Commentating on the race to the bottom

Yet again The BPPA finds itself responding to a piece by Professor Roy Greenslade on The Guardian’s website. Yet again Professor Greenslade adds his influential voice to the drastically mistaken notion that anyone can take a picture good enough for a newspaper these days. Seriously? Have you looked at some of the utter rubbish that gets used in some of our newspapers? To assert that anyone with a camera can take a picture isn’t only an insult to the skilled photographers who make silk purses out of sows ears on a daily basis it also invites the bean-counters who are behind the decisions to axe photographers jobs to question the need for written journalists too.

I can just imagine the conversation between the accountants and the owners with an editor sitting there listening to the conversation;

Owner: We need to save some more money. Sales are still in decline and sacking the photographers hasn’t saved us enough.

Accountant: Well, members of the public are providing all of our visual content so maybe we can get them to supply the words too.

Editor: But…

Owner: Brilliant idea. Let’s start with all of the senior reporters who really know what they are doing. Editor – we need you to sell this to the staff.

Editor: But…

Owner: They’re all scared for their jobs anyway. Accountant – you are a genius and you will be rewarded for your work with a big pay rise.

Editor: But…

Accountant: Thanks Owner, maybe we should discuss a few other money-saving ideas that I have over a drink or two. Do we NEED editors?

How long will it be before expensive columnists get their marching orders in favour of a few blokes with word processing software who “can write a bit”? Who will those people actually be? Will they be honest and concerned citizens or will they be people with an agenda and an axe to grind?

We are already at the stage where a large percentage of the ‘supplied’ images being printed in some papers are not properly checked for honesty, accuracy or ownership (not to mention quality). Beyond that, nobody seems to care whether members of the public are putting their own or other people’s lives in danger to get the pictures that they are giving away for free. Even Professor Greenslade has to agree that journalism stands or falls on its honesty and accuracy even if he has already thrown the towel in on quality.

One of the numerous responses to his Media Guardian article points out that very few people remember the words after the event compared to the number who remember the images. You might think that newspaper owners would forget this at their peril – unfortunately they have forgotten and their newspapers are in peril. Another response points out that newspaper decline could well be a chicken and egg discussion. Which did come first – the fall in sales or the loss of photographers?

This is rapidly becoming a race to the bottom and it really doesn’t help the case for quality newspapers and quality journalism when one of the highest profile commentators on the industry has given up on any notion of defending the simple idea that quality products have longevity and cheap ones don’t. We’d wonder if The Guardian’s own Picture Desk team would agree with The Professor’s odd logic or if its own sub-editors would approve of his fact checking.

Losing reporters would be the largest and most recent nail in the coffin of local and regional journalism. National newspapers, radio and television get a lot of their best people from the superb training ground that is (or maybe was) local journalism.

If I were contemplating training as a journalist right now I think that I’d have second thoughts about it. If the learned Professor is right maybe those currently on his course should consider switching to accountancy before it’s too late.

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The Copyright Fight – David Bailey weighs in…

Today is the day when the UK Government could vote to include a seemingly innocuous clause in an otherwise largely uncontroversial piece of legislation that will not only harm our industry but also place this country at odds with a vital international treaty. It is upsetting, bizarre and unnecessary to the point of being farcical.

The BPPA has been trying very hard to get the Government to see sense and drop the copyright clause from the Enterprise Regulatory Reform Bill for a while now. In a world where the intervention of a celebrity can unclog jams and open doors we decided to ask UK Photography’s biggest celebrity, David Bailey, to write to cabinet members on behalf of all owners and creators of intellectual property. He decided to write to George Osborne MP, The Chancellor of the Exchequer personally and he has given us permission to circulate that letter as widely as we wish – and here it is…

Image

David Bailey’s letter to George Osborne MP

The text of the letter in full:

Dear George

I am writing because I am appalled at what the government is doing to our rights in the ERRB (Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill). Why the ERRB by the way? Why can’t copyright be dealt with properly in a proper Copyright Bill? I’m told everyone will be able to get their hands on our so-called “orphans” so libraries and museums can publish old photographs whose authors have long been forgotten. But never mind what’s lying around on dusty old shelves, what about the millions of “orphans” that are being created now every day!

