In the list of sexy subjects to write about, the Leveson Inquiry may appear to be low down the top 40 but this is the one that has huge potential to change working practise for every photographer in the UK.

The fourth day of the inquiry has now finished and, along with a large percentage of my colleagues, I feel truly let down at how we, as photographers, are being portrayed. By way of a cheat-sheet for those not following the story, the inquiry was launched to investigate malpractice within the media, following on from the hacking scandal at News International but appears to slowly be turning into a witch-hunt against photographers. While celebrity witnesses have been lining up to vent their anger at the ordeals that they have faced at the hands of the paparazzi, the differentiation between news photographers and paps has been blurred to the point where the whole industry is now being tarred with the same brush.

Having started writing a blog post on the subject, colleague and friend Christopher Pledger beat me to it with his “open letter” explaining how he feels about the situation. He’s kindly let me reproduce it here. If you agree with what’s been said or even feel that it’s made you consider how you feel on the topic, please share this page. It’s important that as many people as possible get to know that there is a difference. Over to Christopher…

“These are my personal views and are not intended to be representative of any organisation I work for as a freelance photographer.

The testimony of witnesses this week at the Leveson inquiry has included damning condemnation of the behaviour of the paparazzi. Both the celebrity and ‘ordinary’ victims of phone hacking have told of being chased, spat at and terrified by photographers. These experiences could have fatal consequences for the news photographer, a vital part of a truly free press.

There are important distinctions to be made between a paparazzo and a press photographer. A comparison of the two is like that between the cowboy builder and a professional tradesman. It is also important to distinguish between the paparazzi and celebrity photographers. Celebrity photographers work with the permission, and often to the benefit of, their subjects. This can range from red carpet premieres to organised and set up photo shoots of a celebrity out shopping or on the beach. I do not class them in my definition of paparazzi. Lacking moral or ethical guidance, the paparazzi work with little respect for the law. The composition, quality, or origin of a photograph is a distant second to its commercial value. Paparazzi agencies will often employ people with little or no knowledge of photography. The agency will provide cameras with settings taped over so they cannot be changed. It is not a photographer that is sent out of the office, simply a man with a camera.

Press photographers by contrast are skilled professionals with years of training and experience. They work within the strict guidelines of both the Press Complaints Commission and their newspaper or news agency. These guidelines include respecting both a person’s right to privacy and the boundaries of private property. A good news photograph will be technically excellent and able to tell the story in a single frame. In contrast to the paparazzi, financial rewards are low.

This is not to imply that all press photographers are angelic super-humans working to expose the truth to an unwitting public. Like any industry, there are a minority of ‘rogue traders’ who are prepared to bend or break the rules to get a picture.

The problem for legitimate press photographers is they are seen as no different from the paparazzi. Regardless of the assignment they are covering, press photographers now experience regular abuse from strangers in the street. When photographing something as mundane as a the outside of a high street bank, it is not uncommon to hear shouts of ‘pap scum’ or ‘leave them alone’ from members of the public. If a group of press photographers are gathered outside a court or government building, the first question asked by curious passers-by is not ‘what’s happening?’ but ‘which famous person is coming?’.

The problem of public perception stems from two different sources; celebrity magazine culture and television news. The dominant celebrity culture makes it hard to avoid a constant stream of images cataloguing the daily lives of the A to Z list. It is no surprise that the general public perceive the primary role of photographers as being to feed this machine. The problem is complicated by disreputable publications being prepared to buy pictures on a ‘no questions asked’ basis. This makes it hard to distinguish between photographers working in a professional way and those who aren’t.

Television news coverage is the other major factor in the problem of perception. During most stories a clip of press photographers is included as a ‘cut away’ shot to add visual interest. If the clip includes the subject of a story being surrounded by the media, reporters will often refer to a “scrum of photographers”. This ignores the numerous TV cameras both in the scrum and filming from a distance. This has been demonstrated during TV reports on the Leveson inquiry. Press photographers have been working from an official area behind a barrier to give the witnesses space to arrive without being disturbed. TV reports have consistently referred to ‘hordes of photographers’ while ignoring the numerous video cameras surrounding witnesses as they arrive. By using these tactics, TV news aim to draw a distinction between the dirty press and the clean media. In doing so, they may perhaps be driving the Leveson inquiry toward concluding tough privacy laws are required, privacy laws that will include a ban on photographing people in public without their permission.

A ban of this type would be the death of the free press in the UK. Current guidelines require that individuals should not be photographed while they have ‘a reasonable expectation of privacy’. In practical terms this means anyone in a public place can be photographed without permission, as they cannot expect privacy in a public space. If laws were introduced requiring the written consent of an individual before they were photographed, it would mean press photographers would have to ignore events unfolding before them. Some of the biggest news stories in the last year could not have been reported. Pictures of Charlie Gilmour swinging from the Cenotaph would have been taken illegally, likewise pictures of Oliver Letwin disposing of government documents in a park bin. Press photographers would be as ham strung as reporters are when they are prevented from covering stories of public interest that are subject to super-injunctions.

The problem of finding a solution that avoids this type of privacy law is extremely difficult. Legitimate press photographers already have licensed press cards that are required to be shown to work in places like Downing Street. This system has not stopped any of the behaviour reported this week, or prevented the use of faked press cards. Digital cameras are cheap and increasingly easier to use, making it hard for anybody to distinguish between professional and amateur, press photographer and paparazzo. If 99 out of 100 photographers comply with a code of conduct, one will always break the rules and tar the rest with the same brush. Introducing government or police regulation and control over licensing of press photographers would affect impartiality and freedom.

