As more than 200 MPs put their signatures to Austin Mitchell’s Early Day Motion condemning police harassment of photographers in public places, the Bureau of Freelance Photographers (BFP) launches a major initiative in an attempt to tackle the problem on the ground.
As part of its campaign for photographers’ rights, every UK member is being issued with the BFP “Blue Card” – a card that asserts photographers’ rights to take pictures in public places. The card may help members who find themselves being stopped from taking pictures in public places. In such circumstances, the Bureau feels that members may find it useful to show the card to the particular police officer, security guard or other official. The card is written in simple language; it is short and to the point and has been legally validated. It is small enough to be slipped into a camera bag or pocket.
But will it work? Will the card have the desired effect? BFP chief executive John Tracy says: “With the increasing number of photographers – both amateur and professional – being stopped by police officers from legitimately taking pictures, we felt we had to do something. We have written to the police, we have lobbied MPs, but ultimately, whether a photographer is prevented from taking pictures, is down to the individual officer on the ground. We feel that the card, if used with tact and discretion, may have the desired effect of emphasising to an officer the fact that photography in public places is a legitimate and, in 99 cases out of 100, legal activity.”
The organisation is asking members to “report back on their experiences of using the card – whether positive or negative”. John Tracy adds: “We will report on these experiences through the Newsletter and if the majority of members find that the card does help, all well and good. If, on the other hand, the majority find it doesn’t work, or even exacerbates the situation, we will report that too. “But personally, I don’t think the latter will be the case. I think it’s more likely that, in some circumstances, members will find the card helpful and, in other circumstances, they won’t.”
Meanwhile, the BFP campaign continues. We hope to be part of a delegation being put together by Austin Mitchell to see Home Office minister Tony McNulty to urge that clear instructions be issued “to make it clear that there is a right to take photographs in public places”.