On the wrong side

In my job I’m usually the one behind the camera but last Friday I ended up in front of it being interviewed live on Sky News.

They came to film me outside of my work place after the story about the incident in Sunderland broke in the news. They had a small truck with a dish on top parked out on the road which uploaded the pictures back to the studio.  Even the camera had a wireless link back to the van! I was all hooked up with a wireless microphone and a earpiece so I could hear the studio and I waited in the cold like that for nearly half an hour!

While I was waiting I could hear the News program that was going out and the story before me was about 17 people being killed in Afghanistan by suicide bombers which made my story feel a little trivial in comparison! After the live interview I had to do a recorded interview and then the shot some cutaways of me using the phone (HTC please note free publicity) so in all I was out there for about 45 minutes and was absolutely frozen by the time I went back into the office to collect my things.

The ironic thing was that I ended up making all the mistakes I usually pick the subjects of the interviews I shoot up for – like looking away from the camera. I will bear that in mind next time I’m shooting an interview!

Then today BBC South East came round to film another interview in my living room.

Blog off

I’ve had to take my entire website down for a few days due to the unprecedented amount of traffic. It was making our internet connection usuable and kept crashing the server. I shall put it back up once the hoo-hah has died down but shall continue blogging offline

Read all about it

Well what a few days it has been since I posted my blog about the incident in Sunderland! The first inkling something was up was when my webserver crashed. At first I assumed that the power had gone off but that turned out not to be the case. Then I noticed there was a steady trickle of comments on that blog. Reading through them one mentioned a site called Boing Boing so I checked it out and sure enough there was a story with the link to my site.

Reading through it I was a bit miffed as the story had been changed in a few places, I suspect either down to sensationalism or just plain sloppy journalism. Also my pictures had been used without my permission.

Apparently according to the widget on the page the article has been shared 964 times on Facebook!

Then today the server crashed again and while I was working up in London my Dad phoned me. He said that a journalist from the Sunderland Echo had been on the phone and could I call him. About the same time I got a text from work saying that someone from Sky news had been trying to contact me. I’d also been getting e-mails from another journalist in Dublin!

Then tonight I discovered that the story was now on two more sites – a site called Bitter Wallet had printed the story (and again the pictures) and a Photography is not a crime site in Florida had as well with the image of the security guard. I also discovered that there was a thread on Flickr about it too.

And just before starting this blog I had to reboot the server again.

Apparently the Bridges are directing all enquiries about it to their PR company – the Sky news man said they had issued a statement but I haven’t seen it yet and they have made no attempt to contact me. I bet the Police are getting a bit sick of the enquires as well!

What a can of worms I seem to have opened!

It’s a small world – 8mm to be precise!

New toy

A few months ago I saw an advert on Freecycle for a Super 8 camera which I replied to and to my delight was given it. I haven’t had a chance to use it yet as film is so expensive but over the last week things have taken a couple of unexpected turns.

As it was half term I had taken a few days off work and we had gone up to Sunderland to visit my Dad and my Gran. I had taken the video camera I had bought on ebay for £9.99 and was videoing the kids in the living room. A little later my Dad disappeared and came back with something I had forgotten about – My Uncle George’s cine camera.

Rondo zoom 8

My Uncle (or more accurately my Great Uncle) had two cine cameras – I remember when I was about 6 or 7 he came round to my Gran’s house with it and we were so confused by the fact that we could move while he took our pictures. He died in the mid 70’s and we had both of the cameras for a while but another relative took the better one and the projector back. I had completely forgotten about the fact that we still had it.

My Dad reminded me about the time we took it on holiday, the year we went to Venice. I remember my Dad sitting in a doorway turning the film around (The camera is standard 8 and takes a 16mm reel of film which is run through the camera and then turned over and ran back through the camera to expose the other half. Then when the film is developed it is slit down the middle and spliced together to give a 50′ reel). He was having problems getting the film to run onto the take up spool and I remember him saying “Ok shit or bust” and opening the film compartment door and then just saying “Shit!”

The good thing about this particular model is that unlike the Super 8 camera it is completely manual. Even down to the fact that you have to wind it up to make it run. As well as the Venice trip (which actually came out despite my father’s fumbling) I also remember taking it to a Lindisfarne concert at the City Hall in Newcastle. I must try and find those films some day. the only disadvantage of the standard 8 format is that the films aren’t as readily available as the Super 8 ones but they are still available.

Then last weekend we went round to Sarah’s Dad’s house and he asked us to look in the cupboard to see if there was anything we wanted as he needs to clear the house as he is moving soon. There were lots of toys for Ben including a huge crate of lego which we took but when we looked on the top shelf we found a Super 8 Camera, Projector and Film Editing equipment. Sarah’s Dad said he had no idea where they came from and suggested that they may have belonged to Sarah’s Grandad.

In the end we found out that they had belonged to them after all as Sarah’s mum remembered from the mid 70’s. She said that there were probably some films from years ago and sure enough we found some in a bag. So we  got the projector out and set it up. We were going to test it with what we thought was a roll of leader but turned out to be a film. Amazingly, considering how long it must have been stored, it still worked and once we managed to get the film threaded we projected it onto a wall. The film turned out to be of Sarah on holiday about 18 months old which was amazing. I love the flickering images that film produces and the noise the projector makes but sadly after about 7 minutes the bulb suddenly went!

