At the age of 15, freelance photographer Jules Mattsson can teach adult photographers a thing or two about standing up for your rights to take photos in public.
The English lad was on assignment taking pictures of police cadets lining up for a parade in London Saturday when he was confronted by several officers who accused him of terrorism, pedophilia and general all-around anti-social behavior (which is the British way of saying you should be locked up).
In pure English irony, the parade was part of Armed Forces Day, described by The Independent as “a new event that was created last year amid criticism that the country didn’t do enough to honor its military.”
Obviously having the press ignore the parade is a displaying the ultimate honor.
This is how Mattsson explained it on his blog:
The incident started when I took an image (not a very good one it seems :p) of a Police Cadet unit forming up to take part in an Armed Forces Day parade. I was quickly and aggressively stopped by one of their adult officers asking me who I worked for. I responded that I was a freelance and upon being told I needed parental permission to photograph them, I explained this was a public event in a public place and that I didn’t for editorial use.
She then demanded my details and when I declined, I was quickly pulled aside by police officers. Then started recording, see below for the rest
I had my lens covered while trying to photograph my harassment , then told ‘I consider you a threat under the terrorism act’ for photographing a police officer, had my camera taken from around my neck, was detained and frog marched away before being pushed down some stairs and told they were concerned for my safety
Mattsson had the sense and courage to record the conversation and continue taking photos as he demanded to know under what law was he not allowed to take photos. Check out the above video to hear the audio and see the photos.
As insane as some laws are in the United Kingdom, at least they don’t equate recording a public conversation with a public official to illegal wiretapping.
Mattsson not only did an excellent job documenting the harassment, but he has done a great job of keeping the story alive on his blog by continually posting updates, including a statement from the police spokeswoman.
“It is clearly not the intention of the MPS to prevent people from taking photographs, although, as the public would expect, officers will remain vigilant, particularly in crowded public places. Any allegations or complaints about police treatment of photographers are taken very seriously by the MPS.”
She adds: “Anyone who is unhappy with the actions of individual police officers can make a formal complaint, which will be thoroughly investigated. Although at this time we have not received a complaint about this incident and no allegations of crime have been made, we will investigate the circumstances. Our officers do receive guidance around the issue of photography through briefings and internal communications and we continue to drive this work forward.”
Meanwhile, a photographer and videographer each won £3,500 ($5,275) in damages after police prevented them from documenting a protest outside the Greek Embassy in 2008 (video of that incident below).
According to the Guardian:
In letters sent to the journalists, the force said: “The [Met] confirms its recognition that freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democracy and that journalists have a right to report freely. [We] recognise that on 8 December 2008 they failed to respect press freedom in respect of Mr (Marc) Vallée and Mr (Jason) Parkinson.” Both men received £3500 in compensation.
After the altercation, the journalists were forcibly frogmarched away from the scene to a location they said they were unable to report from. Both men believe police were preventing them from witnessing a series of what appeared to be aggressive arrests of activists taking place the same time.
And last week, another photographer was harassed in London under the terrorism laws when taking photographs with a tripod in public.
Things are getting so bad in the U.K. that Amateur Photographer magazine will give out a free lens cloth (right) in next month’s issue that state the rules for public photography to hand out to cops when they begin harassing photographers.
I doubt that will prevent them from continuing their harassment but it should make for interesting video as they try to explain why the rules, which were drafted by the top police brass, are not valid.