The recent spate of photographer arrests/police problems seem to be going up, or it could just be that these incidents are being reported more. One thing is for certain, many photographers, especially those abroad, may see these headlines and think that the UK authorities are stamping down on photography in public places.
Last week's incident on the Tube involved a Greek tourist who, while on his way to an exhibition, decided to start taking photographs of tube travellers. According to his account of the story, a lady took exception to him photographing her daughter and then things got out of hand. The photographer apologised and deleted the images but another person called the police. It ended with the Greek photographer being charged under the public order act for 'public harassment' and causing ' alarm or distress'. Two questions need to be asked. Firstly, was the photographer blasting away, taking photographs in the wrong place at the wrong time? Secondly, did the police/public over react to the situation? It's a tough call but from my own experience of photography on the London Underground , i think the photographer either pushed his luck or he picked on the wrong sort of person to photograph. Confined in a carriage with a photographer is many people's idea of hell. If you are doing a project and going to spend some time on the Underground network, then a photography permit from London transport is a very good idea.
That incident on the London Tube has received lots of coverage, both from the media and the online community via websites like twitter. One comment i spotted was posted by an American twitter user who seemed to think that Britain had become a police state that clamps down on the freedom to take photographs. No it hasn't, and photography in public places is still allowed and often encouraged. However, a bit of thought is required - you HAVE to be aware of where you are shooting. The photographer has to evaluate the location and be aware of any potential problems, after all, not everyone likes their photo being taken. Some people hate it! Imagine someone coming up to you in the street (or even worse a Tube train carriage) and snapping away like a demented paparazzi photographer. You'd want to get rid of them... quickly! It's the approach that can make all the difference and if in doubt ASK before you snap. Look, evaluate and then photograph.