Odd looking photographer? Must be a terrorist

If you have a long-lens camera, more then one mobile phone or a peculiar home life then you could be branded a terrorist in London. The Metropolitan Police have just stepped up their campaign against terrorist activity by increasing “stop and search” powers and reminding the public to keep their eyes peeled for “odd” people. Our Observer in London is apparently one of them.  


The London Metropolitan police have just issued new measures in the fight against terrorism. During a five week campaign police officers are expected to stop and search more “odd” looking people and the public are being warned to report anything “suspicious”. But after just two weeks since its launch the public are starting to question whether it’s infringing on civil liberties. Photographers in particular are sick of being questioned by policemen and being told to move on. To voice their complaints, artists are creating their own versions of the campaign’s posters.

The original campaign

The publicity campaign was launched on 25 February 2008. "Odd" looking photographers, houses with "unusual activity" or "suspicious mobile" phone users are all things to look out for. Here are the original posters:

Taken from the London Metropolitan Police Service's website

"I’ve been stopped three times in the last two weeks"

When our Observer Nick Fine was stopped by the police in London, he decided to capture the moment on film. The amateur photographer put his camera on timer mode and posed with the police officers. He then used the images to create this parody of the original campaign poster, and posted it along with the police statement he received.

Nick Fine is an amateur photographer from London:

I've been stopped three times in the last two weeks. The first time I was photographing traffic [see pictures]. Then I was photographing railway lines and there was a helicopter overhead, so a police officer was sent over. And just a few days ago I was doing a close up on the Houses of Parliament when I was told if I didn't move on I'd be arrested. I don't know exactly what they're instructed but you can't go out in central London with a long lens camera without getting hassled. I feel put out.

I know they've got to make the public aware but we need to use some kind of common sense. Since when did Al-Qaeda start doing their research in high visibility gear? Or choosing ruddy great big white Canon lenses over small high resolution point and shoot compacts? In broad daylight at rush hour? The campaign's basically telling you "If there are a thousand photographers then one of them is a terrorist". Interviewing me is wasting police time. And it's frustrating. We haven't been presented with any facts [along with the campaign] so it's basically media hype and scaremongering, which is hard to take seriously."

Photos posted on Nick's flickr 5 March 08

Parodies of the original posters

Posted by "Illegalphotos" 4 March 08

All this [the campaign] paints me as being odd, suspicious and very much a potential terrorist in the eyes of the London Metropolitan Police who want you, the reader, to report me. (...) We bring terrorism close into our homes by terrorizing ourselves/ family/ friends/ community/ state/ country through paranoia and suspicion."

Posted by "Rubin 110" 5 March 08

Posted by "blacque jacques" 5 March 08

Posted by "Londoninflames" 5 March 08