Sunday, 24 May 2009

Photography Matters

18th May 2009, A conference for Editorial Photographers at the Institute of Education, University of London, Bedford Way, WC1, London.

Pics from the event can be seen here:

When around 160 photographers register for an event, some of them travelling many hundreds of miles, you get the feeling that something interesting is going to happen. That’s exactly what I experienced on Monday 18th May, at the Institute of Education in Bedford way, in Central London.

'Photography Matters', the second photographer’s conference organised by the National Union of Journalist’s Freelance Office staff along with the Photographers Sub Committee, is part of the Unions ongoing efforts to support its photographer members. The conference hosted many sessions aimed at the varied interests of attendees.

John Toner ,the Freelance Organiser, introduced the days events. John is known by many members for his work in not only individual cases where the union has been able to get involved, but also as the guy who represents the Union’s photographers at many of the sharp end negotiations whether it be the Intellectual Property Office, discussing the future of copyright, or the Association of Chief Police Officers, kicked the conference off talking about some of the challenges we face to day, both economic and some more ‘in your face’ issues, such as difficult policing.

I didn’t get a chance to see any of the ‘Business of Photography’ where ways of expanding ones business potential as a photographer were explored, as I was chairing my own session – video and the photojournalist, but I am told that Nick McGowan-Lowe gave a useful insight to using the web, David Hoffman provided some interesting insights into stock, and Paul Herrman some thoughts on expanding ones business outside of newspapers.

'Video and the Photojournalist' shared the experiences of George Chin who has directed (and also shot) his own short films for various musicians and bands, and Antonio Olmos, who has shot work for the Guardian and Observer. Both talked about the difficulties they faced, how they dealt with equipment choice, pricing and the differences between moving pictures and stills.

'Dangers of the Trade', with Penny Tweedie and Kevin Cooper was also popular, and we saw both an excellent presentation of work – truly showing why what we do is so important, as well as an insight into the experiences of a photographer working in the midst of the troubles experienced in Ireland.

'Copyright and Intellectual Property', was presented by a powerful female panel. Linda Royles gave a thoroughly entertaining and informative update of the current state of 'Orphan works', including where the US legislation started and finished and what has been proposed for the UK. We aren’t safe yet is the message, and we need to keep our eyes and ears open.

Whilst many attendees were eating, looking at the exhibition and chatting to the sponsors a hard core of twenty or so, attended the session with Neil Barstow and Mike Walker to talk about colour management. Too many professionals still only play lip service to proper colour Management, and doing it right is surely one of the most important things that separates quality imagery from the also-rans.

Jeff Moore and Paul Stewart, along with John Toner, were the key negotiators for photographers with the Met Police when the Guidelines were established, and their presentation shows that things have not gone particularly well for press photographers ever since. Good Cop, bad Cop, was excellent but it was the thoughts of Commander Bob Broadhurst, senior officer in charge of the policing of the G20 protests in London a few weeks ago, which casued the biggest stir. Several of the attendees had been allegedly assaulted by Police officers during the events in early April, including a documented shield in the face and a broken arm.

Commander Bob Broadhurst, Pic by Pete Jenkins

The bob Broadhurst tapes (by Paula Geraghty)

That Bob Broadhurst thought that the UK Press card was called the NUJ card was interesting, and presumably reflects the large number of press cards that are issued by the union rather than by specific news organisations, but that he was so ignorant of how the press card is issued and on what criteria, I found hugely worrying.

This is one of the guys at the top of the police tree. This is one of the senior police officers involved in the negotiation of the Met Police guidelines, the very same guidelines that are supposed to have been rolled out to all the police forces in England and Wales.

"How do we know what their motives are?" he says when referring to holders of press cards, forgetting that the current Press card system was set up in conjunction with the Police, by the major news gathering organisations and the NUJ, CIOJ, BAJ etc.

What we learned from the presentation to the gathered photographers by Commander Broadhurst, and during the subsequent question and answer session, was that Commander Broadhurst has no faith that Press cards are only given to accredited journalists. If that is how their senior management think, then it is clear that the rank and file police officers will be working with this guidance.

Clearly the Press card authority has to have a meeting with the Association of Chief Police Officers, (ACPO), and get this deplorable situation dealt with immediately. But meetings may well be not enough. What can we do to get through to British Police Forces, (including senior and junior officers), that those holding the British Press card, regardless of the awarding organisation (NUJ, BBC, SKY etc) are bone-fide journalists, and should not be assaulted with guns, truncheons or shields, and that the behaviour of front-line police officers in these confrontation situations needs to be drastically revised?

Pete Jenkins

Member of: The National Union of Journalists

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