Why? Because social media, and everyone else for that matter routinely strip our names and contact details from our digital files. They simply should not be allowed to get away with this. They can because our government refuses to give us the right to our names by our pictures (Moral rights). So now commercial organisations will be allowed to make money from our “orphans”, but not us, the creators.

This legislation should never have been even considered without first giving us our moral rights, and is contrary to our rights under the Berne Convention. Why the rush? A scheme, the Copyright Hub – a scheme backed by the government – is being developed to ensure that those who wish to find our pictures can not only do so quickly online, but also find the contact details of the pictures’ owners. You are about to put the cart before the horse.

I’m told the real reason for speed is that “releasing” orphans will create growth. We all understand the need for growth. But where’s the evidence? The seemingly impressive financial figures presented originally in the Hargreaves Review have mysteriously had to be revised – down by 97%! Which now apparently amount to no more than 80p per taxpayer per year. Given the damage this legislation will now cause to taxpaying creators, damage no-one has so far taken into account, the effect of this legislation on economic growth will in fact be negative.

It’s not too late to think again!

Best,

David Bailey

The Copyright Fight

As the song goes ‘There may be trouble ahead’…except this time there is no ‘maybe’ about it. For those that recall the less-than-wonderful “Clause 43” of Labour’s “Digital Economy Bill” which proposed to legalise the use of Orphan Works and Extended Collective Licensing – well, despite its defeat it’s back and this time it’s personal.

Hidden away in a completely unrelated Bill – namely the ERRB (the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill) – are pretty much the same clauses that got thrown out before. The IPO (Intellectual Property Office) – a bunch of Patent-based Civil Servants in the fashion of Sir Humphrey from “Yes Minister” – were so miffed at their attempt to undermine photographer’s copyright being defeated that they’ve snuck their insidious plans back into Parliament hidden in a bill that has absolutely nothing to do with copyright.

There are many reasons why every photographer should be up in arms about this and we’ll list them below summarized by people who know far more about this than myself. The really, really important thing is that we still have the opportunity to send Sir Humphrey back to his Gentleman’s club in Pall Mall with a flea in his ear. They think it’s all over but it bloody well isn’t.

We still have time to effect change to the bill and even get the clauses thrown out (they shouldn’t be there anyway) but we have to act fast. We have to lobby the Lords and then we need to start a firestorm on our MP’s.

Interestingly we have some strange bedfellows as allies on this one including The Associated Press, Getty Images, Reuters, British Pathe, The Press Association, and the Federation of Commercial and Audiovisual Libraries, who have formed the International Media & Archive Consortium. They are threatening a judicial review should the bill become law, but it would be in everyone’s interest if it didn’t get that far.

This affects everyone who works in this country with a camera in their hands.

You all have to take the time to read what it means for you. Even if you just read the summary we’ve provided you’ll garner enough information to include in a letter to your MP or one of the Lords listed.

But it really is in our/your hands to do something for the good of all photographers working in the United Kingdom whether they know it or not.

Eddie Mulholland.

The proposals hidden in the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Bill would do very serious damage to the livelihoods of UK photographers if adopted. We believe that the clauses should be removed rather than amended because:

  1. They should be subject to full parliamentary debate, not buried in someone else’s bill and secondary legislation.
  2. They rob photographers of their rights.
  3. They would not create economic growth, they would damage it.
  4. They break international law.
  5. They would be subject to judicial review even as they are passing through the Commons.
  6. They allow no room for the new “Copyright Hub” concept which, given time to get working, would deal with most of the problems.
  7. They are no substitute for a dedicated and properly considered Copyright Bill – this is nothing more than a rights-damaging fudge proposed by the Intellectual Property Office.

At some point the IPO should learn to realize that the intellectual property that they are supposed to look after is not only that of big business, inventors but that of hundreds of thousands of small businesses and sole traders whose combined worth to the UK’s economy is substantial.

