Climate Camp Again

If  you are are in the right circles in the police, you will by now know exactly where tomorrow’s Climate Camp will be. If you are just an ordinary protester, you will will going to one of the published assembly points at noon tomorrow and will then – in time find out.

The police can’t be too up front about knowing, because it could risk compromising their sources. Tomorrow they will probably be making some kind of  pretence of being surprised, but you shouldn’t take that too seriously.

However, if you are a photographer, you are not very welcome in any case.

On Jonathan Warren’s blog you can read a nice piece that I think sums up what most photographers think about the Climate Camp’s attitude to the media.

It still seems rather like photographing in some Eastern European country at the height of the cold war, with a minder on your shoulder.

You will be accompanied by an assigned camper during that time, who will ensure that both campers and journalists are kept happy, and can ensure that consent is obtained from people being filmed and photographed. “

On his blog, Marc Vallée says:

“The camp is trying to write its own narrative – pretty much in the same way that New Scotland Yard is spinning its media strategy as fact. As Vidal wrote in 2007, “It’s an easy step from trying to manipulate the press to manipulate information.”

Two years ago I read what the campers said and decided there was no way I could cover the Heathrow camp under those conditions. Last year I photographed the march to the camp on the Sunday and then went up to Glasgow to do other things rather than waste my time. This year things are a little better, but I’m still not sure I want to attend the actual camp once it is up and running. Perhaps I’ll give it a try, though if they really enforce their media policy I can’t see many photographers with any self-respect lasting many minutes before being ejected.

Yet I’m someone who very much believes in all that the Climate Camp stands for.  Someone who sold their last car in the sixties, joined Friends of the Earth before it existed here, has never bough an airline ticket, gave talks and demonstrated on the environment before most people had heard of it and more.

In the end, for all of us as photographers, what matters is integrity. And that doesn’t rely on doing what other people tell us but on doing what we think is right.

There are sometimes legitimate reasons why organisations should control the nuisance of over-intrusive photographers – or just too many photographers wanting to take pictures at some events.  But I don’t find it acceptable to try to control when and how and what press photographers may photograph in the way that the Climate Camp does.

Most of the campers will have their own cameras – if only on their phones – and be taking pictures. Including of course all those undercover police who will be taking part this year as in previous years.  But it will be rather a shame if we have to rely on them and the FIT for a proper document of the event.

So if you don’t see good press coverage about the Climate Camp, or decent photographs, don’t blame us.  They’ve chosen not to allow it, or even to make it so we don’t feel it’s worth going.  In a comment, Warren says “At any other event being an accredited journalist affords you more access, not less.” I’d settle for the same.

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