Dan Hume's Blog


Filming in Public Places
February 16, 2012, 12:53 am
Filed under: Extended Major Project

This is an issue I feel I neglected in the last project as it’s quite relevant to the fact I’m filming in public places without people knowing. I was under the impression that what I shot wasn’t technically legal because I didn’t ask for permission from public people about filming them or people in authority about particular locations.

Filming in Public Places by Philip Bloom

I’ve just read an interesting article from film director Philip Bloom, who gives a good analysis of this particular issue. He says that people have this misconception that you are required to have a special pass that gives you the right to film in London. This is clearly not true, especially if it’s just you and a couple of other people and you’re on public grounds, then you are free to do so.

I like the fact he makes a dig at two types of people who would normally bother a photographer or filmmaker, which are Security guards and Community Support Officers. This is true from my own experience. As it goes, they are considered uneducated individuals about the law of this sort of act.

Although I’m not a freelance photographer/filmmaker, I am considering getting a card from the Bureau of Freelance Photographers. They are a leading photography body and have launched a card, to be carried by its members, outlining photographers’ legal rights in response to the ongoing photography in public campaign.

Will the card make a different?

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.”

Philip Bloom goes on to say that filming people is in fact completely legal, but you have to respect their decision if they wish not to be filmed, which is fair enough. If you intend to film something that will be for more commercial purposes then it is required to get a release form signed, by the individuals who appear in shot. However general filming for yourself you don’t need anything signed.

A major place where you cannot film is London’s South Bank. It’s a nightmare area. There are almost as many security guards as there are tourists. You can be guerilla and try it and sometimes you can get lucky like I did when filming my South Bank short film. Now I had permission for Waterloo station but not the South Bank. The South Bank is owned by various different people. For example the land by the London Eye is owned by one company but the land just next to that is owned by the company that owns county hall so you need permission from two different companies. Further down East it’s owned by more companies. it’s a nightmare. If filming “guerilla” style with minimal gear you often can get away with it. On Thursday I am taking the new JVC HM100 to all the private places I can’t film and will film as I have what looks like a consumer camera that shoots pro pictures. Just me, the camera and my baby cinesaddle!

And here is the video Philip Bloom shot using the JVC HM100.

DSLR cameras since the time of this video have become the primary tool for filmmaking, especially in Philip Bloom’s case. They are even more compact in size in comparison to the JVC, but unfortunately there are going to be unfortunate individuals who will be at the wrong place at the wrong time who will be approached and stopped by security.

 Innocent Photographer or a Terrorist?

‘Misplaced fears about terror, privacy and child protection are preventing amateur photographers from enjoying their hobby, say campaigners.’ 

The BBC News Magazine also makes an interesting read about a photographers experience with the police and not knowing his rights about taking photographs in public places. He makes an interesting quote about people with compacts cameras not being penalised.

People were still taking photos with mobile phones and pocket cameras, so maybe it was because mine looked like a professional camera with a flash on top,

Again, with the bigger and more obtrusive camera, you as an individual are more prone to draw attention by local authorities. I have noticed that from personal experience as well.

It’s a sad state of affairs today if an amateur photographer can’t stand in the street taking photographs.

Austin Mitchell MP has tabled a motion in the Commons that has drawn on cross-party support from 150 other MPs, calling on the Home Office and the police to educate officers about photographers’ rights.

There’s a general alarm about terrorism and about paedophiles, two heady cocktails, and police and PCSOs [police community support officers] and wardens and authorities generally seem to be worried about this.” Austin Mitchell MP.

The way society is, which I believe is in constant paranoia, there is issue with terrorism and Pedophilia causing this rift with amateur and professional photographs going about their daily business. No-one in authority trusts anyone taking a photograph. Today, cameras are practically built into every device imaginable, whether it’s a phone, mp3 player or even a tablet device. I feel this attitude towards  photography and filming in public places has definitely got to change otherwise, what’s the point in having cameras in the first place!?!

 

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