I started this blog four months ago today and by some measure of coincidence I have just reached 1,000 blog views today as well. But this blog isn’t about numbers but about getting a message across and making sure that valuable information gets out into the readily accessible public sphere.
I make no apology for being pro-photographer in this blog – after all I take pictures as well as write words and I get paid for both of those endeavours. But what makes me “mad” if you like, is the petty requirement that the photographer side of me needs a permit or has to pay fees when the writer side of me doesn’t.
I was reminded of how absolutely silly these requirements was when my wife and I visited the rural city of Wagga Wagga in southern New South Wales just after Easter earlier this year. While we were there we spent one morning – about three hours – climbing to the top of The Rock and back again. The Rock is a large, rocky hill that is located about 30 kilometres south of Wagga Wagga and is part of a nature reserve managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service of New South Wales.
Although I didn’t do it, I could have easily penned a story about climbing The Rock and sent it off to a camping/travel magazine, had it published and been paid for it. No permits, no fees required. After all, any such requirement would have been an attack on the freedom of the press.
But somehow if I had taken my camera along I would have been subject to the bizarre rules of the National Parks and Wildlife Service which even now still requires me to ge a permit, tell them in advance as to where I wanted to go “shooting” and hold $10 million in public liability insurance. And if I didn’t hold a permit, doing such photography – yes being published in a small circulation magazine – would have rendered me liable to being fined for a breach of Clause 21 (1) (d) of the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2009.
Australia is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and ratified this document in 1980. Article 19 (2) of the Covenant, a United Nations document which is legally binding for those States that ratify or accede to it, is concerned with freedom of expression.
That article states: “Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.” As photography can be considered as being a form of both art and media, it is clearly a protected form of freedom of expression – or should be seen as such.
This blog will keep running and be a thorn in the side of the Peter Cochranes or Ross Woodwards of this world, until bureaucrats and politicians at all three levels of government respect the civil rights that photographers are clearly due.