Mass Photo Gathering

11 December 2009

Mass Gathering in defence of street photography

I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist! invite all Photographers to a mass photo gathering in defence of street photography.

Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed police detaining an award winning architectural photographer in the City of London, the arrest of a press photographer covering campaigning santas at City Airport and the stop and search of a BBC photographer at St Pauls Cathedral and many others. PHNAT feels now is the time for a mass turnout of Photographers, professional and amateur to defend our rights and stop the abuse of the terror laws.

And thanks to the lovely people at Spreadshirt there’s now free shipping on everything in our shop with the promo code 23JAN. So go buy a hoodie or 3!

Social Media

You can use the Twitter hashtag #mpg to follow what’s going on and Flickr users can tag their photos with this Upcoming Event by adding the tag: upcoming:event=4903212 to your photos.


12 Noon
Saturday 23rd January 2010
Trafalgar Square

Facebook Event Google Map

Posted by A Photographer

Tags: , , , , , ,

Filed under: Events, Featured

  1. Rob Bradford says:

    I wouldn’t normally get involved, but enough is enough. My train tickets from Derby have just been booked. I’ll be there!


  2. [...] The good people at have set up a protest for January 23rd. I will definately be going. More details on their blog. [...]

  3. Old Holborn says:

    I’ll make sure my “guys” are there

  4. Dennis says:

    It’s a crazy idea and perhaps might be difficult to arrange but it the police turn up in huge numbers we could all stand in a circle facing out and do an instant panorama. What a poster that would make if it could be stitched!

    See you there!

  5. William Heron says:

    The only reason I won’t be there is if I am dead or in prison.

  6. Jimmy_Lemon says:

    Excellent idea :)

    Couple of threads about it on talk|photography ( – hope it is good turn out!

    • Monte says:

      all of you are going to get hell beaten out of you.

      the main pig does not want you taking his picture, because that might get him into trouble…

      if you want to get hurt, arrested and a police record, here’s your chance. you will accomplish nothing more. nobody cares what you “think” – only that you keep your mouth shut and do as you are told. and if not, they’ll shut it for you!

      • René says:

        Bit dramatic aren’t we?

      • Dame Julian Uptight says:

        What a little ray of sunshite you are, dearie.

      • Tom McElvy says:

        Wow! That person has certainly been in the holiday spirits! Guys; although I am across the pond in the colonies, my heart is with all of you. The police are now overstepping and trying to take away your liberties. Stand up, do it politely, and write, call, petition your representatives. Hell, write the Queen!

        Best of luck to you, and I hope you will get some international press coverage (Fox News, CNN, ABC, NCS, CBS, BBS, etc) Be sure to send them regular press releases, and get them to cover it!

      • Michael says:

        For the reasons you say Monte-I urge eveyone to BE THERE.

  7. Steve says:

    If you think street photography is under attack, try being an aviation photographer.

  8. Peter says:

    I will do my utmost to be there also.

    Great job organizing this


  9. Tamianne says:

    This is an excellent idea!

    Two people close to me have been affected by this, one a professional and one an amateur (for photographing clouds of all things!). So, I will definitely try to be there and let others know about this.

  10. Moongold says:

    I can’t make this but have posted a link here
    Excellent work. I’ve also posted a link from my site.

  11. Patrick says:

    I’ll be going.

    Here’s why:

    See you there!

  12. viramati says:

    will do my best to make it

  13. Morgan Stanley's dog says:

    I’d be there, but I’m hundreds of miles away.
    It’s on my birthday, too, so I’ll be pissed as a fart and in no condition to take pshtcrsas.d

  14. Cambo says:

    May be worth a look (listen), just to make sure this initiative does not get caught up on some technicality that has nothing at all to do with photography….

    It’s quite amusing too. :)

  15. Amedeo Felix says:

    I shall do my damnedest to be there…

  16. Colin says:

    There’s a story in the times about how police stopped a terrorist because he was taking photos in a suspicious way.

    The point is that there’s one thing to enquire what people are doing. Quite another to tell them to stop when the activity is not illegal.

  17. calmac says:

    Wouldn’t a number of parallel protests not be more effective?Similar protests could be held simultaneously across the UK, giving it a stronger impact.

    For those of us who are equally affected by this harrassment but can’t make the trip to London, is it possible you could arrange simultaneous protests in other cities?

    I’d attend a protest in Glasgow or Edinburgh and I feel this would give a greater sense of both the widespread nature of the problem and the depth of feeling photographers have about it.

