Can Anyone Apply for an NUJ Card who has a Camera ?

Oh no, Commander Broadhurst, no, no, NO, NO!

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

Some advice for any high-ranking police officer. If you come to a conference of 200 press photographers, don’t say things like “I don’t know whether, or what vetting system there is for holding an NUJ card, can anybody apply for an NUJ card who has a camera?” And it isn’t really sensible to talk about a  “phalanx of cameras” getting in the way of police either or make too much of expressing support for the actions of front line officers to people who have been assaulted by them. When someone gets up and describes how an officer in riot gear shouted at him “I don’t care if you’re press” and then broke the arm holding up a press card with a baton blow, or how another photographer wearing a protective helmet was hit so badly that he suffered from concussion for two days, that isn’t helpful.

The card we use is not an NUJ card, but a UK Press Card, issued by the NUJ and other bodies on behalf of the UK Press Card Authority and states “The Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Scotland recognise the holder of this card as a bone fide newsgatherer.” But apparently neither the man in charge of public order for the Metropolitan Police nor the officers on the front line do.

It isn’t easy to get a press card from the NUJ – you have to provide evidence that you work in public places and so have a need for the card, and that 50% or more of your income comes from journalism for NUJ membership.

Two hundred of us there all tried to tell him – and he had to abandon his presentation to the NUJ ‘Photography Matters‘ conference at that point and sit and listen and try to respond to complaint after complaint about police behaviour.

© 2009 Peter Marshall
Press photographers were told to leave or be put in the cells…

Notable among these was the use of the Public Order Act to compel a group of around 20 press photographers to leave the Royal Exchange area on May 2.  An officer came up to them as they were standing behind a police cordon, and addressing them starting with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen of the press…” informed them that unless they left the area for half an hour they would spend the rest of the day in a police cell. Why? Because the police were about to set police dogs loose on the demonstrators.

This wasn’t the only session of the conference, and others,  if less important were more informative or entertaining. Penny Tweedie presented a retrospective view of her career, starting from when the NUJ stopped her getting a staff job in Fleet Street because she was a woman and couldn’t possibly cope with being the only photographer present on a night shift if anything stressful happened. You can read a little more about the other sessions that I was able to attend on My London Diary, where there are also more pictures from the day. All were taken with a 20mm lens (one is severely cropped) as when I put my hand in the bag for a longer lens I found it wasn’t there. It was an early start for me and in my rush to get the train I’d not packed it. It’s a nice lens, but some shots would be easier with something a little longer.

© 2009 Peter Marshall.

During the lunch break we all had an opportunity to look at the 2009 Photography Matters exhibition, with 50 pictures from 35 photographers – and I was very pleased that two of my pictures made the show, including a rather nice picture made with the 12mm Sigma (on the D300 – so 18mm equivalent) of a ring of police around a few demonstrators at City Hall on the night the London mayoral election was announced.

© 2008 Peter Marshall

I took this picture with a policeman pushing my shoulder, telling me I had to leave the area. It was hard to see any particular reason for this, but I knew there was no point in arguing – and that to do so could lead to my arrest. Fortunately I managed to hang on long enough to change the lens and get the image.

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