London’s Living Room?


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After our 3 month Portland to Portland cycle ride across 13 US states and Great Britain, the research document was completed this week. I went with ride captain Peter Murray to photograph him handing the letter into City Hall. I wanted a photograph of Peter outside City Hall, with Tower Bridge in the background to locate the image. I was using flash on camera as fill with no additional kit such as a tripod, so I was no hazard to other users of the space. The photograph was to be used to illustrate the story, circulated to trade press and was done on a pro bono basis. I think I had taken about 6 photos and was approached by the security guard who told me I needed permission. I told him what I was doing and that this was about presenting a document on cycling to the mayor and why I wanted to take the photograph. ‘Since you’re a professional photographer, you need permission to take photographs.’ I hadn’t heard this response used before at More London. And then that old standard, ‘this is private property’. I didn’t bother getting the permission, as I had the shot.

I was bemused and perplexed by this harassment of citizens accessing our seat of local government. 

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This was in stark contrast to two of the capitols I visited on our ride across the States. In Columbus, Ohio I stood on the steps where Lincoln spoke in 1859 in the Ohio Statehouse. No-one reproached me, nor eyed me suspiciously through CCTV. In Pierre, capitol of South Dakota, I wandered through the marvellous Capitol building, built in the early 1900’s, without any unpleasant encounter with security. I could take photographs and marvel at the accessibility to the halls of democracy. The door to the Governor’s office, read ‘please walk in’. Pierre’s population is only about 15,000 and I realise that London is home to more than 8 million, but the building described as having ‘London’s living room’ on the uppermost floor, feels more like London’s nursery as we are shepherded away from photographing any aspect of this building.

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