So now I’m keaner than ever to get into shooting some 8mm film. I spent the weekend researching suppliers and now think I have found the best value for films, processing and telecine but as money is tight I will have to take very small steps. i guess the first step will be to make sure the Super 8 camera actually works and then a get a replacement battery for the built in exposure meter. After that i suppose get a roll of film and then think of ideas to shoot with it.

I have considered making a short documentary piece about the Summer of Love festival in July using the video cameras but shooting some stuff on 8mm film would give some very retro looking shots to use so maybe I’ll give that a try. Once I’ve shot it I can get it processed and converted to video so I can edit it together with the video footage on my edit suite Mac or even borrow the editing equipment from my Mother-in-law and edit the film manually!  Ooh I’m all excited!

Talk to Frank

Meet Frank*

Frank is a security guard.

Frank works at the Bridges shopping centre in Sunderland.

Frank thinks I may be a paedophile and is prepared to call the Police to make sure I’m not.

Frank is just obeying orders…..

Here’s what happened

We were in Sunderland visiting my Dad and my Gran. My Dad had given the kids £10 each and Ben wanted to go and buy a toy so we took him into the Bridges shopping centre. While we were walking around we saw a little roundabout with a train on it. Ben loves trains and he went and clambered onto it. The train had a moustache and Sarah was laughing at the train so she told me to take a picture.

As soon as I pressed the button on my cameraphone Frank was by my side. He informed me that I couldn’t take pictures. I asked him why and he said that it was the centre’s rules as I might be a paedophile! I told him that I hadn’t seen any signs saying that photography was forbidden and he conceded that there weren’t any but he was just following his orders from the Centre Management who he would get to come down if I had a problem.

I informed him that in my opinion he was being a little over zealous in performing his duties as the child I had taken a picture of was my son and that maybe he was blowing the threat of paedophiles out of proportion. He said he wasn’t as he was just following orders from on high.

I was getting bored now but was still annoyed about effectively being accused of being a paedophile so I took the picture of Frank so that if I later wanted to make a complaint to the centre I would be able to identify him. I then wandered off to find Sarah who was in the Early Learning Centre.  This is of course ironic that if he really did suspect me of being a paedophile then why did he let me go into a toy shop? And if he didn’t suspect me why then did he make such a fuss?

The other irony is that having being pulled up for using a camera I was then tracked by the centre’s security cameras – I know this because the Police knew exactly where to find me when they arrived a few minutes later. We had moved up the road into another toyshop where, while looking at toys with Ben, I was confronted by PC B*****w who informed me that there had been a complaint.

PC B*****w threatens to arrest me on more than one occasion.

PC B*****w is ill informed about his ability to delete my photographs

PC B*****w doesn’t know what a hyphen is!

So in the middle of a toyshop the confrontation starts again. I’m asked about the original photograph and again I explain that the picture is of my child, again I comment about the lack of signs informing about the “No Photography” rule and PC B*****w agrees with me.  he asks why I took the picture of the security guard and accepts my explanation.

As the discussion is getting a bit heated he threatens to arrest me, saying that I’m causing a breach of the peace. Well come on, what do you expect, I’ve been accused of being a paedophile and had the Police set on me for taking a picture of my own son in a public place – can’t you work out why I’m getting a bit annoyed.

He says he has the right to delete my photographs and I explain that he doesn’t. He backtracks and says he has the right to see them. I tell him he will have to caution me first. He asks for my details which I begrudgingly give him. he asks why I am in the North East – I ask what relevance that has. He explains that he just needs to know!

PC B*****w also informs me that the Bridges shopping centre is a hotbed of paedophile activity and sexual assaults happen there all of the time. Sounds like the sort of place families with young children should avoid IF it’s actually true.

Eventually he goes off to find the security guard and tell him that he has checked me out and everything is ok! A monumental waste of Police time. The lady in the shop is appalled by the situation and admits that even though she works there she wasn’t aware of any “No Photography” policy.

Now I know that there are those who will say that I brought it on myself and I should have just kowtowed to the security guard when he told me not to take pictures. However I disagree – I believe I had every right to take a photograph of my son in a public place and frankly I’m sick of having my civil liberties eroded little by little.

In this country there is no law against taking a photograph in a public space. The shopping centre, although privately owned is still a public space. I know from experience that commercial photography requires permission from the owners but there is no law against the private individual taking a picture in a public space.

The shopping centre could impose a ban on photography within it’s environs but this should be indicated along with all the other things that are banned on the entrance to the centre. There are signs saying no smoking, no alcohol, so skateboards etc but none advertising the alleged ban on photography.

Also there is no law against taking a picture of a child or indeed a security guard in a public place. There is no right of privacy for the individual in this country. So I was well within the law to take both pictures.

Finally there is the presumption of guilt. It has been a long held tradition in this country of being innocent until proven guilty and it is beholden of the authorities to prove a persons guilt. However more and more often it is the individual that is required to prove their innocence. I took a picture of a child therefore until I can prove I am not a paedophile it will be assumed that I am.

The sensible way forward would be only to observe and if I was seen to be taking pictures of more than one child then would be the time to move in but no – in order to protect us from a minority of people everyone must be suspected and prevented from taking innocent pictures of their child. Is this really the sort of world we want to live in?

It’s ironic that at a time when almost every one has the ability to take a photograph using either a camera or a mobile phone, probably more so than ever before, then the ability to do so is slowly being eroded. Fight back – Photography is not a crime. I am not a terrorist, I am not a paedophile, I am a Photographer!

* name may have been changed