to accompany them outside. There they told him that he had been taking photographs of "sensitive buildings". One said: "I am taking your film".

Mr Carroll requested an explanation. He asked whether he was "obligated" to hand over the film. In vain! Every time he asked, back came the same response: "I am taking your film". Robocop is alive and well and apparently working in Humberside. When he eventually handed over his film, he was asked to turn out his pockets and to show what other films he had on him.

The police filled out one of their ubiquitous forms - this one labelled "Stop and Search" - and went on their way. On the form, quite clearly written, are the words: "seized films".

What are we to make of this? 

A statement from Humberside Police re-iterated that Mr Carroll had been photographing sensitive buildings. In remarkably bullish mood, they added that they "would expect other officers within the force to act in the same manner if given a similar situation." But what situation? 
According to Mr Carroll, the police subsequently amended their story to say they had stopped him because of concerns that he was photographing young people.  They did not mention this at the time because they were worried he might be embarrassed.
They also told him that, contrary to what was said at the time, they had received no complaint from any member of the public. Nor had he been subject to a "stop and search" - merely a "stop and talk".

This is seriously alarming stuff. It is bad enough on its own - but coupled with a long catalogue of other incidents that have been reported recently, it begins to look like a pattern.

A long catalogue
There is the Ipswich photographer Phil Smith who went out to snap ex-EastEnder Letitia Dean turning on the Christmas lights in Ipswich. He was stopped by two Special Constables: told he needed a licence; that photographing the crowd was against the law; and finally required to delete the pictures already taken.
Then there's the freelance photographer who attempted to photograph the tragic aftermath of a young woman killed by a falling tree at Tower Bridge in London. According to Jeff Moore of the British Press Photographers Assocation, Police at the scene were very intimidating: they demanded that she hand over her memory card or else they would confiscate her cameras and she would probably never get them back.
And on and on and on and on. 

Amateurs and professionals alike are becoming seriously worried. Chris Cheesman, News Editor of Amateur Photographer, is compiling a list of incidents where Police or other officials have threatened photographers.

The Bureau of Freelance Photographers (BFP) is pioneering a card - the "Blue Card" - for members to assert their freelance status. BFP chief executive John Tracy says: "With the increasing number of members being stopped by police officers - or more commonly, police community support officers - from legitimately taking pictures, we felt we had to do something".

The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) is up in arms, too. In March, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear, staged a one-man protest on the issue outside the headquarters of the Metropolitan Police. The union is sending a delegation to see Home Office Minister Tony McNulty. 

In the same month, its Parliamentary spokesperson, Austin Mitchell, MP put down an Early Day Motion which gained support from a further 224 Members of Parliament. This stated that many of the official claims that photography is illegal were, themselves, false and asked Police and Home Office to set up national guidelines on the issue.

So just what is going on? 

Is photography, along with freedom of speech and other cherished rights, about to go out of the window?

Probably not. The fact that these incidents make news suggests that they are atypical. There are still millions of people taking photographs every day of the week, without the least interference from anyone. Do you have a license for that camera sir?

The law in this area - with the exception of recent provisions on terror - is much as it was a decade ago. There are some restrictions - though most of these relate to the manner in which individuals take photographs. You are prohibited from trespass, harassment, obstruction: almost never from photography itself.

So what has changed? 

The answer probably lies in two places: 

photo panic; and 
vicious officialdom.

It began with our obsession with paedophiles. Anyone taking photos of children was automatically suspect - and even when they weren't, our risk-averse culture meant it was better to be safe than sorry. 

Here is not the place to rehearse the wealth of "pc gone mad" stories that particular panic gave rise to. It is possible the panic would have subsided: there is no law against photographing children. There are also enough parents who want to be able to create a photographic record of their child's significant school moments for the arguments to pull in opposite directions.

However, since the London bombings of 2005, there is a new impetus to paranoia. The public is scared. The police have responded.

The Met recently ran a campaign that pointed a finger of suspicion at photographers. This cannot help but whip up public fear of anyone with a camera.

