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August 29, 2015 | Last Updated 9:56 PM
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May 1 2012 1:30PM
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Kate Gerber

Putting your camera on a tripod and attempting to capture a Cape Town street scene could land you in hot water, say photographers.

Photographers in Cape Town are banding together to oppose the city’s by-laws relating to the issuing of permits to shoot in and around the city, including on SANParks land.

Although the by-law and need for permits for commercial shoots have been in place since 2005, photographers say the way the law is being implemented has changed since late last year, with amateurs, students and enthusiasts now being taken to task over shooting on city streets.

According to city regulations, photographers need to register with the city and provide proof of public liability insurance before their application for a permit will be approved. After their application has been approved, the photographer needs to apply online for a shoot permit, which can take up to 48 hours to issue and can only be issued during weekdays.

That isn’t the end of the red tape for photographers. Permits are issued only for the dates and locations specified. Permits are not issued for city-wide, open-ended photography.

Permits are not issued for some film-sensitive areas such as Constantia and Blue Flag beaches.

If photographers of whichever ilk wish to photograph a building, permission must be obtained from the building owners and surrounds before a permit can be issued.

Professional photographers say the regulations are simply not workable for those commissioned day to day for shoots all days of the week. It also blurs the line between a tourist or enthusiast with high-level equipment and a professional photographer who should be able to supply a permit on demand.

Following the city’s refusal to deal with photographers individually, the Cape Town Professional Photographers Association (CTPPA) was set up in February to lobby regarding the matter.

CTPPA representative Robert Miller said he was moved on by police after simply setting up a tripod on a boulder on the beach to take a quick snap of family and friends.

“This is not the only incidence. We’ve heard of others, obviously,” he said.

“Another member of the CTPPA was taking photographs of girls in fairy costumes in a park as a favour to their mother when the same thing happened to him.”

Miller says the permit office will not be able to cope with the influx of permits should the city continue to insist all photography only take place with a permit.

“At the moment, the permit office is processing 30 to 40 permits per day and barely coping with that number. Imagine what will happen when that becomes 300 to 400 a day?”

Miller has approached the permit office about workshopping the problems surrounding the new clampdown on permit holders.

“At first the city said they wouldn’t talk to individual photographers about our issues so we formed the association.

“We sat down with them to discuss the problems we have with permits. We do not refute that there should be a permit system, we only question its organisation.”

But Terrence Isaacs, the head of film and events permitting at the City of Cape Town, denies there has been a clampdown. “The city’s permitting policy falls within a by-law that has been in place since May 2005. There’s no clampdown that I am aware of,” he said.

“If Robert Miller and the CTPPA wish to engage with the city on this issue, we need more than anecdotal evidence that law enforcement has been harassing local photographers over permits.

“We gave them a chance to submit such evidence in writing but have not had anything so far.”

As a result of the regulations, a number of photographers have cited incidents of being told to pack up their cameras when taking non-commercial photos of friends or family.

They say it appears anyone who has professional-looking equipment, whether they are engaged in a professional shoot or not, is targeted by law enforcement officials. – WCN

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