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September 12, 2006 1:57 PM   Subscribe

"The thing is, we're in Central London and we have to be really careful these days. I like your shots though... very nice." Dave Gorman's ever-so-slightly surreal Flickr adventure.
posted by greycap (61 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think this has to be literally the first time I've seen someone highlight cop behaviour because thet behaviour was rational. Good for them.
posted by Firas at 2:04 PM on September 12, 2006


One time a cop pulled me over and asked me to get my headlight changed first thing in the morning.
posted by jon_kill at 2:05 PM on September 12, 2006


The cops, I mean.
posted by Firas at 2:05 PM on September 12, 2006


Ooh, I love Dave Gorman. His Googlewhack Adventure DVD is hilarious.

But that story is ridiculous. I wonder if it would be just as jolly is Dave was Asian-looking instead of white.

Taking a photo = preparation of an act of terror!
posted by afx237vi at 2:06 PM on September 12, 2006


It's not rational behavior. Battersea Power Station is not a power station. It's been disused for years.
posted by riotgrrl69 at 2:09 PM on September 12, 2006


I think it's worth checking out people taking photos of bridges &c if you need to. I'd rather have more friendly cops asking q's than clusterbombs dropped on random Arabs.
posted by Firas at 2:10 PM on September 12, 2006


The one thing I'd be concerned about though is if the name is written down and kept for months/years.
posted by Firas at 2:13 PM on September 12, 2006


Firas: I think it's worth checking out people taking photos of bridges &c if you need to. I'd rather have more friendly cops asking q's than clusterbombs dropped on random Arabs.

In the middle of London? I can't even begin to imagine how many tourists walk around London each day taking photos of bridges and other famous landmarks.

Seems kinda pointless to make arbitary stop and searches in the off-chance one of them might be a terrorist. Can you say "token effort"?
posted by afx237vi at 2:15 PM on September 12, 2006


"Male seen taking photos of powerstation. Vicinity of bridges, within government security zone."
Government security zone? Anyone know the reaches of this zone?

And why the concern for bridges? During standard war procedures you attack and protect bridges as supply arteries, sure, but... I just don't think that terrorists are going to be desperate enough to blow up one of the many bridges over the Thames.
posted by NinjaTadpole at 2:16 PM on September 12, 2006


For those of you in the US, Dave Gorman is the English guy who appeared on the Daily Show a month or two back discussing graphs and charts.

Guess he didn't make the cut to be a new regular...
posted by tapeguy at 2:20 PM on September 12, 2006


I'd rather have more friendly cops asking q's than clusterbombs dropped on random Arabs.

It's not an either/or thing though is it? They're still going to keep dropping clusterbombs on random Arabs too.
Just because the cops were nice, it's still harassment, and there's no reason why anyone shouldn't be able to take photos of whatever they want in the public realm.

BTW Gorman's new radio show 'Genius' is stupid and annoying, as is a lot of his aw shucks schtick. Having Johnny Vegas judge whether an idea is 'genius' or not? WTF? Friendly car horns *is* a great idea, no matter what JV might think.
posted by Flashman at 2:22 PM on September 12, 2006


Alright I scrolled down and read DG's response to the flickr comments and I like him a lot more now.
Still - friendly horn sounds would be awesome.
posted by Flashman at 2:27 PM on September 12, 2006


there's no reason why anyone shouldn't be able to take photos of whatever they want in the public realm.

Sure, but cops regularly survey for attempts at surveillance—watching for people 'casing' things is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to protecting locations.

We don't have enough info to know what the cops were thinking—maybe it was just a 'let's go stretch our legs' move on their part. *shrugs* I don't care much either way. I'm curious about whether they said anything to stop him continuing his photography.
posted by Firas at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2006


I like Dave Gorman's stuff, generally, but I have to wonder if he wasn't hanging around taking photos in the hope that police would come and question him... would be glad to be proved wrong. What was the point of this project, if not?
posted by altolinguistic at 2:50 PM on September 12, 2006


If I remember correctly, there is a question on visa form for visiting to the most amazing country in the world asking if you have ever been suspected, detained or otherwise 'verb'ed under terra related reasons. This guy can no longer tick 'No' to that question.
posted by trol at 2:52 PM on September 12, 2006 [1 favorite]


"maybe it was just a 'let's go stretch our legs' move on their part. *shrugs*"

I don't mean I'd shrug if that were what they were thinking, but I'm shrugging--metaphorically--because I don't know what they were thinking. If they were indeed just filling time that's a totally wrong way to do it.
posted by Firas at 2:52 PM on September 12, 2006


altolinguistic writes: What was the point of this project, if not?