  18. calmac says:

    Sorry, that should read “Wouldn’t a number of parallel protests be more effective?”

  19. Alan Baker says:

    I would’ve been there had it not been for a prior engagement I cannot miss.
    I do suspect that the police will ignore the photographers and simply do a ‘crowd management’ function. Once the photographers have all gone home they will go back to their old ways.
    What we need is unpublished events where one photographer is visible and two or more are close at hand taking photos/video of any proceedings. They will tire of being caught out.

  20. Rick Hed says:

    You might enjoy Steve Bell’s take on this issue from the Guardian…

    And The Guardian’s Paul Lewis taking the proverbials out of the City plods: “From snapshot to Special Branch: how my camera made me a terror suspect

    Casual shots of London’s Gherkin attract stop and search just days after police were reminded street photography is no offence

    Also from The Guardian’s Peter Walker and Paul Lewis, “Taking a photograph in a public place has become the quickest way to attract police attention, as increasing numbers of photographers can verify. But now it has emerged that anti-terrorism officers are uneasy about a far less sophisticated piece of surveillance technology: the watercolour brush and canvas”

    Yopu couldn’t make it up!

  21. Rick Hed says:

    A friend informs me that the latest initiative is for police officers to patrol in threes: one reads, one writes, and the third keeps an eye on the two intellectuals.

  22. kombizz says:

    I try my best to attend. All it depends on ‘them’.

  23. sickntired says:

    Wish i could be there to lend some support… I wish you the best..

  24. Mark Kalan says:

    I offer my support from across the pond! Wish I could be there.

  25. Urban SIN London definitely will be there!

  26. Michael says:

    If I could afford the fare I would be there-but will be in spirit. The odious practice of interrogating snappers has spread to Australia. Photographers have been questioned on Bondi Beach-a favourite location for busloads of Japanese tourists to let loose with their Canons.

    But an ordinary picture takers are questioned on a regular basis-one was even charged under a non-existent law with the case turfed out by a magistrate. Yet the local council still insists they have the right to prevent, control-or charge a fee for taking photos on a beach that is , like all Australian beaches publicly owned with local councils having no control over laws that dictate whatever actions happen on a beach. The fear is now spreading with innocent tourists being questioned photgraphing government buildings etc. Yet anyone can actually view a building or area via google street view ?

  27. Mark Ingram says:

    Government and the Police appear to be mistaking Orwell’s 1984 for some kind of instruction manual. If we’re no longer free to take photographs without being hassled by the State then the terrorists have won, haven’t they? I’ll be there

  28. Losticini says:

    I will definitely be there.

    Re. the “Gherkin Incident” – I did a quick search on the Internet and discovered: the names of key people associated with that building’s security, the shift patterns, the original specifications and locations for its security equipment, locations of perimeter CCTV cameras, info on IT arrangements, drawings of the building, and useful notes on structure, loadings, etc. Compared with that, photos of the exterior are nothing.

    As others have pointed out, no “survelliance” photos have ever been found in relation to recent terrorist incidents. The only possible instance quoted by the police relates to the alleged semi-covert use of a camera phone in connection with suspicious behaviour and even then the exact reason for its use is unproven.

    The logic therefore breaks down, but aside from that, the erosion of trust and of fundamental liberties is pernicious and needs to be highlighted. Unless common sense starts to be applied by more of the police, people will treat them with a increasing wariness that is deeply unhealthy.

    Their problem is that when it comes to cameras, the only use for them that the police can comprehend is for surveillance of one form or another. Ergo, anyone with a “good” camera is automatically suspect. This sort of failure of imagination is depressing and goes hand in hand with Authority’s never-ending desire to stamp its heavy boot on any kind of artistic or creative endeavour.

  29. Ash says:

    Shame that it is on the same day as the EDL circus in Stoke,
    hard to decide but Stoke looks favourite to me, i guess this
    is on the thoughts of others aswell but wish you all the best
    and look forward to the next one.

  30. Mark Wilson says:

    I hope to be there – was going to purchase a t-shirt from the shop too but the free shipping code of 23JAN was only valid for a week and expired on 21 Dec… any chance of an extension?

  31. Ted says:

    The fight for the right to take pictures in public is a proxy for the defense of democracy in the UK.