See a fuller explanation on The BPPA’s website

Follow Stop 43 the campaigning group who did most to stop the orphan works clauses in the Digital Economy Act

Michael Graae : Reporting from Libya

You may think that because the war is over, it is much safer and easier to report from Libya, but that is not necessarily the case. This post is written after my third trip to the country, the first being in February 2011 at the start of the war and the second in November 2011, one month after the death of Colonel Gaddafi.

After waiting almost a month to get my visa, I finally had it in hand. I spent the next few days getting ready and packing. First order of business was to buy insurance that covers war zones through Reporters Without Borders. Secondly, I got my two medical kits together. One contained basic medication such as paracetamol, immodium, plasters, etc. The other was a much more intense emergency kit containing syringes, a blood transfusion kit, extra needles, gloves, bandages, and a tourniquet, among others.

Some of the kit I took with me....Yes I know it's laid out on a duvet - go ahead and make fun!

I also packed a set of body armour. I own a soft armour vest, which protects against any handgun round, shotgun pellets, and most knives. The soft armour is made of Kevlar, which gram for gram is five times stronger than steel. However, you are totally out of luck if anyone shoots you with an AK-47 or any kind of rifle. In order to protect against rifle rounds, you need hard armour plates. As these are £200 plus per plate, I borrowed them from a friend. They weigh 1.8 kg each and you need two of them. Each plate can stop six rounds from an AK-47. I’m sure it could probably stop seven or eight rounds, but I wouldn’t want to be the one to test it! As a whole the vest weighs a bit over 10 kg, and that is using ultra lightweight plates. I also brought a NIJ IIIa ballistic helmet for good measure, also borrowed from the same generous, safety concious friend. Whilst I never wore it, I was very happy to have it!

Importantly, for communication within Libya, I packed an iPhone which was to used for tweeting, shooting video and recording audio, a Blackberry (unlocked to use a local SIM card…), a small Nokia mobile phone as a backup and a satellite phone. I did not pack a BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) which is what the BBC and other networks use to report live from anywhere in the world. Photographers also use them to file, but it is incredibly expensive if you the one footing the bill. It costs £1000 to buy, then £4 plus per megabyte sent or received. Very quickly I could easily rack up a few hundred pounds  BGAN bill in a day or two, so it is best to stick to the mobile/broadband basics.

Once packed it was time to head to the airport. I usually carry on my body armour, but was forced by the airline to check it, fortunately they let me keep my 15 kg camera bag…

Tripoli Airport is semi functional. The gates didn’t work and you needed to use air stairs to get on and off of the plane. It looks like it hadn’t been cleaned in years. And don’t use the bathrooms….by far the worst airport bathroom I have ever experienced! I was quickly through immigration but was unfortunately stopped for a bag search which is incredibly time consuming. One of the passengers who I got talking to on the plane, was returning to Libya for the first time in 30 years and I was kicking myself for not being there for the moment he returned. However, he was very generous and invited me over for dinner and offered me a ride to my hotel.

Once checked into my hotel, it was time to find working broadband, as my hotel didn’t have it. Even if I was lucky enough to have it, the broadband in my last hotel was practically useless to file on. My goal was to find broadband relatively close to Martyr’s Square in Tripoli. It was extremely challenging to file without a BGAN, and almost comically, I reached Plan H before I got success………!

Plan A: Use broadband at the cafe around the corner from my hotel and the square.
Result: Impossibly slow.
Plan B: Find an open wifi network.                                                                                    Result: Found one, but told off by an old man.
Plan C: Use an internet cafe.                                                                                              Result: Can only use their computers and they didn’t have FTP (File Transfer Protocol).
Plan D: Use WiMax (like long range wifi…..)
Result: USB dongle not Apple Macbook compatible
Plan E: Use a 3G USB dongle.                                                                                          Result: Network not working……
Plan F: Pay a business to use their internet.                                                                      Result: 1LYD per hour, but not open on 17/02/2012 (the big day)
Plan G: Use Al-Arabyia’s internet in Martyr’s Square.
Result: Success! Until they packed up and left….while I was in the middle of uploading files…
Plan H: Use the internet at my fixer’s house.                                                                     Result: Working! Though slow and a 10min drive from the square.