It would be very hard to argue that there can be no changes following the Leveson Inquiry. We must be very careful what these changes are and where they will take us. Press photographers are in danger of being so restrained by regulation that we become like the fire fighter who cannot enter a burning building for fear of breaking health and safety regulations.”

So there we have it. This could well be a make or break time for British press photography. Let’s hope that the inquiry sees sense before knee-jerk reactions destroy some of this country’s powerful freedoms forever.


29 Responses to “The Leveson Inquiry”

  1. TV applied the same tactics after the death of Princess Diana. Repeated footage of photographers surrounding her in an airport terminal as she tried to wave them away. A friend I knew complained about those ‘nasty photographers’ until I pointed out that “how exactly are you seeing this scene – in close up?” Right there, in the thick of it, the TV camera that got you these images, often with a bright little spotlight illuminating the ‘victim’. Photographers were spat at, kicked, abused at that time for “killing the people’s princess”. Press photographers, especially when in a pack, group, whatever you want to call it, put behind a barrier while Joe Public has free access – will always be called ‘paps’ – lawyers and journos all use the term in a lazy way. Funny how legal proceedings are usually so careful over language (and forget Hugh Grant’s definition of photographers) but they use the term ‘pap’ so freely and lazily. I did notice the lawyer got in the superfluous phrase “reasonable charges” when describing a lawyer’s fees, rather than ‘charges’. One rule for some….

    Posted by Martin Beddall
  2. AS much as I love this we really have to start understanding that some of our colleague are technically paparazzi. There is no point saying these people are called this and we are called that and therefore we are better. WE are all photographers whether we doorstep Downing Street or doorstep Jordan. I have no problem with the term ‘Pap’ as I have no problem with the word ‘snapper’. The people who spit at celebrities and act like animals to get a picture of Gerri Halliwell using an ATM are not ‘Paps’ or ‘Snappers’ or ‘Photographers’ they are just scum and about as much to do with Photography as a plumber.

    Posted by Eddie Mulholland
  3. Have to agree with Eddie. We all feed the appetite that the general public has for the salacious, be it one that will change the course of history or just to titillate someone mindless. When I realized that I wanted to be a press photographer the only open door (1998) was being a Pap – I did not have money for Uni, or lenses etc. I really hated it, but it taught me to use my elbows and get a picture. Of course it was a lot more mellow back then and Ive not been around for 5 years, so I dont know how bad things are. My concern is that when newspapers publish both suspect photos as well as great work, how are the public to differentiate? When working for National I would run from a job at some minor celeb to the high court, how could I differentiate? My job was to get the best picture I could regardless and thats what I feel makes the difference.

    One final note, now that I am away from it all and have possibly the best job in news I look back and am at times I cringe over the culture in London that I left (and the things I did). I am fortunate to live in the middle of the Rockies at a place that the rich, famous and powerful all frequent and they know if there is a reason I will be there. If not I can walk by with my cameras swinging. Maybe thats what we need a bit of. Leon, not all of us can start at the top. Some of those Paps might just become great one day, I know I am working on it.

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  4. Plumbers get more respect. The problem is not what photographers know to be true with regard names, definitions. Snapper, smudger, etc – so what. There are plenty of photographers on twitter who complain about the term ‘tog’ as if it demeans their ‘ profession’, but the term ‘pap’ is not being used with affection. The lazy use of this term to include ALL photographers on the street, newsgathering, etc does seep into the public’s mindset and everyone is seen as a photographer who spits at Geri Halliwell or leaps out of bushes. Language is important and should be challenged. Not out of snobbery but so Joe Public does comprehend that there are different types of behaviour out there.

    Posted by Martin Beddall
  5. Eddie: I’m well aware of this which is why I liked the fact that Christopher defined the difference between even the celebrity photographers and those that truly are just men with cameras.

    Avery: I totally understand that many photographers have to start out wherever they can but does that mean entirely selling your ethics and morals to do so? I’m obviously not referring to your behaviour here but to say that someone who is prepared to spit at someone in the street for a “better picture” is just doing what they have to do to become a better photographer is unreasonable. As Eddie stated above, this isn’t about the term “pap”. We’ve all got thick enough skin to put up with being asked “who we’re waiting for” constantly but is more about the perception of what a person stood in the street with a camera is actually there to do. At the moment, there is a very strong public belief that we all spend the majority of our time sat outside the homes of celebrities for no reason other than to scare and stalk them. Outside the Leveson Inquiry last week, rubbish was thrown out of the window of a building onto the press photographers below. While I was there on Thursday, some people passing by were openly hostile, barging us out of the way. The Leveson Inquiry is currently trundling in the direction of finding a nice easy scapegoat at the expense of photography in general.

    Martin: Yes, it’s annoying but I can put up with it if I have to. What I can’t handle is people acting aggressively towards me for what they incorrectly perceive me to be.

    Posted by tabascokid
  6. I agree with Eddie, there are members of the paparazzi who are performing a job within the boundaries of decency. There are, however, people of questionable moral direction who will stop at nothing to get a sellable image. Let’s be quite clear about this, if all photography was outlawed tomorrow these people would not be getting jobs as lawyers or teachers, they’d find an equally low-standing job that pays the money. Because for them the driving force is financial, it has nothing to do with photography.

