The photo course that I am doing is turning out to be exactly what I needed. Last week we were working on concept, the theme behind series of photos, and it turned out (unsurprisingly) that I find it hard not to be too literal. This week we were given the task of shooting to a piece of music: “Choose a piece of music that describes or inspires you, and then use that as the theme for a series of snapshots”. On Saturday we will present the photos first without, and then with the accompanying soundtrack.

I set aside today to do the photos, but first I had to choose some music. This was really hard. I think so literally minded (which I hope in changing) that on glancing though my collection of music I would see “Homeward Bound” and think that it was perfect. I could photograph the route home from the tube station. These thoughts would last about three seconds before I was bashing myself over the head metaphorically (mostly), about being too literal.

I thought about “Le Tango De Roxanne” from Moulin Rouge. I love the song, and I can’t hear it without feeling inspiration. Listening to it over and over I started to feel the grandeur, passion, and even a delicate softness. But no matter what I ideas I came up with for how to portray these in photos, I found myself being drawn back to the scene from the film where it is played. Maybe I just can’t pull myself away from it, but I think I just agree with it so much. I like to think given a free reign I would have shot that scene identically. So in the interests of not just copying Baz Lurhmann I tried to go for something different.

Like I said before, I found this hard. I sat here, at my computer going though my collection rejecting song after song. I pissed off several online contacts trying to get their advice. I started to feel frustrated, and torn in several different directions because I needed to get this done, and had a long list of other things that also needed to get done. I felt like I was being overwhelmed with conflicting requirements, and needs. Then the random play list on my computer started to play “Because You Can Can Can”, also from Moulin Rouge, and one of the few songs I really don’t like from the soundtrack. Its too noisy, too many things going on at once, too much of an auditory overload. In short, exactly how I was feeling. So it seemed an obvious song to pick.

Having done that, the ideas for how to portray it came easily. I wanted to show lots of people, rushing round all with conflicting aims, and directions. Where better than a crowded public hub, like Kings Cross station in rush hour?

The decision made, I allowed myself some down time before leaving in time to reach Kings Cross at the height of rush hour. I spent a merry three quarters of an hour wondering round the underground station, the main station foyer and so on photographing the crowds. Which actually, when you look at it with an eye that wants crowds, are not that dense. Before too long the camera started to die, with a flat battery. So I moved to a corner ready to change the battery.

That is when the police arrived.

I was approached by two community support officers, who wanted to know if I had a photography permit. I did not. They very politely explained to me that it was illegal to photograph in Kings Cross, and that I would have to stop at once, and delete all my photos. They would have to take down my name, description, and carry out a name check with the police central computers. Now I know they are not allowed to demand that I delete any photos, questions on the law are a common feature in the photographic magazines, but I wasn’t about to argue with a police officer in a crowded train station. I wasn’t sure about the rights to photograph in Kings Cross. On public property you are allowed to photograph anything, on private property I am sure you are allowed to photography anything, but that might be US law?

They took my name, and wrote out my description, giving me a nice pink receipt, and didn’t do a name check because their radio was jammed or something. The receipt they gave me does not contain their badge numbers, in theory I have no way of identifying the incident to the police if the paperwork goes missing, as it did once before when a friend was involved in a road traffic accident, so I made a note of their numbers myself.

Most oddly though, they didn’t actually ask to delete all my photos, despite earlier saying they would. So I still have the full set of photos.

After they left I went home, and with the help of my friend Alex, and his friend, and his friend’s friend, and maybe even his friend’s friend’s friend (I got a bit confused) did some research:

  • The TFL Conditions of Carriage specifically ban flash and tripod photography. This is their only mention of photography, so they do allow it.
  • The TFL FAQ says that photography is banned without a £300/hour permit. They admitted that this was nonsense and contradictory to their Conditions of Carriage when asked on the phone.
  • TFL then rang back, and informed us that photography on the underground is totally illegal, though they were unable to say under which law, and admit that no-one at TFL knows.
  • The British Transport Police when asked (again by phone) said they do not know if it is legal or not.

That’s about it so far. I am going to contact the police tomorrow and see if they can tell me under what law I was stopped. I am also going to research photographer resources, and see if someone has summarised the law on deletion of photos, where I can take photos and so on. I will let you know what I find out…

As for the photos, I haven’t looked at them yet…

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