Street Photography Laws

General comment, street photography

Ok, now I’m no expert at this, but I do read the British Journal of Photography each week (which I’d highly recommend to budding photographers) and they are always publicising stuff about photography rights, especially with regard to photographing on the street. They have been campaiging against police abusing the terrorism act over the past 2 years, which has been a problem stretching back way before this last weeks ‘news’ in the papers – finally they’ve cottoned on to the problem that’s been plaguing their own photographers for ages.

I found this on a website about photography and the law: “If you’re on a public right of way – such as a public pavement, footpath or public highway – you’re free to take photographs for personal and commercial use so long as you’re not causing an obstruction to other users or falling foul of anti-Terrorism laws or even the Official Secrets Act (frankly, this one is unlikely).”

It goes on to say there’s a few exceptions, such as no professional photography in Trafalgar Square. And I think there’s been a recent law that means you have to pay to photograph in the Underground – I assume by seeking permission from Transport for London, for commercial stuff I think it’s around £5000 a day so big budget shoots only!

This recent article in the British Journal of Photography states what the Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said yesterday on how police officers shouldn’t be stopping photographers in the Capital unless they have a very very good reason to believe they’re abusing the law.

It’s really important that people understand how important photography is in documenting current events, lifestyle, fashion etc. candidly without needing to chase up a model release form after you take one of a thousand street shots of different individuals that day. Think back to England during WWII, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, or those iconic shots of Times Square in New York from the first half of the 20th century. Great photographers like Henri Cartier-Bresson, Elliott Erwitt, Bruce Gilden or Martin Parr wouldn’t be able to make a living and provide us with those all important photos of what everyday life has been like in parts of the world where it no longer and will never exist again.

You may not recognize at the moment how important street photography by professionals and amateurs alike is at the moment, but when you look back at them in 40 or 50 years, you will.


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