I’ve recently been given some freelance work by a company asking me to take photographs of buildings, they cover a wide range from general retail outlets to student accommodation to industrial units to social and entertainment centres, you take around four images from different angles to capture the building as best you can and then process and upload the finished image. It’s all very clinical and modern and also enjoyable, its tests your camera skills and map reading to the maximum and of course you get paid for it.
One thing I have noticed over the last few weeks is the amount of general suspicion that taking the actual images has incurred, “You were spotted on CCTV”, informed the police officer who had caught up with me and wanted to know why I was taking photographs. I explained what I was doing and he thanked me for my time and let me get on with the task at hand. The law in the United Kingdom is that a photographer may take a photo of a building from a public place. (The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988, Section 62)
On another occasion a shopkeeper came and had a word with me, he thought I was casing the joint as I took photos of his terraced shop. He then preceded to mumble something about not being able to take photos at nativity plays these days, obviously that’s a myth as my three old’s recent stage debut there was active encouragement of photography by the nursery staff.
“Criminal and/or civil liability can result if someone harasses, coerces, threatens or detains a photographer or interferes with or damages their equipment when they are legitimately exercising their ability to photograph a building.” So says the blurb that you have to memorise as it makes life easier when been accused of taking photos of someone’s girlfriend. You do become aware of people staring as you compose a shot of the latest Tesco Express whilst stood on the zebra crossing, as it’s the best place to be to get the image.
If someone sees you take the first or second image of a building they continue watching as you take the other shots, at the ‘spectacle’ many are taking phone photographs/videos of the experience and nobody bats an eye. Many museums and galleries are also actively encouraging visitors to take photographs, the benefits of exposure on social networks and photo sites far outweighs any outdated infringements.
It is as though photography is encouraged within a controlled environment but outside of that, seen with suspicion, I think this has been the case for sometime. Taking the assignments on and completing the work has improved my confidence in many areas but mainly about not having second thoughts when taking photographs in busy city centres.