A tough lockdown for photographers
IT'S BEEN a particularly tough lockdown for photographers. For those still able to work, first there were the incidents of over-zealous policing of the lockdown, with at least one photographer being detained while filming police making arrests while clearing parks, despite showing their Press Card. Then there were cases of photographers spat at, assaulted and abused by members of the public while documenting people's observance of the lockdown (or their lack of it).
Then there were assaults on photographers when the demos started. An NUJ member identified as Anthony (he preferred his surname not be given) was briefly knocked unconscious by a glass bottle while reporting on a Black Lives Matter demo in Westminster in June, after being mistaken for a Daily Mail reporter. (Anthony confirmed he had never worked for the Daily Mail. Its news crew with a branded mike had, however, been in the immediate vicinity shortly before.)
Then freelance photographer Corrado Amirtano had his nose broken during a so-called "statue protecters" gathering in Whitehall, after being targeted for attack by far-right activists. Police officers were able to lead him through a cordon to get medical treatment. Other photographers, including London Freelance Branch members covering the "statue protector" protests, had narrow escapes. One photographer experienced at covering protests told of how he'd noticed a colleague was being targeted by far right - he and other colleagues managed to get him out of the area.
Many photographers were out on the streets and covering protest for the first time, having been redeployed from their usual beats that had dried up - sports or culture, for example. News photographers with agencies who I met at the stakeout of Dominic Cummings's house in Islington during the affair of the "Barnard Castle eye test" said they were getting calls from colleagues redeployed from sports or culture to news, asking what the deal was about taking photographs in stations.
The NUJ issued guidance for photographers both on safety on demos that turn violent, and on keeping safe from exposure to coronavirus while out and about on assignment. See here.
All this prompted LFB to invite LFB member Jason Parkinson, who has covered protests for Sky, PA and others as a photographer and videographer for many years, to give a quick update on safety for photographers.
Jason was of the opinion that the atmosphere at protests had calmed somewhat since the "statue protector" far right protests, with the Black Lives Matter marches in London the following weekend passing apparently without any incidents involving photographers. He added that several photographers he had met out on the streets covering BLM and far right protests were student photographers covering protests for the first time. He had been able to share with them some tips on staying safe. He commended the NUJ's recent guidance (see above).
Jason's update was well received by members. LFB's Training Officer and its Committee are currently exploring a possible training course featuring Jason, aimed at visual journalists and on staying safe while covering protests.