How to shoot the G20

Allegations that police protecting the G20 site have been demanding that people delete photos they’ve taken of the downtown Toronto security area are worrisome. I say worrisome because either we are dealing with very  poorly trained police officers or else we’re seeing a frightening new assumption of powers not granted police in the Canadian Criminal Code.

England has been going through this nonsense of police officers putting themselves above the law by demanding that tourists delete photos of public places for sometime now. Since 9/11 and the London subway bombings, this situation has been escalating to the point that it was raised in the British House of Parliament.

So, if you want to take photos of the G20 site or the anticipated protests how can you ensure the safety of your images?

First if you can produce some sort of professional affiliation with a recognized news medium it’s less likely that you’ll be asked to delete your images. But let’s say you don’t work for The Toronto Sun. Now what? As a former news photojournalist who has covered protests and demonstrations this is what I’d do:

• I’d create my own official looking “press pass” and I’d laminate the card and hang it around my neck. Might work. Might not but better than nothing.

• I’d dress conservatively. No black clothing. No photographer’s vest. No dark glasses. No combat boots.

• I’d hang around the official press photographers. They aren’t going to be stopped and if you’re near them neither will you.

•I wouldn’t concentrate on shooting portraits of individual officers. Right now that would not be wise. Not illegal mind you, but not smart.

• I’d be fairly aggressive (but not belligerent) in stating my rights to be there and to be shooting however I’d also be moving slowly away from the offending officer. This usually works. If you’re not actively creating a disturbance the officer, who is likely assigned to guard a specific area, won’t follow you if you slowly back away from their area. The last thing you want is to trigger an arrest.

• If you’re part of the protest make certain you have confederates who are videotaping and shooting still images of your discussion with authorities. Regardless of the outcome upload those images to the Flickr and that have cropped up on the Internet. Send copies to the mainstream media and your lawyer. Raise a stink.

• Here’s an old photographer’s trick: Use a camera that holds two memory cards. Delete the unused one. Cops and border police have fallen for this trick since the beginning of digital photography.

•Finally (and I’m not certain this is technically possible but I bet it is) buy a WiFi enable memory card. Get an app that turns your I-Pad or I-Phone into a WiFi hub and (here’s the part I’m not sure of) and set it to auto upload your images to a Flickr site by using your cellular phone account. As you shoot, your images will be transmitted from the card to the I-device and then automatically uploaded to the Internet. Then you can cheerfully delete all of your images knowing that they are already published. (If this isn’t possible today, it will be tomorrow knowing the Internet and photo geeks.)

BTW protesters are going to be using Twitter and other sites on the Internet to communicate with each other during the protests. Mass groups of people intent on doing mischief who are being directed by Tweets is a frightening concept and you don’t want to get too close. And part of your $1-billion has gone to a bunch of guys sitting in a room with computers searching for any reference to “G20” or any Tweets with the hashtag #g20. (Good morning guys.) So watch what you say online. 🙂

Want to do something else this weekend? Go read George Orwell’s 1984. It’ll scare the c**p out of you.


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