Monday, September 14, 2009

"No photo!"

I turned on the TV yesterday evening in time to catch the last part of a BBC doco on Dubai property.

Nothing new for those of us living here - speculators made millions, prices went to unsustainable levels, the bubble burst, speculators are now losing millions etc. etc.

Inevitably it included a section on the labourers building it all, and a line that's come up before in similar reports - that photography is banned in the less-than-perfect labour camps.

It's always presented as a sinister policy, that this is something the authorities want to hide from the world so they ban photography.

That misses the context of it, which is that there's paranoia about photography all over the emirate.

As I said in last Thursday's post about the 'water leakage' in T3 at the airport, the main concern of the security people was to stop people taking photographs. I've also posted about being stopped from taking photographs of apartment buildings and supermarkets. Marina furniture shop at Madinat Jumeirah has a 'photography and video policy' I see from the notice on their door.

It's presented as something unusual and sinister but in fact it's perfectly normal here to be confronted by a security guard yelling "no photo!" at you.


Mohammed said...

This attitude of "no photo" has been further supplemented by middle men from Baathist countries (Syria, Iraq), and countries with similar heavy handed govts. (Egypt).
In their limited world, the fact that outsiders cant see the problemn means the major part of the problem is gone. Who cares that the problem still exists, at least they havent lost "face", and thats all that matters to some honour obsessed people.

eric blair said...

yes,'no photo' policies are prevalent, but does that make them any less odious? that like saying, 'oh, yes, torture people at abu ghraib, but they have the same thing going at guantanamo. its quite common around here.'

Keefieboy said...

I was once (in about 1970?) prevented from taking photos in a newly-opened shopping centre in Yorkshire. I couldn't understand it then, and I still can't now. It sucks.

Abu Dhabi/UAE Daily Photo said...

Last August I was furniture shopping, and in order to help me recall what I had seen and how much it was, I snapped a number of shots at Pan Emirates above the Gold Souk in MZ. The security guard asked me to stop using my flash as it might attract the security from downstairs in the gold souk, and we all know what bad things can come from that.

Media Junkie said...

...but does that make it any less sinister? Not really.

I can understand certain places that don't allow photography, mainly for security reasons. But the places mentioned don't really have a security issue stemming from taking pictures.

Catalin said...

I have never had this problem in JBR where I have taken quite a few shots (example here:, but it is a problem I run into quite often in Dubai. It usualy becomes worse when they see my big Nikon camera. The usual reply is "Not allowed with a professional camera".

However, this is not just a Dubai problem. Here's a great write-up about a photographer's run-in with police in Atlanta:

The picture in that post comes from Flickr so you might have an issue seeing it from the UAE (thank the TRA for that!)

Grumpy Goat said...

Another local blog came up with some interesting links relating to the Tripod Police.

As Catalin's link notes, it's often not photography per se that gets security excited; rather it's when professional-looking equipment appears.