Posts Tagged ‘private property’

No Ordinary Park has Extraordinary Rules

October 1, 2014

No Ordinary Park

Did you know that London’s newest public park is actually private property? I discovered this on a sunny late September morning when I went to photograph the art installation Newton’s Cottage, a timber frame sheered in two halves by the Carpenters Road lock in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It is one of the recent art installations that have been commissioned for the Olympic Legacy Park. I live in Hackney, so the park has become an enjoyable place to cycle, a tranquil place to walk, and a wonderful place to swim in Zaha Hadid’s fabulous Aquatic Centre. For me taking photographs in the park is part of the enjoyment I would expect to get from this 560 acre parkland, with wildflower areas, waterside paths, climbing frames, cycle paths (although flawed), and a major road that bisects the park and speeds traffic to Westfield.

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Two cyclists approach on the left as I photographed Newton’s Cottage.

I set up my tripod and framed a shot of the installation about 9am. A few cyclists and a runner passed overhead on the pedestrian bridges, but there were few people around, so I enjoyed the tranquillity of the water, catching the reflections of the installation on the mirror panelled soffit of the bridge. I admired the gift that had been made available to London, and considered the future value of that legacy.
Two cyclists approached, one dressed in a hi-vi was a security guard from the park, the other a uniformed police officer. I bid them good morning. Their response was measured. I asked if I had done something wrong. I was told that this was private property and I needed a permit to take photographs with a tripod. I said that I thought the park was public property, as it is part of the Olympic legacy that London benefited from. The police officer informed me that it is owned by London Legacy Development Corporation, a private company, and one of the byelaws prohibits commercial photography. I pressed him as to who owned the company and he was uncertain, suggesting it was run privately for the Mayor of London. At which point he decided that was enough talk about the rights of public access to private spaces, and I could be removed by the park security if I continued to take photographs. The security officer said it was possible to obtain permission from LLDC via the website. He indicated that the ban on professional photography was to protect commercial interest. There was little point in extending what was an exchange based on ‘we don’t make the rules, just enforce them’. We said our goodbyes and I found a board with the byelaws printed on it, issued by London Borough of Tower Hamlets, but with no reference to photography. Dogs, fireworks and vehicular usage were addressed, but not photography. A visit to the security office, through the gate marked ‘Authorised Persons Only’. I enquired as to where the byelaws were that displayed that prohibited photography. A uniformed guard said that no notice is on display yet, and that is ‘…something we are addressing’. I asked what was the reason for prohibiting professionals from taking photographs. ‘We like to know who is taking photos in the park, as any images have to be approved by the LLDC media office. They can issue permits for photography and are very helpful. Once you have a permit, you’re able to take photographs.’ There was an indication that this was to stop hostile reconnaissance, which is absurd given that the whole site is on Google maps and it contains two architectural significant structures that draw tourists and architectural enthusiasts alike.
I can’t argue with the civil approach and manner of the security guard, nor the polite but determined way I was directed to the website, but I am infuriated that our new public park is not public, but private.
If you want to take photographs at the park, you need to give the London Legacy Development Corporation 5 days notice.

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London’s Living Room?

December 13, 2013

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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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