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James Tarry's photography blog. Ramblings from a photographers over active mind. Email now or call +44 (0)7855 742 633.

This is London. Tripods not welcome....

I've just come back from a jaunt around London with my 4x5 camera and tripod, I pen this with a confused and slightly miffed 'mist' over my thoughts. What could've upset me so much? Two words "security guards". 

Background info: I am a professional photographer, I shoot buildings/architecture for a living and so have been stopped by the local constabulary on more than one occasion while pointing camera at a particular building. I am used to dealing with these chaps, often I explain what I am doing, they take a few notes, and off they trot wishing me a nice day. I have never had an issue as a photographer with the Police. 'Security Guards' though are another matter...... 

Rewind several months ago when I was taking photos of a street with my camera, this street in St Johns Wood happens to have a hotel on it, no sooner had I clicked a shutter than out walked a security guard asking what I was doing and why I shouldn't be there. Happens that I was standing on public highway, not private land and had every right to be there, but prey tell, what was the issue? He said they were alerted because I had a tripod. Anyway after I explained my rights off he stomped with a huff and a "ask next time" (ask who precisely I do not know?)

One month later, I was partaking in a personal architectural project involving a rather large brutalist estate in the City of London. Knowing that the porters/security there are anything but helpful I contacted the estate office and I was told:

"If you don't have a tripod, come on down fill your boots, take all the photos you want. But a tripod is professional, you will need to buy a permit for that...... and insurance " 

That was a long conversation to which in the end he gave up and relented that I didn't in fact need a permit, but would I like to buy one anyway!

And so fast forward to this evening. I have been out taking photos around the Southbank, on the West side of the bridge watching the sunset was about 7 photographers with their tripods, I watched for a bit then walked under the bridge to the East side which takes you towards the London Eye. I set my tripod on the floor, looked through the viewfinder and no sooner had I done that was approached by security asking me to leave the Southbank...on asking if he could clarify why: 

"Because you have a tripod, we don't allow tripods, a tripod is professional" 

Was the problem that I was pointing a camera at a restricted building? No. I wasn't. It was simply because a tripod 'meant' professional, which was a highly hilarious statement considering there had been maybe 15 tourists around me, taking photos with big hulking DSLRs, I even spotted a Canon 1DX! I asked the chap if he will be removing all the tourists from the area? "Why would I do that?". Because they were all using "professional" grade DSLRs, and then pointed them out to him! Again I asked him what the difference was between standing with a camera attached to face, or standing there with a camera on a tripod was:

"A tripod is professional looking, and your camera is bigger than theres....."

Laughing I walked away. So there you go. All you amatuer photographers that wonder what exactly makes you a professional? Well, it appears to be three legs............ 

But wait. That's not the end of the story ooooooooooh no! On my back to Waterloo Station, I set my camera (still on tripod) down to pack it up and take a breather, low and behold over marches another security guard from a nearby building and he stands there, watching me. Only when I had packed up he walked away. Fed up, I march home to write this. 

Just to clarify: on neither occasion tonight, was I actually taking a photograph, I had merely just sat the camera down. I was no where near a "copyrighted building" or taking a photo of a "security risk" building, I was with all the other tens of thousands of tourists that walk and take photos of the Southbank every day. My anger is this perposterous perception that a tripod makes you professional looking, or thats it's deemed a "risk" or well, I don't know what else. It's just a flat out daft, crazy world, filled with weird "rules".....