A photographer has complained to his local council after a u2018Santa assistantu2019 stopped him taking pictures at a publicly-accessible Christmas lights switch-on event.

Picture credit: Andrew Bartlett


Freelance photographer Andrew Bartlett had been planning to take pictures in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales on Saturday when he was approached by what appears to have been one of Santa’s little helpers.

As far as the photographer was concerned, however, they were not so helpful.

‘I was taking pictures of the Santa, reindeer and market area when I was approached by an assistant from the Santa stall,’ Bartlett told Amateur Photographer (AP).

‘I had only been there a few minutes.

‘She didn’t introduce herself but immediately asked if I was taking pictures of the kids, or if I had a permit.

‘When I said I’m a freelance, she asked who I was with and said that it was an official event with an official photographer present.’

Billed as a ‘fun-packed family day out’, the free-to-enter council-run Christmas Illumination Ceremony 2012 featured street performers, children’s activities and a funfair.

‘She [the Santa assistant] didn’t say who I needed permission from… But she did say I should ask the person/persons included in the picture before taking [photos of] them,’ added the photographer.

Bartlett acknowledged that there were children in the scene but said that, in any case, they were incidental to the pictures he was taking (see below).

AP understands that Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council did not operate a photography policy for people wanting to take pictures at the event.

However, the council felt it had a duty to protect members of the public by challenging unauthorised photography.

‘Some people don’t like being photographed do they?’ said an insider.

A council spokesperson revealed that the ‘Santa assistant’ in question was a council employee.

The other market stalls were also staffed by council members.

Bartlett added: ‘I didn’t really want to cause a scene with all the kids around. It’s just embarrassing, especially when I’m on public land. The same thing happened in Cardiff last year, near the city hall.’

The council employee who clashed with the photographer was not at work today, and not available for comment.

Bartlett, who had been using a Canon EOS 7D DSLR, said he has been put off from trying to photograph similar events in future.

‘I don’t feel like being stopped again… After what happened, I felt like I was being watched all the time, despite four other photographers I saw covering the event.

‘As yet, I haven’t received a reply to my [emailed] complaint from the council.’

The council said it hoped to issue an official statement on the matter to AP later today.

A photo captured by Andrew Bartlett, just before he was stopped by the ‘Santa assistant’

Picture credit: Andrew Bartlett

  • John Whitby

    If Mr Bartlett was on public land and not in a council owned hall or specific council property, then no one has the right to prevent him taking photographs in the first place!

  • Brett Bell

    I can understand the council trying to maintain this policy in one of their parks, but I believe this event was on a public street. Are the council trying to implement their own laws now. It would be a shame for Merthyr after so many of its past residents fought for their freedom of rights.

  • anton forte

    Looks like one of Santa’s little helpers is taking a photograph in the background! What are the Council frightened of? Do they have any evidence that photographers are harming anybody. One can only hope that their policy in evidence based.

  • Randell John

    This evening I have started a petition to be read by The Welsh Government, highlighting this councils ignorance of U.K law and the rights of photographers in a public place.

    It’s about time that councils throughout the UK realise that their corporate media departments can not set internal policies that set precedent over U.K law.

    Personally I’m very suspicious of their plans. I wouldn’t be surprised if some little jobs worth within their media department has a vested interest in cornering the market and making a fast buck out their new ‘Policy’.

  • Alex

    I believe there are grounds for challenging the right of any council to do this if the photographer was stood within the public highway ie, the carriageway or the pavement. I have been advised by a retired judge that no-one has the right to stop one taking pictures if within the highway (this may not apply to public footpaths which are by definition, public highway). If, on the other hand, the land is publicly accessible but not highway, even if owned by a public body such as the council, then they probably do have the right to exercise control. As with all such cases, if you need legal advice contact a solicitor