On the big day, Friday, I spent much of the day in and around Martyr’s Square alternating between down in the square and up on one of the former intelligence buildings, where I was using Al-Arabyia’s internet connection. It was an amazing experience to be in the square with the 15,000 or so people celebrating. A number of women asked to have their photos taken during the celebrations, which I of course did. It is quite rare to have the opportunity to photograph women in the Arab world, so I took every opportunity I had.

A soldier patrols the rooftop where I edited and most TV networks were setup.

My laptop on top of a building in Martyr's Square. The BGAN you see on the right is the BBC's.

My laptop, card reader, and sat phone near Al-Arabyia's rooftop wifi.

Even with broadband on the roof it was difficult to file…and not because of the connection. Lets just say electrical wiring in Libya isn’t up to any sort of standard. Because my laptop battery was low, I needed to stay plugged in while editing to let it charge. Unfortunately, my laptop is metal and there was only one available outlet, which shocked me every time I touched the computer. It wasn’t bad, but was enough to cause my fingers to convulse and give a nice prickly feeling. I had to work through it though as I had no other choice and was very happy when I was done editing! In addition to being electrocuted whilst editing, I had to keep one eye on my surroundings. There was no gunfire in the air as it has been banned, but people were launching fireworks in all directions and some were exploding just metres from the building! I did my final upload around midnight, which was interrupted when Al-Arabyia packed up and went home, pulling the broadband in the middle of an upload!

While on the rooftop I met a commander in the Army who insisted on showing my photos of special forces training. I asked if I could come along on Sunday and photograph them. He said that was OK with him. However, he neglected to tell me they were on holiday until Thursday and I was to be in Benghazi by then.

Saturday evening, one of my fixers, Mego, took me to a street party in Tripoli. It was yet again a huge party atmosphere complete with western music, lights, homemade flamethrowers with lots and lots of horn honking. I was even offered alcohol, which is illegal in Libya. I didn’t take up the offer as much of it is homebrewed and will likely kill you because it contains methanol! All in all it was a lot of fun and quite the experience to party with them and something that never would have been allowed during Gaddafi’s regime.

My fixer, Mego, having fun at the street party!

Sunday morning, I booked a ticket to Benghazi and then walked around Ba Al-Azizia, Gaddafi’s former compound, with my other fixer, Mo. The destruction was immense. Almost all of it was destroyed by NATO bombing. Surprisingly, the few buildings still standing had been occupied by families and were being converted into homes. After a few hours taking photos, it was time for dinner and to head to the airport on what was the last flight of the day. To say security is lax would be an understatement. Bag isn’t weighed, your boarding pass is blank and it really isnt a problem if you are travelling with loads of liquids and set off the metal detector!

Tweeting via my satellite phone in Bab Al-Azizia, Tripoli

That blank boarding pass issued for the flight to Benghazi, Libya

My trip to Benghazi was mainly to see people who helped me during the war against Gaddafi, who I hadn’t seen in almost a year. But I was also trying to photograph some of the military training I wasn’t able to in Tripoli. After two days of getting the runaround between both militias and the NTC Army, I was allowed to photograph at a NTC base in Benghazi where recruits were being trained and also signing up to join the fledgling force, albeit very reluctantly. They agreed to let me photograph as long as I didn’t disclose the exact location, write any names and show them the photos before I left the base, to which I agreed. The base commander took me and my translator around the base and I got some standard photos of people being trained. However, upon leaving we were stopped by a man other than the base commander and I was forced to delete the photographs in front of him because I didn’t have the correct paperwork. Of course no one could tell me exactly the kind of paperwork I needed, or where it could be obtained…!? I was also threatened by one of the men, who somehow knew who I was, which was a bit disconcerting, saying if I didn’t return with the correct paperwork I would disappear along with the papers. He also claimed to have some of my camera gear, which was taken at gunpoint by pro-Gaddafi forces in late February of last year!? It just got weirder and weirder! It wasn’t covered under my insurance, so of course I wanted to get it back, but after being threatened by him, I decided it wasn’t worth pursuing……

Annoyed, but not really frightened, we left. The photographs have been recovered from the memory card, but won’t be published. I spent the evening at the war museum in Benghazi, letting off some stress and playing around with the fully functional, but not loaded, rocket launchers and other home-built weaponry at the museum.

