Many of us take photos on the streets and in most cases we don’t run into any trouble doing it. However in some cases even serious it can result in serious injuries if you take photos of people without their consent. Even if the law doesn’t require permission it never hurts to have it.
A British street photographer got seriously beaten, injured and his camera was broken because of taking a photo of a couple on a street festival. Laws are on his side, but it meant not much against aggression.
Empathy in addition to legal rights!
I write about a lot of legal stuff on my blog (especially on the Hungarian version as most of it is not translated into English yet). I cannot emphasize it enough how important it is not only to know your rights for photography but also be aware and have empathy for others’ situation and needs. Brute force and abuse are usually mentioned in stories where police officers are on one side or paparazzi on the other side. However, street photography has a resemblance to paparazzi the former one gets mentioned a lot less often in connection with conflicts. Despite everyday pedestrian can just as easily cause photographer atrocities.
It is worth to know your legal rights for photographing people in public places or at a festival, during a police dispatch, or any other situation. Especially to know when not only your rights are important!
It is just as important wherever and whoever you photograph, brute force is not a valid response. Not only from a police officer, no one may hit you or break your gear. Even if you take photos without permission and if you do break personal rights of others, not even a police officer can fine you for it on site. Only the court may rule you guilty and decide any fine for your misdeed after the proper civil rights court case process. Use of force, harming others, property damage, truculence or playing judge yourself are all punishable crimes each individually.
It is worth to keep it in mind that it is not enough to know your rights and to sound them. Common sense and mannered human communication can lead to much better results in most cases than just citing laws and your rights. As a part of this in some cases even if you do have a legal right to take photos you shall do it in a civilised manner respecting others. Disputes should also be resolved in a civilised and assertive way. If someone really doesn’t like you taking photos then it may be better not to take photos at all, regardless if you have rights to do it or not.
In case the bad thing happens and you do get hurt and someone harms you or your equipment you should always stand up for protecting your rights. Not only to get revenge on the perpetrator for the harm done to you, but also to deter others doing similar misdeeds.
The current London story
Like Phoblographer and PetaPixel wrote, Matth Roberts British street photographer was beaten up and his camera broken because he took a photo of an embracing couple. At Nottinghill Carnival around 10:30pm, he saw a couple on Moscow Road embracing each other.
He usually doesn’t disturb the mood of the moment with asking for consent, just used to ask permission after the photo was taken (contrary to Hungarian personal rights laws in Great Britain a consent is not mandatory in public spaces). So he took the photo and the couple saw it. He tells the lady asked if he took a photo and he felt from the question she is not happy with it. However, he had no chance to even offer to delete the photo, like he usually does, because the man quickly approached, punched him a few times, knocked him to the floor and then smashed his camera. As it can be seen on his photo, the skinny guy was beaten up to bleeding and his camera crashed.
The photographer tells he doesn’t press charges because he doesn’t want to relive the harmful events. His camera was insured and his injuries will heal. He doesn’t feel the events will leave a long-lasting effect on him. Perhaps for a while, he will have second guesses in certain situations, but he will be able to overcome it. He already took over ten thousand street photos what can be sene on his website and this was his first-ever atrocity thus the odds are in his favour.