Despite the many years of campaigning, photographers have continued to clash with security personnel, in publicly accessible areas such as shopping malls, public gardens, recreational parks, name it! Consequently, the need to address this criminalisation of ‘unauthorised’ photography in Nairobi and why I think it is the greatest bullshit that is here to stay!
There has been an increased war on photography generally over the years. Many photographers have been harassed, questioned, detained, arrested and have even been accused of being terrorists. So, with such grave allegations put on photographers’ heads, isn’t it a concern to explore this bullshit perception that automatically declares a war on photography as a prevention mechanism against terror?
THE ARGUMENT IS ALWAYS SECURITY, EXCEPT THAT IT’S NONSENSE!
The excuse and quick reason to give that photography is prohibited is normally security. You cannot take pictures in a shopping mall because, security! You are not allowed to take pictures around government premises because, security! Locals cannot take pictures with professional gear in Nairobi’s Central Business District peacefully because, security!
Any terrorist group is first going to photograph his/her target, so vigilance is required! Well, how true is this? The 9/11 terrorists didn’t photograph anything! Timothy McVeigh did not photograph the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Photographs aren’t being found among the papers of the Palestinian suicide bombers. The Westgate Mall attackers did not photograph anything, neither did the terrorists of The Garissa University attack. In all of these unfortunate incidences, NO PHOTOGRAPHY!
Given that real terrorists don’t seem to photograph anything, why is it such pervasive conventional wisdom that terrorists photograph their targets? Why are our fears so great that we have no choice but to be suspicious of a hobby photographer casually taking pictures in their city? Is a photograph really the last thing standing between a terrorist and their heinous act? Except for very vital installations, I do not see the reason why “No photography” signs are even put up in the first place.
HERE TO STAY
Even after such a promise from Nairobi’s Governor, three months down the line, he has not made good his promise to ensure no photographer in Nairobi is harassed. The dream to photograph freely in Nairobi remains very blurry! The ‘order’ remains ungazetted and therefore the “war’ on photography is still here to stay!
Let’s forever fight for our spaces! Authorities, please concentrate on real crimes and real threats yo!