24 August 2009

Loud Bikes

Snapping folks sans permission

When I returned to Hong Kong to the honour of working with its tourism board, I could judge within their first few mewling lines which letters to the editor of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) had been submitted by newly-arriveds from Blighty.

  • Moan bitch about the attitude to strays
  • Whinge splutter about how no-one queues.
  • My dear, the price of Pimms in Park'n'Shop and as for any chance of parking ....

    When I walked the plank off S/W Galleon Bezopoulou to be washed ashore on Prosperonia, same for the wailing and gnashing from Blighty white trash in Athens News.

    But now something catches my sambuca'd bleary eye:

    Starry-eyed ex-American, Mr Terry Stone of Galaxidi, writes how he:

    " ... recently went to the traffic police in hopes of enlisting their help in stopping the loud motorcycles that race up and down our streets.

    I live in a smallish town and the local ‘kids’ have gone crazy with their modified bikes and are completely out of control.

    The ‘urban terrorists’ listen to no one, put everybody at risk of heart attacks and carry on day and night.

    Granted, this is nothing new, it is a worldwide problem.


    But being a starry-eyed ex-American, I decided to do something and thought the best way to handle it was to go to the police and get them to do their job - law enforcement. (Okay, you can quit laughing now.) [No-one's laughing, Mr Stone - Ed]

    So I went to meet with an official of the traffic police, told him of the problem, showed him photographs taken of the worst offenders and even told him where and when the police might want to patrol.

    Of course, the police were well aware of the problem, but he confided that if they were to enforce the letter of the law, the odds were that he would be transferred to the farthest part of the country and never see his loved ones again. And this is not unique to our area.

    Those with power pull the strings and they don’t want their little darlings messed with. Never mind that little Johnny is a sociopath.

    Illegal, ill-schmiegel. The police can do nothing.


    Fair enough. Different culture. I should get used to the way things are done in my adopted country.

    But as I was picking up my photographs from the desk to take back home, the official stopped me and said that what I was doing was a far more serious offence.

    What? What was I doing?

    "Taking pictures. It is illegal to take pictures of people in Greece without their express permission. (Tourists, please take note!) And I could be in deep trouble if I continue to use my Canon Sure Shot in such a criminal manner.

    Huh? This was totally unexpected! Can the Athens News please check on this and let us know if we should wear masks when taking pictures. Is it true that no one is allowed to take pictures of people, even of a criminal in the process of a crime? I would appreciate knowing the true skinny on this matter.

    Always expect the unexpected."

    This is an excellent journal and I've noticed the alertness with which the Editor responds to those letters that press certain buttons:

    We contacted a lawyer on your behalf. She said the problem you have encountered - loud motorbikes and a police reluctance to deal with them - is well-known in Greece. As she explained, you have a number of options:

    1. The first thing you need to do is to check when the 'hours of common silence' apply in your town. During these afternoon and night hours, people are prohibited from making loud noises (builders must stop any noisy work, for example).
    2. If you hear the motorbikers during these hours, then you should return to the police station, make a formal complaint and insist that the police record this in the duty book (vivlio symvanton).
    3. In the event that the police fail to take action, the lawyer advised that you should then contact your local prosecutor’s office, which is open 24 hours a day. The prosecutor may be able to force the police to take action.
    4. On the question of the legality of taking photographs, she said that there may be some data protection issues at play here, so it’s best not to bring photos to the police. In any case, she said that photos cannot be used as evidence.

      Indeed, as the traffic police confirmed to the Athens News, under Article 114 of the new traffic code (KOK), the police must catch violators red-handed."

    What amused me is the contrast between the official line and the wonderfully relaxed attitude here in Kerkyra to snapping the flower of local maidenhood at each saintly parade, canny lensmen clicking with a perfect eye for any nubile koritsa, their work promptly on display for sale in countless revolving racks outside local photo shops.

    Where I've lived in San Antone, Boston and Seattle-sur-Sound, that'd get you a law suit by the next registered bike messenger. (More of which anon)

    Dai the Folly, Mr Gwyn Headley of no fixed abode but the run-don't-walk fotoLIBRA marvel, comments cannily:

    "Most UK police believe that it's illegal for us to take photographs of people without their permission, but not for them.

    However, they are wrong, and the Met has recently had to issue new guidelines to its officers to tell them they cannot prevent a photographer doing his stuff.

    I'm surprised that the laws of one EU country clash so comprehensively with another."

    Thanks, Gwyn.

    Digression Anon: In the early 1990s, I had some involvement with the Seattle Northwest Book Fair, having persuaded the under-rated Peter Moss (and here) to moderate a panel in his inimitably gentle but disciplined way.

    I'd noticed this bully cove shambling around - a wannabe Dennis Farina (see pic) - and was delighted when he burst into the Green Room and nailed some innocent freelancer with a

    "You just took my photo! If that appears anywhere, I'm fucking suing."

    My dears, red rag to Yours Truly.

    I used to troll around with copies of trade mags, including the doit-lire Bookseller.

    I dunno, a month or so later? I saw this git waiting for the #8 bus to Rainier Beach and sidled up (as is my wont, or in this case my very much will).

    "I know you!" I chirped in my best David Whitaker cut-glass tones, "Your photo was in The Bookseller, lead pic in the Diary page."

    "Got the wrong guy, fellah."

    "No, I haven't. You threatened to fucking sue if your photo appeared anywhere ... look, here ... oh, sorry, wrong issue."

    "Can I see that? Jesus fuckin' Christ!"

    "You can have it.

    Got the address there - splendid photo. Yes, indeed -

    'If my photo appears anywhere, I'm blankety blank suing.'? You sounded quite perturbed.

    "Fuck blankety-blank perturbed ... yeah, I'm taking that.Thanks fellah."

  • 2 comments :

    GWYN HEADLEY said...

    Most UK police believe that it's illegal for us to take photographs of people without their permission, but not for them. However, they are wrong, and the Met has recently had to issue new guidelines to its officers to tell them they cannot prevent a photographer doing his stuff. I'm surprised that the laws of one EU country clash so comprehensively with another.

    Busker said...

    Thanks. I posted this to get it over with but i have to format it and to also add a few biting comments vis-a-vis the postcard pics that appear for sale in every kiosk after any festival day: nubile school gals marching straight and true, there on view for any connoisseur of jeunes filles to snatch up.
    Anyway, well spotted and my razor comment to follow once i've honed my provocative lingo up to par.