Imposing

Old 17 May 08
Imposing

Here we go. Classic example of security having a go at photographers.

This is the tallest building in Liverpool, Beetham Tower. I’ve photographed it a few times from a distance as part of skyline images. This was the first time I’ve gone right up to it to capture it at 10mm for a potential HDR. I’ll be honest, I did step off the pavement and about 2 meters onto their little path in front of the building to get this photo. A whole 2 meters there. I noticed the security guard was watching me all this time. I was just waiting for him to come out but he didn’t, then. I walked around the building, using the public pavement and then stepped about 5 meters down a side road between Beetham Tower and the passport office to get another close up wide angle shot. That was it. Security came out. I had moved back to the pavement by the time they reached me. I saw him coming and waited. I wasn’t going to walk or run off. I knew he was coming for me to tell me I can’t take photos. I was going to stand my ground and see what he had to say.

“Do you have permission to take photos of this building?” he asks. Here we go. “I’m standing on public property, why would I need permission?” I tell him. He continues to explain how I need permission to photograph it, and I continue to explain that I’m standing on public property and I can legally photograph the building. He doesn’t believe me. He says the passport office security called him because they saw me on cctv. He radios them and says that I’m refusing to leave to which I tell him flat out that I’m not at all refusing. He never asked me to leave so why would I be refusing? 2 more security guards descend from black ops helicopters ;) One in a suit waves the other guy away. Now it turns nasty.

Mr Suit asks me if I have permission and I ask him why would I need it when I’m on public property. He says that I’m not on public property, but as far as I’m aware the pavement was. He continues to argue about their property and land. Ok so they do have me stepping 5 meters down a side road between the 2 buildings. Oh god I’m such a bad boy. I concede that point to them but continue to stand my ground about public property. He says he’ll call the Police on me. At this point I came very close to saying “Go for it.” but it was late and I didn’t want to spend hours arguing about this. It was after all the Passport office and I know I can’t take photos of it, which is exactly why I didn’t. It occurs to me just why is the guy from the passport office here when I was photographing the building next to his? Why is he pushing so hard? Its all a bit silly. He tells me to walk away or he’ll call the Police and I say I’m happy to walk away. Of course I continue to argue my point, me being me and all. I ask them to clarify the line of public and private property. He can’t. He continues to be argumentative and strong minded. He tells me to walk away and that he’s allowing me to keep the photos. Haha! Again I nearly tell him that he has no right to get me to delete them anyway. However, I figure that if after 10 minutes I haven’t got them to admit that I can take photos from public property I doubt I’ll win any point I make. I assert that I can take photos of Beetham Tower from public property, they say I can’t and that I need permission. He tells me to get lost. I figure I’ve said my peace, and that I know I’m legally in the right to take photos of that building. I decide to walk away, slowly. I watch him, he watches me. I look around in case there are any more nice shots as I head back to my car. He continues to watch me. I stop across the road from him and send a few txt’s, just incase I’m suddenly disappeared or something. He’s still watching, talking to his colleagues. I head down the road and off to Sainsburys for some Milkyway Magic Stars as a reward for sticking it to the man.

This is now the 4th time I’ve had security telling me what I can’t do on Old Hall Street in Liverpool. I can’t take a photo of your building? O rly? What about the millions of tourists who already have because it forms part of the bloody skyline? What about Google Earth? Oh look, all your precious buildings are already online for anyone to see. Look at this too. All those photos already taken. All from public property I assume, which is perfectly legal.

Its just so darn silly. You build the tallest building in Liverpool and then get security to harass people when they want to take photos. Why? Of course people will want to take photos, its the biggest building. Are you going to have security patrols running around town stopping people taking photos? Its pretty damn visible from almost all over Liverpool, what with being the tallest building and all. I’m sure with the height a sniper team could take out that kid and his girlfriend on Everton Brow who accidently get it in their shot with their 1 megapixel camera phone.

C’mon guys, just lay off the photographers whose only crime is capturing light. I think it’d be quite fun to have a McHammer photography flashmob outside these buildings. Everyone in parachute pants taking photos from public property. “Can’t touch this.”