    I would urge for massive civil disobedience. Take pictures of police officers all the time. Preferably with long telephoto lenses. Know your rights, refuse to be submissive, argue back, have the phone number to a lawyer at hand, report the arresting officer. If you are arrested, have a friend take pictures of the incident, if he/she is arrested a third person starts to take pictures of the second arrest, etc. If 1000s of people did this all the time the message to the establisment might just sink in.

  32. brezhnev says:

    this is worth a look and listen:

  33. My support from Williams Lake, B.C., Canada where the Olympic Torch Relay is going to have our small town become a police state for a coupleof days.

  34. Derek says:

    Cane we have an event on the 23rd in York? I have to go there and can’t be in London. There’s photographers up North you know!

  35. Fernando says:

    It’s very important to highlight this. Its great and its a huge issue.
    It’s happened to us at the studio loads of times.
    It’s time we all stand up for it
    Count me in.

    Please visit our new studio blog and stock library websites

    Distil Ennui Photography Studio Blog

    Stock Images & Canvas Prints

  36. Amy says:

    If I wasn’t going to be out of the country, I would definitely be there.

    This is such an important topic – wondering if anyone out there who is feeling passionate about it might consider talking at the next Ignite London in early March? For more details visit

    Good luck everyone!

  37. Jack says:

    I’ll be there. These developments are frightening.

  38. Daniel says:

    Count me in. Things are twisting in this country and too many of the freedoms are being eroded. Let’s make this big.

  39. bob smith says:

    I’m tempted to go to picadilly circus or similar one day, and start taking pictures. When I’m told to move off and I refuse, I could get arrested. If I do this, and am subsequently shown to be innocent of being a terrist, does anyone think that blip on my record would make international travel difficult?

  40. I’m definitely coming. hope to rope some friends in too.

  41. sheila says:

    Hope to be there in body, but will defnitely be there in spirit, power to the photographers

  42. monkeymillions says:

    have the organisers spoken to the police about meeting in trafalgar square?

    just wondered…

  43. William K Wallace says:

    I was recently at Westfield shopping centre taking a few snaps of the hell hole, when the security asked me to stop taking pictures because I might be a a terrorist. What a bunch of jokers.

    It is time to make a stand and I will be there…

  44. Mike says:

    Monte says:
    “all of you are going to get hell beaten out of you.

    if you want to get hurt, arrested and a police record, here’s your chance.”

    Way to knuckle under like a good little robot, Monte! Spineless supporters of fascist regimes everywhere salute you! Now go back to watching your telly and let the big people talk, okay?

  45. Shalom says:

    Can’t make it for this protest – though I would love to be there. I’m embarrassed by this latest abuse of power by the British Police. They should be accountable and punished when bullying members of the public with this Terrorist photography crap.

  46. I once got stopped by a member of the Royal Protection squad who said I might be shooting in one direction but they could be shooting in the other and they don’t use cameras.

  47. Lee Wilson says:

    I won’t be attending – which is a pity as I live less than 15 minutes away (King’s Cross) and share the concerns and aims of this website/campaign.

    10-15 years ago this would have been a wonderful opportunity to have your voice heard, to make a public statement over an issue that concerns you, to meet others who share your concerns and so on . . . . but things have changed so much and with such speed that events like this are now little more than an invite to be harassed, intimidated, corralled, detained, arrested and even charged (regardless of you conduct).

    Protest is, of course, still perfectly lawful when conducted within the law, but the fact of the matter is that it is now not at all well tolerated by an increasingly hostile, political and confrontational police force.

    I have a 20 month year old son who I will be looking after later that day, I cannot afford to be shepherded into a police coral and detained for 7 or 8 hours, so protest (or even simply a gathering) like this is often off limits to people like myself – I am sure there are swathes of people like me who would also love to add their voice to this campaign but are steered away for similar reasons.

    Over the past 5 years or so I have been stopped 6 or 7 times by the police while out shooting (detained once) – and they have been almost universally aggressive and rude. About the worst thing you can do is to point out your rights – your right to take pictures, your right to anonymity and so on – to do this invites an hour long fishing exercise, where they will harass and question and prod and poke and test and push looking to trip you up, to find something, anything to use against you.

    This protest is playing their game to a certain extent.

  48. revaaron says:

    nine… eleven.

  49. Martin says:

    I’m inclined to go but my concern is whether the demo has been given permission. In the pdf linked below, section 5 (rules 9,10) prohibit speeches or demonstrations without prior permission in Trafalgar Square:

    I’m all for making a point but I don’t want to be arrested.

