Every photographer definitely has or will encounter resistance from the protectors of law and order once during his lifetime. I’ve been caught number of times too. I wonder at times, why do they suspect only the innocent photographers?
As a photographer, we always try to strive for perfection – ‘The Decisive Moment’. For that we need the perfect angle for the stellar composition. We need to position ourselves in crowded markets,on busy streets & almost anywhere as a great photograph knows no location. While doing our job most of us take care as not to invade in private space, place which is a probable target for terrorist. We even oblige to follow the rules & not shoot in areas where photography is prohibited. Particularly if you’re photographing in India you might be familiar with the bribe policy of cops. You want to take a photo? Alright, stuff the wallet of the cop with cash & he will let you do your work without any further interference. Rich photographers will not mind doing it but for someone like me who doesn’t earns as of yet will surely have no option but to packup & leave the place.
Last weekend, I was at Worli end shooting the Bandra-Worli sealink in the evening. It was a wonderful spectacle & I was ready with my gear. I setup a tripod & took a shot, I was happy but not satisfied. I knew I could make it more better & so came closer to the sealink. I saw a traffic policeman controlling the traffic at the divided & I did not care much about him as he had seen me earlier taking the shot and did not mind. But the moment I engaged the shutter, he came behind me & asked me in a grump voice showing fake resolute & arrogance. I quickly replied that “I’m a photographer & I’m taking a photograph”. I added, “I’ll show you the pic once its taken(I had kept a long exposure)” He commented, “Don’t you know you can’t shoot here? Turn off the camera now” I said “Where is the signboard which says photography prohibited?”. Angry with my resistance, he said “The sign is hung up at the police station”. I wanted to get to the police station with him & strip the hell out of his grumpy fake resolute but then I was with my friends & didn’t want any trouble to them. If I were alone, I would have obliged. With no option, I switched off the camera still processing the long exposure, packed my tripod away & left the place now surrounded by horde of passerby enjoying the drama.
I respect the vigilance & duty of the officer but I wished he had made it more subtle & handled it in mature way. After-all don’t expect any photographer to leave the place when you’re displaying fake resolute. Just imagine, a person who has destructive objectives in his mind will not come with a tripod & do the setup leisurely and waste half an hour or maybe even more for a single shot. Again I know the officer & nobody except a photographer can read the mind of photographer but that does not mean you should rudely shrug off anyone. If he would have asked me politely, I would have left without fuss & have been happy shooting out on this beautiful Sunday instead of writing down this article.
If you’re still here with me, the point is “not that I was not allowed to shoot but that I was not allowed to shoot by threatening & making laws out of thin air”. I think this tussle between the two camps will never end. A viable solution to this is to implement a “Photographer ID card” which is recognized throughout the country which allows the photographer to shoot in his own right. Off-course the ID should have restrictions of shooting in places which are of strategic importance. Further the ID should not be given to absolutely anyone but given to only photographers who have completed at-least five years or so into photography. This means no-one with a terrorist intention can get one. Also while issuing the ID, get the details of the photographers along-with an assessment of his past work to verify he is indeed one who is passionate about photography. Maybe rope in some experts to assist in this cause.
Off-course at the end of the day, there are bound to be loopholes in my proposal but they can be filled in with time. This might not entirely put an end to terrorism but it would not definitely increase. Eventually the success will rest on how obediently the authorities & their aides carry out the work. The objective should not be to trouble each other(cop-photographer) but to respect each other & let each other do their respective duties in right sense.