Maybe he just wanted to take a few nice nighttime photos of London. Imagine him as just another flickr user, not as a comedian/'celebrity', for a minute or two.
posted by knapah at 2:59 PM on September 12, 2006


What was the point of this project, if not?
It looks like Gorman is just one of us who likes taking pictures, and he seems to be pretty good at it.
Yeah, I was being a bit disingenuous above - it's certainly no surprise to me that police might ask questions about this. I've been questioned by police on spurious grounds going back long before our current terror hysteria - most memorably in Spain in 1998 for taking pictures of a rusting, belching factory in Andalusia. It's just what cops do - and English cops do tend to be nicer than most.
(Not to mention back in 96 the Israeli thug in Paris who came out and threatened me physically simply because I was about to take a photo of a street that happened to include his Israeli embassy)
posted by Flashman at 3:05 PM on September 12, 2006


I, too, have been stung by hyperactive police work in the name of preventing terrorism. Quite recently, in fact, about two days after I moved into my new pad.

It's a squalid toilet, with windows I have patched over with tinfoil and whose air is so rich in spores that any wet surface will accumulate visible fungii in just shy of two hours. There is a disgusting insect infestation, and the bathroom is so repugnant I have not in fact used it yet. Did I mention the mice? There are mice. A lot of very well-fed, aggressive mice.

Anyway, I was compounding the ruin these conditions wrought on my health by getting extremely drunk the night after I moved in. The reason for my move was my breaking up with the shrill, emasculating harpie I had been living with and I felt I was overdue for a solid, mean drunk. I turned to my old ally in the battle to survive, Silent Sam vodka. He's a rough friend with a kind soul, the sort that will listen patiently while you tearfully ruminate on all the things you've done wrong, then punches you in the face and tells you to quit being such a pussy.

At around 2:30am, a hole mysteriously appears in one of my carefully constructed foil windows. A face is peering through, as is the light of a powerful flashlight. It's the police, of course, and they wanted to know what I was doing living there. I told them I was lawfully there,
and suggested a call to my landlord to verify the claim. This was actually a rather passive-aggressive way of making their lives a little worse, as my landlord is a perpetually drunk Serbian with scars slashed across his face and a vile temper. The call was made, and after a rather loud discussion of what time it was at night, they got his confirmation that I was allowed to be there. The whole time this was happening, I was losing in my bid to control the rising tide of nausea caused by my enthusiastic and robust committment to binge drinking. Then more calls are made, papers are shuffled across desks all through the city, until finally they decide they can let me go. I caustically asked if they were going around hassling all the homeowners minding their own business, or if I had been singled out; they said that they thought my building had been abandoned for years, and due to the proximity to a fucking phone company switching office they felt they needed to make sure I wasn't really a cunning saboteur slyly doing the devil's work underground, somehow hatching a plan to destroy the country's communication infrastructure in one fell, martyred swoop.

I wasn't terribly impressed with this example of policework. Have all the murderers, rapists and thieves been caught? Nothing left to do but hassle people?
posted by kfx at 3:41 PM on September 12, 2006 [12 favorites]


great night shot! I was onced stopped because I took pictures of trees in a local park, which some children thought marked me out as a paedophile of some sort. the police were okay, but it wasn't nearly as chatty!

Awsome.
posted by delmoi at 4:21 PM on September 12, 2006


great night shot! I was onced stopped because I took pictures of trees in a local park, which some children thought marked me out as a paedophile of some sort. the police were okay, but it wasn't nearly as chatty!

Awsome.
posted by delmoi at 4:23 PM on September 12, 2006


Awsome.

(I ♥ server time outs)
posted by delmoi at 4:23 PM on September 12, 2006


How can it be in the Government Security Zone when it's a good mile from any government outpost (unless you count the Office of National Statistics). It's also 400m from my flat, which means I get to live in the Zone. No more taking pictures.
posted by cillit bang at 4:35 PM on September 12, 2006


Dave Gorman rocks.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:55 PM on September 12, 2006


Hello. I just got a flickr-mail telling me this was here so I thought I'd pop along and clear a few things up.

Firstly... I don't think the police stopped me because I was taking a photo. I think they stopped their car because they wondered what I was doing. Then they found out I was taking photos and were cool. I didn't feel harassed at any time. As I said on the flickr page... I think they were making a rational enquiry and they were only ever polite about it.