Need to make a call? Just stick your satellite phone out the window....

Michael Graae attempting to operate an air to ground rocket launcher, meant to be on a Soviet Mil Mi-24 attack helicopter at the war museum in Benghazi.

Michael Graae inside an old but working Soviet SA-8 mobile SAM launcher at the war museum in Benghazi. These crude but very effective SAM launchers caused NATO planes havoc during the Balkans Wars.

My translator told me the same man who threatened me came looking for me to talk to me and I was a bit unsure whether or not I would be stopped at the airport or found when I left my hotel, but thankfully I made it through security and on to the plane. Finally, as the engines roared and the wheels left the ground, I could breathe a sigh of relief…but not for too long as my translator wasn’t leaving the country for another few days. Thankfully, he made it out and his family still in Benghazi are also safe.

You may also be wondering, what does a trip like this actually cost!? Well I’ve totalled up the costs for you below:

Flights from London to Tripoli via Cairo, Benghazi via Cairo, to London : £426.00

Flight from Tripoli to Benghazi : £30.00Flight from Tripoli to Benghazi : £30.00

Hotels : £450.00

Food : £100.00

Satellite phone minutes : £75.00
Visa : £100.00
Total : £1181.00

Note : This doesn’t include costs for fixers, drivers, translators etc, as mine were friends and didn’t cost me anything, besides feeding and housing them when travelling. However, they generally cost around $100 per day.

NO painting with LIGHTY…? NO LIKEY!

I have just returned from another wonderful weekend in Dublin, as guest of the Press Photographers Association of Ireland (PPAI) and Allied Irish Bank (AIB) for the AIB Photojournalism Awards 2012. The ceremony was on Friday night, but two days in the fantastic bars and restaurants takes it’s toll so I’m a bit late with this report!

Have a look at the list of winners, they are spectacular, a brilliant spread of photographs that myself and fellow judges Peter Macdiarmid and Dermot O’Shea felt were the best of the best. That of course is where the rub is, judging is a dangerous thing to do. I’ve done it before and I’m more than aware of the pitfalls. This time was no exception.

Judging is a subjective art. One man’s Page One is another man’s Page Eleven. It happens to me as a photographer every day, as I’m sure it does with all photographers, not just in Ireland and the United Kingdom, but all around the world. All one can do as a judge, is offer an opinion. Obviously, there are certain photographs that everyone sees as ‘no brainers’ . Photographs that everyone says are without a shadow of doubt, ‘THE’ picture of the day. In my experience this is not the case. Opinions vary and that is the only fact about competitions. The whole process makes you feel a bit more sympathetic towards picture editors in general.

Without going into specifics there were certain pictures that lost out to others because they did not quite fulfill the definition of that particular category….pictures that I and the other judges actually preferred. But if a category’s name asks for a specific discipline and the ‘best’ picture does not define that discipline, then how can you (no matter how much you love it….) fairly award the prize to that picture? Rules are rules and they are specific to category definitions. I stand by my choices.

On arrival we were jokingly asked “if we’d brought flak jackets…?” and “had we noticed the targets that had magically appeared on our backs….?” Even where we were seated in a room of about three hundred black-tied guests, was explained to us as ‘arranged’ so we could see where the missiles were coming from! Needless to say this was all good-hearted ribbing, well, that’s what I’m sticking to…..

The real spectacle of the evening was how the PPAI unveiled the overall winner. At the start of the evening, the stage was covered in empty bar-stools. By the end, each stool was sat on by a winner. Each winner was blindfolded. It looked like a group version of ‘Take Me Out’! However, the winners were not asked questions about how they would rock the questioner’s boat, instead they had to sit there while the overall winner’s portfolio was screened behind them. There were a few screams from the audience, but watching closely as I did, nobody seemed to be able to guess who the winner was!? Eventually, Julien Behal of The Press Association of Ireland was announced as Photojournalist Of The Year. Well done Julien, it was a great set!

