Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Who is Harassing Who?

Whilst out fairly late last night on a photo expedition, i was abruptly stopped by security guards who asked me what i thought i was doing. This encounter has lead me to question whether i was actually doing anything wrong or whether i fell victim to some over zealous wannabe polices officers...

Im currently working on a project that involves walking a circular route around bristol city centre and photographing 12 locations that roughly fall onto the hour points of a 12 hour clock face. As you might imagine, some of the locations fall on visually interesting areas, others lead me to some pretty random places - one of which was the area in question, Woodland Rd in Clifton which links Park Row and Tydalls Park Rd. Right in the heart of Bristol University land...

As i looked around for some sort of interesting vantage point, i noticed the University security car on patrol and took note that they were obviously wondering what i was doing. I set up my tripod and camera on a traffic island at the junction of Woodland Rd and University walk and managed to capture a couple of shots of passing cars and the light trails they left behind. This was when the security guards pulled up along side me and interrogated me over my motivations.

I explained that i was nothing to do with the University and that i was a local artist taking images of Bristol landscapes for a project i was working on. They told me i was acting suspiciously and that i was actually on private property. I asked if there was a problem with me taking photos here and they answered "No, but we might consider letting you continue as long as you give us your full name and contact details". I asked them why they needed this information and what they would do with it - to be met with a very aggressive, "Are you declining to give us your name?!"

I told them that without clarification of what they intended to do with my details that i would not be telling them and that i would rather pack up my kit and leave - which is what i did.

There is no doubt that the security guards in question could have been more cooperative and polite, but i do understand that it may seem unusual for someone to be out at 11pm in the freezing cold taking images of the middle of the road. However i still wonder if i was actually doing any thing wrong.

The general consensus on taking images of private buildings is that you are permitted to do so - as long as you are taking them whilst stood on public property...

My question is - Does anybody know if Woodland Road, BS8, Bristol is University property or is it a public right of way just as any other normal road in the city is?


Some very interesting comments, including a statement from the Head of Security at the University of Bristol, and a resolution from Bristol City Council on the Bristol Flickr thread HERE

1 comment:

Ben S said...

I don't think it is, as BCC have done road repairs there, which usually means that even if it was once privately owned by the university (which is quite plausible) it becomes 'adopted' by the council, and therefore no different to other roads.

But ring the highways dept - they will be able to tell you definitively one way or the other: 0117 922 2100

Love the work, by the way - don't let the bored jobsworths put you off.