Taken at Spitalfields Market, 9:20 AM, Sunday, March 30, 2008. I liked the cartoony cloud-trail decorations seemingly supporting the left side of the ceiling, and the fact that the spire of Nicholas Hawksmoor’s Christ Church Spitalfields was so dramatically framed in the transparent roof.
Right after I took the shot, though, a large security guard walked directly up to me. “We don’t take pictures in here.” “Oh?” I said. “Yes,” he replied, reaching for my camera. “We’ll have to delete that.”
“No you don’t, and I’m leaving the market right now,” I said, walking away briskly. And as I did so, I swear to God, I heard him get out his walkie-talkie and radio for backup. You can’t be too careful with these terrorist photographers.
Out on Brushfield Street, wondering if I was about to be wrestled to the ground by Spitalfield commandos, I phoned the people I’d come to the market to meet for breakfast in the first place. “Hey, Cory,” I said. “You’re not going to believe this, but…”
We tried, we really did. We walked back into the market brandishing the camera high, Cory Doctorow, Alice Taylor, and their celebrated offspring, four humanoids’ worth of concentrated well-informed civil liberties savvy, inviting, nay daring, my security-guard friend to come back and try to arrest my photograph. “It’s total nonsense,” Cory said. “Even assuming they have a posted policy, which they have to do—and they don’t—they certainly aren’t entitled to demand to delete your property.” (And indeed, some individual market stalls have “no photographs” placards on display, which does tend to suggest that this is hardly the default for the entire market.) To no avail. My uniformed security guard had evidently found even more pressing issues to deal with, possibly terroristic squirrels, or people removing mattress tags.
The whole War On Photography is of course puzzling. Leaving aside the obvious hypocrisy of putting a “No Photography” sign on your stall which happens to be devoted to selling framed photographs of Banksy graffiti (yes), it’s simply hard to imagine the thought processes that go into such a decision. Let’s see, we have a stall in a famous London market, selling vintage clothes or organic cookies or African wind instruments. And people want to take snapshots of our stall and put them on their Flickr page or share them with their friends and relatives back in Stevenage or St. Louis or Kyrgyzstan, because they had a good time visiting Spitalfields market and they think your stuff is neat. Logically, the correct thing for us to do is prohibit them from doing so, since we wouldn’t want to actually have any customers or anything.
What is wrong with these people’s brains? Show your work.