Trafalgar Square Byelaws and the Incident of the BBC's Sport Relief Versus the Wardens

21 February 12

Posted at 10:06

Regular followers are aware that I fill my spare time by studying for a BA in Photography at the University of Westminster. Currently I am undertaking a project entitled Public/Private. Researching for that project brought to my attention a byelaw that has recently been reviewed in London. It concerns photography in Trafalagar Square (well some of it) and Parliament Gardens Field. The byelaw hasn't exactly changed  but the penalties for contravention and the ability for police to become involved has been increased. The byelaw has been drawn up by Boris's boys but has yet to go through parliament.

In Trafalgar square there are a squadron of weirdly named Heritage Wardens. Here's one so you get the idea...

Heritage Warden 1

These Heritage Wardens constantly patrol the inner part of Trafalgar Square - an area I might point out that according to numerous brass plaques not yet nicked by the metal thieves (you know who I mean) is funded by the national lottery - i.e. the general public. I have been observing these wardens recently as I have it on good authority (Demotix, Amatuer Photographer etc) that they are picking on random photographers who they think, usually due to the size of their equipment, may be contravening the vaguelly worded byelaw appertaining to commercial photography in parts (not all) of Trafalgar Square. I have decided that they will contribute to my Private/Public project. So in carrying out that project today I witnessed nonsense beyond belief and feel it necessary to share.

Just after two o clock today I noticed a young lady with a video camera of TV proportions. So I just stood back and waited for a Heritage Warden to appear on the scene - and within minutes one did, bustling through a plethora of folk armed with every camera under the sun to single out this lady with a real big one....

Heritage Warden 2

They chatted in the Square - owned by the public, underneath the clock counting down the Olympic Games - sport in the UK and as far as I and I'm sure the bespectacled camera person thought, our friendly Heritage Warden was relaxed that there were no byelaws about to be broken.

The camera lady set about gathering her team and director (they were filming for Sport Relief, a charity I believe associated with sport so what better a backdrop than that famous Olympic clock?). The warden went off to chase a Japanese man with a tripod and a large Nikon and I shot off for a coffee and a pee.

An hour later I returned and what's this......?

Heritage Warden 3

The BBC crew are happily filming, the tourists love it (what a great advert for UK) but do I spy a jobsworth warden confronting the director?

Heritage Warden 4

Here he is explaining the byelaw "Basically mate , however little I know about photography, commercial gain and so on, what you got to understand is I have a uniform and a walkie talkie. So what I say goes OK?" "Sonny!"

Heritage Warden 5

The director goes to break the bad news to the producer - Jobsworth the Warden puts on his bulldog face and adopts his NY Cop stance.

Heritage Warden 6

It's a good job our lady producer has her ears covered here as Bulldog Warden verbally lays into her - to the amusement of onlookers.

Heritage Warden 7

The lady warden arrived and photographed the photographers in action - this is the point where she serves notice that she has evidence (a photo!!) of the BBC filming in a public place, for a public service, more importantly a sports charity underneath the Olympic clock - against the express instructions of jobsworth bulldog Warden. The BBC crew, actors, athletes and all are now marched all of thirty metres to the left to a point where an imaginary line ( I think it's similar to Palestine) demarks the part of Trafalgar Square where the Heritage Wardens have no power as byelaws do not apply.

Heritage Warden 8

So at much cost to the taxpayer the crew start over again, thirty metres away but no longer under that Olympic clock, they've been removed from an area owned by the taxpayer for no other reason than the whim of a Heritage Warden (a what? how does that name mean anything? how does one 'warden' our Heritage?)

Heritage Warden 9

The Wardens report back to their Fuhrer, another satisfactory eviction. Well at least in these difficult times the jobsworths  do at least have jobs of sorts!

You can witness this kind of activity anyday in Trafalgar Square. The wardens do answer questions and give advice to tourists, even take photos of them (does the byelaw allow that??). But of late they aggressively confront anyone with a camera they take a dislike to with no regard or undertsanding of the actual byelaw. The area is ripe for them - next time you are in Trafalgar Sqaure check how many present are taking photographs....

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The Ten Shot Ultimatum. Mission Impossible?

08 February 12

Posted at 8:08

Take note - the perils of the Internet and Social Media.

It was Monday afternoon, I was cold and a little bored. I took a risk and disabled Parental Controls (Mum is 91 and live 100 miles away so I guessed I'd be OK). I was soon into some chat with someone more shady than Redknapp ...'Carter'. "Fancy a challenge?" she teased, "want to prove you are a photographer and get outside your comfort zone?". "Be at St Paul's tube station at 1330 tommorow with your camera, 24mm, 50mm, 24-70mm lens - your choice but 85mm or bigger is for cowards. You'll be given an envelope with a 5 point mission - should you choose to accept it!

I was shaking, mixture of fear and excitement. I turned Parental Controls back on, phoned Mum and fessed up. Do the goverment know about these secret FB photographer groups??

One thirty on Tuesday I turned up outside St Paul's station as instructed. I eyed everyone there suspiciously. I then spotted him, a guy with a wooley hat, dark glasses and a Nikon. I edged over to him and out of the side of my mouth whispered "Are you here for Carter's photography mission?". I am, he answered, who are you? I'm Chris I replied and offered my hand. We shook, I'm Rob he said but you can call me Project Afghan. I've only come along as I'm twiddling my thumbs waiting for the call back to Hellmand Province. I thought this would be good practice for me....