    What hasn’t been talked about by Miller, Rowling, Grant et al is the appetite for celebrity tittle tattle that the public craves. It’s a supply and demand market driven by the consumer. We’ve all said this before but many members of the public that heckle on the street buy, or have bought, newspapers and magazines and read sites that publishes celebrity pictures and stories. If no-one read the stories the publications would not run the piece, it’s a simple financial equation – every celebrity portal exists solely to make profit for shareholders. They care little for journalism or a human’s emotions as long as that profit margin is maintained.

    On nearly any job I’ll more than not be asked if I ‘do pap stuff’. I could be stood outside court, about to start a feature shoot or photographing a wedding, the question still pops up. The public view has been distorted from years of seeing images of photographers chasing celebrities and it will take an equal amount of time for that to be redressed.

    Posted by Adam Gasson
  7. The comparison between the treatment of video crews and that of photographers is very apt. The “general public” seem to still be in love with the “glamour” of television whilst the perception of still imagery has gone down the toilet, no thanks to the Princess Diana fiasco.

    When challenged by people I usually ask them if they read the newspapers, and if they look at the pictures, and ask how they think those pictures got there. That causes some pause for thought. However I’m usually photographing sport rather than current affairs or celebrities and I do feel there’s more of an acceptance that you’ll get a group of photographers at a big sports event so the level of challenging is very low unless you’re blocking someone’s view.

    It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I can’t see how legislation could work – there will always be grey areas and workarounds. It would take something like the equivalent of Football DataCo rules applied to every photograph taken by any camera from phone to pro DSLR across the whole country to make it work, and I think that is unlikely. Maybe exempt Leica M9 users :-)

    Posted by Andy Tobin
  8. To say that paparazzi “Lack moral or ethical guidance” & have “little respect for the law” is true of some, but not all, paparazzi. Laying all the problems with the paparazzi is misguided. I have heard just as many obscenities screamed at celebrities from the official press pen on a red carpet as I have from paparazzi photographers, and several years ago, before the influx of a new breed of thugs with cameras who joined the ranks of the paparazzi, there was pushing & shoving & fighting for pictures but it was never really threatening. As a rare female in the business, I can honestly say that, until recently at least, I have never felt threatened by paparazzi photographers. The majority just want the pictures, not to cause any harm to the celebrity. However, there is a new breed of paparazzi who are just, basically, young thugs with cameras. They have watched the programmes glorifying paparazzi & now plague the streets of London in the belief that they are paved with gold. They are rude, violent & have absolutely no respect for anyone else. The “old school” paps are not like this. They have been in the game long enough to know that it is counter productive. Unlike red carpet photographers, many paparazzi photographers have “agreements” with celebrities with regard to tip offs, sometimes with financial benefit to the celebrity, sometimes just for the exposure which wins them further fame. Check any old school paparazzi’s phone, & you’ll probably find at least one direct celebrity contact in it.
    With regard to money, although the values of photos are decreasing on a seemingly daily basis, paparazzi is still one area where there is money to be made, albeit not as much as 4 or 5 years ago. One good set of pap photos can earn what red carpet does in a month…two even. I have no qualms about going out & papping once in a while. If it keeps my daughter fed, I’ll do it. In fact, being married to a pap, the vast majority of our income comes from that source. Take that away & we will probably survive via other means, but if not, it will be the taxpayer footing the bill. We are both press card holding photographers who are more than capable of taking good photographs, or if it came down to it I am also a part-qualified accountant, but for a short time at least, if the Leveson Inquiry resulted in a tightening of privacy laws to outlaw paparazzi, we would be forced onto benefits.
    There is no miracle solution. Self-regulation helps to an extent – after all, it is not unheard of for “bad” paps to be forced out of the industry. If agencies turn their backs on the “bad” ones, there is no point in them taking photos – they have no means of marketing them. Agencies are probably the key to ensuring laws are adhered to. If they know that photos have been obtained via illegal or immoral means, taking the pictures on private property or provoking a celebrity for instance, they need to make it clear that they won’t sell them. Ultimately, the agencies need pap photos – the values are enough to subsidise the red carpet side – but there are sets which have been taken inside hotel lobbies, or where the celebrity has been provoked, that they turn a blind eye to.
    Ultimately, the Leveson Inquiry has been turned into a celebrity circus & paparazzi witch hunt, when it was actually supposed to be a probe into the practices of JOURNALISTS which resulted in the hacking scandal. A very legitimate investigation, too. Although I may not like a few of the celebrities who were subjects of the phone hacking, I find it thoroughly disgusting that they had their phones tapped. However, even more disgusting was the complete invasion of privacy in tapping the phones of murdered schoolgirls & those slaughtered on the Underground. These people are “true” victims. They never sought fame or encouraged the public to be interested in their personal lives, except for that required to help find their loved ones or the person who took the lives of their loved ones, & yet they had their lives invaded in such a massive way. So, where do the “legitimate” news photographers who captured images as a result of the information obtained through phone tapping stand? Is it OK for them to photograph the parents of a murdered teenager laying flowers on what they believed was a private visit to the spot where she died, but it’s not OK for a paparazzi to photograph a celebrity who regularly haunts all the usual hang-outs as they stumble out drunk at 3am? If you look at some of the “big” stories discussed at the Leveson Inquiry, you will probably find that the images were captured by “legitimate” news photographers. Affiliation with a newspaper does not make them “better” than the paparazzi on the street, it just makes them employed with a regular income.
    In the end, I have friends who fall into all categories of press photographer – paparazzi, red carpet, news, music – & I have found good & bad in every sector. I could probably count the bad ones on my fingers though, which given the vast number of photographers working in London, isn’t bad going. So, instead of turning the Leveson Inquiry into an excuse to Bash-a-pap, how about protesting the huge deviation from inquiry into journalistic practices to focussing on our industry?

