Photographers protest against TUC flash ban

The NUJ has written a letter of protest about a ban on flash photography at the TUC Disability Conference last week and the tearing up of a formerly agreed policy on its safe use.

Photography members demonstrated outside the conference at Congress House last Wednesday as they were not allowed to cover the event properly for union journals and other interested publications.

The dispute over the use of flash dates back several years to public service union Unison - which does not allow flash at its own conferences - calling for an end to its use at the TUC.

It seemed the situation had been resolved when a compromise was reached last year which stated that ‘the TUC has been advised by the British Epilepsy Association that the use of low level flashes will not cause seizures’ and that ‘all reasonable practical steps will be taken (in seating delegates for example) to avoid possible discomfort…’

But, to the frustration of photographers, Unison has continued to ban flash photography at its own conferences and has ignored several formal requests by the NUJ to explain the union’s outstanding issues with flash.

Now NUJ photographers have learnt that flash is banned at this year’s Disability Conference and strongly believe Unison is behind the change.

In his letter to TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber, NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said: “After the TUC General Council agreed a policy on flash photography last year, I am astonished to read in the minutes of the Disability Committee that [it] is to be banned at the Disability Conference.

“The TUC General Council’s carefully worked out policy is also being treated with contempt. At a recent meeting we said we would provide guidance to photographers to help overcome this problem. That agreement has now been torn up too.”

He added: “We have total respect for the rights and concerns of disabled people but we have no reason to believe there is any danger and, since Unison ignore our requests that they supply evidence to the contrary, that remains our position.

“NUJ photographers are rightly outraged that they are not being allowed to do their job properly and they refuse to supply sub-standard, badly-lit photographs to their clients.”

NUJ Disabled Members Council Chair Stephen Brooke MBE said: “I totally support our union’s entirely reasonable line on this issue.

“I am surprised and dismayed that the TUC Disability Committee allows such discriminatory actions.”

Photographer Andrew Wiard said:" My flashgun has never triggered an epileptic fit, and never will. This nonsense has got to stop now. We photographers have rights too."

Connect – the union for professionals in communications, have added their support to the NUJ’s protest, expressing the concern that the ban is effectively making minority groups invisible.


25th May 2006

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