The irony, of course, is that anyone taking photos in preparation for a terrorist atrocity would most likely be discreet. They would use small or mobile phone cameras. Yet those who have been stopped have frequently been individuals with serious high-powered SLR equipment. Have the police not thought this through? Or do they suspect terrorists of running some form of elaborate double bluff?

Once an activity falls under the shadow of suspicion, it is inevitable that other officials will get in on the act. They are now empowered to bend the law. Jobsworths of every shade - from traffic wardens to PCSOs to Park Keepers - have attempted to prevent the public taking photographs, for all manner of thoroughly fictitious reasons.

Equally, those who wish to carry out what is a perfectly legal activity begin to feel intimidated. Not just by officials - but by the wider public as well. So they self-censor. They skulk. They begin to buy in to the view that there is something odd about wishing to take photographs.

As Austin Mitchell puts it: "We are seeing a lot of isolated incidents creating a pattern that will in time lead to an inhibition on taking photos. Photographers need to assert their rights under the law as it stands. Or they will lose them."

Guidelines have been negotiated with a number of Police Forces. In theory, Police should be well aware that they have no powers to remove cameras or take film without a court order.

Campaigners on the other side are far blunter and increasingly bitter. They point out that Police who seize items are guilty of theft - a criminal offence. Where journalists and members of the public come into contact with the police, they are urged always to keep their cool. The bottom line, however, is that attempts to remove film or camera should always be resisted.

When white is black

It is accepted that most police understand and play by the rules: but a consensus is growing that there is a small but determined minority who have no interest in doing so. The Humberside incident does nothing to reduce anxiety on this front.

We should point out that reports of the language used during this incident are based solely on statements from Mr Carroll. But broader points, such as the grounds for stop or the 'voluntary' nature of the seizure have been confirmed by Humberside.

If private individuals were as cavalier with their language and statements to the police as Humberside appear to have been, they would run the risk of being charged with perjury. At the very least, their statements would have been produced in court to demonstrate that they were unreliable witnesses.

On the strictest of strict interpretations, the police did not "seize" Stephen Carroll's film. They were merely incredibly unhelpful in their use of language, to the point where he was intimidated into "volunteering" his film.

Any similarity between this incident and the remarkable confessions that used to take place in the back of police vans before suspects arrived at the station is purely coincidental.

The grounds on which Mr Carroll was stopped are also interesting. The reference to "sensitive buildings" suggests that the police were trying to situate this stop in either official secrets or terror legislation. Specifically, s. 44 of the Terror Act 2000 
where the police carrying out the stop "consider(s) it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism".

The reference to photographing young people appears to be pure flannel, as we are not aware of any law that would prevent Mr Carroll doing this.

Meanwhile, a seriously worrying aspect of all the various guidelines - as well as the new BFP Blue Card - is that they appear designed to attack the general right to photograph by dividing us all into photographic sheep and goats.

Or rather, the accredited and non-accredited. According to John Toner of the NUJ, this is certainly not the intention: "by and large, the public have exactly the same rights as professionals - although in some instances, police may decide to extend some additional professional courtesy to professionals".

A spoof 

from 1 April this year warns us all where this might go. It reports the Met piloting a scheme to issue fluorescent waistcoats and RFID chips to the accredited. What a giggle.

Having said that, the accompanying quote is either very funny or chillingly accurate: "photography presents a unique problem for law enforcement", mutters a non-existent spokesperson for the Met, "because it is not illegal".


Police is using anti-terror laws to catch 'pedophiles' - that is: everyone who photographs a child. They rely on a public opinion that fears that a photo might be give someone pleasure, that the photo might be placed on the internet and, thus, might pleasure other 'pedophiles', which is a shame, a scandal and a disaster per se. If child nudity is included, a moral panic awakes in the public. 

So, our children are effectively taught that nudeness and body pleasure is evil, wrong, dirty and perverse. James Prescott has published research that concludes that societies that suppress body pleasure of their children, are the most aggressive societies with great problems with its youths, especially the boys in puberty and adolescence. That is exactly what we see nowadays.

[ARticles & Essays -I]     [Register by subject - Art & photography]

Vorige Start Omhoog Volgende