    Posted by Kiera
  9. As a tv cameraman I do agree that there is large degree of hypocrisy in the use of terms such as ‘scrum of photographers’ in tv news pieces. I’m not going to defend that, it’s lazy and very unjust. However, I don’t think the public see any difference between tv and photographers now. In the weeks after the death of Diana I was spat on and pushed about because apparently it was my fault. We are all now seen as the ‘meeja’. This is the dangerous part, when in seeking to stop the excesses of certain areas of the press, we are all tarred with the same brush. There’s no need for a privacy law since existing laws cover the criminal activity that’s been detailed in the Levesen Inquiry, but maybe there’s a need for an independent body like OFCOM in broadcasting.

    There are increasing problems for professional photographers and cameramen working on the street in public spaces. A readiness by the police to use terrorism legislation as an excuse to stop us doing our jobs and the use of private security firms that seem to think they have the same powers as the police have all made the job more difficult. I hold my breath for the knee jerk reaction of some members of the public to this weeks inquiry.

    Posted by Sean Twamley
  10. The hypocrisy of people like Sienna Miller & JK Rowling is beyond belief. It’s partly because these people have milked the media, that they’ve achieved their fame & wealth. But, they only want to be in the media when it suits them, and then only when under their own control.

    The public in general also needs to realise how hypocritical it is, with its insatiable demand for pics of trashy ‘celebs’.

    The Leveson inquiry needs to make sure it keeps its focus on the real problems with the media, and photography is defintely not one of them.

    Posted by Rob Boler
  11. Adam: I agree entirely. I was going to write something about the answer being to “cut off the head of the snake” but it really isn’t that simple, as I’m sure you realise. Even if, at the theoretical and totally impossible end, they “banned” celebrity photography somehow in this country, the pictures would be sold elsewhere. Self-regulation isn’t the answer either as that is what the industry is currently supposed to be using. Maybe giving the PCC some teeth could help for a start though!

    Andy: Again, I agree. While I’m in no way having a go at TV and the people that shoot video, there is still a difference in perception, however small. Over time this will change as more people shoot video but for now, TV is definitely seen as the presentable side. When Kate Middleton was having trouble with the media outside her home, the reports every night would show TV footage, along with a voice-over saying that “photographers mobbed her” as she left her home. I’m not saying that television is to blame but it’s more of an interesting observation that the public don’t see TV as intrusive. Yet.

    Kiera: There are some interesting points raised in you post. You are right in that the “old school” of paparazzi will play by the rules a little more and is, more often than not, courted by the celebrities that they work with. As has been mentioned elsewhere, a side-effect of the growing ease of use with digital cameras is that fact that anyone can pick one up and get a sharp, exposed frame without having to know the slightest thing about how it works. A colleague of mine said that he was talking to one guy recently who was proud of the fact that he knew nothing at all about how to use the camera. It was set to “P”, had a flash on the top and was taped up and ready to go. This is the type you refer to that are only in the industry to make money however they can. While the argument will come down to terminology to some extent with “paps vs news photographers” being discussed, it is important to make it clear that there are differences. This is why I supported what Christopher wrote; there are rogue operators in every industry but those that do this to the emotional and psychological detriment of others purely because of who they are rather than what they’ve done are causing problems for everyone.

    As you say, the important thing out of all of this is to make sure that people don’t forget the reason for this case; the shameful privacy invasions of people who have never courted the media and have suffered tragic losses. It’s proving all too easy for print journalists, televisions reports and the public to find a nice easy scapegoat.

    Sean: Yeah, I can imagine it must affect all members of the press and most of the time, people have no idea whether we’re photographers or television crews. I’ve lost track of the times that I’ve been asked if I’m filming for the news before!

    Rob: I have to disagree with you on some of what you said. JK Rowling is a good example of someone who hasn’t really courted the media and never really milked their fame at all. Whatever your opinion of her personally, she’s always maintained a very low profile, choosing her interviews and televisions appearances carefully. To chase her round the world on holiday and take pictures of private family moments on a beach from quarter of a mile away cannot be justified. While there is a class of J-list “celebrity” that will sell their “exclusive” stories to tabloid magazines every week, you can’t say that because someone like Sienna Miller attends a film premiere, it is justified to hack her e-mail and phone.

    I do agree with you though about the “celeb” culture. The people that tut and scowl when they see photographers working in London appear to be unable to make the connection to when they pick up their celebrity gossip magazines at the checkout of Tesco. While some photographers are certainly responsible for causing this Inquiry to be called for, the industry as a whole needs to consider how it operates.

