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I was photographing a protest today when a young woman told me to stop taking pictures. I asked her why and she responded that I was making her feel unsafe, and that I was making everyone feel unsafe. I said "this is my job" to which she replied "I don't care, you should know better". She then turned to a man behind her who was also taking photos and told him he should stop, too, that he was also making everyone feel unsafe. I was honestly confused. I don't photograph a lot of protests, but I have from time to time, and there are always other photographers there doing the same thing.  This is the first time anyone has told me I was doing something wrong. I feel confident that I wasn't breaking any laws - I never photograph children without permission of the parents - and everything was happening on public property. I wasn't even photographing HER, I was getting some shots of people standing on a nearby roof. My question, is this "a thing" - I mean is it somehow morally or ethically wrong to photograph people at protests?  I could use some input from anyone with more experience or insight. It made me feel terrible 😔 Thanks!

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Here in the UK I've been threatened with physical attack by protesters, but been supported by the police. The public can't stop me photographing them, though there have been times when I've decided to withdraw for my own preservation.

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If she's at a protest she should realise she's fair game.  Next time either ignore, or give her the public place spiel.  You did nothing wrong.

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Just now, Colblimp said:

If she's at a protest she should realise she's fair game.  Next time either ignore, or give her the public place spiel.  You did nothing wrong.

Thanks. The man taking photos that she also called out told her if she didn't like it she shouldn't be in a public place.  It's not my style to be confrontational, and I don't have a very thick skin for these kinds of things. Maybe I should stick to other subjects 😬

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15 minutes ago, Gina Kelly said:

Thanks. The man taking photos that she also called out told her if she didn't like it she shouldn't be in a public place.  It's not my style to be confrontational, and I don't have a very thick skin for these kinds of things. Maybe I should stick to other subjects 😬

You have to have a very thick skin to shoot protests.  Keep doing it and you'll gain more confidence. 👍

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36 minutes ago, Avpics said:

Here in the UK I've been threatened with physical attack by protesters, but been supported by the police. The public can't stop me photographing them, though there have been times when I've decided to withdraw for my own preservation.

Sounds scary!

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Not only is it a public space, but most protesters are there for the sole purpose of getting publicity for a cause. If there were no media there, what would be the point?

I've covered many really huge marches through London that didn't make it onto the TV news print media is the only coverage they're likely to get.

Most protesters I've encountered are more than happy to pose for photos - even when you don't want them to.

 

Just try not to look like you're working for the police.

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1 hour ago, Gina Kelly said:

I was photographing a protest today when a young woman told me to stop taking pictures. I asked her why and she responded that I was making her feel unsafe, and that I was making everyone feel unsafe. I said "this is my job" to which she replied "I don't care, you should know better". She then turned to a man behind her who was also taking photos and told him he should stop, too, that he was also making everyone feel unsafe. I was honestly confused.

it has less to do with public space which you are legally entitled to photograph, and more to do with ethics and how you conduct yourself and how you are perceived by the "actors" in the drama.  you do have to push and assert yourself, but you also have to know when to be more diplomatic.

 

i don't know what your particular situation was, but just go with the flow, photograph, and if confronted, move to a different position and continue.  i've been to protests (primarily to video document) and you have to try and get a feel of what the mood is like. there's a lot of emotion going on and you just don't want to waltz in there and pretend to be morally superior; even people with official press passes don't get a free ride.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=45VsFdu0Qq0&t=3m20s

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U2MwrjaclyE&2m20s

 

 

Edited by sooth
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Gina, I’m sorry you got that reaction from the protester.  Not only do you have the right as a working professional but ANYONE has the right to be there and take photos.  I am assuming they are protesting in a public space.  If they are worried about being seen in the media, as it might affect their job or something, then they need to figure that out before screaming, chanting and holding signs for all to see.    Most often, the people or thing they are angry with is not right in front of them so protesters need to be seen and heard through pictures and video.  Otherwise they might as well stay home and scream and yell.

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Sometimes we just have to move to another section of the march as it's probably not worth a confrontation. Today I took photos of a black lives matter protest in Manchester, uk. People were really happy to hold up their placards for a photo and I thanked them all twice.

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Thanks everyone for your feedback - I feel better now. Upon reflecting I do think it was an isolated incident with this one person who seemed to need to call people out for making her feel unsafe. The irony is that with all the tension and violence happening here in the US currently, a photographer doing her job at a protest is probably not high on the list of things that she needed to feel unsafe about!

 

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3 hours ago, Colblimp said:

If she's at a protest she should realise she's fair game.  Next time either ignore, or give her the public place spiel.  You did nothing wrong.

 

The cops will be doing a better job of photographing them than any reporter will be doing.  In 2018, both sides in Nicaragua were flying drones. 

 

That said, if someone doesn't want to be photographed, it can be a courtesy not to.  Some other group won't care.  This tends to be more critical when folks are more violent.

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1 minute ago, MizBrown said:

 

 

 

That said, if someone doesn't want to be photographed, it can be a courtesy not to.  Some other group won't care.  This tends to be more critical when folks are more violent.

 

I agree, and I never photograph anyone who expresses that they don't want to be photographed. In this instance, I wasn't even photographing her, I was photographing a group of people on a roof, from a distance. I just happened to be standing near her.  I feel like I'm very respectful when shooting, the last thing I want to do is make anyone uncomfortable, that's just not my style.

