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20 DECEMBER 2014

Paris Photo 2014

While visiting Paris Photo, which was held from the 11th to the 16th of November in the historical Grand Palais, I had the opportunity to engage in two extensive programs. The "Private Collection" exhibition introduced visitors to the pioneering role played by private collectors who, driven by their own passion and perseverance, gather masterpieces and develop new approaches. The "Recent Acquisitions" exhibition presented new photography collections from international institutions.

paris palais

It is to be expected that some new contacts I made with both private collectors and curators, will lead to new sales and exhibitions. To be continued...

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12 DECEMBER 2014

Beginning of the End of Street Photography?

Recent scrutiny of press intrusions and the heightened awareness of the use of photography by paedophiles has conflated to produce a toxic environment for street photographers.

In this week’s Amateur Photographer* there is an article entitled ‘Antisocial’ Street Photos Can Get You Arrested’. It describes the story of Richard Selby (81) who photographs in Brighton. Selby takes pictures for a personal project of the numerous hen parties that his home town hosts.

One evening his collar was felt by the Law (something that has happened to me) after a complaint from the public. He was suspected of contravening Antisocial laws (section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002). He avoided arrest by reluctantly giving his name and address. To be released Selby had to persuaded the Law of his innocence by showing them his shots which were immediately recognised as not contravening any antisocial norms. In addition Selby had to (reluctantly) supply his name and address. The police also told him that he was in danger of being physically attacked by a group of men.

Whilst we have no privacy laws in the UK unlike France, for example, we have a very sophisticated legal web dedicated to the control of antisocial behaviour – the UK is a world leader in both the committal and control of these crimes. Now these laws are being brought to bare on innocent and enquiring photographers. Perhaps this is a product of the shear number of snappers out on the street but it is also worrying that we are now moving towards a culture in which photographers are seen by the public at large as pariahs.

There is no ready answer to this situation but I think it is time that photographers realised that with every Richard Selby story comes a tightening of the noose around all of our necks.

We must be bold in our style. We must not hide in the shadows and we must believe that by capturing these fascinating moments of life, far from infringing on society, we are adding to the sum of human experience and celebrating the diverse appeal of our culture.

*Amateur Photographer is often cited as the guiltiest/greatest of pleasures by many of the very successful photographers who I print for. BJP, Hotshoe and the like barely get a mention.

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10 DECEMBER 2014

Arrested for antisocial behavior

AP INVESTIGATES Police warn they can arrest a photographer if he or she refuses to give their name and address and an officer deems their photography in a public street to be "antisocial".

The police warning, following a clash in Brighton, East Sussex, last month, echoes accusations of antisocial behaviour levelled at a photographer in 2009 before controversial anti-terror laws were repealed. This case eventually led to Lancashire Police paying out thousands of pounds in an out-of-court settlement to amateur photographer Robert Patefield, who sued the force for wrongful arrest.

The latest spat involves 81-year-old photographer Richard Selby, who has filed a complaint with Sussex Police claiming that an officer threatened to arrest him if he did not identify himself. Selby – a former assistant to renowned American photographer Art Kane – ran into trouble while taking pictures of ‘hen parties’ in Brighton. The former freelance photographer was approached by two police community support officers following complaints by members of the public at 11pm, in West Street, Brighton, on 25 July.

Selby says the people being photographed had not objected to his picture-taking, and that he had only taken a couple of photos when the officers approached. The incident led to the PCSOs calling a police constable who, Selby claims, asked for his name. ‘I said, “I don’t have to give you my name”, and he said, “I could arrest you”.’ The constable then summoned a police sergeant to the scene. Feared ‘spending weekend’ in cells Selby says he supplied the sergeant with his name, for fear of ‘spending the weekend in police cells’, and he agreed to ‘go home’. ‘It was intimidating… surrounded by four police [officers] demanding my name and threatening me,’ Selby told Amateur Photographer (AP).

The force claims that one of Selby’s photographs shows ‘a teenage girl’s bottom in hotpants with her lower buttocks clearly visible’. A Sussex Police spokesman added: ‘The sergeant suggested [to Selby] that this wasn’t appropriate.’ In response, Selby told AP that he did not believe the girl in the shot to be a teenager. And he denies the force’s claim that he was ‘holding the camera low around his groin and taking photographs of the girls when they were bending over’. Selby stresses that the officers were satisfied his pictures had not broken any law after reviewing them on his digital camera, a Sony Alpha 7R. The veteran photographer, who has worked in New York, Paris and Milan – and spent several years working at the German edition of Playboy – told AP: ‘I was just taking pictures in the street.’ Police deny that officers threatened Selby with arrest. A Sussex Police spokesman added: ‘Police officers on patrol in Brighton city centre were informed by two members of the public (one being a security staff doorman) that they were concerned for the safety of a man who was taking photographs of a group of girls. ‘They [the officers] felt he might be in danger if he came to the attention of a group of men who were in the vicinity of the girls who may have taken exception to him taking photographs.’ The spokesman said the sergeant advised Selby that ‘his actions may be considered to be antisocial’. Selby says he was taking shots for a personal project about Brighton, where he lives, and had no plans to sell them. He estimates that the police incident lasted at least half an hour, during which time he took around a dozen shots.

Antisocial behaviour laws
Section 50 of the Police Reform Act 2002 requires a person to give their name and address if an officer believes that a person ‘has been acting, or is acting, in an antisocial manner’. However, Sussex Police say they did not formally ask for the photographer’s name and address under the Act. The Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which deals with antisocial behaviour orders, defines ‘antisocial’ as acting in a ‘manner that caused or was likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress to one or more persons not of the same household as himself’. ‘This was not the excuse given to me at the time I was stopped, when they said I might have been photographing indecent acts or minors,’ claims Selby, who branded any such suggestion ‘ridiculous’. ‘I think this is a new interpretation of the [Crime and Disorder Act 1998] and very dangerous for every photographer, as it would imply that taking a photograph can be “antisocial behaviour”.’ In an earlier statement, issued yesterday, Sussex Police said: ‘An elderly man was stopped late at night in Brighton city centre after complaints were received by officers from members of the public about him taking photographs of women dressed for hen nights. ‘He was acting in an antisocial manner and in these circumstances a police officer may request a name and address to establish a person’s identity. ‘There is a power of arrest if this is refused.’ Selby says he plans to take his complaint to the local police commissioner, and may take the matter up with the Home Secretary.

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