    Posted by tabascokid
  12. Keira: Absobloodylutely. You said it far better than I could. Having said that when I was papping we used to tape down a 28 and then kids started showing up with 17s. And I mean kids. That cu@t Darren from BigPictures opened up with kit he *cough* allegedly nicked from the Mirror and started handing out cameras and film like candy, mostly to very young autograph hunters. Some of who were unstable. The papers made him very rich and the public love him. They make documentaries about him now, even put that evil coiffured dwarf on top gear. The point is that the market is there, it is huge and when money is involved, morality goes to hell.
    The hypocrisy is thick in all of this, how do you judge the difference between streetscumpap and artynewsnapper? Personally I think its funny that a pap told you he shot on P with the flash taped down. What a fuck the old school attitude, and whats worse he has a point – I run around (and writing this is making me late for a World Cup course review) with my zillion dollar camera on manual when I have a $100 point and shoot that has face recognition I could tie to a gate. You both worked for the same outlets and a similar audience – that amorphous “Public”.
    This is all about making money, even though we want it to be about art.
    As for the Inquiry, its just a chance to dig away at the fourth estate. It was the Guardian that fought to get the crimes (yes thats what they were, deal with it) in to the public realm. And no one gave a damn for a very long time. Next thing we will find is that the defenders of the tattered remains of democracy (thats us btw) will be even more harassed, even more limited in our freedoms. As photographers we are a obvious target although we were not the ones who committed the crimes, we are visible. Journalists are just people with notepads – we have lots of shiny stuff, we are in the trenches while the blunts are in the pubs. So we will take the brunt of the attacks. We may all have been tarred with the dubious practices of the streetscumpaps, but its the public that buys the dross that feeds the monster.
    Well the sun is out, the sky is perfect blue, there is fresh snow on the ground and I have a downhill race course to inspect and choose a position on… Oh I wonder if they will do those little chocolate muffins again this year. life is so hard – Geeves bring the 4wheeler out front.

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  13. “…In doing so, they may perhaps be driving the leveson inquiry towards concluding tough privacy laws are required..”

    Nothing wrong in that. The current system isn’t working is it?

    “…privacy laws that will include a ban on photographing people in public without their permission…”

    Will they? This is extrapolating a point too far. How do you know? There is a difference between harrassing people day in day out, outside someone’s house, lunging out of bushes for an expression to capture and distort. Therefore the more likely outcome is to examine the circumstances of harrassment against a normal situation. You attempt to suggest that ANY photo WILL be harrassment when it clearly is not. Journalists have camped out to entrap people of interest. Are you honestly saying that ‘accredited’ photographers have not? ANY of them?

    “..A ban of this type would be the death of the free press in the UK..”

    Unsubstantiated navel-gazing sabre rattling. Merely un-thought through opinion. How the press usually works. Self-regulation has not worked. Clearly. A celebrity playing with a terminally ill child reframed as ‘drunk’ is unethical and immoral (with an accompanied PHOTO).

    A free press can work within ethical nroms. It, as a body has chosen not to do so. I hope legislation that points photographers of all persuasions to COMPLY with STANDARDS of BEHAVIOUR expected in a modern society. I’ll give you one example: Financial Advisers – the regulation of which has driven up standards of advice and imprisoned rogues.

    “…If laws were introduced requiring the written consent of an individual before they were photographed it would mean press photographers would have to ignore events unfolding before them….”

    That is a big IF. It’s called Hypothetical. And unlikely given the range of circumstances. Natural Disasters, political events, Economics.

    And if you’ve forgotten already: Harrassment of victims, close relatives that have nothing to do with relative who are famous. I.E There are different CLASSES of circumstances and people that may or MAY NOT be of “public” interest.

    “…Introducing government or police regulation and control over licencingof press photographers would affect impartiality and freedom..”

    Freedom to do What? Currently it’s what they damn well like. Are you saying that there should be no limits to how one ought to behave? The ends justifies the means? “I did what I thought was right? (T.B.)

    When one considers the misery that some have endured under the free for all; One cannot empathise with the ‘misery’ of any limits, however subtle placed upon you.

    “..Press photographers are in danger of being so restrained by regulation that we become like the fire fighter who cannot enter a burning building for fear of breaking health and safety regulations…”

    This is a straw man argument for there is no ‘H&S regulations to preclude Fire fighters from doing their job safely’.

    Stop hand wringing and sort out the situation:

    Represent yourselves properly as a group to the media and the public
    Sort out the Paparazzi yourselves
    THINK THROUGH acceptable limits of behaviour rather than ‘all or nothing’.
    Read through some philosophy to work out how to USE a moral compass; or ask your mothers to remind you of what is right and wrong and to remind you of where you lost your conscience.


    Posted by P J
  14. Thinking abut it, maybe you should delete my posts here – particularly if this is going to the public…

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  15. If the future of Press photography is linked to the future of the tabloids we are doomed. I personally hope that the tabloids get reined in. They are are a threat to journalism and democracy.

    Posted by Antonio Olmos
  16. PJ : Before I start, can I just question your need to write in such a confrontational manner? This is something that’s is being discussed here, not shouted about.

    “The current system isn’t working is it?”

    No, the current system is not managing to stop those without morals in all aspects of journalism from acting in a deplorable manner. However, there is no easy answer.

    “You attempt to suggest that ANY photo WILL be harrassment when it clearly is not. Journalists have camped out to entrap people of interest. Are you honestly saying that ‘accredited’ photographers have not? ANY of them?”