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3 hours ago, MizBrown said:

She may have been an undercover cop.

 

More likely she had an unstable personality, who knows. If her action of challenging other photographers made an interesting composition I would have photographed her. Could have been useful if her opposition to photographers turned to violence.

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8 hours ago, Phil Robinson said:

Not only is it a public space, but most protesters are there for the sole purpose of getting publicity for a cause. If there were no media there, what would be the point?

I've covered many really huge marches through London that didn't make it onto the TV news print media is the only coverage they're likely to get.

Most protesters I've encountered are more than happy to pose for photos - even when you don't want them to.

 

Just try not to look like you're working for the police.

Sadly Phil looks exactly like he is working for the police.   
 

I am trying not to over play this (as is my way) but I am getting a sense that, and I can only speak for the UK, there is an increased hostility towards press photographers.  At the start of the lockdown I had a number of aggressive incidents, this has calmed down.  I am going to be photographing in Westminster, London on Tuesday and Wednesday including perhaps a black lives matter demo so we shall see.

 

I have become more thick skinned over these issues over the years and have developed an assertive but not aggressive style, However having a verbal altercation with a member of the public still leaves me shaken, not stirred no matter how polite. 

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I took some photos of small silent Extinction Rebellion protest the other day and they could not have been friendlier - except not very chatty! ( See blue link)

 

One person on the fringes did ask me about my photography so I briefly justified my existence to him. He started off being slightly awry with 'So you like photography do you, Sir?' which I slightly took the p*ss out of since there was indeed a big clue in that I was taking photos with a camera that I might have some interest in photography. 

 

I'm a bit surprised that anybody who has set up a public protest is anti-photography, surely the whole purpose is about getting their message out there. 

 

But as I said in the other thread it is no good just criticising the public for showing hostility and being unwelcoming if you don't go beyond that and try and figure out the reasons. There are reasons, good reasons, just look at the way some of the tabloids labels people as 'Covidiots' etc

 

 

Edited by geogphotos
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19 minutes ago, geogphotos said:

But as I said in the other thread it is no good just criticising the public for showing hostility and being unwelcoming if you don't go beyond that and try and figure out the reasons. There are reasons, good reasons, just look at the way some of the tabloids labels people as 'Covidiots' etc

Ian, that is not the fault of the photographers.  There is nothing we can do to influence how our pictures are used.  I had one of my pictures used in an article attacking a politician who is a friend of mine.  Fortunately he saw the funny side.

 

Like you I do find it funny when I am standing with my D5 and a 600mm lens and someone says “what are you doing” or “are you taking photographs”.  

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17 minutes ago, IanDavidson said:

Ian, that is not the fault of the photographers.  There is nothing we can do to influence how our pictures are used.  I had one of my pictures used in an article attacking a politician who is a friend of mine.  Fortunately he saw the funny side.

 

Like you I do find it funny when I am standing with my D5 and a 600mm lens and someone says “what are you doing” or “are you taking photographs”.  

 

 

But the photographers are the ones producing the images so why wouldn't the general public 'blame' them?

 

 And please don't tell me that photographers don't know what the market wants.

Edited by geogphotos
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Gina, I'm confused by your confusion. I see that you have a lot of lovely flower images, which indicates a gentle nature. Protests can be orderly and safe, but they can also turn nasty in the snap of a finger, and things can get almost as dangerous as combat photography. I've done both. Paris May 68 was a scary one. And you're in America, where anyone might have a gun.

 

It's been a very long time since I was a PJ; no more dangerous stuff for this old guy. But when I was doing that, I played by one rule: Get The Picture. 

 

Good luck,

 

Edo

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As an amateur I've only had couple of incidents. I find it very hard to be polite when someone is trying to to restrict my constitutional rights. And that is exactly what they are doing, no matter how good their cause of demonstrating is.

 

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I agree with most of what has been said. You are, of course perfectly within your rights to take the pictures, but the situation right now - especially in the States the past couple of days - is more like a war zone. Many people will be (rightly) afraid, even paranoid about who is doing what and why. Be polite, kind and calm, move on to another spot. Misunderstandings can lead to confrontation and violence pretty quickly.  Be safe, that's the priority.

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I know that analogies can be fairly corny but anyway....

 

I used to be teacher and sometimes you could have a really hard lesson and come out feeling beaten up, really annoyed, and angry about how ungrateful, rude etc the children were. It is easy to blame them for the bad lesson but they are the children and I was the teacher, the adult, the one that is supposed to be the professional. The one who had the responsibility and supposedly the training.

 

So the only solution, because I couldn't easily change the children before I saw them next, was to reflect and think about what I could do to improve the situation - could my approach be different, is my tone right, is the level of the lesson appropriate, the learning materials, the classroom layout, and so on? What could I do to make sure that the next lesson went better and more smoothly?

 

Or I could carry on venting about these awful children and work myself towards an early grave.

 

And before you say anything Morrison you are already down for a detention. 😉

Edited by geogphotos
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Gina,  lots of good advice here.  I can only endorse the comments about judging the mood and if in doubt stay back.  The only protests I have seen have been very gentle affairs, no risks and no hassle. What does help, because even these are fast moving affairs is a plan of the pictures you want to get. 

 

Stay safe,

 

James

 

 

 

 

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