Parked motorbike - Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk, UK
'All we have to fear is fear itself', once declared Franklin Delano Rossevelt, the 32nd President of the United States. His words were aimed at the economic situation affecting America during the 1930's - the Wall Street Crash - but those words have added meaning in this age of fear. Age of Fear - it sounds like a trashy thriller novel, but what I'm referring to is the growing sense of unease that seems to be affecting our way of life and , most important of all, our freedoms. Public photography, usually a good visual indicator of how free a country is, has come under threat from increasingly bad legislation and poorly trained law enforcers.
Somehow you get the feeling that the terrorists, helped along by other social fears, have won a slight victory in changing the British mainland into a more nervous and fearful place. Not only does a photographer run the risk of being treated as a terrorist, he can also be accused of taking too much of an interest in children if he/she isn't careful. The wonderful photographs of children playing on a street etc, taken by humanist photographers like Doisneau and Cartier Bresson, mark an innocent era long gone. Even parents can get into trouble whilst photographing their own kids. Everyone is regarded with suspicion and that isn't a healthy mindset for a society to hold at all.
During my student years in the early 1990's, I remember talking to some American tourists who were travelling back down to London on the train. How are you enjoying Britain i asked. 'We love it here' was the lovely reply, 'but why don't the railway stations have any trash cans'? 'Terrorism' i answered. It was then that i realised that by the stations removing rubbish bins, the IRA had achieved at least one tiny victory over the way the British lived their lives. It was the tiniest of victories, but a victory nonetheless. What concerns me most however is there seems to be no stop to the abuse of laws originally set up to protect us.
In the graphic novel (and later a movie) V for Vendetta, Britain has become a totalitarian state due to increasingly stronger and more draconian security measures implemented due to an increased public perception of terrorist attack. The terror risk we have is real but we need to balance security and liberty needs better. As V for Vendetta illustrates, the path between keeping our liberties intact and infringing them, due to bad security laws and political incompetence, is a narrow one. One thing i do know for certain: photography is NOT the enemy!