To afx237vi who wondered if the encounter would have been just as jolly if I wasn't white.... er, yes, I suspect it would. Why be so cynical? They seemed like nice people. I wouldn't assume they were racists. If I was black/asian and I'd been stopped maybe you'd speculate about whether it would have happened to a white guy... but when it does happen to a white guy it makes no sense speculating about how it could have been worse for someone else. It is, after all, just speculation.

Hi tapeguy... I don't live in New York so I could hardly be a regular 'regular' on The Daily Show. But for what it's worth, I fly out on Sunday to tape another couple of bits with them. Who knows, maybe I'll do some more next year... or maybe I won't, but the idea that I was 'trying out to be a regular' isn't really how it works.

Hi Flashman. You seem to be taking the show 'Genius' a little too seriously. It's just an excuse for a silly conversation. At the end of the show, if you're seriously judging it on whether or not friendly car horns was awarded genius status ... well then I think you've missed the point. Or we've failed to get it across to you. Also... I was unaware that I practiced 'aw shucks schtick.' Really? Drop me a line at my site and let me know about the 'aw shucks' moments. I mean it... it's not what I think I do and it concerns me if someone thinks I do.

You're right by the way... there is no reason why anyone shouldn't be able to take photos of whatever they like in the public realm. And nobody stopped me from doing so. The police took two minutes of my time and then told me to carry on.

altolinguistic... I'm afraid your comment is kind of ridiculous. Everything I do is not part of some project. I have a life outside of my work. Writing this now for instance is not part of some project. I'm just distracting myself from a script I'm supposed to be writing. Besides... as plans go, how does the hanging around by myself at 1 in the morning taking photos of Battersea Power Station in the hope that I'll be stopped by the police work again? Even if you can think of a possible project that it fits into... isn't it kind of unlikely to work and isn't that what makes being stopped by the police in this instance kind of interesting? The fact that it's unlikely? Your cynicism does you a disservice. Guess what... I like taking photos. Isn't that easier to believe than the weird fictional project you've just cooked up in your head? Drink less coffee. Think less. Assume the best in people instead of the worst, it's nicer that way.

Ah... that must be some of that 'aw shucks schtick' Flashman was on about. I get it now.
posted by Dave Gorman at 5:03 PM on September 12, 2006 [21 favorites]


Dave, you are awesome, and that was an awesome response. 'Nuff said.
posted by heylight at 5:23 PM on September 12, 2006


Welcome to Metafilter, Dave. Appearances to the contrary, it's not always about semi-cocked snarkery here. I hope you stick around.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:28 PM on September 12, 2006


Well, I wanted to comment about how great a picture this was to the MeFi crowd, but since the man himself is here...

Nice picture! It now graces my desktop, and I'm sure some others are using it as well. I cut my teeth on night photography, as the owner of what was in 2002 a nice new digicamera I really wanted to avoid flash and work with natural light in a realm where it was not so damn expensive to blow long exposure night shots. Also, I worked 3-midnight which helped a bit. My 5 o'clock world waited for me in the dark of the night.

Lastly, people love to get their snark on here. This definitely includes me. Don't take it personally...
posted by rollbiz at 5:28 PM on September 12, 2006


I listened to 'Genius' last week, and the funniest thing was that Johnny Vegas was the judge. Well, that and the choices for friendly car horns. Anyway, The Dave Gorman(TM) signed up to metafilter just to reply to us snarky buggers? I'd just like to say
phenomenal...
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:31 PM on September 12, 2006


Stick around Dave, it's fun when they are attacking someone other than you.
posted by fire&wings at 5:46 PM on September 12, 2006


I wasn't aware that this constituted an attack... one guy wrongly assumes that I failed some kind of audition I wasn't taking, someone else takes a Radio 4 show too seriously and a third person assumes that I can only exist if taking part in a project for public consumption.
No one was being unfriendly. Wrong, certainly, unfriendly, no.
posted by Dave Gorman at 6:03 PM on September 12, 2006


Tell how you hid the bombs, Dave.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 6:13 PM on September 12, 2006


I think what would bother me if the above happened to me would be the need to take down and file my information. What if that had happened 5 times before because I liked taking night photography? Would some terrorism unit come knocking on my door? Would x number of these flag me on some watch list? Seems like a bad idea.

I don't mind cops coming around asking what I'm up to. I actually like it, it makes me feel good they're doing their job. But starting to take down and record your information for doing nothing more than exercizing your rights? Not a good thing. Not at all.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 6:19 PM on September 12, 2006


Thanks for popping by, Dave! (BTW: I stole an idea of yours once. (self-link))

Please do stick around - this website is quite the place for you, methinks.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:37 PM on September 12, 2006


When I was a kid in Kuwait playing in the empty lot next to my building a jeep drove out from the Iraqi embassy some several thousand feet away and two guards confiscated my film.

