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Jason Holliston
Friday, June 11, 2004  
No Pictures, Please!

I noticed an article a few days ago about New York City's new no photography policy on their subway system, and didn't have time to write about it (before I forgot, at least). Today's post by Michael Totten on his site reminded me of it, though. He makes the argument that rules like this might fly in Ghaddafi's Libya, but not here, which is why so many people turned out for a photographer's protest recently.

How about London? Would Great Britain be considered a little closer to home and closer to our value system than Libya? Last fall, I took a 9 day vacation in London, and of course, brought my camera along for the ride. I took lots of photos, and even a couple on the Underground. But, the first time I rode the tube, I noticed signs posted regularly: "No Photography on the Underground". Obviously they don't enforce it to a great extent, since I got aways with a couple shots without being harassed, but there you go. Here's the FAQ on the subject. I realize that the FAQ seems to be aimed more at the professional photographer/filmmaker, but the signs (of which I don't have a photo of one, which I regret, at least for the irony of it) didn't mention that it only applied to certain classes of photo-takers.

The interesting thing about this, I think, is America is now in the same place that England was a couple decades ago, with concern to terrorism. Culminating in the 80's, they went through a long series of IRA bombings that changed their society fundamentally. The London Underground was always a prime target for the IRA, so to this day, not only isn't their photography on the tube, but no trashcans, as well. There are still signs warning people to watch for unattended bags, strange objects, etc.

It is a loss of some freedom -- I'll absolutely give the photo-protesters that. I'll also concede that Great Britain does historically have a different view of personal freedom than Americans do. Still, I have to wonder: when the Underground's photo ban went into effect, did 100 of London's photographers stage a protest?

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