    • It’s a Mass Photo Gathering, not a protest. Come along!

    • Simon Taylor says:

      Interesting. Technically, section 5.5 would prohibit you from using a mobile telephone unless you use it with headphones. It might also be interpreted to stop you from even using a camera.

      You may not “use any apparatus for the transmission, reception, reproduction or amplification of sound, speech or images, except apparatus designed and used as an aid to defective hearing, or apparatus used in a vehicle so as not to produce sound audible to a person outside that vehicle, or apparatus where the sound is received through headphones;”

  50. Benn says:

    Who said anything about being a protest?

    It’s just a meet up of people who share a common interest. Photography.

    • Lee Wilson says:

      **A Photographer says:
      January 20, 2010 at 8:42 pm
      It’s a Mass Photo Gathering, not a protest. Come along!**

      **Benn says:
      January 21, 2010 at 7:20 pm
      Who said anything about being a protest?

      It’s just a meet up of people who share a common interest. Photography.**

      Unfortunately you cannot simply define a gathering as you would like, if it is interpreted by the police as a protest (regardless of what you tell them it is) they will use SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005) against you.

      The SOCPA legislation does exclude Trafalgar Square from the Act (the location of the ‘gathering’) – but don’t let that fool you, the police don’t let small details like that bother them when it comes to protest – I have a broken Canon 5D body and chipped tooth to attest to that.

  51. Luis Rubim says:

    It’s like a flashmob, I’m sure nobody asks permission for those.

  52. BH says:

    The real terrorists are goverment, not muslims.

  53. John Holyer says:

    “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible
    reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”
    Adolf Hitler

  54. We’ve just made up hundreds of Stop And Search Cards that will be given out at tomorrow’s meet. Good luck everyone!

  55. Sam says:

    I’ll be there, theres about 20 of us coming from my University, we’re all studying photography so of course this is very important to us.

    I just hope it doesn’t descend into something unruly if idiots turn up.

  56. Sam says:

    Also, it might not be billed a protest but the majority of people who are going, are going to protest their feelings against the stuff thats going on.

    I suppose how its expressed is what will define the event. I’m going to show support and I’m going to be counted as a number, not to make noise or a scene.

  57. paul says:

    Any link between the increased ‘terror threat’ level and the proposed demo? It makes nice ‘foil’ to use on any media interview…..

    • Martin says:

      Highly likely, given that the BBC are covering it.

      It costs the Government nothing to send out a threat escalation notice, it’s plausible given the current tensions, makes them look on the ball and it is a neat move to limit the damage that criticism like ours causes.

      Manipulating opinion through the use of state mechanisms that should not be used for such purposes has been a problem for the UK under successive governments and is a further reflection of the issues that we are highlighting today. Another example of unnecessary erosion of trust that could be avoided by the application of some common sense.

    • lsmithso says:

      Is there some new anti-terrorist legislation before Parliament? Or is a snap election due?

  58. jeff moore says:

    please just turn up take pictures!be in the group photo.
    thats it.

  59. [...] photographers will be making a stand at Trafalgar Square for a mass gathering in defence of street photography. Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed [...]

  60. Sadly can’t make it, hoping it all goes well…

  61. Tyger says:

    Very poor light out there today. Fancy calling it off, or postponing it until the Spring?

  62. Freeman Photo says:

    When you find out that all Police authority’s are in fact private for profit operations, so are mag courts & the county courts, ie they all have a Dunn & Bradstreet numbers you then begin to realise why there are so many silly statutes on the books that are really just there for revenue collection.
    A “police man” can be either a Policeman in which case he use discression OR he can be a Policyman, carrying out the policies of his private for profit employer ie the Police Authority he works for. Most beat cops only act as the later, most of the time mainly through lack of knowledge on their own part.

    However they can not do much without your consent. so don’t give it. Much more info can be found at the following forums :-

    as well as many more that are out there
    Nothing is what you think it is !!!!!!!!!

    if you really know nothing about all of this, check out John Harris’s talks first on tpuc

    good luck today

    • Lee Wilson says:

      John Harris ! He’s bit of an idiot to be honest, his heart is in the right place, but all the freeman stuff is largely useless.

  63. Lee Wilson says:

    Just saw the Sky News report, good stuff to everyone who attended, I wish I had gone now : ( but the coward in me didn’t like the idea an afternoon of shit from some gang of state goons erect on the knowledge that they can harass whoever takes their fancy – but from what I can see there was no real police presence.