I'm glad that these guys were nice about it. And I'm encouraged that they were so vigilant about protecting the power station. And I'm inspired by the shots.

But I really see no point to stop at all unless you're going to destory the photos. Photos provide key strategic data. It's called "casing the joint," however beautiful the pix may be.

I don't know whether the local laws address the taking of photos with respect to probable target sites. It's probably a moot point with all the publicly available media nowadays, plus smaller and more discrete cameras than ever before.

So my response is, why stop and ask at all? Is the taking of photos perhaps considered "probable cause" for further search / investigation?
posted by scarabic at 6:52 PM on September 12, 2006


I just don't think that terrorists are going to be desperate enough to blow up one of the many bridges over the Thames

Didn't someone/people get hauled up about blowing up Hammersmith bridge many years ago? Pre 7/11 IIRC.
posted by Frasermoo at 6:58 PM on September 12, 2006


yep, there it is.
posted by Frasermoo at 7:00 PM on September 12, 2006


Two years ago, my husband and I were prevented from taking more than a couple of photos of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge by two very polite, nice cops. However, this is what they said: We know you're not terrorists, but we have to stop you, because if we don't stop you and we do stop some guy with a towel on his head we'll get in trouble. So, while both you and your story are genuinely charming, whether in New York or London it is difficult to suspend disbelief that were you Middle Eastern (or looked as much) you might have missed the sweet smile and flickr bonding. One hopes not, but still.

Images of the station certainly already abound anywhere a terrorist might care to look, and of the Verrazano as well -- all much more beautifully and in greater schematic detail than my sad little bargain disposable managed before we were stopped. So, honestly, there are many reasons that the War on Terror seems a hollow joke, and diverting the attention of officers throughout the western world towards preventing the commission of photography seems a poor excuse for a defense, even when it's thwarting terrible esthetics of the sort I tend to inflict on my innocent family and friends. To say nothing of the ease of it -- how one moment, an action is legal, and the next without fanfare or notice it is not -- and we obey, and not without fear, even though we look and behave as we ought according to the current regime.

That said, you certainly take a pretty picture.
posted by melissa may at 7:02 PM on September 12, 2006


Terrorism or no - taking photos/filming in public spaces has always been overly complicated from a rights point of view - most professional photographers will have these stories - whether taking shots for fun or profit, you need all types of releases/permissions that usually cost $$$.

Some architects have actually managed to copyright whole spaces (etc) to negate them being photographed by anyone.
posted by strawberryviagra at 8:06 PM on September 12, 2006


"Do I look like a terrorist?" said Ms Moss. "I am a grandma."
posted by strawberryviagra at 8:15 PM on September 12, 2006


sviagra: some architects or property owners claim to have copyrights like that, but it's unclear whether they have a legal leg to stand on. You'll note, in the article you linked to, nobody's actually prosecuted Horsch; they've just made vague bluster in hopes of extracting permit fees.
posted by hattifattener at 8:32 PM on September 12, 2006


Passive/aggressive comedian with a website. Why feign the innocence? The world is my dupe, he thinks.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 8:37 PM on September 12, 2006


Dave, I hope you didn't take my comment the wrong way.

I was totally surprised when you popped up on the Daily Show. Though not half as surprised as when you popped up responding to me on Mefi.
posted by tapeguy at 8:38 PM on September 12, 2006


True - but in the second article, it identifies the issues on the street level, where security guards feel compelled to interfere with anyone pulling out a camera - so whether you can be prosecuted or not is not the only issue, being harassed is almost a certainty.

I've actually been arrested and held for 4 hours with all sorts of threats being made against me (mind you that was filming inside Charles DeGaulle airport, and I knew there were risks) - I wasn't surprised by that, but I've also been 'hassled' for far less.
posted by strawberryviagra at 8:42 PM on September 12, 2006


Isn't Dave Gorman still on The Daily Show? There was a British guy on last night. I didn't catch his name, but he had a British accent. (All of those people look alike to me)
posted by dhammond at 8:49 PM on September 12, 2006


The guy with the John Lennon glasses? That's not Dave Gorman. I'm not sure he's even really English. He says yo-gert instead of yogg-ert and I want him killed.
posted by cillit bang at 9:07 PM on September 12, 2006


Dave you're awesome. <3
posted by riotgrrl69 at 10:11 PM on September 12, 2006


To afx237vi who wondered if the encounter would have been just as jolly if I wasn't white.... er, yes, I suspect it would. Why be so cynical?