    The suggestion by the McCanns to introduce a French-style ban on taking a photographs without seeking approval from the subject has been reported widely with those unable to understand the massively far-reaching effects of this saying it would be a good idea. Christopher does not “know” that this will happen but it is one option that has already been suggested by one of the key witnesses at the inquiry. This in itself makes it something that should be considered as a possible outcome. There is indeed a massive difference between someone deliberately setting out to intimidate a subject and someone merely taking a photograph yet suggestions such as those by Dr McCann make no differentiation between the two. Regarding your querying of journalists and accredited photographers ever having acted immorally before, yes, they have done. They are also responsible for this situation.

    “Unsubstantiated navel-gazing sabre rattling. Merely un-thought through opinion. How the press usually works. Self-regulation has not worked. Clearly. A celebrity playing with a terminally ill child reframed as ‘drunk’ is unethical and immoral (with an accompanied PHOTO). ”

    This isn’t a mature way to discuss something on the internet. You clearly have a very low opinion of the media and little interest in seeing the press freedoms protected. Why is Christopher’s suggestion “un-thought” through while yours is correct? I and many other people who work in the news industry happen to agree with Christopher’s statement here. I have absolutely no idea what you’re referring to with “drunk” celebrities and ill children. How would regulations help this situation? At the moment, you have photographers and journalists who play by the rules but rely on the current freedoms to carry out their work successfully. There are those that work outside of the rules anyway on a freelance basis that would not be affected whatsoever if any new rules or regulations were brought in. Do you think that a guy who’s prepared to spit in someone’s face or plant bugs on their car is going to be concerned about the PCC slapping their wrists? I strongly doubt it. They’re acting in a criminal manner and should be punished but to place a stranglehold on the rest of the industry to stop a very small percentage makes no sense at all. You’ll notice that I haven’t suggested the answer anywhere here as I don’t believe that there is “an answer”. All I do know is what shouldn’t happen.

    “That is a big IF. It’s called Hypothetical. And unlikely given the range of circumstances. Natural Disasters, political events, Economics. And if you’ve forgotten already: Harrassment of victims, close relatives that have nothing to do with relative who are famous. I.E There are different CLASSES of circumstances and people that may or MAY NOT be of “public” interest.”

    It is indeed hypothetical but also not impossible as it is already the case in Hungary and France. Why is it unlikely given those circumstances? What exactly are you suggesting? That photographers have to seek permission unless the event they’re shooting falls under one a list of news categories? Also, it seems you may believe that I haven’t been following this story but I assure you I have. I don’t need reminding that many of the victims were simply relatives etc. This is a terrible thing and those that bugged, hacked and stalked these people should be charged in a criminal court with harassment.

    “Freedom to do What? Currently it’s what they damn well like. Are you saying that there should be no limits to how one ought to behave? The ends justifies the means? “I did what I thought was right? (T.B.)”

    Are you saying that there should be subjects that shouldn’t be covered? If so, who decides that? If the Government can decide what is allowed to be reported on and discussed, can you imagine them happily ticking the box to allow full investigative journalism to take place during the expenses scandal? If the police had control over what is reported in everyday life, would they happily let the media report on massive errors of justice in trials and police corruption? I’m guessing not, although as you say, it’s all hypothetical. If it’s simply behaviour that you’re talking about, yes there is already something that deals with that called the criminal law courts. If the PCC was allowed to pursue those that break the rules with fines for both organisations and individuals and referrals to the judicial system, then it may have more effect.

    “This is a straw man argument for there is no ‘H&S regulations to preclude Fire fighters from doing their job safely’.”

    This is Christopher’s opinion to illustrate his point.

    As far as sorting ourselves out, there are already a number of very large unions and organisations such as the NUJ and the BPPA who fight to ensure that the industry runs as smoothly as possible for everyone on both sides of the story but it’s also not our job to track down rogue operators in a vigilante style and make a citizen’s arrest. Your earlier reference to the banking regulations is a perfect example. Did the individual city bankers gather in their offices and write regulations and then travelled between offices to ensure everyone was acting correctly? Of course not, and we shouldn’t be expected to either. The law is there to punch those that break it and doesn’t need to be padded up with restrictive new regulations to appease the cry for a knee-jerk response. Regarding thinking through acceptable limits of behaviour, oddly enough, the vast majority manage to do that perfectly well, thanks. You are making exactly the mistake that this whole post is about; you’re suggesting that I, like all other photographers, is the one that’s causing this problem. I’m not and never have been. Your misguided diatribe actually appears to be aimed at the journalists and paparazzi that have caused all of this problem yet you’ve chosen to write it on a blog that is attempting to explain that the industry is not entirely made of those that cause harm and emotional distress to the families of murder victims, for example. Feel free to find another blog somewhere else, written by someone who actually endorses that kind of behaviour and repost your comments there. I won’t mind.

    Good night and good luck with that.

    Posted by tabascokid
  17. Avery: haha! Having second thoughts, bud? If you don’t want your alter-ego to become known, I can take your comments down if you want? Let me know and I’ll delete them ASAP. PS I’m glad you’ve found a happier niche in life too. :)

    Posted by tabascokid
  18. Antonio: Sure the tabloids are dangerous beasts in many ways but how is it possible to rein in one type of journalism while allowing another to flourish and operate freely? I’m genuinely not being argumentative with that, merely pointing out that the answer isn’t a simple as some are suggesting to to be.

    Posted by tabascokid
  19. @tabascokid

    Thanks for replying. read my comments at the end of my post and work back from there. It’s a call to action to DO what you can. I’m not anti-media and certainly understand that it is only sections of the media that ACTED in such a way.

