photographobia

This is Clissold House. It is located in Clissold Park, which is in the general area of Stoke Newington, London.  It was built in the 18th century for a City merchant at the time. So far, so good. Nothing remarkable about that, especially for London which is full of structures such as this one.

What is remarkable about this building is the history surrounding it. Said City merchant was Jonathan Hoare, a philanthropist and anti-slavery campaigner in his day. He was one of the founders of the Society for Effecting the Abolition of the Slave Trade. Clissold Park, one of the many lovely London parks, was created around this house.  There is a stretch of water around the house which was part of the New River - [a canal built to supply clean water to London from Hertfordshire].  

It is no wonder then, that many people including me, love to photograph the house.  On this lovely day as I was in the process of framing this photo, I was confronted by two of the park's staff.  I did take the shot of course, but the framing wasn't as I would have liked it to be, having been disturbed in the process of taking the shot. Apparently I should have first asked for permission before taking the photo. I asked them why, and they said, "well you have to take permission. That's just how it is".  Now I know many parks in London are private property, but I was quite sure this was a public park, and I sure didn't see any signs saying there were no photos allowed.  Even in private parks such as Regent's Park, you can still take photos, you just can't set up 'professional' gear there without prior permission.  I really wanted to understand why I wasn't allowed to take photos.  So I asked her again.  

"We don't know what you're taking photos of do we?  With all this talk of children going missing"

"WHAT?!" I exclaimed, "I take a photo of a historic building and now I'm a child thief? (or worse?) That's the worst thing anybody has ever said to me". 

I lost patience with them and just calmly walked away. As it happened, A professional photographer that was there to photograph an event on the day noticed my little Olympus 35 RC and smiled at me. I went over and started a conversation with him. We bemoaned the good old days when photography enthusiasts weren't presumed perverts.  

As we spoke, two young children were swinging from the branches of the tree in front of us.  The angle of the sun was so perfect that they almost silhouetted against it.  I'm talking National Geographic style photo opportunity stuff here.   We both saw it, of course, looked at each other and smiled.

"You wouldn't dare would you?"  He said.

No.  I wouldn't.  Sad times we live in.

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