The real work starts now for The PPAI. The sponsors AIB are starting a nationwide tour from this Monday of the winning photographs all around Ireland to as many of their branches as possible. It’s a fantastic way of bringing the work that members do back to the grassroots. Letting people all over Ireland realise what the job is about. As I’ve said before, I believe this is why press photography is so well thought of in the Republic Of Ireland. It was a great experience judging and being a guest at the Awards. Sorry to those we didn’t pick.

On a personal note, I wish we could have an awards ceremony as well respected in the United Kingdom. I’d even be happy for Paddy McGuinness to MC the whole event! And obviously, I would supply the blindfolds…..!

The Seating Plan

On Tuesday of this week I was at The Leveson Inquiry. Not outside behind the barriers. Inside the building inside the courtroom, suited and booted and even wearing a tie. More astonishingly, so was The BPPA Chairman Jeff Moore (although he refused to shave). The most important BPPA person was Neil Turner, fellow Vice-Chairman and the man in the spotlight. The man who was going into battle with some of the finest minds in the British legal system.

Neil had prepared the initial eighteen page submission, so we knew that inside out, but as we spent most of the day before preparing we had no idea what route the questioning might take. Would they demand to know what our definition of ‘private and public’ was? Would they hold up photographs of photographers in bun-fights and demand their names? Would they demand the names of dodgy picture desks and editors?

The night before we had dinner together, whilst going over and over what might happen. Afterwards, Jeff said that it felt like The Last Supper. To put it bluntly we were bordering on terrified, well I was and Jeff admitted to being even worse. There was some mention of his ‘flapping posterior’…..

On Tuesday morning, we met beforehand and had a last minute chat and a hearty condemned man’s last meal. I went for the bacon sandwich. We headed off to Court 73 of the Royal Courts of Justice (RCJ) in London, where we were met by a ‘baying pen full of paparazzi’. Oh no hang on a minute, that’s what a television journalist would say. What really happened, was that some of our colleagues greeted us with a wave and got us to pose for photographs. One of the pictures even made it onto the Metro website! It was a little strange being on the ‘wrong’ side of the press pen, but it didn’t last long.

Incidently, the press pen itself was another of our little victories. The pen had been organised at the eleventh hour prior to the start of The Leveson Inquiry proceedings, by myself with Getty Images photographer Pete Macdiarmid and the help of High Court regular Nick Razzell. The Leveson Inquiry kicked off on Monday 21st November 2011 with Hugh Grant and the parents of Milly Dowler. There was no press pen organised in the High Court precinct for photographers. It was going to be chaos. Imagine the footage our television colleagues would have lapped up of the witnesses fighting their way through the throng of fifty or more photographers and cameramen! It would have been very very ugly and luckily a friendly head of security agreed with us enough that an organised pen would indeed be a much better idea. If you don’t ask you don’t get. Disaster averted on the evening of Friday 18th November 2011.

That first week we (press photographers….) were torn to shreds by witness after witness and television loved it. We were getting a kicking and we decided we had to fight back. That’s when we decided it was time that The Leveson Inquiry listened to our side of the story. Things were going to change for us whether we liked it or not, so we had to be listened to. We had to have a seat at the table when the changes were going to be made in the future.

Fast forward a couple of months later and there we were being shown around the Court. We were told we were third up to give evidence, so sat in from the start. It was running over and it was hot, so we were having difficulty staying awake, but it did give us the chance to acclimatise. We never made it on in the morning session, but we were told we’d be first on the stand for the afternoon session. It was starting to get tense again. When we went in, the Court rose and Neil went to the stand to take the Oath. This was it.

Neil was questioned on our submission by Carine Patry Hoskins, Counsel to The Leveson Inquiry. Contrary to what we expected, she explained before we went in what she would be asking us about and pretty much stuck to the script.