    I’m only responding to the scatter gun arguments put forward – The fallacies and Hypotheticals. if this is the best that is being said… DO BETTER. Get specific. Don’t rail blindingly. You will not garner support if you put extreme arguments forward that are unlikely to happen.

    I gave real life examples for a reason – to provide a real world perspective on how it affects real people and the collateral damage to others. Never forget the people. Look at your own family relationships and connect into what you have. The specific example was a Model playing with a terminally ill chaild. I think the paper was the Mirror but I stand to be corrected.

    The last time I looked we had a legislature and a legal system that, for all its flaws, is a better system than many other countries. And the British press has one of the worst reputations.

    “Are you saying there are subjects that shouldn’t be covered?…” Maybe. but where you draw the line is what is to be discussed widely. BUT THERE SHOULD BE A LINE for there are those whom have acted well beyond the line of decency. I am unsure currently where the line ought to be drawn for it is a challenge that is complex and black and white thinking posited by others will not help. We know that current actions that end up in court is not a bar for photographs and stories being printed without thought or compunction knoowing that in many cases the purpetrators do not go to court to defend the action.

    Christopher’s opinion is still a straw man and as such has no currency for the parallel drwan is invalid. The best example for some considered thinking do be done by you and your collegues to put up arguments in defence that make sense. So put your heads together and get thinking.

    You could have just deleted my post but you didn’t. Well done for having the balls to keep it and reply.

    ps it’s not your job to track down rogue operators? Why not?
    pps I didn’t talk about the banks – that’s a different and irrelevant subject. We can bash those on another day and blog.

    Posted by P J
  20. Ooooh, alter ego. No I dont mind. Just realized Im not part of the discussion, 5000 miles away. All my UK frames of references come from 5 to 15 years ago. What the hell keep em up – after yet another argument with my office I may be coming back anyway.

    Tabasco: you are right, we do live and work in shades of grey – you cannot easily curtail one form of journalism without stepping on another. Without the tabloids there would be little vibrancy – also who is to judge the work of redtops inferior? I think they are a skill all of their own, most of the posts seem to deny that and put them on a lower level. Good tabs are good, good broadsheets are good. I think there is something deeper in all of this that strikes me while living in a place that is so completely different, bare with me. The riots this summer happened essentially because en-mass a generation realized that society was a veneer and if you wanted something you could take it without consequence. Well that was what some of the media did, there were few consequences for breaking moral/legal bounds – there were promotions. I remember journalists openly discussing checking celebs messages, in one instance even going through how it was done. Free press should be that free, completely. But there should be some form social restraint which we completely lost. It was not news alone, it was also banking, government, the enviornment etc etc But if news gatherers do not have complete freedom then there will be no freedom as no one would ever be aware of these things.

    This is not saber rattling, this is a very precarious place to be. I was held under the prevention of terrori$m act eight times in london. With charges ranging from “carrying two powerful cameras” to I dont have to tell you, because it the POTA. When Jean Charles de Meneses was shot I had to hide from an intrusive and illegal police search inside a mans home (with two other way superior snappers) that was behind police tape. The elderly gentleman who let us work from his living room actually denied the police access, but they pushed through anyway while I hid behind an open door… All the snappers on the roofs and surroundings were removed illegally. Just think of how the situation would be with these powers expanded. A man was murdered because a spy took a piss and no one would have known.

    Im not absolutely sure the current system does not work – I mean it was journalists who brought the problem to light. It was the police that did nothing, the political leaders that sucked up to the editors and owners. This should be a shining light to the brilliance and strength of UK news – instead its an attack on a marginal and historically irrelevant group of thugs with cameras. If the Paps were breaking the law, why were they not regularly prosecuted? Put twenty of them in jail for dangerous driving and assault and see the results.

    PJ Its a market driven economy, the cropped picture you talk of (I dont know much about that Im in Eagle Colorado) was to titillate an audience. Yes it was despicable, Yes it was dishonest but its part of a culture that is prevalent. The difference is that the photographers represented here are of a different caliber and are being painted with too broad a brush. Do you blame pornstars for the prevalence of porn, or people who watch it?

    I am sorry if Ive been going on a bit, but these were all issues that drove me to leave London and a job I loved to find pastures new. Just remember that the average London news photographer is probably the best in the world – Ive never worked with such a talented, intense, competitive and all in all brilliant group of anti-social misfits ever. Dont let this destroy you.

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  21. ban the auto button. Everything else has been said by my other learned colleagues. As I’m just a hobbyist in the North I’m lucky I don’t have this to contend with.

    Posted by Bodie Jooth
  22. @Avery Thanks for your engagement.

    Let me put my cards on the table. I’m a writer and business consultant. I subscribe to Private Eye for the investigative journalisim that they do, particularly for the ‘In The City’ and ‘In the Back’ Columns as well as ‘Inspector Knacker’ and ‘HP Sauce’. I have an interest in who has got their nose in the trough as well as the affairs of certain Unions. I don’t follow a specific political dogma because they all have flaws under many circumstances.

    I sympathise with your situation regarding the POTA and also, more broadly, RIPA. And I am certainly more interested how legislation is misused, interpreted and applied. That is the fault of legislation being rushed through without proper scrutiny. Tourists have been stopped for taking photographs. That is madness in my humble opinion for it suggests mind-reading of people’s intentions as to what to do with the photograph information.

