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Ban (Private) Cameras!

September 17, 2009 permalink

Britain, which has a police surveillance camera on every block, is moving to restrict civilian photography. A report Policing the Public Gaze: The Assault on Citizen Photography (pdf) covers the many pretexts for restriction, foremost is child pornography. This does not mean children engaging in sex acts or seductive poses, but any photograph centering on a single child. Parents are advised to photograph their children from the waist up. The expand block has quotes from the report:



Mandy Smith and her partner were taking photographs of their 11-month daughter in Alexandra Park in Oldham, when a park warden marched over to the play area and ordered them to stop taking photographs. The couple pointed out that they were 11-monthold Rebecca’s parents and that no one else was using the playground but he informed them it was ‘illegal’ to take pictures of children there.

Cheryl Hudson, Abingdon: ‘My husband and I took our young son to a local swimming pool at a time when it was very quiet so as not to distress him since it was his first time swimming. The pool was empty and I wanted to take a snap to record his first entry into the water but the lifeguard stopped me and told me that it was against the regulations. There were no other children in the water but I was still prevented from taking a photograph of my own son having his first swim.’

Andrew Norris said a swimming pool lifeguard stopped him photographing his four-month-old son at an indoor pool run by Haven in Chichester, West Sussex. The lifeguard told him that the ban was due to ‘privacy laws’. A Haven spokeswoman later said that the ban was to guard against the risk of paedophiles. ‘We need to provide a safe and secure environment for our guests,’ she said, adding that the park cannot guarantee where the pictures will end up.

The youth officer for the Peterborough Diocese says that children’s nativity photos could end up on a child pornography website, with the head pasted on to a naked child’s body: ‘You can take one child’s head and add it to another. We know that it is possible. We can clearly extrapolate to find out what could be done.’

A council has apologised to two women pensioners after a worker reprimanded them for photographing a deserted paddling pool over fears about paedophiles. Mike Harris, head of leisure and culture at Southampton City Council, said in a statement: ‘A lot of people are more concerned about the safety of their children these days so it is appropriate that our staff are aware of who is taking photos.’

Indeed, looking becomes itself identified with predation. The National Association of Clubs for Young People recently advised their membership to remove pictures of children receiving trophies or playing sports from club websites, in a bid to protect them from the gaze of paedophiles. Edinburgh council famously issued policy guidelines in 2002, preventing parents from filming their children in school nativity plays.

Head-shots only: Defining ‘appropriate’ photography

The Child Protection in Sport Unit: ‘[photos should] focus on the overall activity, not on a particular child, and should avoid full face and body shots … photographs of children in a pool would be appropriate if shot poolside from waist or shoulder up.’

Teacher: ‘We let [parents] know that we can’t let them take photos in the general manner, but that they may take photos of their own child against a wall/ fence/hedge where they are sure that no other child is in the photo.’

Child protection adviser, the Diocese of Guilford: ‘Parents can photograph, but it is suggested that parents do not focus on any particular child.’

Parent: ‘I took a DV camcorder to the school nativity play and was told by the Head Teacher that it was ok as long as I only filmed my own child.’

Teacher: ‘There is now a list of those children whose photograph must not appear on the website, so when you go on a trip and take a group photo, you take one with those children in and then ask them to step out so you can take a website-friendly one.’

Church child protection adviser says photography is permitted at particular points in the nativity play: ‘Sometimes churches have a tableau at the end of a performance, where parents can come up and take photos.’

Sidebar on ignorance

At a meeting attended by your editor in the 1970's, a member of an archaeological dig in Iran presented a slide-show about his trip. One day the group came to a small village and many members took pictures. The local police saw foreigners taking pictures, including pictures of a police station, and had only one thought: espionage. The entire party was thrown in jail. Espionage is a serious crime, and the matter was referred to the Shah's secret police. The secret police was staffed by men educated in Europe and North America. When they saw ignorant local police arresting tourists with cameras, they had a big laugh and turned everyone loose.

In the intervening years, has western education spread to Iran? On the contrary, Iranian ignorance seems to have spread to the west.

Michelangelo's David
Kiddie porn, by Michelangelo sculpted 1501-1504, Accademia Gallery, Florence. According to one legend, Michelangelo needed to sculpt the mis-proportioned body of a young teenager to make use of the entire marble blank.