The Right to Shoot in Public

As a part of the London Street Photography Festival, six photographers recently hit the streets of London with the goal of photographing specific public places. As expected, they were approached by security in all cases, and police officers in three cases. All of them got off the hook, rightfully, as photography in public spaces is protected by law in the UK. For Americans, here’s a good post by Photojojo going over the legal stuff. Have a look at the video, then scroll down to read some of our stories encountering resistance from security (thankfully not too many!)

Shanghai, China, May 2008

On my inaugural trip to Shanghai, I naturally went to Pudong District to see its new world class skyscrapers being built, which include some of the tallest on Earth. During this instance, I was trying to shoot the new World Finance Center, which upon completion, was the 2nd tallest building in the world. But funny enough, the security guards there told me to go away, and that I could not shoot it. As if that would be possible for a building that is 500m tall and visible all over the city. Here’s a shot of the guards who told me to back off, and of the final touches being put on the building (next to the Jinmao Tower).

Shanghai Security © Jesse Warren

Shanghai World Finance Center © Jesse Warren

Manila, Philippines, January 2009

I took a trip to the Philippines to photograph one of my good friend’s weddings. Before the wedding, I spent a few days exploring the capital. While walking along Ayala Avenue in the glitzy financial district during sunset, I was photographing the beautiful combination of the sunset and the modern skyscrapers. Just like in this video, a security guard approached me and told me that I couldn’t take photos of his building. I asked why and he said it was against the law, so I simply let it go and moved on. Upon returning home, I found that it is indeed not illegal to photograph private buildings (a skyscraper in this case) from public property in the Philippines, and that security guard (pictured below) was reaching beyond his bounds.

Ayala Security © Jesse Warren

Ayala Sunset © Jesse Warren

Shenzhen, China

On the other hand, I have also experienced extreme freedom to shoot, in places where I assumed otherwise – especially here in Shenzhen, China. Here are a couple of shots I took while wandering around construction sites – one of my past photographic passions. This would probably never be allowed in the United States for safety/insurance reasons. Most of these shots were taken 5-6 years ago, but as the city develops and becomes more modern, I have certainly noticed that access to construction sites is becoming tighter, especially the big prominent developments.

Friendly Security Guard © Jesse Warren
Gangxia West Village © Jesse Warren
Darcy in Coco © Jesse Warren
Luohu Construction Site © Jesse Warren
Pre-City Hall Square © Jesse Warren

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