Comments 19

  1. Mike says on 17 May 08

    I like it! The reflections off the windows are very well defined adding quite a bit to the composition.

  2. Nick says on 17 May 08

    Wow, things really have changed over the last few years as stories or photographers getting hassled by security are becoming more common. So far have not run into anything similar in little old NZ (not many buildings I know even have security thankfully). Something I will have to be mindful of next time I am in the UK. Were you using a tripod? If you were, do you find that this brings more security your way?

    Amazing shot. Well worth the problems IMHO :-)

  3. Your Photo Tips says on 18 May 08

    Ignored. Sort of. I mean, I did read it all, which did become laughable after a while.

    This is happening way too often around the globe.

    It’s been noted everywhere and it does need to stop.

    I do like the shot and in no way find it underwhelming at all.

    Damien Franco

  4. Pete says on 18 May 08

    I’ve cleaned up the comments on this photo as I don’t believe that the person claiming to be from Beetham doesn’t appear to who he claimed he was. Apologies for this.

  5. Sam says on 18 May 08

    I’ve been told off by security for taking pictures in this area, from the pavement, too. I made the same argument. Totally dumb.

    I find the rules about taking photos of almost any building bizarre. So its fine for anyone to go and look at it, stand outside and make evil plans (which I’m sure happens ALL the time), but not for anyone to take a picture of a piece of architecture? Or more often, its fine taking one from across the other side of the street, but not one from nearby.

    Like many current security ideas, it makes no sense, and is unenforceable and pointless.

    Oh, and having a tripod generally does attract more hassle, yes. Certain places like the Albert Dock require you to get permission if you shoot with a tripod, but don’t tend to hassle you otherwise. Here in Manhattan you need a permit to use a tripod on the street as you block foot traffic.

  6. Pete says on 18 May 08

    Joe last word on the matter. If you are who you say you are send me a message via this page with your Beetham contact details in and I’ll give you a call Monday morning. If you are someone from Beetham then there should be no issue with remaining anonymous. Only I will see those details.

    My account of the events are as it happened, aside from the black ops helicopters of course. The security guard from Beetham
    West Tower came out and had a chat with me. He was polite enough about it but insisted that I need permission to take photographs from
    public property. I debated this and he used his radio to talk to someone. It is entirely possible that the passport office were simply monitoring the situation via CCTV and just happened to come out at the same time. But he definitely used his radio to tell someone that I refused to leave. I told him that I was not refusing to leave. Security from the passport office arrived moments after this. The guy in a suit told me I can’t take photos of Beetham Tower without permission. I had no idea why he was arguing the case for someone elses building. Eventually he threatened police action and told me to get lost.

    This definitely happened and if they saw me on CCTV it should be logged somewhere as proof. Its as simple as that really.

  7. David Ellison says on 18 May 08

    See: http://www.chapterthirteen.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=66&Itemid=56

    and follow the link to Linda’s website at Sirimo to download a pdf on photography and the law.

    I used to get stopped during the 1980’s quite a lot. I photographed asround the Beetham Tower about two months ago without any problems. ( tea break? )

    There have been quite a few incidences recently around Britain and there are videos and articles appearing on the internet to document the situation.

    See: http://www.flickr.com/photos/photodrift/2422740769/

    Unless photographers start to take action and stand up for their rights, future generations will miss out on street photography during this era.

    Some recent events:
    Amateur stopped photographing Victoria Station in Manchester.
    Photographer dealt with aggressively by manager of a mobile phone shop manager in Southport who demanded the images of the shop be deleted.

    There is a file which you can download and print out and carry with you at:

    http://www.ephotozine.com/download/43/5

  8. Dave R says on 18 May 08

    pre 9/11 I also got stopped in Mahattan, at the top floor of the empire state, just before carrying my tripod up there.

