Alarming news from the courts of…yes, that news capital of the south, Croydon.
Late last year a young man, one Dimitri Petrov, was on a tram from Croydon when he took a few photos on his mobile phone. One or more of these seem to have involved children who were also travelling on the tram. Mr. Petrov was confronted and chased off the tram. When he tried to defend himself by throwing stones at his attackers, one of them struck a certain Terence Crawford, who then punched Petrov and broke his jaw. Crawford has been sentenced to community service and fined damages. End of story. Common assault. Not the sort of thing that normally alarms Londonist. What we mean to say is that while any aggression upsets us, fragile flowers that we are, this is not the stuff of headlines.
What has jolted us is the reaction of the public to the random taking of photos. We know not whether Petrov had any intentions other than the innocent capture of images of his journey. He could have been one of our flickr friends. A sociologist recording behaviour on transport. An artist. A fellow blogger. Or maybe they were just really cute kids. The problem is that, to quote from an excellent article by David Toyne:
the collateral damage of this culture of paranoia has been a certainty in the eyes of many of the public that any photographer in any public place is either a paedophile or a terrorist
It is not illegal to take a photo in public. And the paedophiles and terrorists in our midst are thankfully few. Are we really that anxious and suspicious? Have we lost all innocence? When did it become a moral crime to attempt to capture beauty for posterity? If this misplaced righteous fervour (which surely stems from a sort of collective self-obsession) carries on, public photography will become a an occupation carried out in stealth, if at all. O tempora, o mores….
We know this is a contentious issue: we’d like to hear your thoughts on the matter.
Photo taken from Thomas Hawk’s flickr photo stream under the Creative Commons Licence.