4

I was in Birmingham New Street Station today with my camera and tripod ready to take some photographs of this cool new building. While I was setting up, a member of what appeared to be security staff approached me and told me that I needed permission to take "professional photographs" at the station. I said that I believed I was in a public space and that I was only going to take wide angle photos of the station for personal use, and he told me that the upstairs area is private property, and that I needed to apply for a "photography pass". He also said that photography with phones or small cameras was allowed, but my big camera didn't qualify. I left, no pictures taken.

I should clarify that the building has three levels: -1 (the platforms), 0 (the main station), +1 (a commercial space). See in the picture attached the position at which I was setting up. All three levels are connected via escalators.

Birmingham New Street Station

I found a post from January 2016 where another photographer explains a very similar situation. The Network Rail website specifically states that photography is allowed at all stations, and the guy from that post contacted Network Rail about this issue and got this reply:

We have no problem with members of the public taking photos in our stations – particularly at places like New Street which has had such a positive makeover recently and which have such impressive architecture.

[...]

I can only apologise for the misinformation.

So the question is whether level +1 of the building is not considered as part of the station, but part of the Bullring shopping centre. I found this on Bullring's photo policy, which is more or less what the security staff told me.

Do they have the right to ban photography at this station, at least from the top level? What do you think?


UPDATE

I sent an email to Network Rail and got this reply:

Thanks for your e-mail regarding your attempt to photograph at Birmingham New Street. Was it the Bull Ring or Grand Central shopping centre that you attempted to take photographs in? Grand Central is the shopping centre directly above Birmingham New Street and unfortunately we don't have any jurisdiction over photography on the their property. Where we do have some control is within the station concourse, where we are happy for anybody to photograph as long as that person is not causing an obstruction. All we ask is that if you plan on photographing using professional equipment like tripods etc. that you contact us ahead of your planned visit.

If you would like to speak to Grand Central or the Bullring then their press contacts are below:

Grand Central

Email: press@marketingbirmingham.com

Phone: (0) 121 202 5115

Bullring

0121 632 1526

After thanking the Network Rail guys for their quick response, I sent an email to Grand Central. I'm still waiting for their response, and will give an update as soon as I get it.

My email to Grand Central:

To whom it may concern,

I am a hobbyist photographer looking to take some images of Birmingham New Street Station for personal use (more specifically to build my portfolio on architectural photography). I have permission from Network Rail to take photographs at the station, but seeing that the area directly above the station (level +1 of the building), which is a great spot for taking photographs of the whole structure, belongs to Grand Central, I was wondering if I could get permission to take some shots from there.

Under no circumstances would the shots be used for commercial purposes. I only intend to take wide-angle shots of the station structure, not of any store front or anything else. I would be happy to show you the results of this and I would delete any unwanted photographs from my camera. Of course, I would be really careful as to not cause any obstruction, going only during off-peak times and finding an unfrequented spot to take my pictures from.

I look forward to your reply.

Kind regards


UPDATE

After sending the same email to customerservices@grandcentralbirmingham.com, I was granted permission to take photos of the station from Grand Central. A happy ending.

  • 1
    Are you going to apply for such a photography pass? If you do, please share your experience, too. – null Nov 14 '16 at 18:09
  • @null see updated post. – Mike D. Nov 15 '16 at 15:00
5

The general position under UK law (with very few exceptions around things like military installations) is that you can take any photos you like if you are on public property - even if the photos are of things on private property (this is how paparazzi photos are legal). The inverse is also true: if you are on private property, then you are entering with permission of the owner, and they can set whatever conditions they like for your entry, including restrictions on what and how you may photograph things, even if you are taking photos of things outside that private property. Both the railway station and the shopping centre are private property (it doesn't matter that the public are generally free to enter), so yes, absolutely they can restrict you from taking photos of the station if you are in the Bullring.

  • 2
    +1 though I would add that security staff are well documented for throwing their authority around without actually being in full possession of the facts. I'd email the bullring folks, explain what you're doing and what kit you intend to bring (point out if it's a consumer DSLR) and that it's not commercial (if that's the case...) if they email back to say it's fine then print a copy and bring it. – James Snell Nov 14 '16 at 8:07
  • 3
    @JamesSnell Yes, but the OP has linked to the Bullring's photo policy which does include "Bullring does retain the right to refuse photography, filming and sketching at any time" so it does seem that the security guard was within their rights in this case. – Philip Kendall Nov 14 '16 at 8:33
  • One concern that security staff may have is people causing obstructions with photographic equipment, artists' easels, etc in case of a security scare, when the station would need to be evacuated quickly. Using a hand-held camera does not cause that problem. – Mick Nov 14 '16 at 18:02
  • @Mick indeed, but overly zealous rentacops often get heavyhanded with photographers and other artists for "lingering" under the excuse that "it is suspicious activity and could be used as intelligence for terrorists". – jwenting Nov 25 '16 at 7:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.