A Monkey's Revenge - My Blog

Leveson levity

You have to laugh don't you? I unsubscribed from a group for professional image makers this week after a stupid throw-away remark by one of it's founder members who says he 'welcomes new privacy laws'.

Like a lot of editorial photographers I'm actually pretty angry that the Leveson inquiry into phone hacking has turned into a witch hunt against all press photographers and the very real possibility of new privacy laws. At the last minute the inquiry has been approached by the BPPA to try and redress the balance and put the case for ordinary working photographers. It may be too little too late to avoid new laws like those they have in France where it is now not possible to photograph anybody in a public place without their written consent.

Over the years I've been spat at, peed on, chased by a man wielding a knife and verbally and physically abused. All in the course of my job as a press photographer. I often get called 'paparrazi' by the very public I took all the above abuse for-in order for them to read about various subjects and see photos in the newspapers they read. Whenever possible I try to educate them about the difference between what press photographers do and what 'paps' do. It's an uphill task, but now it appears a few fellow professional photographers, and also radio and TV media looking to distance themselves from their own unsavoury behaviour need a little education too.

So here goes.....

Contrary to what one local radio programme controller informed me he thought I did, real press photographers do not sift through peoples bins. Also I have never tried to force entry into somebody's house to get photos or dressed up as a doctor to gain access to a hospital for photos.Yes we do sometimes take photos of people out in the street without their permission. It's allowed under current laws but that may change after Leveson-is that a good thing? Well, yes of course it is if you are looking to hide something. So if your a politician trying to hide what you did with your expenses, etc., then great-no more hassle from the press. The bent policeman who raped two young girls? Sure, a privacy law would be smashing thanks very much. The former nazi I photographed from the street? Sorry-not possible in future without his written permission.

Gerry McCann is the 'victim' of the press who is calling for a privacy law. As are several celebrities. The same celebrities are only too keen to use the press for publicity when it suits them. And the McCanns were more than happy for the press to publicise the disappearance of their daughter in the hope it would help find her after they left her unattended and she was abducted.

I'm not an apologist for some of the worst excesses of a tiny minority of photographers. If they have broken the law then for goodness sake punish them-which is perfectly possible under current laws. But why use a sledgehammer to crack a nut and bring in a law which would effectively ban any kind of investigative journalism and photography? Street photography like that from the famous french photographer Henri Cartier Bresson? Impossible under a written consent only photography regime.

Have I ever spat on a celebrity or verbally abused one? Nope and neither would any photographer wanting to keep working for the national press on a regular basis. We are expected to adhere strictly to the PCC code.

The situation is not helped by the crappy way press photographers nearly always get portrayed on tv shows and films. Pushy, aggressive,clueless and most often using a 1970's hammer-head flashgun on every shot. That bears no relation to real life at all and is just a lazy TV researchers idea of the press. It perpetrates the myth of the uncaring and uncouth photojournalist.

It has been my privilege to work alongside some of the best photojournalists in the world. Like me, they do care about their profession and they aspire to the highest levels of journalism. Some have given their lives to bring the public images and stories. So think carefully before you tar us all with the same brush. Photojournalism was once a respected job but is now in danger of being swept into the history books because of the actions of a few mavericks.

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