Walking through Christchurch Park, Ipswich, I came across the War Memorial and liked the juxtaposition of a threatening bundle of military gear on the Memorial and a father and child resting on the wall in the late afternoon sun.  I took a couple of pictures – not particularly original, but worth recording.  About 15 minutes later I was stopped in the town centre by two WPCs, who said very politely that the police had received a phone call complaining that someone might have taken their picture in the Park and had I been there.  I said I had and was photographing the Memorial.  They asked to see the last few shots on my camera; I was happy to oblige and they let it rest there.  All of which raises lots of questions?  Is it right to take photographs including people in public places?  Should I have asked if it was OK?  Was I obliged to show the police what was on my camera?  What would they have done if I had refused?  What would they have done if I’d been using film?  How did they find me, I wasn’t the only one with a camera in Ipswich that afternoon?  If I think I have right to take photos in public places, do people have an equal right to challenge me when I do?  Where is the line between general pictures of places that include people incidentally and pictures in which the people become a main subject?  Nothing new in all this, but the first time I’ve had such a direct challenge. Anyway, for the avoidance of any possible upset, the picture here is not the one I set out to take and can hardly cause offence (except to other photographers!).

Photo: Christchurch Park, Ipswich, April 2012

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2 Responses to Rights

  1. dave says:

    It is a very sad reflection on our times that the most innocent of people,engaged only in trying to make something of beauty,should be suspected of unnamed,yet implicitly unsavoury,crimes.
    There is no recourse for you to complain about false accusations.It doesn’t work that way.
    The tradition of documenting public places is as old as photography itself, and has provided an invaluable historical record. What is to become of it.

  2. brian human says:

    Too true, Dave. I try to be philpsophical about it, though it still bugs me. The two WPCs were very relaxed, but what if they had been some jobsworths who just wanted a big tick in the box for that day? All sorts of complications. That’s not really the point though, its about distrust, freedom and the surveillance society. Perhaps I’ll just do watercolour landscapes in future.

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