‘No photos in a toy shop!’

This email from a gentleman in Cambridge describes how photos in places related to children – even if there are no children actually present – have also become latently suspicious:

‘I was recently taking part in a work-organised “treasure hunt” team-building activity. One of the clues that we had to follow led to a toy shop in the tiny village in Cambridgeshire. The organisers had asked for one of the team to be photographed standing alongside Thomas the Tank Engine, the allegedly popular children’s storybook character. No sooner had one of my colleagues posed beside a toy TTE, and another colleague whipped out his camera phone, than an assistant squawked “No photographs in a toy shop!” and we were all requested to leave. There were no children, or indeed any customers, in the toyshop at the time.’

A similar logic was behind cases of people being prevented from taking photos of an empty children’s paddling pool, children’s playgrounds, or empty schools.

Of course, no amount of doctoring could turn a photo of a tank engine, or an empty pool, into viewing material for paedophiles. But these apparently absurd examples show the essence of the furore about child photography.

They show that photo bans are never about the real possibilities of photos ‘falling into the wrong hands’ – but about a general contamination of the adult gaze, and the adult relationship to childhood. Therefore to look at (and photograph) a place associated with childhood is just as suspicious as to look at a child.