Sunday, 15 June 2014

Will someone think of the children!!!

Every once a while I have a rant on this blog. I try to stop myself, but sometime things happen which I have to comment on. Just think of yourself as part of my therapy session....

I went yesterday to my children dance show at Derby theatre. This is something they have been rehearsing really hard for for months and needless to say the show was great and my kids were brilliant.

However what annoyed me was a sign in the theater foyer. On it, it said, "due to child protection concerns, no photographs are allowed during the performance".

At the time I ignored it, but thinking about it later it was a little strange. These children were in a public show. They had spent 6 months to get ready in order to display there skills to the wider world and now someone is suggesting that someone with a camera had the potential to cause them irreparable harm? Not only that, but the whole performance was to be filmed for the later production of a DVD to be sold. Should I have been concerned that the video camera was invading my child's privacy and would become the cause of many hours of therapy in later life (I was a good child until aged 10 then someone videoed me in a dance show so I murdered my parents)

The truth is I had no problems with a ban on photography at the event. It was the use of child protection to justify it that I found annoying. If they had said no photos because it is annoying to the people behind you, I would of applauded them. If it had been flash photography can distract the performers I would of agreed. Even if it had been no photography because we really need to scalp you for a DVD later, I would of shrugged and accepted it. But by using child protection as the context for a ban they are ruining their own argument.

I had another issue like this recently. I went to Leicester cathedral for the 1st time and was taking some pictures of the painted ceiling. A warden came up to me and asked me to stop taking photos. I initially assumed that it was due to some preservation issue or perhaps I needed to buy a licence.

But no, the issue was that there was a school party in the building and he was worried I might inadvertently take picture of them. Ignoring the fact that unless they suddenly grew angels wings and floated to the roof it was unlikely they would be in shot, what was the danger? How much more potentially dangerous would it be that I inadvertently took a photo of a child in the church than say in the car park outside?

The whole issue of child photography has reached a point of such misunderstanding that even holding a camera near a school or public park can be considered grounds for serious abuse, both verbal and physical. If asked why, a lot of people will claim it is against the law. But there is no legal issue of photographing children in a public place Children have no less or no more protections than adults. It is not like up to the age of 18 they have to wear the photographic equivalent of a burqa, after which it can then be removed.

The whole issue seems to of come about some 6 years ago when there was one of those scare stories about pedophiles taking photos of local children. However it doesn't take a lot of thought to realise this does not make a lot of sense. Why go to the effort and risk when you have the internet or magazines easily available.
This Guardian article describes the issue very well

The 1st we knew about it was when schools started asking for cameras to be removed at school plays. Again it was for the child's protection, even though no reasoning was given (There was a suggestion that it was to stop estranged parents locating their kids and abducting them. But if these parents have the resources to scan the internet for one child, banning school photography is unlikely to be much help ).

 It has reached the point that it is ingrained in British society that a man with camera near child is dangerous. Schools could of fought this at the time, but unfortunately took the line of least resistance(I have noticed that now they asked parents to opt out, which is better, but many organisations still ban all child photography).

But why should I care? (Maybe some of you reading this with the thought in the back of your head that I protest to much) Isn't it better that if there is any possible danger to our children, however small, that we be careful even if it means a slight reduction in freedom?

Well there are a number of reasons.

Firstly children are a great photographic subject. Their wide eyed innocence and lack of self consciousness provides a great context photographic scenes. We lose this with such a ban but gain little in return.

Secondly childhood is such a fleeting period of time, never to be recovered. With my kids I would like to get as much on photographic record as I can. While I do it, I may get your your spotty oiks in the picture as well, either deliberately, to provide context or by accident. Either way, it should not stop me from recording those memories.

Finally, we live in a world with too much in fear of the stranger next door. Policing non-rules like this does nothing to protect children. It does however distract us from the real dangers.

It is unfortunate however that we will never get a honest debate on this subject. The fears are too ingrained and those likely to stand up are constrained by the fear of being tarred by a common brush. Even as I write this blog, something in the back of my mind is screaming about the risks of putting my head above the parapet.

However it is such a pity since by doing nothing we lose so much and at the same time do nothing to help ensure out children's safety.

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