    Oh well, next one then !

  64. Hi, here some pictures from the mass gathering:

    Should you have any comments, please write to me kozerozhka-at-gmail-dot-com

  65. RM says:

    Good luck to all who went yesterday & thanks, on behalf of all of us who either couldn’t make it or were too intimidated to do so. John Holyer’s comment is particularly relevent. Thanks also to those who posted photos of the event.

  66. Paul Cook says:

    Wish i could have made it down for the meet (I live in Scotland). Seen some great shots of the event.


  67. Congrats to all who attended. We need to do more of these demonstrations to increase public awareness. I just returned from Paris, Barcelona and Rome and was stopped countless times for no reason by both police and private security. Rome in particular needs a demonstration, I’d suggest at the Spanish Steps. Bring tripods as well, for some reason the cops feels that tripods are more of a threat than just about any other object in creation.

    Keep up the great work!

  68. AJ says:

    Congrats to all who attended and the event organisers.
    Excellent awareness and publicity created.
    Have you seen the Daily Mail today? Now they are stopping children’s TV presenters carrying hairdryers, this won’t have done them any favours!

  69. Duncan Smith says:

    it was a great event and thanks to those who made it happen, if needs to be done again I will be there!

    Got some great pics on the day

  70. Colin Hall says:

    Sorry I’m late to add something to this thread. Where would our society be without street photography? No Henri Cartier-Bresson, No Paul Strand … No Eugene Atget … I’d rather slit my wrists than live in a world of government led creative clampdown. Maybe it’s time to use the devious methods of 1930′s crime photographers again :-)

  71. John says:

    Sorry I couldn’t make the demo but here’s my contribution to the cause.

    Keep up the fight!

  72. Ted says:

    Don’t believe political leaders or senior police officiers who claim that this abuse will stop. Unaccountable police officiers still abuse their powers: Just look at this:

    “Photographer films his own ‘anti-terror’ arrest”

    The totalitarian state is getting closer and closer.

  73. Ted says:

    Even more:

    “Mall security guard accuses shopper of being a paedophile for photographing his own son”

    (It would be great if the webmaster could make a compilation about all these incidents.)

  74. kate says:

    Disquieting piece of footage over at the Oxford Times site. Stephen Russell, in his late 50s, was on a trip to buy fish and chips in Kidlington High Street when he spotted police swarming around. He had his camera with him and took four photos because it was unusual to see so much action in the village.

    An officer wrongly demanded the ex-RAF engineer delete the photos. Mr Russell rightly refused – it is not illegal to photograph police in a public place.

    He was then searched using powers under Section 43 of the Terrorism Act,.

    He recorded the incident. Go and watch the footage. It’s simply astonishing. Amongst other things, the fool of a bullying, overbearing policeman said, to a law-abiding member of the public who had done nothing wrong

    You are a stranger in Kidlington – tell me who you are – what is your reason for being here

    On what possible basis was any of that asked? We don’t live in a country in which the police can demand our papers, to state our business. Moreover, just look at the way this oaf treats a palpably honest and reasonable member of the public. The domineering “I’m in charge, you justify yourself to me” attitude is typical of the way that the police are working very hard to lose the confidence of the law-abiding majority, who no longer feel that they’re on our side.

    Moreover, what absurd bit of self-serving sophistry – total dishonesty, really – to use Terrorism Act powers to search this man. He was very, very obviously not a terrorist. It is behaviour like this that undermines belief in the government’s terror agenda and shows that powers such as these can’t be given to officers, because they abuse them. The officer should now be required to justify his use of Terrorism Act powers in this case and if he can’t, then he should be disciplined.

  75. Christer says:

    I guess most of you reading this know about Magnum. Some of the best photographers in the world have been or are member of this co op agency, such as Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, Elliott Erwitt, Eve Arnold, Bruce Davidson and many more….

    If you go here:

    you will be treated to a number of selected images from the Magnum Archives – a new selection most every day. In addition there is a link to Magnum Podcasts.

    When you look at these images you will surely contemplate that we are no longer allowed – or can – produce images like these..

    Christer Rosewell

  76. [...] photographers will be making a stand at Trafalgar Square for a mass gathering in defence of street photography. Following a series of high profile detentions under s44 of the terrorism act including 7 armed [...]

  77. I can’t believe that a government that records our every movement could ever protest at the general public taking pictures of the streets that they live in. Surely any ruling against public photography would apply equally to the use of ‘security’ camera’s.

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