UK Customs

I won’t comment on the Brighton show by seven-year-old Carmen Soth (with a little help from her dad, Alec) , because I’ve not seen it. Part of the Brighton Photo Biennial, (BPB) it goes  on show at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery from Oct 2nd – Nov 14th 2010 and  you can read rather more about it in The Guardian. I first heard about it on Soth’s Little Brown Mushroom blog, where you can see Carmen’s shooting list.

Soth came to the UK around the end of March this year with his family to work on a commission for Brighton, but on arrival was told by an immigration official that as he didn’t have a work visa he could not do so. The official threatened him with immediate deportation, but finally let him stay for a holiday with his family, warning him that if he took any pictures he could get two years in jail.

So he went around with Carmen, who had his digital camera and took the pictures with a little help and advice from Dad. But I guess if she comes back to the UK she’ll be facing those two years banged up in Holloway.

It’s a story that illustrates the mess we are in over immigration, where government and opposition have for years been engaging in a bidding war to see who can look toughest for the right wing press.  But it also threatens the right of all journalists to report on events in other countries –  or at least on those from other countries to report on what is happening in the UK.

Frankly I’m amazed that neither those running the BPB nor Magnum of which Soth is a member had the right connections to get an incandescent Tessa Jowell on the line from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and a few heads bashed together at the UK Border Agency, the decision reversed and the official concerned given a rather stiff reprimand.

Practically we now seem to be one of those countries for which you need a second passport that does not mention your profession as a journalist or photographer and which you need to enter as a tourist in order to carry out your job.

Actually I think the show may well be worth a visit. Years ago I gave my son, then around the same age, a cheap plastic ‘Russian’ camera when he would sometimes accompany me taking pictures. I think he produced some more interesting results then than he sometimes does now.

I wrote an article to go with some of his pictures and submitted it to the Amateur Photographer, with some silly title like ‘Easy, Peasy, Shutter Squeezy‘. It was the only piece I sent them that they didn’t publish, the editor telling me that they felt their readers might feel insulted by seeing that a seven-year-old could do better than them.

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