    I didn’t object because I was on private property already, but the jobsworth who stopped me said I would be causing an obstruction. Wouldn’t let me leave the tripod with him so we we decided how we’d divide up into photographers and tripod holders.
    While we were arguing who’d go up first some character came out of the lift with a mountain bike. He was allowed to carry it up to the observation deck. Obstruction my ass.

  9. Jon says on 18 May 08

    Hi Pete,
    First of all great shot as always. We have meet a few times around Liverpool (I’m the one who called you for advice on the 10-20mm Sigma lens). I rarely leave comments but felt compelled to on this occasion. I have been stopped here on 3 occasions and had pretty much the same agrument, it is so frustrating, my smpathies are with you. I asked who I needed to get from permission from, and after £10 of phone credit being passed around the houses I gave up! The great irony for me was they came out to stop me because they saw me on a camera, a cctv camera. Double standards ahoy. The only silver lining was it gave me a great idea for a photography project to highlight this double standard. The way to fight back for me is with images that the public can see, if you are interested in collaborating send me a mail and I will tell you all about it.

    Don’t let the zealots get you down!

    Anyways, keep up the fantastic work, yours is the first blog i check when I go online and a visual treat is always waiting for me. I can’t remember a bad shot on here, such consistancy and vision is a rare thing. Hope all is well with you, no doubt I will see you soon at some random ‘pool event. Take care J

  10. Mark says on 19 May 08

    I have no doubt at all this happened as stated, if for no other reason than than the same regularly happens to me and many, many others in London. The cause is invariably poorly trained security automatons spouting fantasy legal statutes to while away the afternoon, justifying the cost of their services. A photographer moved on is one so-called ‘threat’ less. For public spaces that are private property the issue seems to be more about image and trademark than security; the security line is a fob-off.

    Given the manners displayed by the ‘suits’ I’d knock off a letter to the buildings owners, local MP/councillor and the local rag. If this is how Liverpool businesses are dealing with culture in the year of culture, it should be publicised locally.

    Kudos for standing your ground.

    – Security guards have no remit beyond their own property; if they provide security for the passport office they have no right to quiz you about something else unless they provide security for the ‘estate’ itself.

    – No one can stop you shooting from public property, although you may not be able to sell the picture if the building is trademarked unless it is ‘incidental’ to the whole image.

  11. Steve Howe says on 19 May 08

    Just tell them to funk off and do their worst. If they’re self-important enough to think the cops will come running because someone’s taking photographs they’re probably in for a shock.
    Reclaim the light.

  12. Ed Lamb says on 19 May 08

    Blimey, what a story.

    I too would advise writing a polite letter to the building owners – bet they’d be very interested to hear from you. You might even get a free meal in the restaurant out of it ;)

  13. Mark McGowan says on 19 May 08

    I must have been lucky or something but I’ve still yet to be confronted by a security guard – it all seems very pointlessly aggressive and confrontational. If you were taking photos to stake out the building some way, you’d do it from miles away with a zoom lens. I have been stopped by people obviously worried I was from the Social and I’ve told them the same thing – if I wanted to take your photo covertly, I’d do it from bleeding miles away and you’d never even know a lens had been pointed at you.

    Fair play for standing your ground.

  14. Alex says on 17 Nov 08

    I like the idea of sending them a letter and a cheque for £10 requesting all CCTV footage with you in it. They will have to supply it and some poor sod will have to sit there, not only to firstly identify you, but to also block out the faces of everyone else in the footage. Cost them far more than a tenners worth of time.
    Dontcha just love Freedom of information and data protection? lol.

    Alex.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/breaksbassbleeps/

  15. Anthony says on 20 Jan 09

    Stick it to the man……:)
    I had a very similar problem in Woking of all places…the tallest building being about 1.5 stories high, i was so outraged i called the police and had him cautioned for harrassing me….Petty i know but sometimes “the man” needs to be taught a lesson or two, i missed my bangers and mash my lovely g/friend had cooked but somethings are worth the sacrifice….Love your work, inspiring!!!

  16. fotoquid says on 8 Jul 09

    A like this image for the point of view and also for the reflection on the windows. Great use of the b&w for this beautiful of images…
    :-)

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