Much has been written in recent years about the creeping restrictions being imposed on photographers. Security staff and Police seem to be only too keen to wade in and try to prevent photographers from going about their lawful business, especially in areas where the distinction between "private property" and "public right of way" is a bit hazy.
The security at Canary Wharf and Broadgate are both renowned for their hysterical over-reaction to anyone taking pictures and I have had Policemen argue that I was engaged in "commercial photography" at a large protest march and therefor needed a permit. His spectacularly half-witted logic was, "They don't give the magazine away for free, do they?"
Earlier this week I was approached by a security guard at Adventure Island whilst taking pictures for a travel piece about the resurgent attractions of Southend-on-sea. As he walked towards me I fully expected the standard "You can't take pictures here" routine that almost always deteriorates into a bad-tempered demand for my camera or memory card.
However, what ensued took me completely by surprise. Looking at the two cameras and my belt pouches stuffed with lenses, batteries and accessories he said,
"Excuse me sir but I'm not sure you're aware that we operate certain restrictions on photography here. If you wouldn't mind going to customer services, they might be able to help you."
His manner was calm, professional and non-confrontational. No fuss, no sneering and no condescending sarcasm. He proceeded to give me concise, accurate directions to the customer services hut and once there, I found a similarly helpful attitude.
There was a polite request to explain what it was that I wanted to photograph and for whom and after a brief call to a member of the management team I was told that it would be fine to continue and that if I should ever need to return that they would try to accommodate any reasonable request.
It was a remarkably unrepresentative encounter that demonstrated exactly what can be quickly accomplished if simple courtesy is observed by both parties. Later I came across the same guard and thanked him for being so straightforward. He explained that there was a growing problem with people trying to photograph children surreptitiously which he took exception to, but he was genuinely pleased that the management had been helpful in the case of a professional.
It has reminded me not to prejudge peoples behavior or stereotype them and that while we as photographers have rights we also have responsibilities - certain situations call for cooperation.