It was tremendously difficult to stop myself from sticking my hand up and chipping in. I wonder what my fate would’ve been had I done so….maybe a night in the cells!? We followed every word, muttering between ourselves about answers and generally cheering Neil on under our breath. I sat through most of it with my head down, concentrating. It was going well, but at any moment the Counsel could turn on us.

There were a few points that were at the forefront of my mind. Points that could cause us trouble. I was worried we’d be accused of having members that were involved in some of the worst examples that some of the previous witnesses had mentioned. My thought was, why would we have asked to come here if we thought our members were involved? I was worried they’d ask us what we thought of Paul Dacre the Daily Mail’s Editor-In-Chief’s ideas about changing the Press Card system. We hadn’t had the chance to really tackle this because we’d been in ‘prep’ meetings the day before when he was actually giving evidence. We are totally behind the United Kingdom Press Card Authority, but we had to make sure we didn’t alienate a man who has a lot of clout in our industry. We had to make sure we didn’t appear to think his ideas were rubbish, even if we did. The UKPCA already does most of what he was asking a Press Card authority to do. We had to make sure we were not led down the road of slagging him off. We were there to make friends and get a seat at the table, not make enemies. I was worried how they would react to our criticism about television getting access to events like The Leveson Inquiry whilst press photographers are left literally out in the cold. This was raised, but I think they felt it was a fair point. They certainly failed to pursue the negative side of the suggestion.

My greatest fear was the comment in our submission about “people involved in news stories, not having the sense to stop and talk for two minutes”. To be honest, I’d forgotten about this comment until it came up. I thought that it really made us sound like we think people should do what we want, or face the consequences. Neil played a blinder. He said, it was all about changing the public’s attitude to it. Brilliant and true. Why shouldn’t someone stop and talk, why should they run away!? All we want is a photograph, not to hijack their soul.

Lord Leveson thanked us at the beginning of the session for attending The Leveson Inquiry to give evidence and at the end of the session he commented, (paraphrasing….) “the problem is not with professional photographers and journalists, but professional photographers and journalists are needed for the solution”.

After all our hard work lobbying to attend, we’d finally had our seat at the top table.

The BPPA and The Leveson Inquiry in 34 minutes.

Three submissions, a lot of reading and an awful lot of discussion came down to a 34 minute appearance at The Leveson Inquiry today (Tuesday 7th February) afternoon. Was it worth it? Right here, right now the answer has to be a truly resounding ‘YES’. Our case has been outlined before; we wanted to impress on the world that there can be a huge difference between a professional press photographer and a bloke with a posh camera.

We wanted to make Lord Justice Leveson and his Inquiry aware that we are willing and able to be to be part of the process of finding solutions to the issues highlighted in the early evidence at the hearings. Most of all we wanted to highlight the four-pronged plan that we have developed to help ensure that photographs published in the UK news media have been checked thoroughly so that they comply with every law and ethical code that applies to that media in that situation.

Sitting there in the same chair that Paul Dacre, Editor in chief of the Daily Mail had occupied for the best part of four hours yesterday and that the familiar cast list of celebrities had sat in right back at the start of the formal hearings in November was more than a little nerve-wracking. Not so much on a personal level – but representing hundreds of honest, hard working and highly professional colleagues. If that wasn’t bad enough, the editors of The Times and The Sun were up after us!

We really cannot talk about today in terms of winning and losing but it seems that we have made our point and we know that Lord Justice Leveson himself said that

“Mr Turner, thank you very much indeed. Responsible photographers, like responsible journalists, are not part of the problem and they do need to be part of the solution. Thank you very much.”

If, after today, the industry takes us more seriously and if, after today, we are allowed a voice on issues that directly affect the lives, careers and reputations of professional press photographers then maybe, just maybe we can think in terms of a (small) victory.

Of course the 34 minute white knuckle ride was made a lot easier by the quality of our argument and the sentiments in our submissions.

The BPPA’s Board worked hard on this and there are a lot of people to say ‘thank you’ to. So to everyone who contributed, everyone who tweeted and re-tweeted about our submissions and liked our Facebook page. Thank you. It turns out that it was a pleasure to be your representative!

Links to the content of our appearance: TRANSCRIPT VIDEO