We passed some small talk, Afghan seemed edgy, then he said alarmingly and pointing over my shoulder. "That's Carter, in the black and the guy with her is 'The Lash', he's running the show today. Let's report in before they get annoyed". We walked over. Rob seemed at ease with Carter and The Lash. I nodded to Carter when The Lash boomed "Hi mate", he grabbed my hand nearly breaking my fingers, glad you made it". A 5th Tog, Christina, arrived, also dressed in black. The Lash, call me Gary, took control, "how's we for time Carter" he enquired. "Getting tight" Claudia (I now knew her first name) muttered. The Lash handed us each a brown envolope. Open it, read it and get moving he ordered. We may or may not meet again. Good luck.

We each took our envelopes and sort of shuffled away from each other. I backed up against the Costa Coffee wall for safety and read through the two sheets within the brown envelope. It stated that the purpose of today was to push us as photographers outside of our comfort zone. Something about the more daring the approach the better the photographs as a consequence. I looked up, Project Afghan, The Lash, Carter and Christina had all melted away, I was alone. There were many instructions about times and places on the sheets, threats about conversing with each other before the 'final shot' and a clear message that instructions would be followed to the letter. The final salvo was the comment "We are watching you" the accompanying smiley face failed to reduce the threat.

So I anxiously read instruction one. I was to take the tube to Tottenham Court Road station, wait until 1405 and take a shot on the platform that included a person. Off I set. Arriving at TCR station at 1345. Goodness I can't take a shot for twenty minutes!!! I considered changing the time on my camera but the "We are watching you" comment deterred me. I gave some thought to potential shots. I set ISO to 2500 and white balence for white fluoresence. And stood there trying not to look guilty. After an age and about 20 trains coming in and out it was 1405. Click.

Image 1

So above is image one with clear evidence of the time and indeed the location.

The instructions now told me to exit the station walk down Charring Cross Road to Trafalgar Square and take another shot, but not before 1435. Londoners will know that Charring Cross Road is blocked off at TCR station so I did a quick trot along side streets and proceeded as instructed. Again I arrived at my destination early so I wandered around the square with the confidence of a secret agent, which I now felt I was. Eventually my iphone said 1435 and I took my second image. I had somehow, call it intuition, deduced that this project was about street photography, so I produced my second image with that in mind....

Image 2

The pigeon of course confirms I was in fact in Trafalgar Square.

For shot three I had to be at MARBLE ARCH STATION NO LATER THAN 1505 and being patient I had to take a photo on the platform but not before 1515. Mine is not to reason why. Instructions did not state whether to walk or not. I decided walking was safer than tube or bus.  However as I wandered my mind wandered and it soon became clear I would not make Marble Arch by the designated time. It was a cold day so I was togged up with thermals and wooley hat etc. but I ran. I ran as fast as I could scared I would be late. When a car backfired I hit the pavement, taking impact on my elbow to protect my Nikon. I couldn't believe they were shooting at me for being a few seconds late. They weren't of course!

I now had 10 minutes on the platform at Marble Arch before I could produce this....

Image 3

My next instruction was to take the tube to Oxford Circus Station, take a picture outside the station and include proof of the station in the shot. I must then return to the station but not before 1530. I began to see what they meant about comfort zones! As I exited the station I spotted Christina, Oh no! we must not see each other. I quickly ducked round the corner and into the pub. A stiff drink was beckoning but I needed a clear head. So a mineral water and a quick pee later I left the pub and fulfilled my instuctions for image 4...

Image 4

The empty bladder more than the mineral water relaxed me and I slowly read my instructions. I was to now break from  the five mission images to get five bonus images. They were to be taken with at least one person in each, they had to be taken on the tube, they must not be posed and I could not seek permission to take them. They should be street photography style (my intuition had paid off!!). I then had to be at Liverpool Street Station at 1630 and proceed to a high point in departues for my final mission shot, image 5. I was forbidden to arrive there before 1630. So I thought this through. I set my camera up for tube conditions again (ISO2500, set the shutter to quiet mode, adjusted white balance and set both exposure and focus to auto) I don't like using auto but this was subversive surveillence of the highest order and I had to use available technology. How glad I was about the secret little  button in the base of my camera allowing me to click the shutter secretly. Back I went on the Central line to get my five bonuses. Here is the first....

Bonus 1

You may think it cowardly of me to shoot this young girl sleeping? Oh no I was sitting next to her boyfriend and although my shutter was on Q it sounded to me like a bass drum. I broke out in a cold sweat and found myself off the train at Mile End station. I waited a while and took a train back in the westerly direction. It was on that train I got my second bonus image..

Bonus 2

Oh yes I was cracking this now! At St Paul's I jumped off and crossed over to head back east again, taking bonus image number 3...

Bonus 3

An image that does not require text! At Mile End I was off again and waiting for a westbound. On the next train I started experimenting by adding the environment around my subjects in the composition...


Bonus 4

Can you spot which of these thre is the ticket inspector? It's easy! Off again, this time at Bank where I waited a while so I could arrive at Liverpool Street on and NOT BEFORE the designated time. I stood outside of this carriage and shot in. Exposed??? ....

Bonus 5

That's it, five bonus shots taken now off to departures for Mission image 5, to be taken from a high vantage point. Here it is...

Image 5

Well as I was taking this The Lash, Afghan Rob, Christina and Carter C. emerged from the shadows. We agreed we'd had fun, what a great job Gary had done organising this mission. I was told I would be accepted into the secret group as I'd passed an initiation with fire (I asked my new chums not to tell my Mum). I'm unsure if I will be terminated when this is read and my photography skills are exposed but I don't care I've experienced a mission most can only dream of.

Oh and by the way although much of this blog is a little tongue in cheek Project Afghan is real, take a look click here

Thanks Gary, Claudia, Christina and Rob for a fun 'photography afternoon'. Hope to do it again sometime.

Now for those of you who know me better - the instructions said you will post 10 images and no more - well rules are there to be broken so I took a sixth bonus image when I as in the square and there are no people in it...

Extra Bonus

Life on the wild side. Night night x