  • Bruce Baker-Johnson

    Orwell wrote 1984 as a nightmare scenario of the future – he could not have expected that every part of his novel would come true in the Britain of today. Doublespeak and doublethink are the everyday tools of politicians and petty officials. History is being rewritten to suit those same officials, as I write this. Free speech went years ago. Our every move is monitored by CCTV or via our mobile phones and computers. We have no rights any more except those changed and contradicted on a daily basis by those in power in the UK or the EU. However – every kid and his dad (figure of speech – not meant as sexist or childist!) has a means of taking pics with them at virtually all times – mischief says we should have a day when we all apply on-line or in person for these (I’m sure) non existent permits, and ruin some of these ‘officials’ day. The DSLR is becoming more un-acceptable than a 9mm Walther PPK on the streets today. I now have a pocket camera that shoots in RAW and gives excellent results in ‘street’ photography – with the plethora of folks having the same or similar no one takes any notice. Keep the SLR for landscapes or wildlife photography – until we have the ‘revolution’ that is.

  • John Butler

    This restrictive attitude adopted by councils needs to be challenged. I doubt that they have the legal power to act in this way.

  • Martin

    It’s rubbish, and illegal to boot – it constitutes obstruction

  • Pat

    The photographer amateur or proffesional cannot be stoped at public land.
    It is an absurd,and lack of comun sense who is going to recibe more damashed is camera manufactures and all photoshops localy.

  • Bill Rose

    My understanding is that we all have a right to take pictures of whatever we want in a public place. This also applies to councils and the police who constantly monitor our activities with video equipment, whether we like it or not.

    This particular case would appear to be nothing more than over-zealous harassment and I do not belive these people have the authority to interfere with anyone taking pictures.

  • Don Edmondson

    I wonder…
    …if Merthyr Tydfil council plan to ask the whole population of Merthyr Tydfil for permission to capture images on their CCTV system(s)? If we are now approaching the point where you can be stopped from taking photographs in a public place it really does raise the question about whether it is worth continuing with this hobby.

  • Tony Sleep

    What was the status of the land? This is unclear from this story and it matters. Many markets have byelaws that – like many parks, railway stations etc – often restrict photography and/or make it subject to permit. Bartlett should have asked Santa’s helper whether this was the case and, if so, what regulation applied. As reported, we have no way of knowing whether he broke a minor byelaw or the council hallucinated powers it does not have.

  • Iain

    The council has no authority what so ever to stop anyone taking picture on public land or a public highway. This is why papperazzi photographers get away doing what they do.

  • Stuart Fawcett

    Assuming there are no complicating factors, I look forward to the council issuing an apology to Andrew and seeking advice on the law before taking it upon themselves to restrict photographers from recording community events on public land.

  • Jeff

    I’m wondering did the official photographer take time to ask for permission to photograph I bet he didn’t of course he is official and doesn’t need permission from parents etc to photograph their children

  • John Nevill

    Don’t you just love that in the background there appears to be an elf taking a photo and a member of the public using a camera phone? One rule for one, one for anyone with a DSLR?

  • kenneth clacher

    The other market stalls were also staffed by council members.

    So for the rest of the year, what do those council workers do ? answers on a postcard please…..

  • Barry Fryer

    Isn’t one of Santa’s little helpers taking photos of his own in the background?

  • Libby Stack Ohostudio

    It’s the Hyde Park Winter Wonderland all over again. Sorry but f you ban one person with a camera for whatever reason, you have to ban them all and that includes parents with cell phones. Let them see how that goes over.

  • Martin Cameron

    “Some people don’t like being photographed do they?’ said an insider.”

    Then those people should not venture out in public. We live in a society where it is legal to photograph people in public.

  • Paul

    Another bloody numpty that thinks they are the law when it comes to photographers

  • Colin Bradley

    This is truely insane. If you look at the lower picture there is a person dressed as Santa’s helper clearly taking a picture – possibly with a mobile phone. Does she have permission from the people she is photographing? I doubt it. It seems increasingly that you can take photographs with mobile phones or small cameras but not ones with big cameras

  • Neil

    More of the usual BS from jumped up council jobsworths, public place, no legal powers to prevent, end off.

  • Don

    I just tried to make a photography permission request online but was unable they seem ony interested in filming rather than being able to help photographer. I shall not bother to ring them to find out what happened but this is becoming more prevelant for people to challange photographers,I dont understand how people think think it is hurting anyone to be included in a shot.