Because we're Americans.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 PM on September 12, 2006


Scarabic said:
I'm glad that these guys were nice about it. And I'm encouraged that they were so vigilant about protecting the power station.

Just to clarify for those who are not in the UK... the power station is disused. It's a shell of a building that used to be a coal fired power station. It's a much loved landmark but it's not a stategic target of any kind.


I'll reiterate a further point which answers scarabic in part but others in general... I don't believe I was stopped because I was taking photos. I believe that when they stopped their car they didn't know what I was doing but wanted to find out. When they discovered I was taking photos, they were fine about it.
posted by Dave Gorman at 12:21 AM on September 14, 2006


Since you're keeping tabs on the thread and didn't just do a hit and run, Dave, I made a Metatalk thread (Metatalk being where we talk on the site about the site, and thus disappear up our own collective butts) that basically said 'cool, look who showed up'. In case your ego needs a bit more feeding. Heh.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:19 AM on September 14, 2006


That's a very nice photo.
posted by jb at 3:01 AM on September 14, 2006


Even if it is of the evil Cyberman factory.
posted by jb at 3:02 AM on September 14, 2006 [1 favorite]


cillit bang & the other guy: The "government security zone" in question is effectively "London". Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the police can designate areas where the provisions of the act apply. "London" has been such a designated area ever since the act was brought in. See this document by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust for details.
posted by pharm at 3:09 AM on September 14, 2006


Dave: my guess is that you were stopped because you were taking photos: There have been plots to bomb the London bridges in the past IIRC (IRA perhaps?). Paranoia reigns at the moment of course...
posted by pharm at 3:13 AM on September 14, 2006


The guy with the John Lennon glasses? That's not Dave Gorman. I'm not sure he's even really English. He says yo-gert instead of yogg-ert and I want him killed.

Are you talking about John Oliver? If you are, you can fuck right off. The Department is a true work of genius.
posted by ninthart at 5:22 AM on September 14, 2006


Dave: my guess is that you were stopped because you were taking photos: There have been plots to bomb the London bridges in the past IIRC (IRA perhaps?). Paranoia reigns at the moment of course...

Did you even read what he just said?!?
posted by rollbiz at 6:03 AM on September 14, 2006


delmoi: Because we're Americans.

Speak for yourself!
posted by afx237vi at 6:12 AM on September 14, 2006


Ahh, the British Police doing what they do best. Shooting the right people is obviously not their strong point, but having a nice chat, that's British Police work at it's best. God, I sound like an ex-pat!
posted by ob at 7:58 AM on September 14, 2006


As far as I know, its still legal to take pictures in the NYC subway (there has been some back-and-forth over the past few years as far as that goes).

Anyhow, about a year ago, I took a couple of pictures of two cops at a desk on the east end of the 63rd and Lex Subway platform for the downtown F train (the tunnel that goes under the east river - apparently there's always a cop there now). I just thought it was funny, 2 cops so far underground, on an empty subway platform.

The one police officer got PISSED. Too bad for him the train doors were closing as I stepped on.

I thought about it afterwards - if I was in his shoes, I would have done the same thing. There's something to say for the freedom of taking pictures of anything in the public realm, but if I appear to be documenting a way to kill people and cause pandemoneum, well, I'd want the cops questioning me then, heck yes.

A couple of months later, I saw a guy in middle-eastern garb, on the platform of one of the Times Square subway stops, with a measuring tape. He was measuring the distance between the steel columns and the height/width of the columns themselves, apparently. The cops at the top of the stairs were very interested to hear about him, but I have no idea what came of that.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:25 AM on September 14, 2006


Loved the picture too Dave. I love night time industrial photography and unfortunely haven't done much in that vein since moving here. You may just have inspired me now that the days are getting shorter.

allkindsoftime writes "The one police officer got PISSED. Too bad for him the train doors were closing as I stepped on"

The only time your average cop doesn't mind his picture being taken is when he's on parade. I've been hassled for taking pictures of cops on many occasions. Rent-a-cops are even worse.

Strangely I've never been hassled for taking any other pictures. Even when I was in Victoria the cops only seemed to be concerned about the rally lights on my car, never the subject of my photographs. I do admit that the "park photographer=pedophile" meme has curtailed my pictures of parks though.
posted by Mitheral at 11:27 AM on September 14, 2006


rollbiz: Of course I did. Dave doesn't believe that the police stopped him because he was taking photos. I was merely pointing out that they might have had reasonable grounds for so doing (in their minds).
posted by pharm at 12:00 PM on September 14, 2006


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