    However, your shining light bathes an unflattering light upon politicians and the police entering an Faustian pact with the media. This undermines all parties functions and INTEGRITY. Listening to the extensive Leveson Inquiry evidence has shown the current system does NOT work. Indeed, The Daily Express withdrew from the PCC. Is this ‘regulation’ working? Is this right?

    The prevalent culture is supported by values of the members of the media AND customers that buy publications/read online. The central question here is: Do you give people what they want EVEN IF it transcends VALUES of decency or taste (once decency and taste has been defined). YOU SET THE CULTURE. People abide by it.

    You deal in Trash => People read Trash => Trashy Values => Trashy National Culture.

    Real life examples:

    A photo of Rowling’s eight year old daughter in a swimsuit to look at?
    This week’s Daily Mail – Femail: pictures of Brad Pitt’s children?
    Compare that with:
    A well known celebrity snorting cocaine.

    Celebrity in particular seems to trump ‘real’ news. Paxman highlighted how an important news story was interrupted to go live to the release of Paris Hilton in the States. It is the media DRIVING the boundaries of what is important. It is apparent from monitoring Twitter recently that many people believe what is written in the papers, believe how a photograph is portrayed; particularly about ‘Celebrities’. The scale of hate towards some, formed by opinion is eye-opening.

    Now that is scary.

    It also has consequences because:

    1. it appears that most of celebrity gossip is simply lies,
    2. The lies may dilute or hide what might be true – and may get missed or ignored more widely.

    Smile Please.

    Posted by P J
  23. PJ: for the most part we do not deal in trash, we deal in news – look at Leons work, your posting here have a rummage through Libya, Edmund Teracopians blog etc etc. We cannot direct society. As much as you may wish for dark forces in our world there are few. We are more mirrors to culture than captains directing the ship. The pictures and stories you despise are driven by the sales, nothing more nothing less. I will give you a prime example, I currently work for/founding member of a weekly magazine published in the colorado mountains, today I will be driving to the resort of Vail where I personally know seven very famous athletes or actors have homes and are skiing – right now. I will be driving out to East Vail to photograph Ice climbers because the season has just begun. In 4 years of working here 6 days a week I have photographed 2 celebs. 2. And thats because one of them asked me for a photo. Why is this? Because the prevailing culture here is about quality of life – literally no one that I know of is interested in celeb gossip, so we dont publish it. Even the local supermarkets have a teeny selection of gossip rags that never seem to sell.

    By the way I smile a lot, Im going climbing, the sky is blue and I get paid to do the best job in the world.

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  24. Avery: I simply do not know what the ratio is between trsh and news. I no longer buy a daily newspaper nor watch rolling news for the sake of my sanity. The media has undeniable influence. my reference to twitter evidences that. Many believe what is written in the worst sector of the press. many believe the distortions appended to photographs; YOUR photographs. Any story I read, I treat as a partial aspect of the whole. I no longer believe what the tabloids print. You may mirror society but mirror through a distorting lens to a lesser or greater extent. The lens is worked to portray a particular image from a particular perspective. Goebbels is usually quoted by saying the more you tell a lie the more the people will believe. Whether or not he said it; it seems a axiom of public relations media government and others are keen to exploit. Which lens are you using? Are the shot wide enough to tell the full story? etc.?

    By all means go and take breath-taking sublime pictures. But defend your art. Don’t let it be hijacked by others; Don’t let it be taken out of context. Expose, Uncover but never humiliate.

    Argue, and argue realistically and truthfully. Rediscover values and navigate by them. Not other people’s values necessarily BUT YOUR OWN.

    That’s all from me. Back to the real world this week.

    “Good Luck”

    Posted by P J
  25. PJ: for someone who does not read papers or watch rolling news, you seem to think you know a lot about them.

    Posted by Avery Cunliffe
  26. Why shouldn’t the mainstream media be regulated to the same extent as the rest of the business world? Why the privilege?

    Having said that, I am dead against the idea that anything visible in public place should not be fair game for a photo, provided that a few conditions are permitted e.g. the subject isn’t a minor and the photographer is also in a public place.

    Posted by Grassynoel
  27. The problem is that, technically, it is regulated to some extent by the Press Complaints Commission but there are too many that operate comfortably outside the boundaries. Introducing restrictive regulation could very well cause major problems for those that operate within the rules but have to use unorthodox ways to get their stories. It’s just one of those industries that’s made up entirely of shades of grey so any written regulations would have to be SO well planned out to ensure that it doesn’t restrict those who are behaving correctly through poorly phrased rules.

    Posted by tabascokid
  28. I find it all very humorous as there is cross pollination between news and celebrity photographers one day a snapper may be at downing st covering a story the next they may be doorstepping some member of a east enders or an x factor contestant however inverted snobbery does exist!
    A point in fact was a recent wedding in Norfolk where the Duchess of Cambridge was meant to attend with Prince George. Half of londons photographers attended the event on the one side we had the ever so serious royal snappers who shuffled around together in small groups whispering to each other totally ignoring the paps who were in force who in turn ignored the royal guys!!
    In between these two factions were the guys who fall into both camps and who have a legitimate right to do so…i guess you’d call them news photographers!!!
    Every photographer has papped someone at some point its just that some deny it and believe they are holier than thou which is total b******s!
    For some photographers the avenues of employment have narrowed therefore instead of going to the wall and existing for ones “art” some have to cross the border and have gone mexican!! does that make them lesser photographers than the fully employed staffers or contracted
    news snappers…no!!!

    Posted by steve b

Leave a Comment