A Permit To Photograph In The Park? Really?
Last Thursday, a group of CLUB and f2 members and myself went to Birmingham‘s lovely Cannon Hill park for a fun shoot with demurely-attired model Vera Ping. The rain stopped, the clouds cleared and the scene was set for some lovely portrait shots.
We headed initially for the park’s victorian bandstand (thinking that if it did start raining again, at least we’d be under cover) and began shooting, trying to avoid getting the bandstand’s two sleeping-bagged homeless people in the background. We stayed there for a while until the sun really came through and headed off to a location where we might better be able to take advantage of the beautiful (if unexpected) early evening light.
So we found a bench a few hundred yards away and started using that. The low warm light and reflector produced some gorgeous images of Vera. At this point, a man on the next bench, who had been watching us for a few minutes walked away, only to return to the bench about five minutes later. Shortly afterwards I was tapped on the shoulder by a park ranger, asking what we were doing. I explained that we were a group on an outing from a local photography club to take some pictures in the park. He asked me if I had a permit to take photographs in the park. I said I was unaware that a permit was needed.
He asked me for ID or a business card, which I gave him, and said I could expect a call from a Mr. Cooper (presumably at Birmingham City Council) who was the person that I would henceforth need to contact for permission to photograph in the park.
I asked if it was really forbidden for people to take photographs and he said “well, it is for professionals”. I explained that I was the only professional there and I wasn’t actually taking pictures (a small fib – I’d taken about a dozen). He said it wasn’t a problem this time but that I needed a permit in future. I explained that I was a photography tutor at mac (which is situated in the park) and regularly used the park for classes – was I to take it that I would no longer be allowed to do this and all future courses should be held completely indoors? The ranger, who gave his name as “Sergeant…” (exactly how he came by this pseudo-military rank when working for the council I have yet to work out) then left, after saying goodbye to the man on the bench, who it seems might’ve been the one who alerted the sergeant to the nefarious and scandalous use of cameras in the park.
In the event, we had more or less already finished by then, as the sun dipped behind the trees and it began spotting with rain. We headed inside.
There were no children around, and if there had been, the assembled photographers were better placed than most members of the public to compose images so as to exclude them from shots. The backgrounds for these shots were, mainly, trees, so not exactly potential terrorist targets.
My problem with this situation, apart from becoming an all-too-regular occurrence for photographers in the UK, is this…
- Where was the sign displayed stating that photography (by professionals or anyone else) in the park was forbidden?
- I am a professional photographer 24/7. Am I never again allowed to take photographs in a park?
- Why were we singled out when there were people sleeping in the bandstand, and gangs of youths effing and jeffing within earshot?
One can only imagine that the notoriously skint Brum Council have now sunk to the level of demanding a form of “protection money” from photographers, who are, let’s face it, a nice soft target. Or perhaps, as was the case in a similar incident with English Heritage last year, they don’t want anyone taking the same pictures that can be bought at the gift shop, or taken at one of their own photography events.
Perhaps I should have been prepared and downloaded a “Bust Card” from those nice peeps at “I’m a Photographer, not a terrorist”
Get yours at http://photographernotaterrorist.org/bust-card/