Have you ever had pictures published in a local newspaper? If so, have you ever been paid for them? I would be curious to know.
The Friday before last I happened to witness an extraordinary sequence of events taking place at Farnborough train station. A large number of armed police officers descended upon the station and as a result I have appeared in 3 local papers, 2 front pages!
People were hastily cleared from one of the platforms and it was clear that something “interesting” was going on. We decided to hang around and as luck would have it, I had my camera on my person. We watched with fascination as some more police officers arrived. They were all wearing flak jackets and those smaller caps that the armed police tend to wear. They were loading magazines into their firearms. One police dog was also present together with his handler. Passengers who had been cleared from the platform were all eager to know what was happening and no doubt more concerned about not catching their train on time! The station had become a hive of activity and all of the sudden we were starting to get some idea of “why?”.
Taxi drivers were saying something about people on board the train with guns. How did they know? The station staff and the police were not willing to explain what exactly was going on, they were keeping their lips tightly sealed and concentrating on their job. It was all a bit vague but what was clear, was the fact that a big group of firearms officers were congregating on the London bound platform. They were waiting for someone. I had my camera poised, as I clambered through the bike sheds up to the fence were I could get a better view. Standing on a railing I managed to squeeze my lens through a gap in the steel fence and focus on the officers over the other side of the railway line.
I was quite excited because as far as I could see, no other press people were present, nobody had been tipped off to rush down to the station to see what was happening. I was on my own but my wife wasn’t too far away, she was chatting with some other curious minds. My pulse was racing, my mind was ticking over at a speedy rate, thinking of good camera angles, who should I contact afterwards to dig the story. I have a number of contacts in the media world and knew that I could quite easily get the story published in the papers – However I still didn’t really know what was going on! I just had to wait. It could be a long one.
Thankfully my wait wasn’t long as the train pulled up at the platform but not all of the way. Some of the officers boarded the train and some remained on the platform. The police dog was just standing to my left on the other side of the fence and his handler seemed oblivious to my presence. I did notice one of the officers further away glaring at me, I could see what she might have been thinking, probably something along the lines of something “off”. I was firing off shots to include the station sign, the train and some officers.
Passengers were gradually being allowed off the train and then came the suspects in handcuffs. There were three of them in total and I shalln’t be any more specific than that for legal reasons. The Police had them and they must have given in easily without much of a fight and not one single round was fired in the process.
I spotted some passengers passing by and they had just come off the train. It was becoming clear that the suspects were armed and had committed an assault. One of them, a boy in his early teens was very excited about it referring to the “dudes” who came on with sub-machine guns and arrested 3 people for assault. Cool, I certainly was onto something.
I took some final photographs and then the suspects were driven away one at a time, in separate cars and vans. I ran home to process my images and send them out.
Its interesting to note that despite recent controversy regarding the Police and photographers, I didn’t have any problems. I was using a 70-200mm lens, so could take photos without getting in the way and to stay a safe distance. The Police were aware of me but not once did they wave me away or tell me to leave.
I sent my pictures out to all of the papers I could think of as low resolution files and waited to see if anyone was interested.
I am excited to say that not just one paper snapped them up but 3. Two Farnborough papers and the Portsmouth News. I later found out what the whole thing had been about. Three people had been charged for false imprisonment, sexual assault and threatening to kill. Nasty business and I am glad it ended peacefully, it could have turned out far worse.
I have been deliberately vague about the suspects identity and don’t plan to publish the pictures on the internet because the suspects appear clearly in the photographs. The papers will probably blur their faces out and I believe one of the publications may not even use my pictures. The suspects have yet to be proven guilty in a court of law, so their identities cannot be revealed. Its been an interesting week.
This was my first ever crime story and I believe (I haven’t seen them yet) that the papers have credited me for breaking the news and being their first source.
However I won’t be paid for any of this, so it does make me think, is it worth doing this sort of thing more in the future? Have you ever had similar experiences? In some ways I don’t mind, as its been an interesting experience plus I’ve gained some new contacts from it……